Mother's Day may have been a bit of a bust for a baby sea lion in San Diego. And a bit of a surprise, too.
Michael Duffy, 48, said he was on his 41-foot Kettenburg boat "Elixir" at the San Diego Yacht Club. He awoke at 2:30 a.m. on Mother's Day to sounds of sneezing and snoring.
He thought it might be a friend, crashing from a night out. But he couldn't find anyone. Once it got light a few hours later, however, he heard it again.
That's when Duffy saw a 35-pound sea lion pup on another bunk. It was curled up like a dog on top of his board shorts.
"It was a tiny little guy. And I was kind of shocked. But he was basically asleep," Duffy said, guessing it was a male. "Then he heard me coming, so he kind of looked up a little bit like when a dog is sleeping and you want to wake it up and it doesn't want to wake up."
Duffy said the pup was probably looking for his mom but found him instead.
Duffy grabbed his cellphone and took a photo of the pup. It had already jumped down onto the cabin floor.
"You gotta go buddy, go...go, go, go," Duffy said, as he filmed. All the while, he was softly coaxing the baby sea lion back up the stairs, off the boat and into the water.
Duffy has been sailing since he was 6 years old and has grown up around the marine environment. He'd heard of sea lions getting onto boats, but going down below?
"Totally bizarre," he said, adding: "Sea lions can be cute, but they can be dangerous. You've got to be careful (because) it's a wild animal."
If the sea lion had been an adult, he would have stayed away. But, he said this pup was very well behaved and left no mess, not even seawater on his shorts.
"He was extremely well behaved, except for his loud snoring and sneezing," Duffy said. "He was looking at me and I was like 'you gotta go.'"
He said the pup had an orange tag on its flipper and he believed it may have once been rescued after washing onto the shore, before being set free again. The baby sea lion appeared to be healthy and swam fine and it was seemingly no stranger to humans.
Duffy, an advertising copywriter, said he nicknamed the pup "Gilligan" after the character on "Gilligan's Island" who The Skipper called his little buddy.
"It was a very personal thing and he was a very cute guy," Duffy said. "But I was a little emotional about it. For that 2 1/2 minutes he was my little buddy."
Critical thinking challenge: Why might a sea lion want to sleep on a boat?
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