Cat Watch; The Ship’s Cat gives the low down on life at sea
What do I, the so-called ship’s cat, get up to at sea? I’ve done a few miles and I reckon I’ve cracked it. A typical day on Cat Watch as reported by me, Pepe, giving you the full feline low-down at sea cock level, from above and below the sole boards. Firstly people, dogs, mice, flies and gulls let’s get real – this is the CAT’S SHIP:
00.00 to 04.00 definitely, most definitely, off watch!!! We cats, we cool sea-cats, call this Plankton Time – I mean who else is stupid enough to stay in a wake and ‘phosphate round your stern’ at this hour
04.00 to 06.00 sun coming up – I’ll stare out a porthole for an hour or so (if crew are lucky), I can see the sky, the sea, the sky, the sea, sky, sea, sky, sea, almost under the sea that time….big sky, another two hundred cycles of this and I’m done…hmmmm, early breakfast (if I’m lucky) this rolling accelerates my peristalsis, driving fish down ‘me tubes’ and kinda makes me hungry so crew wake up – meow, meeow, Meeooow? Meeeeooooowwwww??? you know I’m gonna scratch the upholstery & MEEEOOOWWW!!! – duck, avoid a few flying objects, something’s stirred….
07.00 Breakfast if I have to wait this long – shiver me waterbowl it’s fish; release the gentle waft of tuna and salmon, white fish and prawn scent through the ship…goes down, down, down and up, up, up in a harbour swell, bit of slurping & munching…rest…slurp and munch, but smart cats always leave some for later so we can track putrifying fish smells back to our bowl
07.00 to 09.00 sit firm and wait, forced to listen to some Island Radio somewhere, The Ketch-up Song, some old gaffer, Yawl Simon and Cat Stanchions (so much better than Sloop Dogg), and that bloke on the radio with the same sunrise message southwest 6/7 imminent, maybe gale 8 later, occasionally rain….moderate to… meeuw, wait for it, here we go….mind out cat coming through!!
09.00 – moving towards the heads as crew dive dive for cover or suddenly rush out on deck with some urgent job to do, that fish is going to be recycled, hope it’s not rough again because that’s a riot…I’m in the air having an out-of-tray experience, litter tray’s going to leeward, I’m mid-air but all’s clear below, landed and bam, slammed by sliding tray – lucky so far the tray has never got higher than me….someone else can clear this up I’m off
10.00 – clear air, clear air everyone!! Bit of boat maintenance to get involved in, hard to see down there hang on let me adjust a bit – there tail now completely in the way….come on I’ve got to dive in there and disappear under the cabin sole (is that fish? sounds like fish?);
meeuuuu engine starting I’m out of here – quick look around, snake across this ever moving saloon floor, sit on companionway steps, slide…slide, grab, too late, fall off, chase a mouse, lick a paw, time to sleep. Choose a bunk, nice pillow, sheet in, dream of smoked salmon, cracked pepper, squeeze of lemon;
there we go – one fully unfurled cat following a hard day (….sleeping)
10.00 to 14.00 into the ship’s cat roster – sleep, sleep and sleep – high wind alarm – turnover and sleep – ah come on stop this bed rolling – I’m heading for a high shelf and tucking in my corner
14.00 – open an eyelid – I’m still offwatch so this is pushing it a bit – blowing 7 again – chart books starting to move along the shelf I’ll just give them a nudge…meeeoooyawn – get this mini-me outta my face…
16.00 – seems calmer so I’ll have a look around, grab a couple of fishy biscuits on the way, see what I can blag, get a pet or something, check out the dog house (note the attempt to keep me below – never seen no dog in the house?!?) and get my flashy red jacket on,
maybe take a look out of the windshield do a couple of minutes on watch or sleep in the sun
17.00 the ship’s cat has fish for dinner again…sit on my grab mat and claws in tight – roll to port, eat from the bowl, roll to starboard, swallow, port eat but keep face out of the bowl, staaarboooard, swallow – finish that later
18.00 – 20.00 offwatch & sleeping when I get moved off the navigators chair
21.00 I can hear calling; ‘Where’s the cat? Anyone seen the cat? Where was he last? Didn’t go on deck? In the bilges? Miaw, miaw,mimiauw! Here I am, great trick ‘the vanishing cat’ with neat camouflage, sneaked in the engine room during routine checks…’Here he is!’ my cover’s blown and now I am for a bit of squishing, cat tumbling and stroking.
Cat tricks include rushing headlong from the saloon to the stern as the sea builds, bivouacing on high shelfs, caving down hull sides along the back of furniture.
21.30 – 24.00 finish dinner and curl up with crew, maybe grab a bit of fish first on the way, MEEEEEOOOOWWW! Going off watch everyone…not waking again for any state of tide, seagull, duck, fish…..cat dreams; fallen asleep chewing my mouse again. Is that tuna I can hear skipping along just under the hull just a paw strike away; better than mousemares like octo-puss….cat-fish (purr-maids?)
* Do Tuna give way to Bass in the Bass Strait?
* All fish look the same; about 4 inches high and about 3 inches in diameter with access via a ringpull
* Stop dropping torches, spanners and harness hooks in my catfood!!
* You can tell when the wind’s up – humans can’t walk straight and grab anything – furl in the tail
* A cat at 25 degrees of heel does not a book stop make!
* If we were designed for rough weather we would have suckers not claws
* An ear is a sonic dorade vent
*9 lives plays 7 seas – the cat wins
*Do I believe in Cod?
*The fish came with instructions which read: To tuna piano play scales
*Which came first? The hamster or the wheel?
*Have you ever seen a Dorado vent?
Catfort Wind Scale:
C0 – nada catada – whisker’s don’t move, unable to smell a rat from two paws away, scent rises vertically
C1 – upper whiskers vaguely twitch in the breeze, faint smells of langoustine and garlic drift off the shoreline
C2 – long whiskers now sway in the wind, marina cooking and nearby fishing harbour a pleasant on the nose
C3 – fur ruffled in gusts, whiskers bend, ears twitch & flags fly
C4 – fur and whiskers show larger deformation, starting to think about grip, looking out for loose material
C5 – tail get’s blown about and lifts downwind, ears need flattening, noisy and unsettling
C6 – no tail control, vacate the deck and start furling up, rig starting to whine
C7 – sounds like giant mice in the rigging, stay below, curl up, eat and sleep
C8 – plan moves carefully, fall off furniture, don’t move unless essential, humans become unpredictable
C9 – streamlined, ears pinned back, can smell a ‘mousse francais’ cross channel in NRT (near real time)
C10 – as the lion roars outside it’s full claws dug into the ceiling
C11 – stand up beam on and you have cat tumbleweed
C12 – violent storm my paw; this is a Cat-ass-trophy – strictly stern to wind with my tail flapping in front of my very eyes
Sea birds are nuts – a seagull, named after the trusty outboard, left a starfish on the doghouse!!
Given the chance a cat, that’s me, will go for your bilges…
We look for an opportunity, an opening, the chance to flatten and stretch the body to squeeze under floor boards and voila, we are in the bilges, under the cabin sole. A cat can go anywhere. We see stuff not seen since a builder laid a weld or bolted in a bulkhead. As we work our way through the catacombs of the hull structure we go from side to side like doing the half-pipe on a snowboard – starboard side and up pops the cat’s head; I do a quick 180 flakey to starfish and disappear back down the hull side as my owner tries to grab any cat appendage but as we know tails slip through (the hands of time) – then it’s down down down, through the bilge water, rising toward the sliver of light. A back 180, oh no I have been grabbed, it’s a 360 as my legs are grabbed, I’m in the air, extra points for the 720 back flip, and a cat is landing, no I am free and I’m down the hole again and skimming along the hull sides toward the bilges. This cat is going ‘bilge monkey’ and not coming out….till dinner time!
Walking the Plank
As a cat I thought this went out with ole Black Tail but I tell you, my people, this practice still goes on today in the modern world – four paws on the plank and ere’s a tail for ya, ameoww (translates to aharrr):
On deck and the sun’s rising when I am seized and strapped into my red jacket. Next thing I am over the rail and walking the plank – along the dockside. Don’t get me wrong a cat does enjoy ‘walkies’, we can look at cleats, bowlines, bights, bitter ends and as we get to the bigger powerboats we run into two Chihuahua’s (essentially a misguided cat in a dog’s body which is where we took the term ‘dog’s body’ from when we talk about cat’s even thinking about doing chores -it’s an in-joke) with pink collars and diamond studs – this is where Black Tail failed because this is truly punishing – if only I could reach for my muskrat…I surrender I will be a shipmate at least till we go over the rails again.
Scurvy we don’t do. Grog you can keep. But we have Catrauma. Unsure? Here it is.
I roll down to the food bar and it is well known that we are at anchor and not hitting port for a few days. But how many cat food pouches are there – lunch, dinner, breakfast – oh no it’s Catrauma, days from port, hours from a shop, cat years away from nutrition and no fishing lines deployed. Where’s a gnome when you need one? We want fish, we want fish, we want fish (learn’t this from the last general tuna strike) we want fish and double on Sundays! Weigh anchor, we leave on the next tide, may the French supermarket be open (after 2pm, on a Weds, not a bank holiday, without the proprieteur leaving a note ‘away for four weeks in August’).
‘got ooone……GOt….OOOoonne’ I hear on the breeze. Quick as a flash I twitch an ear toward the stern….’reel HIm in’…..he’s puTTing up a fight’…at this point I raise an eyebrow, tilt a whisker or two forward and fling the second ear in the general direction of sounds carried on the wind as they fade in and out…..’it’s DIvinG…Pull ON THE Line…..look thERE a splash….IT’s a’…hang on this is worth opening an eye for…..Big ONE…..can y’ see IT?….get the NET…..’……..straining both ears at 45 degrees to the action…..no, it’s gone quiet, time to retract ears and drop whiskers whilst I wait for the post-fish report – yep here’s the crew; ‘sorry Pepe, it was too big, too small, taken by a shark at the last minute, should have seen that sea lion, those teeth it bit straight through the line, we nearly lost an arm…… As ship’s cat I have heard it all. Back on the tins again…..
Checking the cat’s tank
Method A: For this we will need: 1 cat (me), 1 spatula, 1 torch and 5 pairs of gloved hands
Instructions: Open mouth, depress tongue with spatula, shine torch down cat and see what’s left.
Method B: For this we will need 1 cat (me) and the run of the boat from bow to galley
Take cat to bow and place on floor, move swiftly to stern and note
a) If taking the first step you fall over cat then cat’s tank is empty – fill with duck & salmon
b) If cat follows then cat tank is half-full – apply biscuits
c) If cat stays put then cat tank is full – no action required
Cat’s en passage…
Catmaster – Category F Ocean incl. Fish Ingestion (in all forms)
Cat get off your ahhh…..rug
Swing me three times round the scratching post I’m not going out there
Have you looked outside? Breaking over the marina wall
I’m staying put (very wise)
I am clawed tight to terra firma
There could be a plaice in it (no chance but don’t tell a cat)
Not the old plaice joke again – you mean fish plaice?
OK I’m in but that looks gnarly – got 9 life assurance policies to read first
Claws 32b, i You will not take undue risks for plaice, salmon, trout and cod nor anything else exhibiting fins on body and tail
Claws 32b, ii Under no circumstances are you to exit the marina in SW F7+ on lives 1 through 9
Claws 34d, iv You are expected to sleep 16 hours a day
Claws 48a, i Lives 10 and above are excluded – do what you want when in double figures
(Feline Assurance 9 Lives & 2,000 exclusions ‘plus further small print if you ask’ Ltd)
Nope – not going!
The 7-C’s – Victualling for Cats
When preparing for a voyage ensuring that the stores are fit for a cat is a craft handed down over the centuries; simply the 7-C’s:
Forgetting any one of these will lead the ship’s cat to mutiny within 24 hours with the top three on the list quickly rendering the environment uninhabitable.
General Cat Dribble (some would say Cat Litter):
Radio Catoline Interview (for this story we recommend working with epoxy paint thinners for 30 minutes before proceeding)
Radio Catoline moved ashore from the North Sea to Essex some years ago and Pepe was interviewed on the Cat O’Nine Tails program by DJ ‘N’:
N: Good Afternoon we have with us today Pepe who is the ship’s cat. Pepe what do you prefer, day or night sailing?
P: All the same really, mostly dark. Well asleep generally that’s why it’s mostly dark as I am staring into my third eyelid. If food calls and I have to stand then with six times better eyesight than a human I don’t notice sunlight.
N: So where are you going?
P: Down the Channel
N: oh the Coco as we call it, the Coco Chanel?
N: Didn’t say nuffin
P: Yes then across Biscay
N: Down the Coco, cross the Scay – what about Wales
N: Wales, you know the dragon
P: Dragon, no you mean big fish like mammal thing, no hope not to hit a Whale
N Cat’ll learn ya?
P: Cat’ll what?
N: you know Cat’ll learn ya? hang on my sound engineer Alan might know. You speak CatAlan? From Cat’ll learn ya?
A: yeah course I speak Cat?
N: Catalan, not Cat, Alan
P: Then to the Gran Canaria
N: Big and yellow is it?
P: What Gran Canaria? No
N: The Grand Cannery where all our food comes from?
P: No, Grand Canaria
N: It’s what those miners have? In Wales?
P: What is?
N: You know the Minor Bird?
P: We passed Wales a while ago…
N: But you said you didn’t expect to see any
P: Whales no
N: OK this is tricky. So its down the Coco, cross the Scay avoiding Wales, and down to the Grand Cannery?
P: Yes and that’s where I will take on provisions
N: Makes sense, then…being by the Grand Cannery an all
P: Across the Atlantic
N: The Lantic, oooh that is so big but at least you got to the Cannery
P: To St Lucia
N: Yves Saint Lucia?
P: Rodney Bay
N: He’s from round here, Rodney boy on that Horses fing, I fink he has a yellow canary
P: Psst can we have a break – just want to put my hind leg up by your mike – got to gnaw on the old leg bone for a minute…
N: I’ll join you I have some breakfast down the front of my coat
N: You were saying
N: Don’t know; check my feet
N: Not now I’m working, L8rrrr
P: and through the Panama Canal
N: I know, hats, but a bit boring same old shape
P: and into the Pacific
N: I knew you’d get to the Specific
P: through the Pacific islands
N: Any specific, Specific Islands?
P: The Galapogos
P: And to New Zealand
N: Aaaah look what they did to the Kiwi thing. A funny kind of green and all small and furry. What did they do to it’s beak and wings? No wonder it’s stinct
P: And there are natives
N: you remind me. My little Jimmy came home yesterday and he had one of those things, you know he looked a sight, a Mohican, straight down the middle. Well I said ‘Last of!’
P: Ahhhh Flea!
N: Flea? Don’t worry all my guests have them. We plant it on the way in. We are sponsored by Fleadom Flea, for Fluffy Feline Fur . A quick squirt of Fleadom and you will be Flea Free for Five weeks. Keep the bottle.
P: Can I keep the flea?
N: No, he’s on air again in half an hour
P : Bahamas
N: You are driving me Bahamas
P: No need to get Azores. Your so Sao Jorge!
Soggy Cat Tails (for this story we recommend working with adhesive remover for 30 minutes before proceeding)
The once Fast Feline Ferry of Felixstowe had been seized by the infamous crew of the Fat Cat, a hitherto successful pirate gang with interest in living a high life on the seven seas. So the Fast Ferry was renamed Fat Cat 7 and painted a ghostly grey. Red tails were daubed along the gunwhales representing the various prisoners that had been taken at battle. True or not it created sufficient myth that most kept clear.
It was believed that the Fat Cat carried a crew of about 65 but who could tell. Some cat’s probably came with the ship, some crawled aboard out of curiosity, and maybe some jumped ship, or were pushed! There were bilge runners that never saw the light of day, deck squeezers who lived between the deck ceiling and floor, and claw riggers who preferred life up top. The rest, the largest by number, werer generally found about the four deck levels in varied states of consciousness.
The ship’s bell rang out with the set pattern declaring a Captain’s meeting. Of course this was The Fat Cat himself. About 40 cats attempted to respond with 7 electing to sleep on regardless. A further 5 were distracted at the first cabin doorway; it was clear that others had either already forgotten the call or were coincidentally travelling in the right direction at the bell with no intention of completing this journey, that journey, or whatever journey they had first intended.
Eight crew members were expected to attend the Fat Cat’s table. Red Claws, Slash and Swipe, Medicat, Just Surviving the 12th, Black Cat, Tall Tails and The Ginger Catalyst. Fat Cat scanned the table in the dim light cast by the oil lamp swinging over the captain’s table. Swipe was missing and custom required all crew to explain why. ‘Furball, Furball, Furball, Hairball, Furball, Furball….’ Fat Cat’s glare returned to the one muttering hairball which was not part of the cat language. Of course this was voiced by the honorary rodent representative, Just Surviving the 12th, elected by the established rodent stowaway community. Already on their twelfth representative the whereabouts of the previous eleven remained unknown but mention of it always drew a wry smile from Red Claws.
The PsyCatriatist (for this story we recommend working with varnish & thinners for 45 minutes before proceeding).
A trip to the psyCatriatist was necessary after a change in food brands occurred during the week. Reception was the usual melee of 30 odd cats sleeping in various positions most of whom had slumbered through yesterday’s appointment yet were still here all the same. They showed no inclination to move from their chosen spots.
Meeting with BC, The Big Cat as he’s called, is never a memorable experience. The first thing he says is ‘hang on I’ll move today’s feline fur queue down the line’. It’s always the same story. ‘they come in, I tell them to relax and close their eye’s and fifteen hours later they are still in the same position. Gradually we shuffe them out and pile them up in reception until they eventually disappear’. ‘Relax’, he said, ‘close your eyes’. Next thing I know I wake up in a pile of cat by the front door. You can see why psycatriaty has never really caught on.
TBD (for this story we recommend working with petrol, two stroke oil & outboard exhaust for 90 minutes before proceeding)