diablo cove

Sightings Report: June 13, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

2pm: 

On our first trip, we found the humpback Akula near Yellow Bluff, inside the Golden Gate Bridge. A lot of birds circled above, indicating feeding. Akula was spouting 4-5 times followed by a deep fluke dive. 

Akula slowly moved out towards the central bay. A small eastbound boat with an outboard motor was headed towards the whale at about 8 knots. The whale was in the middle of a dive sequence, and so it was staying in pretty much the same spot every time it surfaced. It surfaced twice before it was hit by the small boat. 

The whale made a jerky motion and threw one of it's pectoral fins in the air before disappearing. The boat did not stop.

After a long dive, Akula surfaced again closer to Cavallo Point. Several more small boats sped past him. We saw several more normal dives before we had to return to port. 

The strike has been reported to NOAA.

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11am: 

On our 5pm trip we headed first to Diablo Cove, where we spotted several harbor seals. 

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We continued out to Point Bonita, where the weather was a little rough. We started heading east when the captain spotted a whale by Mile Rock. 

We positioned ourselves above the whale and were pushed "downhill" while watching it. A large group of birds hovered over the whale. 

All sightings reported to Vessel Traffic.

Sightings Report: June 2, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

9am: 

We set out on our first trip of the day with reports of whales in the straits. We headed first to Diablo Cove to check out the harbor seals and scan the strait for spouts. 

While floating in Diablo Cove we saw spouts by Mile Rock. As we got closer we saw more and more spouts, eventually counting 9-10 whales. 

The humpbacks were all relatively close to each other, with some travelling and diving in pairs. 

One whale across the channel tail slapped a few times as a large container ship passed between that whale and the rest of the group. 

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Over the course of the trip the whales moved in towards Baker Beach. We floated with the tide, and a few times they came within 100 yards of us.

We saw one breach towards the Golden Gate Bridge. 

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We also spotted lots of California sea lions in the strait.

On this trip we picked up an entire trash bag floating in the water, along with a big piece of styrofoam, a Starbucks cup, and a Clorox bottle. 

12pm: 

The wind had picked up as we headed out for our next trip. Luckily, the whales had moved in all the way to Cavallo Point. 

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There were 4-5 humpbacks in this group. They were all individuals who we had seen outside the bridge on the earlier trip. We sighted Gator, Topspot, and Curly, as well as some unnamed whales.

We were able to float in neutral for a lot of the trip and saw a few fluke dives within 50 yards of us. 

A strong incoming tide pushed us and the whales farther into the central bay as the trip went on. 2-3 big container ships passed by us, as well as a wide variety of smaller boats. 

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There were lots of harbor seals in the area as well. 

All whale sightings were reported to vessel traffic. 

Sightings Report: May 18, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

8am: 

It was windy, rough, cold and foggy on our first trip of the day. We went out to Mile Rock, where a big group of birds was diving. Conditions were not good. 

We crossed the strait over to Diablo Cove, where we saw the harbor seals resting on the rocks. We also monitored the strait, looking for spouts. 

We made our way out to Point Bonita, then turned around and headed back into the bridge. We saw porpoises, sea lions, and seals, but no whales on this trip. 

11am: 

On our second trip we headed straight out to Point Bonita. The conditions in the strait had improved. 

We saw spouts by Mile Rock, then more spouts farther away. We went to the one that was closer in. 

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The humpback whale was moving along the tide line. After a few minutes, another whale joined it. We saw a few flukes. 

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One of the whales was a smaller individual who seemed to have a skin condition. 

The whales moved in over the course of the trip with the incoming tide. By the time we left them they were near Baker Beach. 

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2pm: 

By our last trip the sun had come out and the seas were still relatively flat in the strait. We found whales just beyond the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

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We located our first whale, then moved to the south side of the strait so that two container ships could pass by us. As we floated we noticed two more spouts near Diablo Cove. 

We approached Diablo Cove and took a look at the harbor seals.

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The whales were heading east, the pair still surfacing and fluking together. Often they would float at the surface for a while before diving. 

We headed back into the bay while two more container ships passed by. 

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As we made our way back to port, we saw the pair of whales just to the east of the South tower. There was also a lot of harbor porpoise activity on this trip. 

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Sightings Report: May 7, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

8am: 

On the first trip we decided to head around Angel Island before heading out towards the Golden Gate Strait. As we made our way through Raccoon Straits, we found a Gray whale swimming north towards Richmond. 

We saw a few spouts from this whale, then decided to head out to try to find some humpbacks. 

We ended up finding 5-6 humpbacks in the strait, with a group of 4-5 moving in. 

One whale started breaching near the Golden Gate Bridge. We watched as the whale slowly moved west, breaching continuously. We also saw the whale slapping its pectoral fin as it rolled over. 

Eventually the same whale had moved to start breaching all the way past Mile Rock.

From the other group we saw sharp movements and open mouths that indicated lunge feeding, as well as a few pectoral fin slaps. 

There was a huge group of birds in the middle of the strait, mostly comprised of cormorants and gulls. 

A few large container ships passed by during this trip. We had several opportunities to smell the whale's breath. 

As we moved back towards the bridge at the end of our trip, we saw 4 humpbacks spouting and fluking in synchrony. 

There were California sea lions everywhere. One leapt fully out of the water in front of our boat. 

11am: 

When we returned at 11am, there were still many whales in the strait. There were several ships passing by, so we gave the whales plenty of space. 

We started off watching the whales from several hundred yards away. As we floated in the strait, they slowly made their way towards us. 

At one point three humpbacks surfaced 5 yards off our bow. 

The big group of birds had moved over to Diablo Cove. We saw California sea lions in the strait and ducked quickly into Diablo Cove to take a look at the harbor seals resting on the rocks. 

The whales were still lunge feeding on this trip as they slowly moved towards the north side of the strait near Diablo Cove. 

Sightings Report: November 17, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

We had nice weather on this five hour whale watching trip. We found one humpback past the shipping lane. We saw spouts and several fluke dives. 

We also spotted harbor porpoise, California sea lions, and our usual fall birds, including western grebes. 

Common murres. 

Common murres. 

On our way back, we ducked into Diablo Cove. It was low tide, so many harbor seals were resting on rocks in the sun. There were dozens basking in the sun and poking their heads out of the water. 

Sightings Report: September 13, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am: Farallon Islands Trip

As we headed out into the Golden Gate Strait, a thick wet mist was there to greet us. We saw lots of harbor porpoises on our way out, but I didn't expect to see any whales. That meant it was a surprise when one of our passengers reported a spout while we were passing Bonita Cove. 

Point Bonita.

Point Bonita.

Sure enough, there was a humpback whale in the middle of the strait. We hadn't seen them that close to the bay in over a week. A nearby gull had an anchovy in its beak, confirming the reason for their presence.

We watched the whale spout a few times from several hundred yards away, then started to slowly move west. As we did, another humpback surfaced 200 yards ahead of us. We waited for it to pass us as it headed east towards the other whale. Later we would get reports that another whale was about to join them. We also noted a parasitic jaeger harassing a group of elegant terns before we left the area. 

We headed straight out west through the shipping lane. The water was unusually calm, and as we progressed farther the mist dissipated a little. We saw lots of California sea lions resting on the shipping lane bouys, and a few leaping out of the water near our boat. 

We also spotted a group of 5+ sooty shearwaters, a flesh-footed shearwater, 2 Cassin's auklets, and some red-necked phalaropes in flight in the 10 miles before we reached the islands. 

The Farallon islands appear in the distance.

The Farallon islands appear in the distance.

Once we reached the Farallons, we spotted 2 tufted puffins in the water near Sugarloaf just outside of Fisherman's Bay.

Tufted Puffin.

Tufted Puffin.

There were lots of common murres, gulls, and all three species of cormorants (pelagic, Brandt's, and double-crested). 

California and Steller's sea lions rested on the rocky shore. As we made our way around the islands toward Saddle Rock, we sighted some elephant seals resting in Garbage Gulch. Near Mirounga Bay there were Northern fur seals resting on the rocks. 

We also noted several species of invertebrates, including a salp, moon jellies, box jellies, and pelagic tunicates. 

The forecast warned that the wind was going to pick up dramatically in the afternoon, so we started to head back towards shore, hoping to find whales on the way in. The passengers reported a whale near shipping lane buoys 1/2, but the whale was not resighted. While we were waiting we picked up a balloon that was floating in the water. 

California sea lions on the buoy.

California sea lions on the buoy.

By the time we got back to Point Bonita, there was thick fog and a light rain. We found two humpbacks in the strait. One was moving from the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge towards Baker Beach, and the other was closer to Diablo Cove.

Humpback fluke.

Humpback fluke.

We saw a few fluke dives and some harbor porpoises before we headed in for the day. 

All sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic. 

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If you were on one of these trips and have photos, send them in to info.whalegirl@gmail.com! I'd love to add them to this post for others to enjoy (with credit to you). Thank you!

Sightings Report: August 30, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

2pm: 

We passed a California sea lion on our way out towards the Golden Gate Bridge. We were headed down the middle of the Golden Gate Strait in some pretty rough water when we spotted a spout on the north side of the strait in Bonita Cove. 

Humpback on the north side of the strait.

Humpback on the north side of the strait.

A large container ship was passing by, so we waited to approach the whale. While we were waiting, another humpback surfaced 150 yards south of us. 

We turned the boat so the swell was at our stern and floated in neutral. The humpback seemed to be heading east towards the bay. 

As we saw that whale's fluke, the other whale across the strait started slapping its tail over and over again, directly in the path of the incoming ship. It slapped  at least 5 times before diving. 

Once the ship had passed, we crossed the strait to Diablo Cove. We saw it surface a few times and do a fluke dive, but we were unable to relocate it after that. At least four more large container ships, fuel ships, and tugs with barges passed by. It was the heaviest traffic I have seen.

While attempting to relocate the whale, we observed a lot of harbor porpoise activity. We also ducked into Diablo Cove to look at the harbor seals resting on the rocks. While we were here I noticed a plastic bag floating in the water, and we did a man overboard drill to retrieve it. 

Eventually we needed to head back to port, so we made our way towards the Golden Gate Bridge. As we approached the bridge I saw a spout 200 yards ahead under the center span of the bridge with lots of birds overhead. We slowed down and passed the whale, watching it from our stern as we made our way back to port. 

Spout with a cloud of birds above.

Spout with a cloud of birds above.

5pm: 

When we returned to the bridge, the same humpback whale was under the center span and another had moved in to feed with it. We had reports of another spout just outside the bridge. They were diving in 300+ feet of water. 

Humpback just inside the Golden Gate Bridge.

Humpback just inside the Golden Gate Bridge.

Our fish finder told us there was lots of fish 150 feet down, and the whales continued to feed near the south tower and inside the bay. 

High tide was not until 7:05 PM, so when we slowly left the area the whales didn't seem to be heading back out. 

We spotted a sea lion on our way back in. 

California sea lion.

California sea lion.

All sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic.

The Golden Gate Bridge and the moon.

The Golden Gate Bridge and the moon.

If you were on one of these trips and have photos, send them in to info.whalegirl@gmail.com! I'd love to add them to this post for others to enjoy (with credit to you). Thank you!

Sightings Report: August 16, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

8am: 

Our first trip of the day had beautiful flat seas with no wind. On our way out we found a large dining room chair floating in the water. We attempted to retrieve the chair, but it was too heavy for our boat hook, so we reported the debris to traffic.

We expected to find the whales somewhere near Mile Rock. Sure enough, once we were near the end of the Golden Gate Strait, we saw two spouts out in the shipping lane and one more near Point Bonita.

Fluke with small fishing boat and birds. 

Fluke with small fishing boat and birds. 

We slowly approached the humpback at Point Bonita and floated in neutral while watching several fluke dives, including one within 100 yards of our boat.

Harbor porpoise. 

Harbor porpoise. 

The whale moved towards the middle of the strait, and then headed in towards the Golden Gate Bridge. We saw lots of harbor porpoises with calves and a California sea lion.

We also saw several harbor seals, including one that floated on its back near our stern before turning around to stare at us. There was a lot of bird activity, but not much feeding going on.

11am: 

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We spotted a sea lion on our way out to the Golden Gate Bridge, and soon after we had our first spouts. The humpback was just outside the bridge between the south tower and Diablo Cove. It was the same whale we had seen earlier. 

The whale started heading towards Baker Beach, where we saw a second spout. The new whale had a lot of barnacles on its skin so it appeared much more gray than black, and its fluke was entirely white. Until I saw the dorsal fin, I thought it could have been a gray whale. 

We also spotted two sharks leaping out of the water. Their silvery blue color and long caudal fin identified them as thresher sharks. We also spotted harbor porpoise. 

Eventually a large container ship and tug required us to move out of the way, and we slowly returned to port. 

All sightings were reported to the Coast Guard and to NOAA via the Whale Alert app.

***If you were on one of these trips and have photos, send them in to info.whalegirl@gmail.com! I'd love to add them to this post for others to enjoy (with credit to you). Thank you!***