golden gate strait

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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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. 

Sightings Report: June 23, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

3pm: 

We headed out through the Golden Gate Strait and found a humpback whale near Mile Rock. It was exhibiting feeding behaviors. We also saw murres with anchovies in their mouths in the area. 

The whale gave several big tail slaps. 

There were more whales in the area, with two more humpbacks near the northern shipping lane and another in Bonita Cove. 

We also had a gray whale in the area. It approached us and surfaced within 50 yards of the boat. It surfaced several times followed by a fluke dive. We noticed some big plumes of mud near the whale, indicating feeding. 

A few big container ships and a couple of smaller fishing boats passed by us. We also noticed the group of juvenile Brandt's cormorants off of Mile Rock. 

6pm:

We headed back out for our final trip of the day. We first found a gray whale in the middle of the strait. We watched it for a few minutes as it seemed to head west. 

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We had three more spouts in the area, indicating a humpback near Baker Beach, one near Mile Rock, and one near Point Bonita. 

We positioned ourselves between Mile Rock and Baker Beach and floated in neutral. The tide pushed us down towards the whale, and the most eastern humpback surfaced on our starboard side 100 yards from our vessel. 

The humpback swam around our bow to the port side, then started tail slapping repeatedly. 

Both of us slowly got pushed in. We were watching the whale fluking in the strait as we sat underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

At one point we moved out of the way for a large container ship.

There was a lot of bird and harbor seal activity in the area as well.

All sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic.