Sails to the Farallon Islands and/or Drakes bay are synonymous with wildlife sightings. Many species of marine mammals such as dolphins, gray whales and great whites, are visible at this time of year. A sighting of a few dolphins and maybe a distant whale are considered a victory, in most adventurers’ minds.
For this most recent OCSC Offshore class, the sightings were off the anchor chain.
“We didn’t have any of the normal Pacific Ocean swell or winds, but everyone had a great time. The seas were calm but the whales were active. We saw over a dozen and many breaching and slapping their tails,” explains OCSC Instructor Jim Lathe.
OCSC Member Christopher Smith noted that “Yes, the offshore trip saw whale spouts and tail splashes near the Farallons and again near the Golden Gate. The commercial shipping traffic leaving SF appeared to be proceeding at a decreased speed to avoid the whales.”
OCSC Offshore students posing with the Farallon Islands in the background.
OCSC Member and Bareboat Cruising skipper Nicola Marchi detailed the following. “We first saw them around late morning on Saturday on our way to Drake’s Bay. It was just a random few spouts in the distance. Around 3ish as we were getting closer to drake’s bay we saw 3 different spouts within about half an hour. There was this mass of birds that was right near where we saw the first spout. We saw the whale’s tail, and then the birds flew over to the area where we later saw the second spout. Then the birds flew off and we saw a third spout in another area. We settled down for the night in drake’s bay and didn’t see any whales till next morning.
Late in the morning on the way to the Farallons we had very little wind and saw a few more spouts. After having gone around the Farallons, on our way back we heard a very interesting slapping sound. It took us a few minutes to realize that it was a couple of whales about a half mile off slapping the water with their tails. It was pretty amazing how far that sound carried, and we could see two tails about 50 yards from each other slapping the water.
We didn’t see much more of the whales on our way back to the bay, except for a couple more spouts. We did get accompanied by a dolphin for 4-5 minutes around 7 miles from the golden gate bridge.”
Anthony Sandberg, founder and president of OCSC Sailing recalls his experience with whales in California. “The whaling industry used to be fully operational, all the way into around 1969. I member seeing them hauled out of Richmond as a child, hanging high and bloody.”
With four and a half decades since the end of their persecution, whales are making a comeback. Perhaps linked, perhaps connected to the increase in ocean temperatures. Regardless, they are here and in great numbers.