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 said. “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.”