Sea-Monster Kitten Nessie cruises the tropics

Off-watch - Nessie playing chess
Meghan Cleary
Nessie on watch
Meghan Cleary
Do you have a cat on your boat? Have you ever thought about it? ASA writer-at-large Meghan Cleary, her fiance Prescott, and their Sea-Monster kitten Nessie are on a planned 9-month cruise in the tropics on their yacht Velella, and this week Meghan writes about Nessie and her boating skills.

I blame Robin Graham* for this.

And Tania Abei** too.

Their descriptions of kitten-companions aboard their circumnavigating sailboats tore at my heart until I became obsessed with the idea of having a boat kitten too.

'But it doesn’t seem like the right environment for a cat.'

I'll be up the mast in a jiffy
Meghan Cleary
'How are you going to make sure she doesn’t fall in?'

'You know, cats HATE water.'

Given the severe overpopulation of homeless cats and kittens in the area where I live, I was shocked that I couldn’t just go to a shelter and rescue one. Everyone seemed to disapprove.

Each location made us fill out a huge interview describing the living arrangements, etc (as though whatever home it might go to could possibly be worse than a flea-ridden shelter cage).

More often than not, people determined that a boat was an unfit home for a cat. (I mean, they hate water.) I felt ridiculous and exasperated explaining that the cat would not be living IN water.

Our floating home is cozy and full of nooks and crannies and fresh fish! We were denied again and again. It was astonishing how people who knew so very little about boats and what it meant to live on one were so quick to condemn the unknown.

Ultimately, a non-profit called Kitten Rescue decided that we were fit parents for a little calico that I’d fallen in love with. The director visited the boat personally and decided to give us the kitten for free (with all shots and spaying paid for!) because she thought our boat was a wonderful home for her. So we named the little calico Nessie, after the sea monster.

Nessie has been sailing with us for a year, and has
Nessie on the sheets
Meghan Cleary
thousands of sea miles under her whiskers.

She has a fabulously glamorous life. She enjoys sashimi frequently, loves sleeping under the sunny warm dodger, tears around the boat chasing flies away for exercise, and meditatively watches the sunrise every morning. She even plays chess and has been known to help hoist sails.

So to all those of you who would eschew having a cat onboard, don’t be so quick to judge!

If a kitten starts sailing young, she’ll be an old salt in no time. Who knows, she might even start swimming.
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*Robin Lee Graham is an Southern Californian sailor who set out to sail around the world alone as a teenager in the summer of 1965. Graham was sixteen when he set out alone and headed west in his 24-foot sloop. He was originally given two kittens for company, that he named Joliette and Suzette, and through his travels lost and gained several more, ultimately docking with Kili, Pooh and Piglet at the end of the journey.

**Tania Aebi completed a solo circumnavigation of the globe in a 26 foot sailboat between the ages of 18 and 21. Tarzoon, the cat who traveled more than half the world around with her, survived for more than 20 years and died peacefully in its sleep.