I never originally thought of myself as a cat person. Growing up with dogs and more than a few scratches from cats that I cornered as a child, I always pictured the first animal that I would own as a member of the canine family. That notion started to change after I graduated from college and moved into a house with my best friend and her cat, Moop. I loved that cat, and after living with her for two years, moving back to Lake Kabekona without a cat was harder than I expected. So, I started browsing the local shelters, under the pretense of finding a cat for my grandma to adopt as a companion animal.
When I was on the Headwaters Animal Shelter (HAS) website, I was immediately drawn to a photo of a white cat with black spots and yellow eyes. He was basking in the sun in the window of the cat room and named “Captain Hook.” The next couple of days, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Captain – I even had a dream about adopting him. At that point, I mentioned to my aunt that I was interested in meeting a cat from HAS and she promptly decided that we would all go right at that moment to see him.
As fate would have it, the moment we pulled into the parking lot at HAS, who was perched in the window, basking in the sun, looking straight at me in the passenger seat, but Captain Hook. I described to the HAS staff the kind of cat I had lived with before and that I wanted to meet Captain. I was told that Captain was more on the shy side, and they suggested that I meet with two other cats as well. So I did, and they were lovely, cuddly cats. But I was still determined to meet the cat from my literal dreams.
Captain certainly wasn’t as outgoing as the other cats I met earlier that afternoon. He didn’t immediately sit in my lap or rub against my hand; rather, Captain explored the room, chatting with us the whole time, and chased a fly that was buzzing around. I sat on the floor and let him come to me so I could pet him, and he started purring before the bug caught his attention again. I was in love, and later that afternoon, I filled out the adoption paperwork and took my Captain back to the cabin.
Captain adapted quickly to life at the lake cabin. He stayed in my bedroom for the first few days, but quickly explored the whole place, encouraged by the sound of a spoon hitting a wet food can. His favorite places were sunspots on the screened-in porch and a rocking chair next to the fireplace in colder weather. He never liked being picked up and held (still doesn’t), but he shared his affections regularly on his own terms, loudly demanded that his presence be acknowledged, and he could be found most often snuggled upon my grandma’s lap.
Shortly after adopting Captain, I was invited to go on a sailing trip from Florida to the Bahamas with some of my friends from high school. I jumped at the opportunity, under one condition: I would have to be able to bring Captain along. I was expecting the crew to decline, but (with another bout of fate) they enthusiastically assured me that the whole time the trip was being planned, they pictured getting a boat cat and naming him Captain…
So, Captain traded living in a lake cabin for commanding a boat cabin. Our crew was docked in a slip for 10 days after our arrival in Florida, which was plenty of time for Captain to get used to life aboard before we hit the open sea. He acclimated to living on a boat as quickly as he had to the lake cabin. There were plenty of nooks and crannies for him to investigate. This includes places that we would prefer he not go (i.e. the engine casing), but of course those places are the most alluring. We have spent a decent amount of time chasing him out of them. We dubbed the v-berth “the captain’s quarters,” since that is where he usually stays during the day, especially when we are moving.
There have been quite a few times that we’ve gone looking for Captain, only to find him burrowed as deep as he can get under the blankets and inside our pillowcases. We don’t think he minds the motion of the ocean – he’s the only one of us who hasn’t gotten seasick yet – just that he prefers napping all day, regardless of the conditions.
By the time we’ve anchored out for the night, he’s ready to greet the crew, giving us vocal critiques on our sailing for the day and ordering pets, just like a captain should. He makes his rounds on the deck, checking that everything is in shipshape and watching the waters intently for fish that swim under the boat.
One of his favorite activities is jumping down onto an unsuspecting crew member in the v-berth from the hatch on the foredeck above. He loves his cardboard scratching box, stealing Goldfish Crackers from our snack bowl, and sitting on top of our charts, reminding us to plan our route through the Caribbean for the next day.
Captain is the member of the crew who has set paw on land the least number of times in the past two months (just once to get an updated international health certificate). He is a source of affection, stress relief and entertainment for the crew; a fixture of our life aboard “Sea Note.”
If you are looking to adopt a cat, I would highly recommend that you don’t overlook the “shy” ones. A cat described as “shy” may just be more independent, which fits great into a busier lifestyle.
Captain may not have been the most outgoing cat I met that day at Headwaters Animal Shelter, but he is curious and affectionate, without being under our feet while we are sailing. I know that he is not dependent on my attention, but that makes moments when he cuddles up close all the more precious. If you give them a home, shy cats just may blossom into the Captain of the house, aloof and commanding one minute, with plenty of purrs and nuzzles for a job well done the next.
Karna Ringham and Captain Hook are currently sailing through the Bahamas on a Hunter 33 sailboat named “Sea Note.” If you want more stories from their journey on the sea, you can follow their Instagram (@crewandcaptain) or their blog (crewandcaptain.wordpress.com).