point bonita

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: June 27, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

2pm: 

On our afternoon trip, we found a gray whale outside of the Golden Gate Strait. We followed it north towards Point Bonita. It was travelling and would reappear far from the previous spouts. We lost the spout for a few minutes before reacquiring the whale near the lighthouse. 

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We saw several harbor porpoises near our boat, along with a large amount of bird activity. 

Five container ships passed us over the course of the trip. 

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5pm:

On our next trip we headed out in hopes of finding a humpback. We went twelve miles west through the shipping lane, noting some traffic.

We went down the south side of the lane, then paused near Mile Rock. At that point our captain noticed a spout near Point Bonita. 

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We approached and found a single humpback. The whale breached twice before diving. 

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It resurfaced slightly farther west and did a large tail slap, followed by another breach. 

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As the whale moved west, we turned around and headed back to port. 

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Sightings Report: May 17, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

The weather was rough and windy as we headed out on our first trip. We were able to spot a spout just outside Mile Rock. 

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We found the humpback diving, but not throwing flukes. It stayed close to the same spot the whole time. 

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Near the end of the trip, more whales joined up with the single individual, making a total of about 4 humpbacks in the area. 

A juvenile brown pelican came very close to our boat.

We saw a California sea lion with a fish, as well as some harbor seals. 

11am: 

On our second trip we found the whale near Point Bonita. Lots of inbound container ships passed by us. 

There was a strong tide and heavy wind, making it really choppy in the area where the whale was. It was not throwing flukes. 

Sightings Report: May 14, 2018

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

8am: 

We found two bottlenose dolphins just past the Golden Gate Bridge. One was slightly larger than the other. They were bow riding and spinning underneath us. 

We continued out through the straight and past the demarcation line. Just past the line we found two humpbacks. 

The humpbacks stayed about 200 yards away and were slowly moving in. 

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The weather was cold and foggy, but the waters were calm. 

11am: 

The weather was the same as we headed out on our second trip of the day. Outside the bridge we saw several harbor porpoises going in all directions. We saw some California sea lions as well. 

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We continued on to Point Bonita, where we saw two spouts. 

We followed along the tide line for a bit, but were unable to relocate the spouts. 

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Suddenly I saw a breach to the south. We headed that way and saw a humpback slapping the water with its pectoral fin, followed by a fluke dive.

The whale disappeared for another fifteen minutes, then reappeared 1000 yards offshore. We were able to get one last look before heading in. 

Sightings Report: September 18, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am: 

Our first trip of the day was very foggy. As we got close to the Golden Gate Bridge, we had a huge amount of bird activity from a wide variety of species. Many of them were flying west. 

We felt that we were passing a whale, but we continued out into the Golden Gate Strait. We found one humpback by Mile Rock. We approached very slowly, our already slow pace further reduced by a strong western swell/wind and the incoming tide. 

The whale was feeding right on the tide line, along with huge groups of birds. We saw a few fluke dives, one of them around 100 yards away from us. 

After we left the whale and headed back in, we found a whale by the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge - the one we had missed on the way out. 

Brown pelican.

Brown pelican.

11am: 

When we headed back out for our second trip, the whale had moved further into the bay with the tide. We found it in between Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. It was moving west. We stayed 200-300 yards away as we followed the whale out, watching fluke dives and lots of bird activity over the whale. 

The whale would occasionally do a lunge feed followed by some time spent on its side, slapping or waving its pectoral fin. 

Anchovies boiled at the surface of the water. Birds were attacking each other in attempts to steal food. 

The whale stopped just outside the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge near Diablo Cove . We also stopped and put the boat in neutral.

After a few dives, the whale moved in towards us, surfacing 100 yards away. 

It disappeared for a while, then reappeared 20 feet from our bow. It surfaced again on our stern, where it did a few fluke dives. We saw some more lunge feeding and pectoral fin slapping. 

Lunge feed!

Lunge feed!

We saw quite a few harbor seals outside the bridge. 

The whale slowly moved away from us towards the center span of the bridge. We made sure it was at least 100 yards away before we started moving. 

3pm: 

By the time we headed out on our third trip of the day it was almost low tide. The outgoing tide made the Golden Gate Strait a lot rougher than it had been in the morning. 

We headed up the south side of the strait when we spotted a spout by Point Bonita. We waited for a container ship to pass before we approached. 

The humpback was feeding in the same spot as the whale on the 3pm trip yesterday. We put the boat in neutral and had our stern to the swell, allowing us to float 200 yards from the whale. 

Humpback fluke.

Humpback fluke.

The whale worked the same area the whole trip, moving in circles around us and coming as close as 100 yards. We only saw two fluke dives from this whale, indicating that the anchovies were most likely close to the surface. 

Humpback whale. 

Humpback whale. 

Near the end of the trip, the whale swam to our stern and came up on the other side. We made sure it was 100 yards away before we moved. The whale continued to parallel us at 120 yards for a few minutes. Once we were half a mile away we came up to speed. 

All sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic.

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: September 17, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

3pm: 

It was rough in the Golden Gate Strait as we headed out to find the whales. We found a spout by Point Bonita. Since we were on the south side of the strait, we waited until a large barge had passed between us and the whale before we approached it. 

Tug with barge.

Tug with barge.

We approached slowly and stopped 150 yards away. The whale surfaced several times, mostly doing dives without showing the fluke. At one point the whale did a fluke dive 50 yards from us.

The whale was diving in 100 feet of water with 25 feet of anchovies packed below the surface. 

Humpback near Point Bonita.

Humpback near Point Bonita.

Near the end of our trip, the whale started heading west. We slowly moved east until the whale was half a mile away, then came up to speed. 

Humpback heading west.

Humpback heading west.

All sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic.

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: September 16, 2017

9am and 12pm sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days; 3pm sighting from SFWT vessel Kitty Kat.

9am: 

On our first trip of the day we quickly spotted a single whale underneath the center span of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a humpback feeding on a 30-50 foot wall of anchovies in roughly 120 feet of water. 

The whale was 250 yards away, and we set course to position ourselves parallel to it, moving at 3 knots. To our surprise, it surfaced very close to our bow. We put the boat in neutral and floated near the bridge for the remainder of the trip. It was a good example of why it is so important to go slow around whales.

It was high tide, and dozens of harbor seals came up to check us out.

There was a swimming race happening underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, and the whales came quite close to the swimmers. 

This whale wasn't throwing flukes, probably because the anchovies were already close to the surface. 

11am: 

When we returned there was even more traffic than when we had left.

A large amount of traffic in the bay.

A large amount of traffic in the bay.

Nonetheless, we found a whale in the middle of the Golden Gate Strait just outside the bridge. This humpback was showing its fluke, and I noticed that it had a different dorsal fin than the whale on the first trip, indicating that it was a different whale. 

The whale moved inside the bay near the south tower, then back into the strait. There were a few ships passing by and a lot of sailboats, motor boats, and smaller vessels. We were able to float in neutral just outside the bridge, where we saw a few close fluke dives. 

There was also some harbor porpoise activity on this trip.

3pm: 

I switched vessels and headed out on the next trip on the Kitty Kat. We saw a flare go off near the mouth of the Golden Gate Strait, so we went over to investigate. We found a small fishing boat in distress. Their motor wasn't working and they were caught in an outgoing tide. We called the Coast Guard and waited with the vessel until they arrived, keeping our eyes on a spout that was a few hundred yards west. 

When the occupants of the small boat were safe, we slowly approached the whale, which was just outside of Point Bonita. We positioned ourselves above the whale with the swell to our stern. 

The humpback surfaced a few times. It was 200 yards away when we saw the first full breach. I wasn't quick enough to capture that one on camera, but luckily it did a second full breach right afterward!

After that, the whale did 3-4 smaller breaches, then floated on its side slapping its pectoral fin for almost a full minute. 

As we floated in neutral, the whale then did two fluke dives 50 yards from our boat. It started heading east. We allowed it to get 100 yards away, then headed east as well. We kept a slow speed while the whale was nearby and waited until it was at least half a mile away before we came up to speed.

All sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic.

Humpback whale outside the Golden Gate Bridge.

Humpback whale outside the Golden Gate Bridge.

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: September 3, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

3pm: 

On this trip we spotted whales just inside Point Bonita as we came up the south side of the strait. We carefully approached and found there were two humpbacks in between Point Bonita and Mile Light.

We saw several fluke dives, as well as harbor porpoises, harbor seals, and California sea lions. A few of the fluke dives were within 100 yards of us. We floated in neutral as we observed. 

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There was a good deal of boat traffic, including many sailboats and some container ships. We also noted a parasitic jaeger attempting to force an elegant tern to regurgitate its lunch so it could steal the food. This was the first time I have seen the parasitic jaeger this year. More jaegers were spotted later in the trip. 

Parasitic Jaeger with elegant tern.

Parasitic Jaeger with elegant tern.

When it was time to leave the area, we slowly began to move away. The closest whale was around 150 yards away. It began to parallel us and swam next to us for about five minutes before returning to the other whale behind us. We continued to move slowly until we were at least half a mile away from the whales. 

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 28, 2017

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

2pm: 

As we left port we passed over a distinct tide line where the water dramatically changed color between the ocean water and the bay water. Frothed zooplankton (sea foam) gathered along the line. 

Birds hovering over the spot where a whale is about to surface. 

Birds hovering over the spot where a whale is about to surface. 

We found 3-4 humpback whales outside the Golden Gate Bridge near Point Bonita. There was a lot of bird activity over each whale as they did fluke dives on all sides of us. 

Two of the whales, potentially a mother and calf, swam east into the Golden Gate Strait. We followed slowly and at a distance.

I spotted a mylar balloon in the water - the fourth one in two days. We did a man overboard drill to retrieve it. 

Balloon retrieved from water. 

Balloon retrieved from water. 

As we headed back in, we saw a humpback surface right in front of a large container ship underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. We called Vessel Traffic and made sure they had a visual on the whale before proceeding back to port. 

As we left, the fog was starting to gather around the bridge. 

5pm: 

As we left the dock a sea lion swam near the pilings. It was foggy, windy, and cold, but the tide was still coming in even as we left, so we expected to find the whales farther east than we had left them. The top of the tide was 5:15pm. 

We found the humpback under the center span of the Golden Gate Bridge feeding in over 300 feet of water.

We floated in neutral and it surfaced within 100 yards of us as tons of traffic sped around the area, including a multitude of kite surfers. One kite surfer came extremely close to a surfacing whale. 

We saw some fluke dives and some long dives where no fluke was shown. The dives lasted close to five minutes. We noticed lots of harbor porpoise on our way in. 

Elegant terns flying by. 

Elegant terns flying by. 

All sightings were reported to Vessel Traffic. 

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!