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Sightings Report: April 26, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On this trip we expected wind all day. We headed towards the east side of Angel Island, where we found a gray whale.

We floated for a while while the gray whale continued to surface in the same area. It looked like an adult.

Eventually the whale appeared to move towards Tiburon.

We also saw harbor porpoises in this area.

As we approached Pier 39, we saw a raft of sea lions swimming away from the Pier.

11am:

We found the same gray whale on this trip that we’d seen on the 8am. The whale was still hanging out east of Angel Island.

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We saw the whale surface a few times as the passenger ferries passed by us.

2pm:

On our final trip of the day, we were just leaving the dock when I saw a spout behind us close to Fisherman’s Wharf. We followed the gray whale as it headed towards the sailing practice being held by the Sailing Grand Prix.

The whale was spouting just once at a time and coming up every five minutes. It was windy, so the spouts were blown down quickly.

There was a lot of traffic, including the Sailing GP practice, container ships, passenger ferries, and day sailors.

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We continued around Alcatraz towards Angel Island, looking for the whale we’d seen earlier. We were unable to locate it before we headed back to the dock.

Sightings Report: April 2, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am

This trip started off with a lot of rain, but as soon as we left the pier the weather started improving. We headed west towards the Golden Gate Strait.

We had just passed the Golden Gate Bridge when our first whale was spotted. It was one of two humpbacks feeding on anchovies in the strait.

One of the whales stayed near Point Bonita, while the other made its way southeast towards Baker Beach.

We saw several fluke dives from this animal.

While we were watching the closer animal, the farther humpback started slapping its tail over and over again.

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We moved out of the way to let a large ship pass us.

When it had passed, both whales were near Point Bonita. We reapproached and eventually had a whale on either side of us.

These were the first humpbacks to officially enter the Strait for the season - nearly three weeks ahead of schedule!

Sightings Report: March 31, 2019

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat.

9am:

On our first trip of the day, we initially headed to the Golden Gate Bridge. Eventually we received information that a whale had been spotted in Richardson Bay. We approached and found a gray whale near a paddle boarder and a kayaker.

We sat in neutral and the gray whale circled around us, coming within 50 yards of the boat. There was algae typically found on the sea floor floating on the surface of the water, which may have indicated the whale had been stirring up the mud at the bottom looking for food.

We saw one fluke dive from this animal.

We stayed with this whale until it moved towards Tiburon, then headed to Fort Mason, where we found another gray whale.

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On this trip, my sister Helen was sailing in a regatta. We passed her when she was in first place! Go Helen! Near the regatta was a harbor seal mother and pup and some interesting birds, including common loons and pigeon guillemots.

12pm:

On our next trip, we headed out past the bridge and towards Sausalito, where we had left a gray whale on our previous trip. Near the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge we saw a Steller’s sea lion - a relatively rare sight in San Francisco Bay.

We searched for the whale in Richardson Bay and covered most of the bay looking for spouts, but we weren’t able to find any whales on this trip.

3pm:

Since we hadn’t located whales on our previous trip, for the final trip of the day we decided to head out into the Pacific Ocean to search for our whales. After a few minutes of searching just outside the Golden Gate Strait, the captain spotted a spout. It was the first humpback of the season!

The humpback was keeping its distance from us, but appeared to be feeding. There were lots of birds gathered around the whale. The animal moved around a lot, overall heading north. It did not show us any flukes.

The whale did not pass the demarcation line to enter the Golden Gate Strait, but it came close. A few large ships passed by us while we observed the whale.

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Sightings Report: March 30, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

On this trip we headed west past Fort Mason, around to the central bay, and then back around Angel Island, stopping near Southampton light. This is where we saw our whale.

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We had a gray whale surfacing in the north shipping channel.

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A few large ships passed by us as we watched the animal. The sighting was reported to Vessel Traffic and the ships alerted to the presence of the whale.

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Sightings Report: March 27, 2019

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat.

8am:

For our first trip of the day we headed west towards the Golden Gate Bridge. We had an outgoing tide and strong southern winds. There were many threatening rainclouds.

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We were just outside the bridge when we saw a spout near the north tower. The tide was sucking us out quickly, so we positioned ourselves inside the bridge to observe the whale. The gray whale was coming up infrequently and staying close to the rocks near the tower.

As we floated, another crew member spotted a whale near Crissy Field. We went towards that whale.

As we floated near Crissy Field, we watched as the rain approached from the ocean. The rain passed over us and eventually it cleared back up beyond the Strait.

11am:

On our second trip we headed back towards the Golden Gate Strait. We spotted a couple of spouts between Baker Beach and the South tower.

We still had an outgoing tide pulling us west, but we were able to float in neutral and have one whale in front of us and one behind us. There was a third whale even farther west.

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A few times the gray whale closest to the bridge approached within 70 yards of us.

There were lots of birds, seals, and porpoises near the bridge as well.

2pm:

On our last trip of the day we found two gray whales between Fort Mason and Crissy Field.

Both animals stayed close to shore.

The tide started to come in, so we positioned ourselves west of the whales and let the current push us alongside them.

We saw several large ships pass by us.

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Sightings Report: October 17, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

For our first trip we headed west of the precautionary area. We found at least ten whales just west of buoys 1 and 2.

There was a ton of bird activity all over the shipping lane. We saw some anchovies boiling at the surface, which let us know what the whales and the birds were feeding on.

We saw feeding behavior, including a few lunge feeds. We were able to identify several of the individuals in this sighting.

Many ships passed by us during this trip.

We spotted some California sea lions on the shipping lane buoys. We also had some harbor porpoise activity.

11am:

We returned to the same spot on our next trip. On our way out we spotted more sea lions. Some of them were porpoising.

A little bit farther west we found 5 humpbacks.

The whales kept a distance from us, but we were downwind and were able to smell their breath.

There were lots of birds in the area. We confirmed that at least three of the individuals we saw were the same ones we had seen on the previous trip.

2pm:

On our final trip of the day we headed a little bit farther north than the previous trips. We found three whales, all far from each other.

One whale near a container ship was breaching repeatedly.

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We did not see fluke dives from the other whales. They kept their distance from us. We did see lots of bird activity and some sea lions on the buoys.

Sightings Report: October 13, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

We headed west on this afternoon trip. We made our way through the shipping lane all the way out past buoys 1 and 2 to the pilot vessel. The weather was calm with very little wind.

Out past the precautionary area there were at least 6 whales: two pairs and two individuals.

We saw a few breaches from these animals and several fluke dives. One pair approached the boat, swam underneath us, and then slapped its tail when it surfaced on the other side.

There was a lot of bird activity in the area.

We saw at least four large ships pass by.

Sightings Report: August 30, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On our first trip of the day we found two humpback whales just west of Point Bonita.

It was a mother and calf feeding together. We saw them lunge feed separately and in synchrony with one another.

There were several large ships moving past them as they fed.

The whales mostly kept their distance. At one point they approached to just over 100 yards before starting to swim west.

11am:

On our second trip we found a humpback whale a little ways west of where we’d left the mother and calf on our earlier trip.

This whale was throwing flukes, likely diving to feed on anchovies.

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Sightings Report: July 17, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On our first trip of the day we went north towards a large biological hotspot we'd spotted a few days before the trip. There were lots of fishermen there and we were unable to find any whales in the area. 

We turned west and found one travelling humpback seventeen miles from home. 

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There was a lot of bird activity and harbor porpoise activity. We had excellent weather and sea conditions despite a little fog. 

11am: 

We started off north on a tip from another boat. We were unable to locate the reported whale. After a while we made a big circle west, then turned south to the shipping lane. 

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We then spotted two humpback whales at the end of the shipping lane near the pilot boat. 

The farther whale was breaching continuously. The closer whale was not fluking. 

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We saw lots of harbor porpoises in the area as well as California and Steller's sea lions resting on the buoys. 

All photos from the 11am trip were taken by Patrick Sysiong. 

2pm: 

We headed straight back out to where we'd left the whales. They were still in the shipping lane near buoys 1 and 2. 

We had 4-5 humpbacks in the area, including a mother and calf. There were a few lunge feeds. 

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The calf was the most active of all the whales. We saw a tail slap, breach, and pectoral fin slap from the calf near the end of the trip.

We spotted some harbor porpoise activity on this trip as well. There were also California sea lions and common murres with chicks.

An outbound container ship diverted its course to go around us and the whales. 

5pm:

The whales were still in the same spot on our final trip of the day.

We saw several lunge feeds from the humpbacks and a few fluke dives. 

More container ships passed by us over the course of the trip.

We also spotted some California sea lions and common murres. 

Sightings Report: July 11, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days.

8am:

On our first trip we found a humpback whale in the middle of the Golden Gate Strait. The whale was moving east towards the Golden Gate Bridge. 

There was an enormous group of birds near Kirby Cove. Many birds had anchovies in their mouths. We also spotted anchovies boiling at the surface. 

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The whale moved through this active area, then in under the bridge to Crissy Field. 

While we watched the whale fluke, we spotted a small sunfish near our boat. 

A large container ship passed behind us as the whale made its way towards Fort Point. 

We picked up two pieces of trash on this trip.

11am:

On our next trip we stopped immediately to pick up a chunk of styrofoam. We continued on through the bay until we reached Fort Point, where the humpback whale was still feeding. 

We could see anchovies at the surface of the water. Harbor seals and harbor porpoises were also taking advantage of the food in the area. A container ship and many smaller boats passed by as well.

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The whale stayed in the area and did not leave the bay.