March 25, 2010

Cats on boats

MUCH AS I LOVE CATS, I don’t love cats on boats. Cats have a habit of falling overboard at sea, or running off with the local tomcat in port. For a long time I thought the only proper pet for a sailboat was a parrot, but I have since been informed that parrots are much more demanding than you might imagine. If you want to look like a pirate, it’s going to cost you a lot of time and money.

Lots of people go cruising here in the Pacific Northwest with their dogs, and have to run them ashore morning and evening to fertilize the landscape. And a few do take their cats sailing with them. Cat-owning sailors are less subject to being bossed around by their pets because cats don’t jump up and down and demand to be taken ashore from an anchored yacht, as excited dogs do. They’re far calmer and more self-contained.

Nevertheless, there is still the problem of where they do their doo-doos. Most cats will happily use a sand-box, but that creates problems, too. I have, however, heard of a couple of cats who had been trained to use the ship’s head. One was a male called Pepe, who sailed around the world on Pieter de Klerk’s boat Aqua Viva.

I once rescued Pepe from a fight he was losing with the resident tomcat at the Royal Cape Yacht Club in Cape Town but I never did learn how Pieter trained him to use a human toilet. Someone told me recently that the way you do it is to place a sandbox over the head to start with, gradually lower it into the bowl over a period of days, and then remove the sandbox altogether.

How wonderful it must be when you no longer have to bother with messy smelly cat litter while crossing an ocean. The only thing better would be if your cat could flush the toilet afterward. I bet Pepe could do it, with a little training.

Today’s Thought
Did St. Francis preach to the birds? Whatever for? If he really liked birds he would have done better to preach to the cats.
— Rebecca West, This Real Night

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb #31
Scale of charts. If you’re confused about large-scale and small-scale charts, here’s how best to remember: Large scale, large detail; small scale, small detail. This is not exactly intuitive, since you get a large area on a chart with small detail, and a smaller area with large detail. So I suggest you don’t bother your tired little brain any further by trying to figure it out. Just memorize it, okay? Large scale, large detail. There. Nice work. You’ve got it.

Nature compensates for everything. One of the nicest things about old age is that you can whistle while you clean your teeth.


oztayls said...

Wow, a blast from the past! I recognised the name instantly as I was a devoted teenage reader of your Idler's Column in the Natal Mercury many years ago. And what's more, I hailed from Ladysmith wtmb(in the then Natal Province) and we bumped into each other at various regattas in South Africa.

I'll have to catch up on your blog, as well as your other writings, especially your book about your voayage from South Africa to USA.

These days I live in Australia, and am currently building a Goat Island Skiff. If you're interested, I'm blogging the construction here:

John Vigor said...

Yeah well, Bruce, a blast from the past, as you say. Ladysmith (wtmb), for goodness sake!

Ek wonder of die dorpie nog daar staan in die gamadoolas.

Anyway, welcome to the club and good luck with your Goat island Skiff. It looks like a very interesting project.

Sala gahle ou maat,

John V.