The dolphin flipped out of the water and onto the boat. Dick Frickman

A Californian woman broke both her ankles in a bizarre boating accident after a dolphin jumped aboard and crashed into her as she celebrated her 18th wedding anniversary with her husband and two children on 21 June.

Dirk Frickman told the OC Register that he was watching a pod of dolphins with his family when one suddenly leapt aboard, knocking him over, smacking his daughter in the face, and landing on wife Chrissie's legs.

"It hit my wife and knocked her over, and punched my daughter," he told the Californian news site.

Once Frickman had pulled his wife out from under the 330lb (150kg) dolphin, he called the local harbour patrol while steering the vessel back to shore.

A harbour patrolman arrived on the scene and gave him a bucket of water to splash on the dolphin - which was too heavy to push back overboard.

"I was letting go of the wheel every 30 seconds to a minute and slowing down and pouring water on her," Frickman told the site.

Meanwhile, the panicked dolphin thrashed around on the deck of the boat, covering it with smears of blood after sustaining several cuts on its tail and nose.

"I could hear my phone buzzing and beeping on the floor - it was covered in blood," Frickman said.

Once he had arrived at Orange County harbour, Mr Frickman enlisted the help of two others - and some rope - to release the dolphin back into the water.

"The dolphin was hopefully saved. It swam away with no problem," he told the OC Register, adding that his family had learnt an important lesson from the "absolutely crazy" incident.

"It's one of those things where it's all so beautiful, but you have to remember it's still kind of wild," he said. "Maybe you want to stay a bit farther away."