The Cat’s Meow

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I may have mentioned that there are three crew initially aboard the Never for Ever. There’s myself (Bruce), Leslie and Artemis. No, Artemis didn’t have weird pro-pantheon parents; Artemis is a cat. She’s part Rag Doll, part Norwegian Forest Cat and all over odd. She’s six and a half and recently lost her life-long companion Samantha. We just never considered leaving her behind.

But what do we know about cats on boats? Well, actually nothing. We’d seen one at anchor on Tumbo Island and there’s a few http://baileyboatcat.com“>internet boat cats out there of moderate fame but not a lot of resources. Dogs seem to be the boaters’ pet-of-choice. There are a ton of them around and we’ve even met a few. And dog advice just doesn’t translate well to cat advice.

But after a little research and a few more discussions, we decided that we couldn’t leave Art behind on our adventure and set out to transform a life-long indoor cat to a boat cat. Luckily we had started letting her out on our upper balcony a few years ago when we moved to the condo, so she was at least fairly used to street noises and smells. Her only traveling though had been to the vet and back and that had been pretty sporadic. So we borrowed a soft carrier from Pedro the Lion (a neighbour cat) and proceeded to take Artemis out for long walks in the park. We also broke out her old harness and leash and let her walk jingling around the house. We had already decided that — aboard — a belled cat was a safe cat.

There was also the small issue that the boat was 1200 miles away and that was a pretty hefty trip for a beginner driver. So we took Artemis for a few short drives. There was little bit of pathetic mewling but, that really didn’t suit her and overall, it went pretty good if the drives weren’t too long. Then we took Art off to the vet to get her shots all up to date (we have intentions of visiting the U.S.) and get any advice from him he could offer. He was very encouraging; he agreed with most of the reading we’ve done that cats are very resilient. It was starting too look like this wasn’t an impossible mission.

A little research suggested switching her litter to pine pellets to try and keep the tracking of litter to a minimum. She didn’t mind the change and kept on with her business as usual. The pellets have a bit of a pine odour that some might find too strong, but since she didn’t mind, neither did I.

Anyway, as these things do, the day of departure arrived. We reserved the back seat for luggage and cat, bought a small litterbox for the floor, added a small food and water dish and arranged everything for the cat’s comfort. We had debated getting a hard carrier but in the end decided as we weren’t taking it on the boat, it was just an additional expense that wouldn’t do much more than the soft one in terms of safety or comfort. So we loaded up the truck with all our worldly possessions — or at least the ones we thought we would need for the next several months — and then loaded the cat in the carrier and the carrier in the truck and headed off at 4 a.m. for the 12 hour plus drive.

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The early morning start was partly because we wanted to arrive in Vancouver during the daylight and partly because we thought driving straight through would be easier on Art than trying to overnight in a hotel. It was a good idea in theory. The problem is you wake up tired and never actually recover. I think Artemis was the only one to get any real rest for the next few days as she proved once again that cats are tougher then humans.

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The first 3 hours on the road were filled with pathetic mews sporadically drifting out of the cat carrier on the back seat. Leslie tried putting the carrier on her lap but that just made Art more anxious to get out as she pressed her nose against the mesh trying to muscle her way to freedom. Eventually we stopped for a break and a driver change and I decided to let Art out under the strict policy that the back seat was her domain and the front seat verboten. The theory being it would be less stressful to the cat and the slight chance of an accident was worth risking for her (and our) mental health. After some pacing, and bit more complaining about the quality of the accommodations, she eventually settled down atop the pile of luggage where she had the best views and spent the majority of the next 8 hours sleeping with one eye squinked open. Occasionally she would sneak up and retest the “not in the front seat rule” but eventually she gave up.

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After we arrived at Granville Island, Artemis was given the run of the cab as we hauled everything down to the boat This actually seemed to make her madder and she huddled in the foot well of the drivers seat. But eventually it was her turn and a quick ride down the docks in her carrier found her introduced to her new home.

When I mentioned Artemis was half Rag Doll I really meant it. She is the most floppy, mellow cat you are ever going to meet. She gives Freida’s cat a good run for cat most like a handbag. And that means when we let her out on the boat she flopped down on the settee and gave us the look, before having a great big bath and the settling down to catch up on her sleep. The new digs were entirely a non-issue. And that pretty much set the tone for the next couple of days.

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She was still pretty edgy, but that is mostly general nervousness. We introduced her to a few cubbies and since the dining room table is currently down, the space below makes a terrific cat cave. But generally she is out and about and demanding scratches and attention. We spent 3 days at the dock and it rained quite a bit so she was generally inside catching up on her zzz’s. But when we went out into the cockpit we carried her out with us, all duded up in her harness complete with bell. She was nervous at first and stayed up near the hatch or ducking back down into the boat, but after the second or third time we were out, but left her below, she eventually decided she wanted to be where her people were and came up the companionway on her own. After that she just got braver and more accomodating.

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I took her into the dinghy for a little float and she took it fairly well but you could see she would rather be on the bigger boat. The complexity of the physics involved in launching herself upwards off a floating object seemed to escape her, so I made sure I handed her back aboard rather than letting her jump as she seemed prepared to do. She also came out on deck when we  renamed the boat. Her being named after a greek goddess and all we figured she deserved her own tot of champagne (thanks Earl).

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Eventually it came time to fire up the engine and cast off. Leslie went below to be with Artemis when I fired up the big noisy diesel. It didn’t seem to bother her outwardly but you could tell she classed it under just an other indignity to endure! She hunkered down in the back cabin for a while until I moved her forward, letting her know that it was quieter there. Crossing the Strait of Georgia took about five and half hours, motoring all the way (except for an abortive attempt at sailing as we passed the north edge of Gabriola Island) and she hung out mainly on the floor in front of the v-berth the whole way occasionally hiding in one of the cubbies below the mattress. After we had anchored we did discover she had been sick, but since hairballs are a semi-regular occurrence with her, it was hard to tell if the motion got to her or it was her usual intestinal cleanse.

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Now at anchor, the boat rules currently consist of no kitty on deck without a harness and a supervisor. No clawing anything but approved and supplied clawing surfaces. And no kitties on the transom. This has, of course, made the transom irresistible. She’s literally toeing the line every time I turn to look. But a few gentle swats and constant reminders have seemed to at least made the rule clear. She’s a pretty smart cat. Absolute obedience is another matter entirely. As I said, she’s a pretty smart cat.

So here we sit at anchor for a few days in Nanaimo Harbour. She’s settling in fine and eating well so everyone is happy. And now we will wait and see what the next phase of the adventure brings.
—Captain Why #Posts

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Thing to Consider

Our 2-week circumnavigation of Vancouver Island on Tim Melville’s Baltic 42 may have been a tad disappointing due to a total lack of wind. but we did learn a ton of stuff that should help us in our own adventure. Some of it is pretty obvious and some is just knowledge we already had but needed to actually experience.

Stowage

6 people on a boat for 2 weeks with no shore leave and no real stops changes how you approach galleys and storage. We tend to maintain an impeccable galley with everything stowed out of sight and away. But Donna didn’t have that privilege with so many supplies. Instead laundry baskets and containers were often left out but wedged in tightly to prevent movement. Every nook and cranny in Baltic had something in it and was arranged for maximum efficiency. This is definitely something we are going to have to work at.

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Preventers

I’ve read a lot about preventers, but never had the opportunity to rig one. It was actually pretty simple. A preventer is simply a method of preventing the boom from swinging (crashing really) back towards the boat when it has been let out. Many of the systems I had read about were complex and involved running lines forward through blocks and back to the cockpit. But on the Northern Passage it was a simple as tying off a line from the end of the boom to the toerail. The downside with this simplified system is you had to go out on deck to tack or drop the sails. But given the light winds (when there was wind) it wasn’t an issue.

Spinnakers

We got the spinnaker up  on one of the days. It was a full symmetrical and a real beauty. But it was a pain to get up, a pain to sail with and a pain to get down. I can see how an asymmetrical or even a gennaker would be a much better investment.

The issue is that with a loose foot, you need to pole it out and the pole, baby stay and forestay all had to play nice.  Then it became extremely important to maintain a course relative to the wind so it wouldn’t collapse; which meant that your actual heading was less important than where the wind shifted to.. On top of that, it’s a huge sail and managing it with less than the 4 we had would have taken a lot of practice and technique. But it was fun while it lasted.

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Wing on wing

So instead of the spinnaker, we generally ran wing-on-wing downwind. So much easier when you have a preventer rigged and the winds are holding steady. Those two little things made the whole exercise a whole lot more comfortable than the awkward attempts we have previously made.

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Close hauled vs beam reach

They say a  broad reach (running 90° to the wind) is the fastest point of sail. But close hauled (running about 30° to the wind—as close as you can get) always seems a lot faster. That’s because you are generally heeled over and the waves are screaming by 6 inches from your ass. What they also say and I never quite internalized is that not only is beam reach (or better yet a broad reach) faster, it is also way more comfortable. It really is. We would be sailing along on a broad reach with a following sea and it felt like we were standing still. But we were actually zooming along at over 6 knots.

But that also makes it more dangerous as you can be way over-canvassed without necessarily realizing it, as the effects of the wind are much less noticeable.

Crab traps

I’ve always disliked crab traps. The ones cluttering up the ocean, not the idea of crab traps themselves, but now I have a positive hate on for them. During the trip we had tons of close calls, especially at night but it was when I ran over one that had a tiny, dirt-encrusted float and wrapped it around the rudder that I got mad. This was a commercial trap—which are huge—and the weight of it brought our boat to a standstill. Luckily it was only around the rudder and we were able to cut it free. But with a bit more bad luck it could have wrapped itself around the propellor shaft and that might of meant having to dive to cut it free.

I am now a huge fan of introducing some legislation making them use big orange floats. Stupid crab traps.

Steamed oysters

And finally steamed oysters. I have learned to really enjoy raw oysters since our first foray two years ago, but every time I have tried them cooked it has left a bad taste in my mouth — literally. But when Tim et al. collected a bunch in the Broken Group we popped them on the BBQ and steam cooked them. A bit of garlic butter and they were scumpdillyicious!

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Hopefully there tons more things for us to learn. But for now, we are just a few days from casting off and the waiting is killing us.

 
—Captain Why #Posts