The days on Madeira are drawing to a close. Shortly I will sail on towards Tenerife. But this is also the end of the visit of Katrin, my wife, on Blue Alligator. Soon she flies back to Santa Maria and our three cats. I will be alone again.
Since I had a cat visit me last year in the port of La Gomera, I’ve been thinking about taking a four-legged companion on board. I’ve already been measuring corners to find a suitable place for a cat litter box. And I watch every YouTube video that discusses the topic.
Not a comfortable trip
At the same time, I know that a cat on Blue Alligator would not have an easy time. I just have to visualize my last trip from Santa Maria to Madeira. The wind was all right, mostly northwest, rarely more than 20 knots. But the waves had it all. An area of low pressure that moved over the Azores made for a confused sea far to the south. The waves were short, steep and seemed to come from all sides. Sometimes they hit Blue Alligator right in the flank, and it was as if a truck had rammed the boat. Immediately after, the water pelted the deck like a torrent. If I had been standing in the cockpit, I would have been showered from top to bottom.
Below deck, it was as if I were trapped like a bug in a box that a curious child was shaking in his fist. The only safe place was the bench in the saloon, where I had bedded down well enough not to be catapulted out. Standing up each time was a mixture between a feat of strength and a balancing exercise. With one hand I held on tightly, with the other I pulled up my pants or tried to put on a T-shirt, which not infrequently ended with me losing my grip, the clothes over my head or with one leg in my pants, and being flung across the room. If I was lucky, I landed back on the bench. Otherwise, there were bruises.
And the litter box?
A cat would probably have anchored itself in an upholstery with all its claws. What would have happened to the litter box, more precisely to its contents, would have been an interesting experience, if one has a desire for such experiments. I have read on relevant blogs that even in heavy weather the cat, litter box and litter box contents are safe. But who knows?
I am lucky to be spared from seasickness. However, a cat is not naturally equipped with sea legs. And if it is too curious, it risks going overboard. Besides, I’m on my way to Africa, to the Bijagos Islands off the coast of Guinea-Bissau. Not only are sharks said to swim around there, but crocodiles are also part of the archipelago’s colorful fauna. They would probably be happy about a morsel that falls in front of their teeth.
Not animal friendly?
Many years ago, I wrote about animals on board for the NZZ. For that, I spoke with the then director of the Zurich Zoo, Alex Rübel, and with the Zurich animal welfare organization. Both sources advised against taking cats – or even dogs – on board. The reason given was that a boat simply did not offer an environment suitable for animals. However, when I posted a picture of my visitor on La Gomera on Facebook last year, accompanied by the question of whether cats could be kept on board, I was inundated with dozens of responses. The majority of them clearly answered the question in the affirmative. People told of many happy years of sailing with their pets and how content the animals had been. Of course, no one asked the cats whether they preferred to hunt mice in a field or spend their days on a yacht. But it is not completely impossible that one or the other animal was born to be a sailor.
So what to do? I think I will leave it to chance. If a needy cat comes to me, it may move in with me. Then I will stretch a safety net along the railing and also build a nice toilet for her. Otherwise I will remain animal-free until I see our three cats again in their guaranteed animal-friendly environment on Santa Maria.