The last thing Auckland paddler Jackie Dring expected on her afternoon paddle across Auckland's Rangitoto Channel was to pick up a passenger.
But that's exactly what happened when a seal jumped aboard her surf ski and settled in for 40-winks during a midweek excursion between the Royal Akarana Yacht Club and Rangitoto Wharf.
Dring said she was getting close to the island when she saw the seal in the water.
She attracted its attention and to her surprise it came over to her surf ski. "It looked around, put its nose up on the front and then hopped up and made itself comfortable."
She said it then proceeded to settle down for a snooze laying its head on her shin.
"It was almost like a dog," she said. "It was unconcerned I was human."
It stayed put for about 30 minutes before Dring decided to seek advice on what to do next, concerned the mammal might be ill.
Several boaties marshalling a nearby regatta told her the seal was fine and the best way to remove it was to tip the ski over.
So she took their advice and Dring and her freeloading passenger ended up in the water before going their separate ways.
Dring said she had seen penguins swimming in the channel but this was the closest encounter she had ever had with wildlife.
"I feel quite privileged that it happened."