Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Boat Cat Stories

Dulcinea's Favorite Spot
Dulcinea's Favorite Spot
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
“Oh wow! Check this out!!!” Jaime calls from below. There is a burring buzz, a thump, and peals of laughter.

The cat is at it again.

This time, I'd argue that the hubbub is the girls' fault. In Mera's endless efforts to make the Spy Game more entertaining, she created spy cameras out of yarn and paper and strung them in strategic positions around the boat. The cat just discovered one dangling mid-companion way in front of Mera's door about five feet off the ground. With the boat swaying in a southwest swell, Dulcinea has decided that the camera is a target of opportunity and is repeatedly leaping to try and catch it. This continues until the cat wises up and heads for the salon. This time she dives straight down, catching the “camera” en route, landing with a victorious thud and a triumphant growl seven feet below whereupon she shreds it in vicious glee.

I fought hard to keep a pet off the boat, arguing vigorously against adding yet another problem and more work to our boat lives. Pets require food, water, places to go potty, and care. They make a mess, and they cost money. It is a true pain in the ass to get them across many international borders. We do not need more hair on the boat.

I was wrong.

Dulcinea is friend, guardian, comfort toy, entertainment, and child. She adds tremendously to our lives on Don Quixote. She is a really good boat cat, loves to be underway, and appears to have no trouble with her rather constricted living space. When the sea or anchorage are rough, she digs into a confined space. When things are hot, she flops in the coolest places on the boat.

I asked the family for anecdotes of life with Dulcinea:

The Cat Ate My Homework – Dulcinea likes paper. She likes to shred paper, specifically. You can not leave a notebook or map lying around anywhere. On more than one occasion, the girls have finished a long science or history assignment, walked off to get a juice or use the head, and come back to find their schoolwork shredded beyond recognition. When it is necessary to tear up paper so that we can heave it overboard, we put it in a box and let kitty go to town.

Crazy Cat – The cat starts running, meowing, and twitching. First, she does two laps of the salon. Without pause, she tears out the cockpit, down the port side, and up onto the salon top. There are a series of pattering thuds and then silence. We all look up... waiting expectantly. “BAM!!” Jaime says what we're all thinking, “Dulcinea's trying to climb the mast again.” DrC concurs, “Yep. Crazy ass cat.”

Cat Overboard! – We're rafted up to Endless Summer. This is the first time we've rafted since Dulcinea joined us. Her nature and inclination is that anything tied to Don Quixote is, by definition, her territory. In La Cruz, that meant the entire A dock including all the boats and cruisers. In this case, Dulcinea starts the takeover of her extended domain by jumping on Endless Summer's port bow. Within a minute, however, she's back – every hair on her body extended straight out and a wild look in her eye. Suky, a lovely Dalmatian, comes bounding over to the rail and slips onto Don Quixote enjoying the new game. With a slip and a yowl, Dulcinea sidesteps gracelessly into the gap between the boats. A half second later we hear a splash and everyone scrambles to the edge to see if she's okay. Disoriented, Dulcinea first heads towards the bows but soon realizes her error and turns around. “Wow, she's a really strong swimmer,” Steve notes. The cat is moving so fast it doesn't occur to any of us to try to get her. By the time DrC moves to the transom, Dulcinea flings herself out of the water and tears into the salon. I shudder. “Goddamnit...” I have no doubt whatsoever, Dulci is now hiding in my bed covers, the most supremely cold, wet, and pissed off cat in a 100 miles. It'll be hours before we get her rinsed in fresh water and dried out. And in the meantime, she'll manage to soak every bed and seat on the boat.

Tuna, Tuna! – “27 seconds!” Aeron calls out. It's a new Don Quixote record. That's 27 seconds from the time I crack open the can of tuna to the moment Dulcinea runs into the salon and meows for her portion. Dulcinea is not crazy about beef or chicken. She's a mad cat for sea food. Boat cat.

Kitty Headlights – “Shine the light to the left,” DrC asks Mera who is sitting on the bow. We have several ways to find our boat at night in a dark anchorage. The corners of the boat have solar sidewalk lights which glow a faint orange. We use a kludgy, very bright 12 volt incandescent bulb which we clip to the boom every night. In addition, DrC put strips of reflective tape on the edges of the deck and at key places up the mast. The tape shines a bright silver when you point a flashlight anywhere towards our boat. Finally, we have Dulcinea.

Shredder Cat
Shredder Cat
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
As we approach the back of the boat, Dulcinea runs down the transom to greet us. “Kitty kitty kitty!” everyone starts to call. Mera exclaims, “Kitty headlights!” And there they are. We know it's Don Quixote, because there are two stripes of silver and then on the right, shining back at us a diamond white light, are the twin beams of the flashlight reflecting in Dulcinea's eyes.

We hear a plaintive mrrreeow as our boat cat starts bitching about the reduced state of her food dish. A cat makes a home, and we're home.


inklenaomi said...

What a great post! We have had cats for nearly 2 years. I never considered us to be 'pet' people, but man, gotta love the cats. Truly they are part of the family.

seaparents said...
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Unknown said...

My fiance and I have a kitty and are in the process of purchasing a boat. What do you feed your feline friend? I've read that cats cannot survive on fish alone. Have you found it easy to stock up on/keep dry cat food fresh?