san francisco bay

Sightings Report: April 30, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On our first trip of the day we found a gray whale on the east side of Angel Island near Raccoon Strait.

We floated in neutral for most of the trip while the gray whale stayed in the area. A few times it came close to our boat.

We also saw the B.A.P. Union, a Peruvian naval training tall ship as she left San Francisco Bay on her way to Vancouver.

11am:

On this trip we first headed towards the Golden Gate Bridge, looking out for humpbacks. When we didn’t see anything we headed towards Sausalito, then through Raccoon Strait to the east side of Angel Island. After waiting for a few minutes we heard reports of a gray whale in Richardson Bay, so we headed back there and were able to watch the whale for about 30 minutes.

It was a gray whale. The whale stuck close to shore in an area protected from the wind and current.

IMG_7854.jpg

2pm:

On our final trip we spotted a whale soon after leaving the dock. It was a gray whale spending time near Fort Mason.

The whale appeared to be feeding and came up regularly. It was in very shallow water, sometimes 25 feet or less.

The presence of the whale in this area was important because there was a lot of activity from the Sailing Grand Prix practices.

Sightings Report: March 31, 2019

All sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat.

9am:

On our first trip of the day, we initially headed to the Golden Gate Bridge. Eventually we received information that a whale had been spotted in Richardson Bay. We approached and found a gray whale near a paddle boarder and a kayaker.

We sat in neutral and the gray whale circled around us, coming within 50 yards of the boat. There was algae typically found on the sea floor floating on the surface of the water, which may have indicated the whale had been stirring up the mud at the bottom looking for food.

We saw one fluke dive from this animal.

We stayed with this whale until it moved towards Tiburon, then headed to Fort Mason, where we found another gray whale.

IMG_6722.jpg

On this trip, my sister Helen was sailing in a regatta. We passed her when she was in first place! Go Helen! Near the regatta was a harbor seal mother and pup and some interesting birds, including common loons and pigeon guillemots.

12pm:

On our next trip, we headed out past the bridge and towards Sausalito, where we had left a gray whale on our previous trip. Near the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge we saw a Steller’s sea lion - a relatively rare sight in San Francisco Bay.

We searched for the whale in Richardson Bay and covered most of the bay looking for spouts, but we weren’t able to find any whales on this trip.

3pm:

Since we hadn’t located whales on our previous trip, for the final trip of the day we decided to head out into the Pacific Ocean to search for our whales. After a few minutes of searching just outside the Golden Gate Strait, the captain spotted a spout. It was the first humpback of the season!

The humpback was keeping its distance from us, but appeared to be feeding. There were lots of birds gathered around the whale. The animal moved around a lot, overall heading north. It did not show us any flukes.

The whale did not pass the demarcation line to enter the Golden Gate Strait, but it came close. A few large ships passed by us while we observed the whale.

IMG_6751.JPG

Sightings Report: March 30, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

On this trip we headed west past Fort Mason, around to the central bay, and then back around Angel Island, stopping near Southampton light. This is where we saw our whale.

IMG_6601.jpg

We had a gray whale surfacing in the north shipping channel.

IMG_6614.jpg

A few large ships passed by us as we watched the animal. The sighting was reported to Vessel Traffic and the ships alerted to the presence of the whale.

IMG_6608.jpg

Sightings Report: March 29, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

3pm:

On this trip we headed east towards the Bay Bridge and found one whale near Treasure Island.

Strong winds and currents kept us farther from the animal, who was surfacing infrequently. As we started to make our way farther north, we spotted a second whale who showed us much more of their body.

We continued towards Southampton shoal light, where ferry boats had reported another whale.

IMG_6562.jpg

We located it and were able to view the spout and body.

IMG_6569.jpg

There was another whale far in the distance close to Tiburon. All the whales we saw were gray whales.

IMG_6574.jpg

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.

IMG_6440.jpg

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.

IMG_6490.jpg

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.

IMG_6512.jpg

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.

IMG_6348.jpg

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

IMG_6351.jpg

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: March 23, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

On this tour we had barely left the dock when we heard reports of gray whales near our harbor. We ended up spotting one just east of Pier 39 in the ferry lane.

IMG_6308.jpg

The whale gave us a few spouts and fluke dives.

One of the dives was within 50 yards of our boat .

We decided to continue west, but saw another gray whale when we came to the west side of Alcatraz. This whale moved east towards where the first animal had been. This one kept its distance from us, but we saw several spouts and the whale’s back.

IMG_6341.jpg

We continued onward towards St. Francis Yacht Club. There was a sailboat race happening. Near Crissy Field, we found another gray whale. We saw this one surface several times before we left it to cross underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and head back to port.

IMG_6346.jpg

Sightings Report: March 22, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat.

On this rainy morning, we headed off towards Richardson Bay, where we’d heard reports of whales. When we were east of Angel Island, crew member Joey spotted a spout to the east. We waited while large ships and ferries passed us, seeing a few distant spouts.

After we waited a while, we heard another report of a whale back near Pier 39. We headed towards our harbor and looked for spouts. When we couldn’t find any, we headed west towards Crissy Field, where we spotted the spouts of two gray whales.

The whales were several hundred yards apart and would often come up one at a time. They generally stayed in the same place for the whole trip.

The whales both were doing fluke dives relatively close to shore. The average depth of the water in the area was estimated to be around 60 feet.

After watching the two gray whales dive near St. Francis Yacht Club and Fort Mason, we headed out towards the Golden Gate Bridge, where we saw porpoises, seals, and sea lions before heading back to port.

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: 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.

DSC_8727.JPG

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

DSC_8729.JPG

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.