golden gate strait

Sightings: 10/6/19

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

9am:

On our first trip of the day, we spotted a humpback whale near Mile Rock in 167 feet of water.

Over the course of the trip, we followed the whale as it slowly moved east with the tide.

When this whale fluke dove, I was able to identify this whale as #72 in our catalog. 72 is also known as “Crazy Ivan.”

We also spotted other wildlife on this trip, including harbor seals.

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We also had lots of bird activity in the area.

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12pm:

On our second trip we found two humpback whales in the same spot. One of the whales was #72 “Crazy Ivan,” the same whale from the morning trip. We were seeing fluke dives from these animals.

For the first portion of the trip, the whales stayed a few hundred yards from our boat. However, after watching them for a while, one of the humpbacks decided to come close to our boat.

We saw a couple of roll feeds close to the vessel.

There was lots of bird activity in the area, including feeding Caspian terns.

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3pm:

On the final trip we found two whales feeding in the same spot, near Mile Rock.

They moved in large circles close to the rock as they fed. There were large groups of cormorants and other feeding birds nearby.

As the trip went on, we started to spot a third spout outside the Golden Gate Strait. At one point, one of the whales approached within 100 yards of the boat.

We saw some fluke dives from the whales on this trip, so we will be able to identify which individuals we saw.

We also spotted other wildlife on this trip, including harbor seals.

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There was also a large amount of bird and porpoise activity, including parasitic jaegers chasing terns.

Sightings: 9/2/19

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On our first trip of the day we found one humpback whale near Mile Rock, near the end of the Golden Gate Strait. The whale was in 64 feet of water.

There was a lot of bird activity and bait in the area, but we did not observe any feeding behaviors or fluke dives.

The whale moved in large circles and slowly moved east with the incoming tide.

2pm:

On our next trip we found the same whale near Mile Rock again. It was close to the shoreline at Land’s End.

We saw one fluke dive from this animal, which we tentatively identified as Black October.

We saw a lot of feeding activity from this animal, including lunge feeding and roll feeding. There were birds hovering over the whale as well.

There were lots of boats in the area, including two large ships. One of the ships was careful to maneuver around the whale. An ebbing tide and northwestern wind created rough conditions in the Golden Gate Strait, making it harder to approach the whale.

We spent about 40 minutes with this animal.

Sightings: 8/31/19

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

9am:

On our first trip of the day we traveled down to Pacifica and found two humpback whales lunge feeding in 28 feet of water.

One of the whales surfaced for a brief moment before disappearing. The dorsal fin may have been that of Gator, a familiar visitor to our waters.

The other whale stuck around and fed in the area. We saw lunge feeding, anchovies boiling at the surface, and lots of bird activity.

At one point the whale approached us within 100 yards.

We spent about 30 minutes with the whale before returning to port.

12pm:

On our next trip, we found one whale feeding in 85 feet of water. The humpback was originally found between Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Over the course of the trip, the whale moved in between Alcatraz and Angel Island, then towards the Bay Bridge.

We saw lunge feeding and roll feeding from this animal. There were birds hovering over the spot where the whale was feeding.

There was tons of bait in the area, as well as tons of boats approaching the whales. There were inboard/outboard motor boats, sailboats, and large ships in the area.

We spent over an hour with this animal as it moved around the bay.

3pm:

On our final trip of the day we headed back out to the Golden Gate Strait, where we found two whales in about 117 feet of water. One of the whales was moving in and out of the strait, while the other stayed farther out.

We saw some fluke dives from the closer individual, who we identified in our catalog as #62. This whale had new scars on its fluke since we last saw it in 2018.

The whale was feeding, with birds and anchovies present in the same area. There were a few sailboats nearby.

We spent about an hour with this animal.

Sightings: 8/30/19

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On our first trip of the day we headed down to Pacifica, where we found four humpback whales feeding close to shore.

The whales were lunge feeding in less than 30 feet of water.

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We saw other evidence of feeding as well, including the presence of anchovies on the fish finder and a huge group of birds close to where the whales were. Three of the whales converged on the spot near the birds. They were lunge feeding probably in less than 20 feet of water.

After watching these animals for about 40 minutes, we started to head back to port. At that point we received a report that there was a humpback whale in San Francisco Bay.

As we approached the Golden Gate Bridge, we spotted the whale just ahead of us. We stayed with it for about 10 minutes, during which time we saw a fluke dive.

We were able to identify this whale as Black October, a whale named by our very own Captain Joe!

There were ships and sailboats passing by and a little bit of bait on the fish finder.

2pm:

On our next trip we headed back out to the Golden Gate Strait and found two humpbacks. First we watched the one near Baker Beach, which we identified again as Black October. We saw one breach from this animal, followed by some fluke diving. The whale appeared to be feeding.

The other whale was across the strait, but moved towards us over the course of the trip. We saw a fluke dive from this animal as well.

We spent about 45 minutes with these animals, who were feeding in 130 feet of water and making their way west over the course of the trip.

We saw some shipping activity as well as some sail and powerboats.

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: 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 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: September 12, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On our first trip of the day we headed north towards Muir Beach. We found a single humpback on the bar feeding in 37 feet of water.

The humpback was on the move and proved difficult to locate, especially as the wind started to pick up.

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It was not showing its fluke. It seemed to be heading for Point Bonita.

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11am:

On our next trip we found the humpback whale near Bonita Cove in the Golden Gate Strait. This was the first time we had seen a whale in the strait in several months. Since we did not get a good look at the flukes of the whale on the earlier trip, we aren’t sure if it was the same whale.

The humpback was feeding and fluking. As the tide rushed in, the whale moved with it.

It swam all the way from Bonita Cove to Angel Island over the course of our trip - almost four miles.

2pm:

The whale was still in the bay when we returned, although it had moved back towards Cavallo Point. We followed the whale as it moved all the way out to Point Bonita and into the choppy waters of the Pacific. It spent a lot of time close to the rocks on the west side of Point Diablo.

There was also some harbor porpoise activity as they surfed in the swell.

Sightings Report: August 4, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

On this trip we attempted the Farallon Islands faced with some daunting wind conditions. We made our way north under the protection of Bolinas. Near Stinson Beach we spotted a few bottlenose dolphins hunting close to shore.

We then turned to the west. When we passed Bolinas the conditions deteriorated severely. We expected them to become even worse if we continued west past the protection of Point Reyes.

We decided to turn around and look for whales closer to shore. We searched near Stinson Beach, where I had seen a spout earlier, but couldn’t relocate it. We continued back along the coast to the Golden Gate Strait before turning west again and searching in the shipping lane. There was a lot of fish activity, but no whale.

When we turned back and made our way again through the Golden Gate Strait, the captain spotted the whale close to the Cliff House.

The whale wasn’t showing any flukes, but we got a good view of its back despite the wind waves.

The whale made its way in towards Baker Beach before we headed back to port.

Sightings Report: August 1, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On our first trip of the day we had western winds and a strong tidal change midway through the trip. We headed out past the Golden Gate Bridge, hugging the north side of the strait. 

Outside Point Bonita there were tons of fishing boats looking for salmon. There was a lot of bird activity as well. We moved slowly through the area and were able to spot two humpbacks. 

We approached up to just over 100 yards and then floated in neutral for the rest of the trip. The two humpbacks were feeding and showing flukes. 

At one point one of them surfaced within 5 yards of the boat, doing several close fluke dives. 

They drifted east of us, but the current pushed us in their direction, so we were able to approach without engaging motors at all. They moved to 250 yards away, but then returned to again come within 100 yards of our boat. 

We also had harbor porpoise, California sea lion, harbor seal and lots of bird activity. There were lots of sooty shearwaters, murres with chicks, brown pelicans, and other birds in the area. 

We waited until the whales were 100 yards away before engaging our motors to slowly move back towards the Golden Gate Bridge. 

11am:

As the tide came in the sea flattened a little for the next trip. We came up the south side of the strait this time to avoid a large inbound oil tanker. 

As we got to Mile Rock we spotted spouts ahead. One was just a few hundred yards and the other was several hundred yards beyond that. 

We floated in neutral and the closer whale did several fluke dives. It came to about 120 yards over the course of the trip. 

We were being pushed east fast by the tide, current, and wind, so we repositioned once to be above the whale. It moved north of us and we floated with it. 

It seemed to be making its way farther into the straits, while the other humpback stayed outside Mile Rock. 

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