golden gate bridge

Sightings Report: May 1, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On this trip we found a gray whale near Richardson Bay. It surfaced roughly every seven minutes.

Over the course of the trip the whale slowly moved towards Tiburon. At a few points it came close to the shoreline and was diving in very shallow water.

As we headed back to the dock, we spotted one dive sequence from a humpback whale, including the fluke. The whale was in the central bay, but we didn’t see it again as we left the area. Soon after, a large oil tanker passed through the area.

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11am:

While we were at the dock, researchers at Golden Gate Cetacean Research were looking at a humpback whale off of Cavallo Point. When headed out on our next trip we went straight to the whale they were observing.

It was a humpback whale feeding on anchovies.

We saw several fluke dives from this animal. A few times it came within 100 yards of our boat.

Over the course of the trip, the whale slowly moved towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

This was consistent with the outgoing tide, which was likely causing the fish to move west.

We saw lots of harbor seals and California sea lions on this trip as well.

Several of the sea lions were hunting fish underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

2pm:

On our last trip of the day we went out into the Golden Gate Strait in search of the humpback. We relocated the animal in the middle of the strait.

At first we waited west of the animal to see if it was heading out. When it stayed in one spot for a while, we slowly approached.

The whale appeared to be feeding - we had huge bait balls showing on the fish finder. It was coming up at irregular intervals. A few times it lifted its tail high for a rapid deep dive.

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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: March 26, 2019

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On our first trip of the day we headed out with a few reports of gray whales in San Francisco Bay. It was only a few minutes before we found the first spout, just east of our harbor.

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The whale was surfacing every few minutes in the ferry lane.

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After watching this whale for a while, we continued west and found another whale near Crissy field. This whale was very close to the shore. Neither animal showed its flukes.

11am:

On our next trip, we started off west and immediately found a gray whale near Fort Mason. The whale came very close to the shore, swimming in about 30 feet of water.

At one point a whale approached our boat within 100 yards.

We eventually found another whale near Fort Mason, but farther from the shore. We also saw spouts near Crissy Field.

2pm:

On this trip e headed back towards the spot where we’d left whales on our previous trip. We found one near St. Francis Yacht Club.

While we were enjoying this whale, a young sea lion came up to our boat and swam around it for ten minutes. It leaped in to the air and darted around us, staying within a few feet of the boat.

The whale moved around the Aquatic Park, slowly making its way west.

Eventually we lost it. We thought near the end we saw spouts just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, so we headed that way to try to get one last look. Near the bridge we saw harbor seals, porpoises, tons of bird activity, and a lot of anchovies on our fish finder.

Sightings Report: December 3, 2018

Sightings from the Golden Gate Bridge

I arrived at the bridge a few minutes after high tide, around 9:00 AM. It was a cold, clear morning, with the Farallon islands barely visible on the horizon.

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I was able to spot seabirds and a few porpoises under the bridge.

I observed one foraging attempt.

I also saw one mother traveling with her calf.

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Sightings Report: October 24, 2018

8 AM Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

On this trip we headed out past the Golden Gate Bridge and into the Golden Gate Strait. A crew member spotted a whale near Mile Rock. It was a single humpback.

The humpback was feeding in an area with a lot of tidal action. We saw many lunge feeds as the whale fed on anchovies. We floated in the vicinity of the whale for a while before the whale began using the tide to come towards us. We saw at least one lunge feed within 50 yards of our boat.

As the tide came in, the whale moved towards the Golden Gate Bridge. We did not see fluke dives from the animal, but we were able to identify it based on the scars and markings on its body.

1 PM Sighting from Golden Gate Bridge

We only had one trip on the boat on this day, so after the tour a few members of Golden Gate Cetacean Research met on the Golden Gate Bridge to see if we could spot the whale.

The humpback had used the tide to move far into the bay. We could see it breaching and spouting near Alcatraz. At one point a large cruise ship passed by the whale.

While we waited for the tide to change, we photographed harbor seals and porpoises underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

We spotted several mother-calf pairs among the harbor porpoises.

We also witnessed porpoises chasing fish and at least one mating attempt.

We lost sight of the whale for a while. Then I finally spotted it near Fort Point, only a few hundred yards from the bridge. We managed to get a few photos before the whale swam under the bridge and came out on the other side.

The whale breached in the Golden Gate Strait and continued to move out with the tide.

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 31, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

2pm:

On this trip we found a humpback whale inside the bay near Crissy Field. 

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It was taking long dives, but we were seeing flukes. 

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It moved back and forth between the center span of the Golden Gate Bridge and Crissy Field.

We also spotted harbor porpoises, harbor seals, and murres with chicks.

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5pm:

The western wind had picked up significantly and the bay was rough as we headed out to relocate the humpback. We slowly made our way all the way out to Point Bonita, where we found tons of birds and two humpbacks.

We were unable to stay with them for a long time due to the weather conditions.

Sightings Report: July 12, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

2pm:

On this trip we spotted a humpback in the central bay. It was feeding and fluking. Some of the flukes were especially high.

A few times the whale came within 100 yards of us. 

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We slowly followed the whale as it made its way out into the Golden Gate Strait to Diablo Point. 

We also spotted harbor porpoises and common murres with chicks.

5pm:

On our evening trip we found two humpbacks at Mile Rock.

One of the whales was the one we saw on the earlier trip.

The whales were showing flukes. A few times they approached our boat. 

Sightings Report: July 10, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

8am:

On our first trip of the day we found a humpback whale just outside the Golden Gate Bridge. 

We saw several fluke dives from this whale as the tide pushed both of us in towards the bridge. 

We spotted another whale with an all-white fluke 500 yards west of where we were watching the first whale. We stayed with the first whale as it traveled under the bridge and over to Crissy Field.

There were tons of harbor seals and a lot of bird activity in the strait and under the bridge. 

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11am:

We returned to the spot where we'd left the whale on our first trip, but were unable to relocate it. We continued out through the strait and all the way into the Pacific. Once we'd past Mile Rock we turned north, and when we were aligned with Point Bonita we turned east again to come down the north side of the Golden Gate Strait. A passenger saw the humpback spout near Baker Beach. 

We approached the whale, but it appeared to be travelling. It was spouting twice, followed by a fluke dive. It would reappear after 7-8 minutes a good distance west of its last location. 

There was a lot of harbor porpoise activity on this trip.

Sightings Report: July 5, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat. All photos in this post taken by SFWT photographer Leigh. 

2pm

On this trip we were able to locate a mother humpback with her calf in out in the shipping lane between buoys 3 and 4. 

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3-4 large container ships passed by the whales while we were there. We made sure they had plenty of space while other vessels were present. 

The two were not fluking much, although we saw a few fluke dives from the calf. They were slowly heading west. 

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We spotted another spout a little bit farther north. The whale started moving east towards the bridge, and we followed at a distance until we moved back towards port. 

5pm:

On this trip a crew member spotted a breach at Mile Rock while we were still under the bridge. 

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The humpback whale continued to breach, followed by several pectoral slaps. We also saw several fluke dives. 

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The whale slowly moved east, breaching and slapping continuously. 

A large container ship passed by us and the whale moved in to Kirby Cove, where we saw a breach in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

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It then traveled all the way across to Fort Point and then back to the bridge. 

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We also spotted lots of harbor porpoises near the end of the trip.