We had had Diesel for about 4 weeks when we decided it was high time to take him sailing. We had run the engine a few times in the intervening weeks and he had reacted well to the noise. In fact, he completely ignored the engine.
We wanted to take Diesel sailing sooner rather than later in order to acclimatize him to the concept while he was still young. We got our first cat, Oreo, when he was 10 weeks old, but since it was late fall, and we did no winter sailing that year, he was nine months old before we ventured onto the water with him, and he never got completely accustomed to his home moving.
Diesel’s first voyage was a crossing of the Georgia Strait to get to Montague Harbour on Galiano Island. This is a fairly long trip. All the cat behaviour books advise gradual introduction of a cat to the voyaging life, and a short daysail might have been a better choice for Diesel’s first crew duty. However, he had already shown himself to be a good traveler when he spent six hours in his carry case when we brought him back from California, and in this instance, he would have access to his litter box and water.
The weather conditions were ideal for calming kitty fears: flat calm and sunny. We initially left Diesel below to see how he chose to handle the boat’s motion. He installed himself in the pullman berth in a snug little corner and whenever we checked on him, he seemed comfortable and alert. Unlike Oreo, who used to flatten himself in one spot as soon as the VHF was turned on and not budge until the engine was turned off at arrival, Diesel would actually come out from his perch and walk around.
We put him in his harness, tied him to a leash and brought him on deck when he began to look a little queasy due to some sloppy swell. He was quite happy playing under the dodger, but we eventually put him back down below when we needed to keep our attention on the boat itself.
We arrived at Montague after about seven hours of motoring with Diesel none the worse for wear. Since it was a long weekend, we spent two nights in the harbour at the Bluewater Cruising Association’s rendez-vous, before heading back on the Monday morning.
We initially took the same approach as before and left Diesel below. However, when we approached Active Pass, he began to mewl pathetically from the top companionway step. Apparently we’re good company and he just wanted to be outside with us. However, with ferry traffic and other boats to keep track of, we did not want Diesel underfoot during a busy time. We decided to put him in his carry case and leave the case underneath the dodger canopy.
This turned out to be an excellent idea and will likely be Diesel’s preferred mode of sailing for the next little while. He was able to see out of three sides of the bag, was comfortable and secure, and could not suddenly get in the way during vital manoeuvres. We took him down below for litter and water breaks on a regular basis.
This time, we managed to do some sailing, although with very little wind, we just ghosted along with little heel; also a good situation for kitty’s first time seeing those great white sails.
Overall, we seem to have a cat who travels well by plane, car or boat. We are very lucky and are looking forward to more adventures with our furry friend.