container ship

Sightings: 8/18/19

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

9am:

For our first trip we headed 15 miles west, past the shipping lane. We had wet conditions on the way out due to a coastal southerly wind.

Once out there we spotted two humpback whales; one was closer to us, while the other was farther off. We paralleled the closer whale for several minutes as it travelled.

The whale was not feeding. No food appeared to be present in the area.

There was some shipping activity in the lane. We spotted some big splashes from the farther whale, suggesting that it was breaching.

12pm:

The whales were a little bit closer on our second trip, although the southerly had increased and the way out was very wet. We found three humpbacks in about 85 feet of water.

One of the whales was closer to us with a small spout. We observed this animal for several minutes before sighting the other two on the other side of the shipping lane.

We saw some fluke dives from these animals. We had anchovies on the fish finder and birds in the area, suggesting that there was food.

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We saw some inbound container ships. The two far whales swam directly in front of the ship before safely popping up behind it. Then they swam across our bow.

3pm:

By the final trip of the day, the conditions had improved and it was less wet than the previous trips. We returned to the same area, where we found three humpbacks in 107 feet of water.

The humpbacks were feeding, but moved around quite a bit as they did so.

One of the whales did a close approach on the stern of our vessel. As it came closer, we were able to identify this whale as Akula. This was the third time we had seen Akula this week.

We spent about 35 minutes with these animals before heading back to the dock.

Golden Gate: 7/23/19

Sightings from the Golden Gate Bridge

I headed to the Golden Gate Bridge at about 4pm. High tide was scheduled for 5:20 pm.

For the first 30 minutes that I walked the bridge, I only saw pelicans and other seabirds.

As I walked toward the center span, I spotted a bright white spot on the water. It was a mola mola (ocean sunfish). These are rare inside San Francisco Bay, so I was surprised to see one coming in with the tide underneath the bridge!

As the tide came up farther, I spotted a harbor seal near the center span.

Eventually I started seeing a few porpoises as well. They were moving quickly under the bridge, usually in groups of 2-3 individuals. The water is cloudy with plankton at this time of year, so it is difficult to track the porpoises once they dive under.

I saw several large ships pass underneath the bridge. I also spotted the coast guard helicopter.

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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