shipping lane

Sightings Report: May 4, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

12pm:

The bay was packed with boats as we headed around Angel Island, through Raccoon Strait, and towards the Golden Gate Bridge. The Sailing Grand Prix race was happening in the central bay.

When we didn’t find a whale in the bay, we headed offshore. The weather was beautiful. It wasn’t long before we started seeing spouts. We were just to the north of the shipping lane.

We had three humpback whales on this trip, including Gator, a whale we see regularly.

Two of the humpbacks stayed close together, while the other fed a little ways away from them.

We were able to smell the humpback breath from over half a mile away.

3pm:

On this trip we headed straight offshore to the place where we last saw the whales. The tide had changed and the wind picked up a bit, so it took a little longer on this trip than on the first one.

The whales were in the same spot. We saw the same three humpbacks close to us, with more spouts off on the horizon.

This time we were able to identify both Gator and Akula.

The whales were definitely feeding. We saw one lunge feed and lots of quick dives. They showed their flukes on about 2/3 of their deeper dives.

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We also spotted a group of sooty shearwaters in this area.

Sightings Report: December 6, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

On this trip we headed out into the Gulf of the Farallones with beautiful weather. There was sun, very little wind, and gentle swells. We spotted porpoises, sea lions, and harbor seals on our way out into the shipping lane.

About 13 miles west of the bridge we found our first humpback. The animal kept a distance from us and appeared to be travelling. It had a low spout which made us think it might be a gray whale at first.

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Off in the distance we spotted a huge group of birds and a couple spouts. We decided to leave the whale and approach the spot with more activity.

In this area we found two humpbacks. They were active and showed their flukes.

One of them stayed closer to us, once coming within 50 feet of the vessel.

We used happywhale.com to identify this whale as an unnamed individual in the North Pacific catalog. It had previously been seen in Monterey and Puerto Vallarta in 2016.

This whale rolled onto its side and showed us its pectoral fin.

Sightings Report: October 17, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

For our first trip we headed west of the precautionary area. We found at least ten whales just west of buoys 1 and 2.

There was a ton of bird activity all over the shipping lane. We saw some anchovies boiling at the surface, which let us know what the whales and the birds were feeding on.

We saw feeding behavior, including a few lunge feeds. We were able to identify several of the individuals in this sighting.

Many ships passed by us during this trip.

We spotted some California sea lions on the shipping lane buoys. We also had some harbor porpoise activity.

11am:

We returned to the same spot on our next trip. On our way out we spotted more sea lions. Some of them were porpoising.

A little bit farther west we found 5 humpbacks.

The whales kept a distance from us, but we were downwind and were able to smell their breath.

There were lots of birds in the area. We confirmed that at least three of the individuals we saw were the same ones we had seen on the previous trip.

2pm:

On our final trip of the day we headed a little bit farther north than the previous trips. We found three whales, all far from each other.

One whale near a container ship was breaching repeatedly.

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We did not see fluke dives from the other whales. They kept their distance from us. We did see lots of bird activity and some sea lions on the buoys.

Sightings Report: October 13, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

We headed west on this afternoon trip. We made our way through the shipping lane all the way out past buoys 1 and 2 to the pilot vessel. The weather was calm with very little wind.

Out past the precautionary area there were at least 6 whales: two pairs and two individuals.

We saw a few breaches from these animals and several fluke dives. One pair approached the boat, swam underneath us, and then slapped its tail when it surfaced on the other side.

There was a lot of bird activity in the area.

We saw at least four large ships pass by.

Sightings Report: September 19, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On our first trip of the day we started west in search of whales. A few miles west of the Golden Gate Strait, we started to see anchovies boiling at the surface. Then we found one humpback.

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It showed a couple of flukes and was moving around a lot.

It was very sunny on this trip. We also spotted several jaegers, harbor seals and harbor porpoises.

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11am:

Our second trip was still sunny, with slightly larger seas. We headed west again and found a different humpback close to shipping lane buoys 7 and 8.

It showed a few flukes and approached us a couple of times.

We also spotted jaegers, harbor seals, and porpoises.

2pm:

It was very windy by our last trip. We headed all the way out to the end of the shipping lane, but did not find any whales.

Sightings Report: September 6th, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am

On this tour we headed 8.5 miles offshore, just west of the shipping lane. We were alerted by the Pilot vessel to the presence of whales in the area.

We were positioned outside the lane with views of at least eight humpbacks in the area.

One whale repeatedly breached close to fishing boats. We also observed the whale slapping its pectoral fins and its tail.

There were anchovies at the surface and lots of feeding birds in the area.

We spotted parasitic, pomarine, and long-tailed jaegers attempting to steal food from other birds.

We were able to catch a whiff of whale breath on this trip as well.

The fishing fleet was close by, and we saw a few whales approach the fishing vessels.

We also had a few ships pass by us.

Sightings Report: August 30, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On our first trip of the day we found two humpback whales just west of Point Bonita.

It was a mother and calf feeding together. We saw them lunge feed separately and in synchrony with one another.

There were several large ships moving past them as they fed.

The whales mostly kept their distance. At one point they approached to just over 100 yards before starting to swim west.

11am:

On our second trip we found a humpback whale a little ways west of where we’d left the mother and calf on our earlier trip.

This whale was throwing flukes, likely diving to feed on anchovies.

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Sightings Report: July 25, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Happy Days

8am:

On our first trip of the day we made our way out through the shipping lane where we'd last spotted the whales. We had a mixed swell from the northwest and the south, which made conditions a bit more challenging than usual. 

Nonetheless we found two humpbacks near the Pilot Vessel outside the shipping lane. 

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After we watched them for a while, we started to head home. Passengers spotted two more humpbacks on the south side of the shipping lane on the ride back.

11am:

We returned to the spot on the next trip. It was a little bit rougher, with the mixed swell still creating weird conditions. 

We found three humpbacks feeding together 9 miles offshore on the south side of the shipping lane. We saw flukes from all the individuals.

All photos on this trip taken by SFWT photographer Joey Mueleman. Find more of his photos here

Sightings Report: July 24, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

2pm:

The wind was starting to pick up as we headed west out of the Golden Gate Bridge. We made our way though the shipping lane, where we found humpback whales. We saw several lunge feeds and fluke dives. Lots of birds circled above the feeding animals.

5pm:

The weather deteriorated by the time we made it out at 5pm. We turned north before heading west in large swells. We were still able to find a gray whale, with more spouts out on the horizon. 

Sightings Report: July 22, 2018

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

3pm:

We began the trip heading west through the shipping lane. We were 11 miles out when we spotted our first spout. 

After a few minutes, we were able to spot 10 humpback whales within a mile of us. A few of them came close to the boat. 

We saw several lunge feeds from these animals. 

There was also a lot of porpoise activity on this trip. 

6pm: 

We returned to the same spot 11 miles offshore for the next trip, where we found a pair of humpbacks. 

The smaller of the two individuals breached for almost the entire time we were there. It's possible that this was a calf. 

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Another individual slapped its tail multiple times on the water, 500 yards from the breaching animal. 

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There were a few lunge feeds on this trip, as well as a few fluke dives. There were some California sea lions resting on the shipping lane buoy.

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