A stunned rower couldn’t believe his eyes when an unusual passenger hitched a ride on his boat.
Terry Davey, 71, was 18 miles into a 25 mile journey down the River Orwell from Woodbridge to Ipswich in Suffolk when he decided to have a short rest.
The grandfather-of-three placed his oar blades flat along the boat, which he had designed and built himself, and dug into his bag for a shortbread biscuit.
When he looked up a large grey seal was resting its chin on his oars.
Jokingly, Terry beckoned for the adult seal, weighing 40 to 50lbs, to come and join him.
To his surprise, it put its flippers on the deck and hauled itself up on board – nearly upsetting the boat.
Half a minute later it dived overboard and Terry, who was a merchant navy officer for 12 years, cursed for not snapping a photo of it in time.
But he didn’t need to worry as for the next half hour the playful seal jumped on and off the boat several times, evidently enjoying a game with Terry.
When Terry stopped to have a couple sandwiches, the seal joined him for a brief rest.
Terry, of Felixstowe, Kent, said: “It seemed like it went to sleep for a bit – it closed its eyes and everything.
“I offered it one of my goat’s cheese on walnut bread sandwiches, but it didn’t want one.”
By this point Terry was surrounded by boats and yachts trying to snap the unusual pair.
He added: “I picked up the oars and sculled along for quite a way. When I started to pick up a bit of speed the seal got nervous and dived off.”
Terry, who started a successful rowing club in Woodbridge 25 years ago, described meeting his new friend as “an experience of a lifetime”.
He said: “I was feeling a bit low and wound up before it happened – life isn’t easy is it?
“When the seal came along it just had this aura.
“If I didn’t have proof I would have thought I imagined it. It really cheered me up – I felt a whole lot better afterwards.”
Terry’s wife Marilyn, 61, a farm administrator, believed her husband’s story “straight away” but his rowing club “just laughed” at him – until they saw the photos.
His three grandchildren, whose ages range from 10-18, weren’t surprised by Terry’s unusual story. “They just think ‘granddad’s always doing something like that’,” Terry said.