Boating Adventures | "Skipper: The Aspiring Boat Cat" | Article and Photos by Vicki Totten

Skipper may still need to grow into his harness.
When our elderly cat died last December, I knew that if we got another cat, it needed to be able to travel with us to the boat, since so much of our time is spent there.  Even so, when the fuzzy little black kitty darted under our car, it was not our intention to take him to the boat with us.  We hadn't been actively looking for another cat and it only occasionally came up in conversation.  But sometimes it is the kitty that picks the person.

We were stopped at a Valero Gas Station in Cuero, headed to the boat, when Stan heard the tiny kitten meowing under the car.  If it is possible for a meow to sound sad, this kitty's pitiful meow let us know he was in distress.  You could barely even hear it, I suspect because he simply didn't have the energy to meow very loudly.  Before Stan could reach for him however, the small black kitten with the white paws managed to dart under a metal cage used to store propane tanks.  It was obvious from the way the sharp line of his spine could be seen above his fur that he was starving.  We began digging for food to put out for him, starting with some bread and then ham from our ice chest, all which he immediately inhaled.

And then one thing naturally led to another.  It's funny how some decisions can take so long to come to - but others, such as this one, can come in an instant.  The kitty had somehow managed to squeeze himself into the actual metal cage, hiding next to the tanks.  But by the time Stan reached inside and picked him up, we were both goners.

Skipper was so tiny he fit into the palm of Stan's hand.

The kitten's little body immediately collapsed into Stan, trembling, but totally surrendering into the arms of his rescuer.  When Stan handed him to me, the pint sized kitty did the same thing, hugging his unbelievably thin body next to mine while looking up at me with these huge green eyes, immediately melting my heart.  Stan and I looked at each other and both knew that the kitten was going with us.

Kitty spent the entire trip cuddled in my lap, purring loudly when I would rub his white furred tummy and then cuddling up around my neck, totally unconcerned about the moving scenery passing by the windows of the car.  Once we got to the boat, we quickly went about bathing him in the laundry room sink at the boat harbor.  He didn't fight being bathed, but instead seemed to relax his tiny body while being washed in the warm water. Since it was Labor Day, we knew we couldn't get him to a vet to be checked out until the next day, so a quick trip to the store provided us with the provisions needed to have him stay on the boat with us that night. 

Still looking pitiful, Skipper's arrival on the boat.
Getting to know the boat.
Checking out the water surrounding us.

The next 24 hours convinced us that we had found our boat cat - or he had found us.  Our new kitten, who we optimistically named Skipper, was not in the least freaked out by the moving water around us.  He was just curious to explore every part of the boat and would find the smallest, darkest places to sleep, accustomed as he was to protecting himself from harm by hiding as best he could. At one point, he was nowhere to be found and we were just sure he had somehow gotten off the boat.  Finally, armed with powerful flashlights, we found him huddled behind the couch cushion for protection.   

Like any kitty, Skipper needs his toys.

After getting him checked out and treated by the vet for various kitty critters, we finally brought him to our house, where he is adjusting to our older cat who stays home when we go on the boat.  The older cat has become that "big black monster" to kitty, who shakes like a leaf when he comes near him. 

Everywhere I look, Stan has devised toys for Skipper.

It will be awhile before we discover if Skipper is really meant for boat life, but in the mean time, we have a kitty harness to get him used to using a leash, since if he is on the boat with us, there will be times we will need to keep him from falling overboard.   

The standoff.
Cisco, aka "big black monster cat."

Even the "big black monster cat" also known as Cisco, seems to be coming around, since he no longer hisses every time he spots the little one in the same room with him.  Only time will tell if they become friends, just as only time will tell if Skipper lives up to his name and takes to boat life.   In the meantime, the little two pound ball of fur has fully captured the hearts of all the humans in the family. And if the loud purring sounds coming from him are any indication, the love flows both ways. 

Vicki and husband, ceramic artist Stan Irvin, are both retired professors who have discovered the joys of Rockport and living part-time on their 33' sailboat, while exploring new sailing destinations and adventures.

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