San Francisco Whale Tours

Sightings Report: June 11, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8 am:

This was a very warm day with little wind. We headed south towards Pacifica in search of whales and found one humpback in the glassy water.

We spent about 30 minutes with the whale, who was surfacing once every few minutes. We didn’t see any fluke dives or lunge feeds from the animal, but there were lots of anchovies on the fish finder.

We also saw sea lions, seabirds, and jellies in the area, which was only about 34 feet deep.

We left the whale as it headed farther west.

11am:

On our next trip we found a whale just outside the Golden Gate Strait, a few miles west of Point Bonita. The whale was slapping its pectoral fin on the water far in the distance.

We saw a couple of fluke dives from this animal, which allowed us to identify it as #51 in our catalog. This whale has a unique fluke from some kind of skin disease which makes tattoo-like markings.

The whale was swimming east in about 90 feet of water. We saw anchovies boiling at the surface and lots of birds taking advantage of the bait balls.

2pm:

On our final trip of the day we headed south again and found a humpback whale off of Fort Funston.

The whale appeared to be feeding in 60 feet of water. We saw anchovies on the fish finder and birds on the surface to confirm their presence.

We saw a few fluke dives from this animal, allowing us to identify it as #6 in our catalog.

We also had a face full of whale breath on this trip!

Sightings Report: June 4, 2018

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

After a stretch of bad weather, we headed out on Tuesday with sunshine and good visibility. We went west through the shipping lane, spotting a lot of bird activity as well as some California sea lions resting on the buoys.

We made our way out to the pilot boat, who said they’d seen whales the previous day. We slowly made our way east when a passenger saw a spout. (Shoutout to Michael from Philadelphia!)

At first when we approached the whale we were seeing spouts, but no fluke dives.

After a few minutes we saw a couple of lunge feeds. At one point the whale rolled onto its side and showed us one lobe of the fluke. We'll see if that’s enough to identify it!

2pm:

On our second trip we headed back out to the same area of the shipping lane. It took us a while to find a spout, but eventually we found a humpback whale.

This whale was fluking, so right away we were able to tell that it was a different animal from the previous trip. The dorsal fin was also distinct.

After we had been with the whale for 15 minutes, it began to tail slap. We floated in neutral as the whale slapped for several minutes, at one point coming to about 150 yards away.

Sightings Report: May 27, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am:

On this trip we headed to Mile Rock, the last place the whales had been seen. We slowly made our way along the demarcation line, searching for whales.

After searching for a while, we spotted a spout just east of Mile Rock. We approached and found one humpback whale. We know this individual as “Curly.”

We saw a few fluke dives from the animal.

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There were lots of anchovies on the fish finder and lots of birds in the area, suggesting that the whale was feeding.

Near the end of the trip, we saw a huge Steller’s sea lion swim past the boat.

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All the photos from this trip were taken by naturalist Michael Pierson.

2pm:

On our next trip we headed back to the same spot. We found the same whale, Curly, feeding on the north side of the strait near Point Bonita.

There was a good amount of bird activity over the whale. We saw several fluke dives.

The whale moved east over the course of the trip as the tide rose. When we left the whale it was off of Point Diablo.

Sightings Report: May 14, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

11am

We had beautiful weather on this trip. The seas were flat and visibility was excellent - we were able to see the Farallon Islands in the distance. There was a slight southerly wind, so we decided to head south towards Pacifica.

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We found two whales northwest of the Pacifica Pier, several miles offshore. One of the whales was a humpback and the other was a gray whale. It is unusual to see humpbacks and grays traveling so close together.

The two whales appeared to be traveling together. They were surfacing together every 3-5 minutes.

The humpback surfaced and fluked more frequently than the gray whale. A group of birds followed the whales.

After nearly twenty minutes of traveling together the whales had moved half a mile north of where we found them. At this point the humpback started feeding and the gray whale headed east towards the beach.

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We stayed with the humpback for a few more minutes, spotting lots of sea lions and porpoises in the area as well.

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: 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 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.

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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: April 26, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On this trip we expected wind all day. We headed towards the east side of Angel Island, where we found a gray whale.

We floated for a while while the gray whale continued to surface in the same area. It looked like an adult.

Eventually the whale appeared to move towards Tiburon.

We also saw harbor porpoises in this area.

As we approached Pier 39, we saw a raft of sea lions swimming away from the Pier.

11am:

We found the same gray whale on this trip that we’d seen on the 8am. The whale was still hanging out east of Angel Island.

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We saw the whale surface a few times as the passenger ferries passed by us.

2pm:

On our final trip of the day, we were just leaving the dock when I saw a spout behind us close to Fisherman’s Wharf. We followed the gray whale as it headed towards the sailing practice being held by the Sailing Grand Prix.

The whale was spouting just once at a time and coming up every five minutes. It was windy, so the spouts were blown down quickly.

There was a lot of traffic, including the Sailing GP practice, container ships, passenger ferries, and day sailors.

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We continued around Alcatraz towards Angel Island, looking for the whale we’d seen earlier. We were unable to locate it before we headed back to the dock.

Sightings Report: April 25, 2019

Sighting from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On our first trip of the day we had a westerly wind and a creeping fog making its way into the bay. We headed to the east side of Angel Island, where we were protected from the wind. There we found a gray whale.

The gray whale was diving every seven minutes or so and stayed in the same area for the whole trip. We floated in neutral for most of the trip.

We also saw seabirds, including a pair of Bonaparte’s Gulls.

11am:

On our next trip, we spotted a spout between Alcatraz and Angel Island. It was windy in this area, so the spouts were blown down quickly. Fog was creeping in over Marin and through the Golden Gate Bridge.

2pm:

On this trip we received reports from the Coast Guard of a spout near Blossom Rock. We went to check it out but were unable to locate a whale in that area.

We made our way around the bay to Sausalito, then went through Raccoon Straits. We paused on the east side of Angel Island. As we waited, we saw a spout.

We saw the gray whale come up a few times, but it stayed away from our boat.

Sightings Report: April 17, 2019

Sightings from San Francisco Whale Tours vessel Kitty Kat

8am:

On this first trip of the day we quickly found a whale east of the shipping lane. The whale moved towards Treasure Island, diving in 20-30 feet of water. I didn’t take any photos on this trip, but SFWT photographer Joey did. Check out his flickr.

11am:

On this trip we located a whale between Alcatraz and Angel Island. On our first sighting the whale came up within 50 yards of the boat.

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After our first sighting, the whale surfaced every 10-12 minutes and appeared to be going back and forth between Alcatraz and the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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2pm:

For our final trip we found a whale on the east side of Angel Island.

This whale stayed in roughly the same location for the whole trip and surfaced regularly at 5-7 minute intervals.

We saw a couple of fluke dives from this animal.