kitty kat

Sightings Report: May 3, 2019

Sighting from vessel Mirabel, approximately 11am.

Mirabel is a lovely 32’ Grand Banks captained by Dr. Ellen Hines. On Friday she invited a few students out with her to see what we could find in the bay.

The Kitty Kat was on a whale watching tour and alerted us to a gray whale just east of Angel Island. That’s where we headed first.

The gray whale was not fluking. It stayed in almost the same spot when it surfaced. There was a strong incoming tide and a bit of wind.

The Kitty Kat stayed a safe distance away from the whales and approached slowly.

After photographing the gray whale, we headed through Raccoon Strait, where we saw a sea lion preying on a fish.

We headed towards the Golden Gate Bridge, turning around near Cavallo Point. There was a lot of bird activity in the area as well as activity on the fish finder. We saw several porpoises in this area as well.

We headed back between Alcatraz and Angel Island towards the Berkeley Marina for fuel and then the Richmond Marina to end our day.

Sightings Report: September 2, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

3pm: 

This trip had very calm seas, humid air and bright sun. On a day of record breaking heat, we found two humpback whales out past the Golden Gate Bridge near Baker Beach. 

Fluke in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Fluke in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

The two whales were doing fluke dives and moving slowly towards the bridge with the incoming tide. One was smaller, suggesting they might have been a mother with a juvenile. 

There was a lot of boat traffic, including two large container ships, a sailboat race, and other small power boats. SFWT vessel Happy Days was also out whale watching. 

The two SFWT vessels were both 200-250 yards away from the whales, floating in neutral, when a small Parker boat sped past doing at least 15 knots. When the small boat saw the surfacing whale, they did a u-turn and chased down the whale. They approached at high speeds and got within 20 feet of the whale, who sped up its dives. Several times the whale decided to forgo a fluke dive in favor of a faster, shallower dive. The boat repeated this behavior three times, speeding towards the whale every time it surfaced. 

We attempted to call the boat on the radio, but got no answer. At one point they approached Happy Days and we could faintly hear Captain John on the microphone informing them that they were breaking the Be Whale Wise rules. At that point the boat sped away from us and the whales. 

We continued to float in neutral, waiting to see where the whale would surface. At that point it came up within 30 yards of our boat and swam in front of the bow, giving us a good look. 

After the whale was safely at least 100 yards away, we slowly moved back towards Pier 39. Besides whales, we also spotted harbor porpoises, harbor seals, and California sea lions on this trip. We also used the boat hook and a piece of duct tape to remove a plastic water bottle from the strait. 

All sightings were reported to vessel traffic. Photos of the small vessel have been forwarded to NOAA. 

DSC_8135.JPG

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: July 11, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

2pm:

The wind seemed to be picking up as we prepared to board the Kitty Kat, and I was a little worried about conditions in the strait. Luckily we barely made it out of our slip when first mate Josh spotted a whale. We slowly approached the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, humpbacks fluking on both sides of us and in front of us. One of whales near Fort Point did a couple of quick fin slaps before disappearing into very shallow water (somewhere between 50 and 60 feet). There was a lot of boat traffic, and several whale watchers expressed concerns about how fast other boats in the area were going. The whales were spread all the way underneath the bridge. We counted at least six inside the bay, with more spouts beyond the Golden Gate.

Our speed in neutral was 1.1 knots, indicating the speed of the current.

Our speed in neutral was 1.1 knots, indicating the speed of the current.

We also noted harbor seals and harbor porpoises on this trip. As we headed back into port, we saw some Royal Terns feeding with the usual Caspian Terns, Common Murres, and Western Gulls.

5pm: 

On my second trip of the day the whales were right where we left them. There were still at least six feeding inside the bay and many spouts farther away. We floated with the current as two humpbacks I suspected were a mother and calf pair spouted and dove together near the south tower of the bridge. A huge container ship passed through the Golden Gate to the north of us, and we saw decreased activity in that direction as whales started surfacing within 100 yards of our stern. There was a high concentration of kite boarders in the area, and a whale surfaced less than 40 yards from one of them. 

The whale's back is out of the water; the wind is quickly blowing the spout across the surface of the water. A large fuel ship passes under the bridge in the background.

The whale's back is out of the water; the wind is quickly blowing the spout across the surface of the water. A large fuel ship passes under the bridge in the background.

Near the beginning of the trip, I spotted three bright green balloons floating in the water. I notified the captain and we went into rescue mode. Our first mate Josh got out our large net and positioned himself on the starboard bow. The wind made it tricky, but with patience and teamwork we were able to remove two of the balloons. We lost sight of the last one and unfortunately did not see it again. The retrieved pieces were balloon swords commonly made at Pier 39; whales, seals, porpoises, and dozens of seabirds were in the area. Plastic in the ocean is a huge problem for wildlife, and it is our responsibility to remove it. The problem is so bad that we're even finding plastic in the sea salt we use for cooking! Find out more about reducing plastic in our oceans with Project Kaisei.

Happy to at least have retrieved 2 of the 3 balloons!

Happy to at least have retrieved 2 of the 3 balloons!

We had harbor porpoise and harbor seal sightings on this trip, as well as sightings of northern anchovies clasped in the beaks of birds. The captain noted the sonar was picking up readings of a large concentration of feed underneath the boat.

All sightings were reported on Whale Alert and over the radio to the Coast Guard. Below are photos from passenger James Mancusi. 

***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: July 7th, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

2pm: 

At around 2:30 we found humpback whales just outside the Golden Gate Bridge near Diablo CoveThere were 3 feeding in the immediate area, with more spouts sighted further out in the strait. 

We got a close look at a couple of harbor seals and 4-5 harbor porpoises off our bow. We also were treated to the sight of a California sea lion chowing down on a large king salmon. Several common murres were sighted with their mouths full of northern anchovies.

5pm:

The wind had picked up a bit from the last tour, but we still spotted a few different whales pretty quickly, including one just outside the Golden Gate Bridge. There were lots of spouts on the horizon, so we headed out towards Mile Rock. At 5:50, we slowly and carefully positioned ourselves above the spouts and floated in neutral as a humpback whale roughly 120 yards away repeatedly slapped its fluke against the water. The sound from the slap can be heard from far away underwater; it has potential uses for communication, as well as scaring fish into a tighter school. The slapping humpback was missing a chunk of one of the lobes on its fluke, making it very distinctive and easy to recognize. Another 2-3 spouts were sighted further offshore.

There were 4-5 more spouts near Point Bonita moving in towards the bridge, and two more humpbacks between Mile Rock and the bridge. I estimated that there were at least 8 different whales sighted in the Strait. 

***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!***