Sunday, May 29, 2011


Meet Motley, the third member of the crew here on The Doctor. She came to us some seven years ago when we were sailing our previous boat, Norlee around Australia. She was a birthday present for me, for one of those significant birthdays. I must admit getting a cat on board had been a campaign for over a year and at last, because of that significant birthday Rob weakened. She was chosen from the RSPCA at Cairns and came on board on a rainy tropical day in a cardboard box via the dinghy and onto Norlee, anchored in Trinity Inlet. She would not have been Rob's choice as she didn't have that perfect Kleenex kitten look. In fact she was pretty scrawny, motley, colourless, and I must say a bit ugly. She was the last of the litter and was alone in a big cage, I suspect because no one could love her. As you can see though, she was the ugly duckling that turned into a swan. Well, maybe duck. Anyway she won my heart when she climbed on to my knee and looked deep into my eyes and said "Take me home." Since that day she has been a loved member of the family, has sailed more miles than many humans, and has willingly (well maybe not that willingly) been carted around the country side, between houses and boats.
Now that you know her history, I can go on to tell you how a great shadow was cast over our cruise departure. Departure day was imminent and we were only waiting for the shipwright to do the final touches to the water maker that we were having installed. Saturday night there was a big storm and Motley had been trapped down below because of the inclement weather. Last I saw her, or rather felt her was when she tried to snuggle down between Rob and I during the night. Finding the bed too crowded and the occupants not too amenable to sharing, she found other sleeping arrangements. I woke early on Sunday and was surprised to not find her in her usual cosy nest on the doona. I got up and went looking. She was nowhere. Gone. I searched all of her favourite nooks in the boat. Nothing. I was starting to panic and I remembered many years ago when we had arrived back in Fremantle on Norlee and she had finished up falling overboard. By pure luck at seven pm I had gone up to the shower and found her silently swimming around and around the boat vainly trying to get a hold on the slippery hull in order to climb back up. Anyway I told Rob and he leaped out of bed to join in the search. He combed the jetty, while I manned the surf ski to search the water, the other jetties and the breakwater. Hours went by and here was no sign of her. I thought I heard a cat's cry towards the shower block, but it was only the creaking and squeaking of the mooring lines. I was given false hope a few times when the ropes and shackles sounded so much like a plaintive cry. People on the jetty helped by searching boats and along the shore. I had a very bad feeling about this. I thought I had seen the last of our little Motley. I returned to the boat cold and distraught. Our friends on the jetty recounted stories of how cats had crawled aboard other boats and been tapped or lost, but came back days later. With our departure imminent, the thought of leaving with out her was inconceivable. I couldn't leave with out knowing what had happened to her. Is she lost alone and afraid? Is she drowned? I would rather find a body. There was no further point in looking for her during the day. She is such a shy puss, that there is no way she would come out in the day light with all the people about. We went on with our preparations. The last load of clothes to wash. The final provision. Do we buy cat food or not? We did, but it was not done with any certainty that we would need it.
Night fell and it was time to get out on the surf ski and search the boats and jetties again. I was paddling, calling and whistling. Sometimes I would get a wave of emotion and I paddled silently, but sobbed loudly. Amazingly I could still whistle between sobs. Still nothing. Friends on the jetty volunteered to keep her if she turned up after we left. Now that wasn't going to happen. Rob and I were both in a state and couldn't even eat a scrap of tea. It was about 9.30 pm and I decided to go up for a shower. A long hot therapeutic shower. On the way back, I paused to call and whistle one last time down a locked jetty. Was that a mew, or was I just hearing things? I called again. YES! There was a response! I called and called. The cry was so faint that I couldn't decipher where it was coming from. Right there behind me Motley tentatively popped up her head from under the board walk. I couldn't believe my eyes. Was I really seeing her? I scooped her up in my arms and hurried back to our jetty. She wouldn't be held any more. She knew the way now and ran back towards the boat. As we walked back to The Doctor, I could hear Rob still whistling and calling Motley! Motley! He turned around just in time to see her jumping back on to the boat. I was a mess, we both were, but this time tears of joy. She was back!

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