Race is scheduled for Saturday, March 24
Tuesday, March 20
NOAA’s forecast started today and here’s their Saturday guess for wind at the S. E. Farallon Island – from 4 days out. Wind out of the SW at 10 -16 knots. Swells around 8 feet at 8 or 9 seconds. 1 to 2 foot wind waves.
And now about whales. Last night’s local news had 2 whale stories.
The first California Grey Whale was sighted on its migration north from Baja to Alaska, but this was only the first one observed, not necessarily the “first.” These whales are just swimming by on their way north and are usually pretty far out, so if we happen to see one it will be halfway out to the island or beyond. They swim on the surface and blow every 2 or 3 minutes, so we can usually spot them from a distance. They don’t feed on their way north; that’s their goal in the Bering Sea. Once in a while one comes into S. F. Bay for a visit, but whale experts think these might be whales with problems seeking shelter. And, over the years a number have died in the Bay. When I first started sailing on SF Bay in the early 1970s, the Grey Whales were still hunted by the last whaling station in the U.S. at Point San Pable, but that stopped soon after.
The other story was that a pod of Humpback Whales has been visiting Monterey Bay (about 80 miles to the south). Usually Humpbacks spend the winter much further south, but the whale folks think this pod has remained in the area due to the increased food brought about by ocean warming. We often see Humpbacks later in the season – and bumped into 2 a few years ago on our way to Half Moon Bay in August. But, it they are in Monterey Bay, it’s only a short swim north, so it’s possible we might encounter some this weekend. They are more dangerous to navigation because they are feeding, so will dive and then abruptly breach. Two years ago one suddenly appeared a few yards in front of the boat, giving us a good scare. And, if there’s one, there will likely be its friends nearby.
The 3rd whale we sometimes see in the Gulf of the Farallones is the Blue Whale, the largest whale. Females can reach over 80 feet and males just a few feet shorter. Adults can weigh 300,00 pounds or more. They are thought to be the largest animal ever in the history of the world. We rarely see them, but if we do, we take care since a 6,000 pound sailboat vs a whale that weighs half of a Boeing 747 is no match.
The Gulf of the Farallones is one of the richest “whale food” places in the world. Just beyond the S. E. Farallon Island the continental shelf drops off to several thousand feet, but at the island it more like 300 feet. There’s a sharp “cliff” that the Pacific Current hits, resulting in an upwelling that brings deep water krill to the surface. Since Humpback and Blue Whales are baleen whales, they gulp a huge mouth full of water and krill, filter the krill out, and blow the water through their twin blowholes. You know its a baleen whale if you see a “V” blow. If the blow is a single, sort of off-center one, it’s a toothed whale.
And, on very rare occasions there are Orca Whales that come down from the north with their sharp teeth. We haven’t seen any ourselves, but other has been TV footage of them attacking juvenile Grey Whales later in the year as the Greys migrate back down to Baja.
I’m taking a camera, so you might be receiving some whale pictures to back up our “whale stories!” Sailors have been know to exaggerate a little.
— Pat & Ross