Rudha-an here with a bit of a description of the weather and sea conditions. One large storm had ended the day before and another very large storm was due the next day. The sky was mostly clear but we were dealing with 15 foot swells the entire time we were out. This made photography difficult and downright impossible at times. While we did not manage any whale pics due to distance, we got plenty of other pics.
Follow along as Lastech tells you about our day.
We’d kept reasonably low expectations about this sea-borne adventure: we’d have been quite content to enjoy half a day on the ocean and get a close look at the Farallon islands (or Farallones). We had done a bit of research before the trip and listened carefully to the instruction given by the SF Whale Watching Tour crew both in person and on their web page. That said, I still wished I had worn a hoodie and fingerless gloves to keep my ears, neck and hands warm while still being able to take photos, though neither of us minds a little discomfort as it helps to remain focused. And focus is needed as you scan the horizon for the telltale spray from a whale breaking the surface, or flocks of birds partaking in a feeding session.
A quick note about the photos. With the exception of the boat pic above, the only changes made were to level out the photos and a bit of cropping. No contrast or color changes were made.
Shortly after the vessel, aptly named the “Kitty Kat”, cleared the Golden Gate bridge, we caught sight of a few porpoises also heading out to sea. The narration from Captain Joe, his first mate Roy and their marine biologist Heather was more than just informative, it was interesting, weaving bits of natural history with local lore about San Francisco in whaling days, the biology and behavior of marine life. Heather’s specialty being the study of plastics in marine ecosystems, we learned about the “plastisphere” and its impact on aquatic life at the microscopic level and beyond.
On the approach to the Farallons, we very much appreciated the crew’s respect for marine life, as the Captain slowed the engine and stopped using loudspeakers to avoid disturbing birds and other animals. From the power of the waves crashing all around the islands, to the pelicans backlit by the sun diving for fish, we were feeling both reverence and a desire to learn and discover more.
When it was finally time to go back, I dozed off, half dreaming about the Galapagos island scenes from “master and commander”, until people shuffling and calling excitedly made me realize someone had seen something. The Captain steered towards what was soon confirmed as two gray whales coming up for air, keeping a respectful distance of perhaps an 1/8 of a mile, matching their speed. For a few miles, we paralleled them, catching a glimpse of them as they skimmed the surface. Heather estimated them to be approximately 45 to 50 feet in length, though these whales’ age is very difficult to gauge, given their absence of teeth.
Then, further on along the horizon, someone spotted a pod of them, with multiple plumes of spray. Even at our low speed, the vessel moved too much to take any good pictures at that distance, and people were naturally crowding the side where the whales could be observed.
But again, this didn’t matter to us: this was whale watching the old fashioned way without spotter planes or any other form of gadgetry. It takes patience and perhaps some Dramamine, and the Captain’s thirty years of experience to end up making your world this much bigger and wider.
Rudha-an here again. Should you ever decide to take a whale watching tour or any boat tour on the open sea, listen to the captain. If you are prone to motion sickness, take the dramamine BEFORE you go. Wear proper shoes. One gal wore high heeled boots. She spent her time inside the cabin. If you do get sick, don’t hide inside or close your eyes. Stay on deck in the fresh air and keep your eyes on the horizon. We stayed on the starboard side closer to the front on purpose. Anyone puking had to do it off the back of the boat and we didn’t want to be in the middle of it. We managed quite well with no sickness on our part. The boat had its first victim ten minutes in though.
Here is another page about the Farallon Island Lighthouse and the colorful island history.