“I want a Kitten…”
“You’re not having one on the boat.”
“A cat would be great at keeping pests under control…”
“We’d be stuck with a smelly litter tray and the constant chore of changing it.”
“It’s been proven that pets act as a calming influence.”
“We’ll be worried about it falling overboard all the time.”
“They’re very loving and entertaining…”
“We’ll have problems entering new countries.”
“You love cats as much as me…”
“Who’ll look after it when we’re away from the boat?”
Thus the argument went for the first six months of us living aboard. Back in May, when I didn’t get a little bundle of fluffy fun for my birthday, I reckoned it would never happen and bowed to Jamie’s sensible point of view. I shoved the thought into the filing system of my mind under “nice idea, but…” and worked hard at forgetting all about it. Until Marmaris.
When you enter the Black Hole, aka Marmaris Yacht Marine, life changes almost immediately. It sucks you into its own Looking Glass world:
1. Firstly it causes endless technical problems with your boat forcing you to stay for far longer than you had intended (see separate entry on Big Stupid Boat). One by one our friends and neighbours have been forced to abandon departures, as their vessels stop functioning. One guy we know was here for 6 years before he made a break for it before dawn, with his still-dismantled masts strapped to the deck.
2. It employs the surliest and most unhelpful staff that it can find. To begin with you get upset with this and mutter to each other. After a while, though, you start to think that this behaviour is normal and even later you positively get a kick out of their attitude.
3. In the beginning the marina appears to be a caravan-park-afloat for retired middle Englanders, with coffee mornings and Gentlemen’s lunches. You want to blow your brains out. After a month you get weirdly addicted to the morning VHF rally call of marina-business-treasures-of-the-bilge-social-events-blah-blah-blah… You end up talking to these people in the bar endlessly about bead-making or how-to-fix-a-gearbox. The community here is the one thing that retains your sanity.
4. As well as making up silly games, you get into all sorts of trouble and madness (see separate entry, under Speedophile).
5. Finally you get a cat. Then a kitten.
Esper was adopted by a very beautiful tortoiseshell, black, white and ginger cat, we imaginatively named Mishmash. After noticing us, while stuck up a mast one night howling at the moon, she began to spend more and more time with us. We bought cat food and fed and watered her twice a day. She’d put her head through one of the portlights in the morning (around 6:30am) and miaow until one of us would get up and feed her. She’d creep onto the bed in the night and sleep with us. She’d join the late night sessions in the cockpit occasionally allowing people to stroke her without scratching them, and once sat on my lap. We each seriously considered making her the ship’s cat, without actually having a conversation about it, though. Upon further investigation it was discovered that she belongs to the Black Hole and graces boats of her own choice with her presence throughout the seasons. Legend has it that she got off a boat from Thailand and decided to stay.
During the Mishmash phase a small, straggly kitten appeared outside the Black Hole’s supermarket. The guys in the shop would should “Satilik, satilik!” (for sale) every time someone stopped to pet her. She was very difficult to ignore, not only because of the noise, but also because she was so pretty – and had green tattooed ears! One drunken early morning J and I persuaded her to walk back to the boat with us. She came on board and quickly snuggled down next to us in bed. J woke up with her giving him a chin wash and nibble. We kept her for the day which was when the love affair really blossomed.
After a few enquiries we discovered that she’d been spayed and de-wormed and needed a home. We scooped her up, took her back to Esper and she has been with us ever since. This little monster had been named Princess Cally, but we didn’t like the name – it didn’t really suit her talkative, funny, friendly and impish character. After several days of being called Squeaker, Kedi (Turkish for cat), Toad, P and anything else that sprang to mind we formally named her Millyü, after our favourite waitress who is, you guessed it, talkative, funny, friendly and impish.
While I’ve been writing she has been racing round the boat, jumping up the mast, hiding under anything into which she can squeeze herself, chasing flies and generally being a kitten. She’s now exhausted herself and is asleep on one of her favourite places, the engine cover.
We love Millyü and although all Jamie’s objections to owning a cat aboard are still completely valid we wouldn’t be without her.