J.R. Gilkinson had never seen anything like it. The California man was sailing off Newport Beach with his niece and some friends when a sea lion pup hopped aboard the back deck of the boat and slowly edged closer to him.
Thinking quickly, Gilkinson captured the extraordinary moment on film. In the video, filmed on May 18 the baby sea lion snuggles with the sailor and lays in Gilkinson's lap as it appears to rest its eyes. He didn't budge for an hour.
"It was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had," Gilkinson told The Huffington Post. "I appreciated every second because I didn't know how long it was going to last."
Though Gilkinson noted that people are typically told not to approach sea lions -- under National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration guidelines -- he added that "it was completely on the sea lion's terms."
"He wanted to come rest on me," he said. "So we let him."
When it was time to return to harbor, Gilkinson actually had to stand up and tell the sea lion it was time to go. After some gentle nudges, the pup walked to the end of the boat and jumped back into the water.
Gilkinson spoke with other sailors in the area and confirmed what he initially thought: This type of thing "just doesn't happen."
However, if recent baby sea lion sightings in Southern California are any indication, it seems the pups are becoming more and more undaunted by interactions with humans.
In April, a baby sea lion waddled out of the ocean and wandered around a parking lot in San Diego before returning to the water. A kayaker in South Bay was also in for a surprise in March when another pup climbed aboard and refused to leave, hanging out until he paddled back to shore.
Increased incidents of sea lions making contact with humans may have something to do with the sheer number of pups that are leaving the ocean for California shores. Marine centers and rescue organizations have witnessed a significant increase in the number of sea lion pups that are washing ashore this year. According to Sarah Wilkin, the stranding coordinator for the state's National Marine Fisheries Service, the problem may be related to lack of prey available.