When I visited the Headwaters Animal Shelter (HAS) website, I was immediately drawn to a photo of a white cat with black spots and yellow eyes. He basked in the sun in the window of the cat room and called himself “Captain Hook”. For the next few 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 HAS cat and she immediately decided that at that moment we would all be going to see him in a moment.
As fate would have it, we drove into the parking lot of HAS, who was sitting in the window basking in the sun and looking directly at me in the passenger seat, but Captain Hook. I described to the HAS staff the type of cat I had lived with before that I wanted to meet with Captain. I was told that Captain was rather shy and they suggested I meet 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 was certainly not as sociable as the other cats I met earlier that afternoon. He didn’t sit on my lap or rub my hand right away; Rather, Captain explored the room, chatting with us all the time and chasing a fly that was buzzing around. I sat on the floor and let him come over so I could stroke him, and he started purring before the beetle caught his attention again. I was in love and later that afternoon I filled out the adoption papers and took my captain back to the cabin.
The captain quickly adapted to life in the sea hut. 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 can. His favorite spots were sunspots on the screened porch and a rocking chair by the fireplace in colder weather. He never liked being picked up and held (still doesn’t), but he regularly shared his affection on his own terms, loudly demanded that his presence be recognized, and most of the time he was snuggled in my grandmother’s lap .
Soon after I adopted Captain, I was invited to sail from Florida to the Bahamas with some of my high school friends. I took the opportunity on one condition: I had to be able to bring Captain with me. I expected the crew to go back, but (with another blow of fate) they enthusiastically assured me that the whole time they imagined getting a boat cat and calling him captain …
So Captain swapped life in a sea cabin for command of a boat cabin. Our crew was docked in a slip for 10 days after we arrived in Florida. This was enough time to get used to life on board before we were out at sea. He got used to living on a boat as quickly as in the sea hut. There were many nooks and crannies to examine. This includes places we would rather not go (i.e. the engine case) but of course these places are the most tempting. We spent a decent time chasing him out of them. We called the V-berth the “captain’s quarters” because it usually stays there during the day, especially when we move.
There have been a few times we’ve looked for Captain just to find him as deep as possible under the covers and in our pillow cases. We don’t think he minds the movement of the ocean – he’s the only one of us who hasn’t gotten seasick – just that he prefers to nap all day regardless of the conditions.
By the time we have anchored for the night, he is ready to greet the crew, criticize us loudly about our sailing for the day, and order pets like a captain should. He makes his rounds on the deck, checking that everything is in ship shape, and carefully watching the water for fish swimming under the boat.
One of his favorite pastimes is jumping from the hatch on the foredeck upstairs to an unsuspecting crew member in the V-bed. He loves his cardboard scratch box, steals goldfish crackers from our snack bowl, and sits on top of our maps to remind us to plan our route through the Caribbean for the next day.
The captain is the member of the crew who has landed the least amount of paws in the past two months (only once to get an updated international health certificate). He is a source of affection, stress reliever, and entertainment for the crew. an integral part of our life on board the “Sea Note”.
If you are looking to adopt a cat, I would strongly advise you not to overlook the “shy” ones. A cat labeled as “shy” may be more independent, which works great with a busier lifestyle.
Captain may not have been the most sociable cat I met at the Headwaters Animal Shelter that day, but he’s curious and loving without being under our feet while we sail. I know he doesn’t depend on my attention, but that makes moments when he snuggles up close all the more valuable. If you give them a home, shy cats can blossom to the captain of the house in one minute, aloof and commanding, with plenty of purring and snouting for a job well done the next.
Karna Ringham and Captain Hook are currently sailing across the Bahamas on a Hunter 33 sailboat called the Sea Note. If you want more stories from her journey at sea, you can follow her Instagram (@crewandcaptain) or blog (Crewandcaptain.wordpress.com).