Boating Adventures | "Giving Up" | Article and 6 Photos by Vicki Totten

I give up. Those are three words I struggle with. Some might call it stubbornness. But the fact remains that if I am told something "can't be done" that's my cue to dig my heels in and make it happen. While my tenaciousness doesn't always pay off, more often than not, it does. My favorite example of my tenaciousness is related to the position I held for 18 years before retiring a few years ago. I knew I wanted to teach at this particular university, so I kept applying until they hired me - which took 10 years to happen.

Our Boat Cat Skipper Engaging in One of His Many "Risky" Behaviors

While sometimes my stubbornness can also be coupled with a failure to be realistic, my stubbornness often results in success. There was the time I finally received a license to manage my short term rental in Austin - after having been told there was nothing more I could do after my application was turned down. Or, there was the time my stubbornness helped get a new grading policy instated at the university where I taught. I believed it was the right thing to do for my students, so persisted until the board finally agreed with me. But sometimes persistence inevitably ends in disappointment. And that is the place we seem to be with our cat Skipper and his status as a boat cat.

King of the World - or at least the Boat

I previously shared about rescuing Skipper when we were on our way to our boat last September. The starving, skinny, six week old ball of fur ran under our car when we had stopped in Cuero. We began taking him with us to the boat and he didn't seem to mind the car trips, usually sleeping on my shoulder or in his carrier. And when we would arrive on the boat, he seemed content to just hang out with us inside the boat or on the cockpit watching the birds or just staring at the water. That is, until he wasn't. Beginning in December, he began complaining constantly in the car on the way to the boat and back. The constant meowing made for a very unpleasant and very long three hour trip.

Skipper on one of his earlier, more playful car trips.

He used to be perfectly content for the entire three hour ride.

So this last trip, I prepared by asking our vet to give me something to calm him down for the car ride, which she did. Unfortunately, I forgot to give it to him prior to leaving, so it took an hour to take effect. While the meowing did seem to slow down somewhat after an hour or so - I'm not sure if it was from exhaustion or from the tranquilizer kicking in. On the car ride home, I remembered to give it to him in advance, but then after another hour of him meowing constantly, I gave him a second dose (my vet had divided the pill up into fourths). Even then, it didn't seem to have a huge impact. So by the time we got home, we were all exhausted, not from the trip so much as from the constant complaining we had to deal with the entire way.

Since in the past Skipper seemed to love being where ever we were on the boat, we expected it would be like that again. And even though he doesn't complain once we get to the boat, he has started exhibiting behaviors that have put his boat cat status at risk.

Surprise attack from on top of the Bimini
What the heck?

The first problem behavior occurred the first night we left the boat to go out to dinner. We left him inside with several of the screened ports open for ventilation - something we had done many times before. So, imagine our surprise when we came back after dinner and rounded the corner to our dock to find him sitting calmly (or was that smugly?) outside on the cockpit. He had escaped by tearing off the screen on one of the ports. By the time the week was over, he had torn two other screens off as well. But that wasn't the worst of it.

In the past, we could keep the companionway door open when we were on the boat, and he would come and go from the cockpit to the inside of the cabin and back, but he never jumped off of our boat. Just like a teenager who has to test the limits, Skipper was now testing our limits by jumping off of our boat onto the dock. But that still wasn't the worst of it.

Once he figured out he could jump onto the dock, he began to push the limits even further by jumping on board the boats to either side of us. The 27 foot boat on one side of us is owned by people from San Antonio who are rarely on their boat, which at least saved us from having to apologize to them, even though it also meant we had to go retrieve Skipper from their boat without their permission. Everyone knows you wait for permission before boarding someone else's boat. Well, apparently everyone but Skipper knows that.

The 45' sailboat we share a dock with on the other side, is owned by a couple from Kansas. They usually come down for a few months in the winter, so they were on their boat when Skipper decided to board it without permission. Not only were they on their boat, but it just so happened that they were in the middle of varnishing all of the wood on the outside of the boat. Now, to make sure you get the picture, that meant that all of the wood along the outside of their boat had freshly painted varnish on it. Wet varnish. And did I mention that Skipper has this unusually bushy and very long tail? The owners were not amused to have Skipper running from us as we tried to coax him off of their boat with his tail swishing to and fro.

Cat Tail Turned Paint Brush

And as if this wasn't bad enough, it turned out that one of the owners was also allergic to cats. That meant Skipper naturally was very interested in going over and rubbing against her whenever he wasn't rubbing up against the wet varnish. Needless to say, the owners politely asked us to keep our cat on our own boat. So for the rest of the week, if we were out on our cockpit, we kept Skipper on a leash, and when we left the boat, we had to make sure all of the ports were closed. That worked only because we were able to keep some of the hatches cracked open and a fan on. Since the temperature was very moderate that week, that was not a problem. But once it warms up, if he is on the boat when we go out, we will either have to leave the air conditioner on or take him with us. And that leads to our current conclusion, which is that we may have to give up on Skipper being a boat cat.

I have to remind myself that Skipper is still a kitty. He is now seven months old. It's possible that once he matures a bit more, he will settle down and we might once again attempt to take him with us on our trips to the boat. I really am loath to give up having him be a boat cat. For now, however, I am ready to declare defeat. If we lived on the boat full time, I suspect it would get easier and that we would all adjust. But I think for now, it is just too confusing for him to have all this freedom when he is at our house in Austin, and then very limited freedom on the boat and in the car. Plus, his stubbornness had already forced us to give him more freedom in Austin, and we now let him come and go during the day, even though we still keep him inside at night. We got tired of having to chase him down every time someone opened a door and he darted out.

I guess we will just have to wait and see who will prevail in Skipper remaining a boat cat. Which also means discovering who is more stubborn - Skipper or me.

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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