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Sightings Report: July 7, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

We were headed for the Farallon Islands on this trip. Our weather was good for the first ten miles, but started to get pretty rough once we reached the halfway point. We continued 5 more miles in rough water and found 6 blue whales and one humpback. 

The blues surrounded the boat. We saw fluke dives from a few different individuals. A few came within 50 yards of us. 

A pair of Cassin's auklets were also spotted nearby. 

In the time we spent watching the blue whales, the weather deteriorated significantly, and we decided not to continue the attempt at the islands. 

On our way back, we found two humpbacks 12 miles offshore. The two were breaching and fluking in synchrony. 

We saw one more humpback as we headed back through the Golden Gate Strait to port. 

Sightings Report: May 20, 2018

8am sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours trip on vessel Outer Limits

Heavy wind was in the forecast as we set out for the Farallon Islands on Sunday morning. We made our way out through the bay and up the north side of the strait, pausing near Diablo Cove to look at the harbor seals resting on the rocks. We also spotted some pigeon guillemots and a black oystercatcher on the rocks. 

Just beyond Diablo Cove we saw a spout. It was a humpback whale. 

The humpback was throwing flukes, occasionally coming within 100 yards of us. 

The whale seemed to be making its way in towards the bridge. We decided to leave the whale and continue on towards the islands. 

We turned north out of the strait, making our way up the coast. The section between Point Bonita and Bolinas was experiencing strong tidal action in addition to the heavy wind, so the water was rough. 

When we reached Bolinas we turned west and continued out to the islands. There were 6-8 foot wind waves. About 3 miles from the islands, we saw another spout, but we decided to continue on to the islands. There were lots of sooty shearwaters flying in this area. 

We made it to the Farallons and ducked into Fisherman's Bay. There were a couple of tufted puffins in this area.

There was a huge amount of common murres both on the rocks and in the water. Stellar's sea lions rested on the rocks. 

We made our way around the island to Mirounga Bay, were we spotted a spout. It was a smaller spout. After a few spouts we saw the body and were able to identify it as a gray whale. 

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The gray whale traveled north and we followed for a while. When we reached the western tip of the island, the water got very rough and we decided to go back on the lee side of the island.

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On our way back around we spotted some more puffins and a couple of rhinocerous auklets. 

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We left the islands and started home, hoping to find some more whales on the way back. We had barely gone a mile when we spotted a huge spout. We had two blue whales in front of us. 

The blues moved northwest and we were pushed southeast by the wind. Slowly we drifted apart. 

We continued back towards the Golden Gate. Just after we passed shipping lane buoys 7 & 8 we found a distinct tide line where the water went from blue to gray-green and got significantly rougher. 

We were 3 miles from the demarcation line when some passengers saw a breaching whale. We approached and found the whale slapping its pectoral fins on the water. 

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It then started breaching over and over again, followed by more pectoral fin slapping and some tail slapping. 

A large container ship passed by as we watched this activity. Two more humpback whales joined in, with one of them breaching. 

By the time we left the humpbacks we were almost at Mile Rock. The humpbacks were being pushed in with the tide just like we were. It pushed us all the way back to port. 

3pm sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

The tide continued to come in as we headed out on our last trip of the day. We were heading through some rougher bay water when I saw a spout near the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

It turned out we had three humpbacks near the bridge. Gator and Topspot were near the north tower, with a third individual near the south tower. They moved together over the course of the trip. 

We saw several lunge feeds from the whales, as well as many fluke dives. Occasionally the whales would float on their side, showing one of the lobes of the fluke. There were a lot of smaller recreational boats out whale watching.

The whales moved in over the course of the trip. We were in the central bay by the time we left the humpbacks. 

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On our way back in, I spotted a smaller spout near Alcatraz. I saw it once more a few minutes later. I suspect that it was a gray whale. 

We also saw lots of harbor porpoise surfing the current in the middle of the bay on this trip, in addition to harbor seals and sea lions. 

Sightings Report: May 13, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am Farallons Trip: 

We had just started on our Farallon Islands trip when we found a humpback whale just outside the Golden Gate Bridge. We saw a fluke dive and decided to continue past it to increase our chances of making it to the islands. 

There was a southern wind to 10 knots forecasted, but we had pretty much no wind as we headed west. We were able to make good time and covered twenty miles quickly. At one point the captain reported a leatherback turtle, but we were unable to locate it. We did see several large Pacific Sea Nettles. 

A red necked phalarope near the Farallon Islands. 

A red necked phalarope near the Farallon Islands. 

Eight miles from the islands we started to see spouts. There was a group of five humpbacks swimming very close together, surfacing in synchrony. 

Humpback whales. 

Humpback whales. 

There were a couple of huge spouts from blue whales. At one point, a fin whale surfaced 75 yards from us. There was also a large group of common murres in this area, along with other bird species. 

Blue whale. 

Blue whale. 

One of the humpbacks came 50 yards from our boat. It seemed to be on the small side. Most of these whales were not doing fluke dives. 

We also saw a black-footed albatross gliding ahead of us and land on the water. 

We also saw a sea lion floating in the water in this area. We picked up a balloon as well. 

We continued on towards the islands. Observers at the lighthouse informed us that there were orcas near the continental shelf, so we went past the islands and continued five miles past them in search of the orcas. We saw no spouts of any kind, but there were a lot of birds in the area. 

A couple more albatrosses were flying near us. We were in 2500 feet of water, with lots of krill. I was surprised that there were absolutely no spouts. 

We slowly made our way back to the islands, coming around to Mirounga Bay and working our way east. The islands were full of sea lions, murres, cormorants and gulls. 

We saw several tufted puffins, both in the air and floating on the water. 

Eventually we started to make our way back towards the Golden Gate. On our way back we had several whale sightings from a distance. 

3pm: 

We headed out for our final trip of the day. Passengers spotted a spout underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. It took a while to spout again, but when it did we were able to confirm that it was a gray whale. 

There was a huge amount of ship traffic, both inbound and outbound. 

We observed some harbor seals and harbor porpoises in this spot as well. 

Eventually we decided to continue out and find humpbacks. We found three out past Mile Rock, including some familiar flukes. Two of them were staying pretty close together. 

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The whales were near a big group of cormorants. 

Near the end of our observation period, a humpback surfaced 75 yards off our port bow and swam to our starboard stern. 

Sightings Report: April 29, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

High winds were in the forecast as we started to make our way out to the Farallon Islands. The Golden Gate Strait was especially rough due to a powerful incoming tide. 

We had just passed the Golden Gate Bridge when we saw spouts. It was a humpback in the middle of the strait. 

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We were not seeing any flukes from this whale. Another whale spouted out near Point Bonita. We also spotted a few harbor porpoises in the strait. 

We decided to continue on and attempt the islands despite the wind. We turned north towards Bolinas and slowly made our way up the coast, noting a large amount of bird activity and a rainbow off our bow. 

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Eventually we turned west, observing several sea lions resting on a channel marker. The weather started to improve. 

Eight miles from the islands we began to see big spouts. A group of 5 whales surfaced about 200 yards from our boat, spouting in synchrony. Their tall dorsal fin and huge size identified them as fin whales. 

The fins swam all around the area, sticking together for the most part. The swell was big, so we could see them surfacing on top of large waves. 

There were spouts all around us from fin whales and humpbacks, most at least 300-400 yards away. I counted at least 10 animals within 500 yards of us. We slowly continued our trek towards the islands. 

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When we first reached the islands, they were misty and gray. There were tons of common murres, gulls, pigeon guillemots, and cormorants in the air and water. 

We first headed to Mirounga Bay, observing the sea lions on the rocks and some fur seals resting on Saddle Rock. As we floated, we observed more spouts farther out towards the continental shelf. 

We saw a total of 3 tufted puffins, all flying in the air close to the islands. 

We slowly made our way around the island. As we were heading towards Fisherman's Bay, we saw a spout at our stern. We quickly put the boat in neutral and waited. Then a gray whale popped up in a huge group of gulls who had been floating on the surface.

We saw the gray within 50 yards of the boat for a few minutes before it started heading east. Then we continued on to Fisherman's Bay. 

Above Fisherman's Bay we could see thousands of nesting murres on the islands. Three Canada Geese flew by. 

Eventually we turned towards land and started back home. Five miles from the islands we saw more spouts. Initially I saw some more fin whales. Then there was a huge spout and the unmistakable light gray body of a blue whale. More whales spouted in the distance. 

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We went another five miles and found a humpback, who breached twice. We continued past it. 

We saw nothing else until we were almost back to the Golden Gate Strait. There, near Mile Rock, we found two humpbacks. They were potentially a mother and calf.

The smaller whale breached over and over again, slowly moving west. 

The larger whale surfaced a lot less often. Near the end, the smaller one also started slapping its tail and pectoral fins on the water. 

It was a fantastic finale for our trip!