As it happens6:22Huge sea lion tries to jump into BC couple’s boat and nearly capsizes it

A couple in British Columbia got scared on Monday when a frantic sea lion tried to jump into their small fishing boat to get away from a pod of killer whales.

Ernest and Viesia Godek were enjoying an afternoon in Pedder Bay, about 30km from Victoria, on Monday when they saw a pod of killer whales passing by.

“We were just parked on the water quite far from the shore. Something just hit [the boat] the bottom. It was definitely something that was alive and huge. It was very scary,” Godek said. As it happens the host Nil Köksal.

Mark Malleson, a nearby whale-watching guide with the Prince of Whales tour company, saw the encounter and told the Victoria Times settler that the sea lion was not chased by orcas, but that she may have heard them, then panicked.

“From what we hear from very experienced boaters and anglers, this has never happened before,” Godek said. “So it happened to us, and we’re here to tell the story and share it with people.”

Here is part of their conversation.

Your boat isn’t that big, is it?

We were the smallest ship there. There were several. Our boat is 14 feet long [four metres] and it’s like an open aluminum boat from the 1970s that has a little leak. So it’s not that solid.

And then something hits him. What did you think it was?

We thought it was an orca, as they were heading towards us. They therefore submerged under water about 20 meters from the boat as they passed. They were heading towards us and at first I thought it was a whale, which would be unusual for a whale to hit a boat.

And it wasn’t an orca. So what was it?

It was a huge sea lion.

And then, how do we react at that moment?

It was very scary because we thought that, you know, there was something that connected the killer whales to the sea lion…and we were caught in the middle of it all.

Sea lion tries to jump into BC couple’s boat

A sea lion tried to jump into a British Columbia couple’s small aluminum fishing boat off Vancouver Island to get away from killer whales.

You thought there would be more things bumping into your boat, more creatures trying to jump onto your boat.

Exactly…whether it was a hunt or some sort of struggle or fight, we thought we were caught in the middle of it. And it was really scary because of the size of these animals.

I can only imagine. So do you scream in a moment like this or do you try to stay quiet?

We were actually whispering to each other because there was a bang, then the head appeared, then it disappeared underwater again and it was just silent. So it was quiet, and so we were whispering, [trying] so as not to make noise.

I don’t know what made us do this, but we didn’t shout. We didn’t seem to be, you know, fighting hard in any way. We were just looking at each other and saying, “What are we doing?”

What was your wife Viesia doing and saying? Did you hold each other for life?

So my wife Viesia was [sitting] forward at the bow of the boat.

When there was the thump…on the bottom of the boat, she immediately climbed onto the floor of the boat to not be so close and so exposed on…the upper level of the boat.

So she went on the floor and she lay down on the floor. And I think she may have even closed her eyes because she doesn’t remember the sea lion being there.

Two people, a husband and wife, smile in front of an installation.  The woman has long blonde hair and is wearing a black and white checkered top.  The husband is a white man with short brown hair, dressed in a blue jacket.
Viesia and Ernest Godek were whispering to each other after something hit their boat this week. Then a sea lion tried to get on board. (Submitted by Ernest Godek)

I bet you can. And I saw the video, it seems to happen very, very quickly. But I bet it was like slow motion for you. How close did that bring you? Did it touch you? Could you feel it?

It was close at hand. I definitely felt it. My clothes got soaked when the boat was submerged half underwater due to the weight of the sea lion and… i was wet, soaked from the waist down, and i could smell that smell for the rest of the day. It just never left me.

It’s inexplicable how quickly it all happened and how long you have to react. That’s why, you know, it’s important that we wear our life jackets all the time because it’s only fractions of a second.

How do you understand why the sea lion was so eager, I guess we could say, to get on your boat?

killer whales [seemed] at some point change course and they were heading straight for our boat. And I think the sea lion, which was in the way of the killer whales, was trying to get away from them. So he was trying to do [its] way to safety…he looked very distressed.

He was breathing heavily when his head came out of the water. It didn’t seem to be quiet at all. He clung to the boat until he decided that [the] the safest refuge because it would be on top of the boat. But it wasn’t because it wasn’t the size of the boat that could hold a giant like that.

A small boat tilts as a sea lion perches on its edge.
The sea lion failed to fully enter the boat and slipped again, Godek said. (Brendon Bissonnette/Prince of Whales)

Did you just speed up after that?

It happened, the boat filled up, you know, partly with a lot of water. And we were trying to… I was trying to balance it… above the water and the sea lion must have realized that… the boat wouldn’t hold it. So it slipped, slipped. And at that point, I revved the engine and was trying to get away from the area.

How do you feel now?

I’m still a little shaken. We saw the video for the first time last night, and…it’s a pretty scary moment where you’re pretty, you know, in a very vulnerable position.

This struggle for… your life in a way that, you know, brings up some thoughts and feelings even as we talk about it now. But I will be there again.


Written by Andrea Bellemare. Interview with Ernest Godek directed by Morgan Passi. The questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.