• Sage Webb

The Misadventures of a Pirate-Captain Cat

So before heading to Vegas (yes, we dashed out to Vegas for the world’s largest [in non-Covid years] indoor archery tournament), we left the RV and ran down to the boat to make sure she remained snug in her slip.

She looked quite fancy and flashy, all aglow in the spring afternoon. But the dock around her appeared to be undergoing renovations, with boards loose and screws out ... which put me in mind of a fairly memorable evening a few years back:

When I first moved to Texas, I basically threw everything I had into my ’06 Suzuki Reno, tied the windsurfer onto the little hatchback’s roof, trundled a kitty-litter box into the footwell of the car’s passenger seat, and pointed the whole mess south—with a majestic feline captain riding shotgun. When we hit Galveston Bay, we rooted through the marinas and boat brokerages in search of the perfect vessel to call home, and eventually moved aboard a mid-’80s Pearson sloop that had a wicked leak in the aft part of the cabin. The Dredd Pirate Captain Miss Jingles spent many an evening leaving wet paw prints all over and meowing her complaints about the vessel’s less-than-water-tight state.

The Captain also learned to swim. Or simply innately knew how. I really don’t understand the whole magic of her talents. But one night, while sitting below, reading Gandhi’s autobiography, I heard a splash. I jumped on deck to see only darkness and to fear my boat companion had suffered some mishap ... only to have the cat meow as she hopped up onto the swimstep on the stern of a neighboring boat.

From that night on, the Captain would often leap off the stern of our boat for an evening exercise. Did I love the situation? No! Marina water is not clean. It contains diesel and gas, “discharge” from boats (use your imagination), and other grimy stuff. And in Texas, it often hosts gators! When I could, I’d stop Ms. Kitty from aquatically roaming ... but again: if I could! This wily feline would usually find a way through my obstacles and efforts. Regardless, I’d always wash her down afterward, frequently suffering claw wounds as the price for forcing my standards of hygiene onto this true pirate.

One night, the Captain’s nocturnal plunges achieved a new level of disconcerting. She sprang off our boat just as I reached out to stop her, striking off as though preparing to swim the English Channel. I watched, to try to keep an eye on her, but upon her return toward the boat, she clambered up on the pontoons beneath the floating dock and proceeded to cry her head off, as though she couldn’t figure out how to get out from beneath the dock, swim to the neighbor’s swimstep, and return home as usual.


Mind you: it was getting on toward midnight at this point (both the Captain and I were late-night creatures before the morning-person Bosun came into our lives and upset our internal clocks). I launched my little rowing dinghy, finding I could deflate it a bit, lay in it, and squash myself beneath the floating dock enough to assess the feline situation.

There perched my Captain, still howling. Reaching ... reaching ... fingers almost touching fur ... reaching .... Just as I thought I might be able to grab her and get her into the dinghy and home, she darted away.


I wriggled out from beneath the dock and returned to the slip, getting out of the dinghy and onto the dock to see what I could do from above. And there it came to me: the screws! I could unscrew the dock, pull up a plank or two, and pull out ... from the darkness beneath ... my kitty companion.

Well, at midnight, with a mobile feline target, this is easier said than done. But many, many planks later, I finally succeeded and retrieved my Captain. In the shower washing her, I received a deep scratch across the belly for my troubles.

Some time later, the incident inspired a short story about a burned-out attorney at a yacht-club party, who dives off a dock and seeks refuge from the noise of life in the space underneath the planks. The story ended up shortlisted for a Texas-fiction prize. Still not sure any story was worth that scratching though (though my Captain certainly was)!

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