Friday, November 11th, 2011
Last night on a dark and stormy evening in Lunenburg, Chibley the Cat was hit by a car on Montague Street and died. She was walking from my house to the ship as was her wont. She had just had a fine dinner and a tussle, as well as a warning that it was a tempest a brewing. No doubt she was headed back to the ship to cage a second dinner, or just to check on things. She seemed to do that a lot. Some could easily say that she should not have been outside or walking around like that and should have been restrained to stay indoors or something, but, if so, they did not know Chibley – Chibley did as she wished – and so did you.
It is of course, very sad for us. It is also easy for us to attribute too many human qualities to a cat and suggest that she was more human than cat but I think that the reverse is more likely the truth – she was pure cat and her influence on her shipmates was that she turned them into more cat-like souls than her association with people might have performed the reverse function – nope, Chibley was pure 100% cat, but oh, what a cat! She certainly was some kinda person, a small furry one to be sure, but determined, keenly intelligent, resourceful, adaptable, wicked smart, soft, cuddly and very much of her ship and her shipmates – and this ain’t no anthropo-whatever. If you knew her, you knew this to be true, even those hostile, open or clandestinely, to such notions were quickly straightened out on this score once in her thrall. We have an encyclopedia of Chibley tales to support this point and she could get really cranky at you for your failings.
That Chibley was a sea cat and mariner without parallel has to be a remarkable understatement to say the least. When the I and 2nd Mate for our first world voyage went to SHAID animal shelter about 14 years ago this month she coyly managed to somehow select me – can’t remember quite how she did this but did it she did. Then Chibley went on to become the longest serving shipmate in the Barque Picton Castle. Now, let me be clear on something; should you read sea stories of long passages in boats and sailing ships that include one or two cute kitties at the beginning of the story you will soon note that some chapters further on either the cat fades from the story or the author takes the time to tell a short anecdote of the loss of said cat, either wandering off in port, never to be seen again in Zanzibar, Bali, Tahiti or elsewhere; or whilst lunging for a bird, perhaps a flying fish, make her way over the rail into the sea, and that was that – much of the time in these stories, well, that cat just walks out of the story. This would not be Chibley. Chibley the Cat has about 250,000 sea miles under her paws. She has licked more salt water off her tail than most sailors see in a lifetime. She sailed around the world five times, been all over Europe and West Africa. Bora Bora, Tahiti, Rarotonga have all had their fish markets raided by said cat. The docks of Cape Town, Reunion and Namibia are well know to her. Kiel Germany, Copenhagen, Ipswich England, all her stomping grounds. She kept her footing in a gale many a time and managed to stay dry when all others were getting soaked. A quarter of a million miles under sail, waterfronts and islands from the deep South Pacific to up the coast of Norway, Australia, gales and calms, tradewinds with stuns’ls set or motoring into head seas, and she loved her Lunenburg too, she loved walking the waterfront from Adams & Knickle all the way through to The Dory Shop, wherever there was something interesting going on you might find her (and Magnolia’s and The Scuttlebutt and The Salt Shaker and The Dockside and J-3; Lemme see, scallops, bacon, milk, pizza, hmmmm. The Grand Banker staff came outside to see to her desires…). This story is clearly incomplete to say the least, but enough for now.
A long time ago we had to decide whether we would treat Chibley like a cosseted pet or a shipmate – turned out to be not our decision – she made that choice herself and the decision was this; ain’t no one was gonna be the boss of Chibley, and so it was. Chibley has something over 1,000 shipmates in her years of voyages in the Picton Castle, and most of them have their Chibley stories, some funny, some cute, some astonishing. So after all her adventures at sea and in port over the last 15 years, it took a simple, even banal, car incident in her quiet homeport to end her life. Well, she lived as she chose and she sailed a course on the tack of her own making. Would that we all could say the same.
Mike Moreland wrote:
Your last adventure ashore finally got the best of you. You always knew it was safer aboard your ship, whether tied snugly to the dock or out at sea, troubles were always on land. But like all sailors your thirst for the unknown was always there.
Over the years, the many voyages, the hundreds of thousands of sea miles, you gave endlessly your comfort and love to all the crew who passed through your ship. You never asked for much, maybe a small chunk of tuna from the fish just pulled aboard, or maybe your breakfast a little earlier, like 3 am, and just a small piece of the cargo hatch to stretch out on.
Carry on little sea cat, you will be missed.
Pania Warren wrote:
Chibs! I will miss you screamin’ like a banshee down the ladder into the cabin at 5:30am then climbing into my bunk and screamin’ in my face to feed you then start purring like a motor boat and cuddling close so you wouldn’t miss me getting up 🙂 You were the coolest of cool cats and I will miss you a lot. I really like you.