Introduction by D. Moreland
It is a difficult thing to write a preamble for chronicles of such an internationally well-known character as Chibley the Cat of the Barque Picton Castle. So well known is she on every continent and at so many far-flung islands that I tremble at the task before me. But as the one selected for this intimidating task it falls to me to do my best at this, which is both an honour and a challenge. Now, mind you, cats can’t write, you probably knew this already and it pains me to point this out but for the sake of journalistic integrity, such a rarefied commodity these days, and for the sake of full disclosure, I must make this clear for those who might otherwise indulge in some cute anthropomorphic silliness. Cats can’t write and being a cat nor can Chibley. That said, this cat, and I dare say most other cats who find themselves domiciled in cohabitation with those on two legs and of scant fur, have ways of making their feelings and, yes, thoughts, perfectly well known. So what we have here is sort of a channeling of our esteemed feline’s point of view in her words as best as we can discern them. Anyone who has sailed shipmates (that’s about 1,000 of you out there) with her will tell you that there is little, if any doubt about her thoughts and usually without much, if any, divination. Chibley does not beat around the bush. But she still can’t write. So her most trusted associates have been called upon, without attribution, to write for her, opposable thumbs being wonderful things as well as these shipmates being literate; something Chibley, being a cat, is not.
Chibley came from the S.H.A.I.D. animal shelter near Lunenburg and joined her ship in autumn 1997. The captain went to the shelter to see about a cat to sail with them on their first voyage around the world. At the shelter Chibley sat up straight and licked her paws and whiskers while many of the other cats meowed and made lots of undignified noises and performed gyrations designed to get attention. She then looked up and said “I will go with you”. And so she did. Since that day Chibley has sailed close to 200,000 miles on four voyages around the entire world and Europe and Africa just recently. She has eaten her share of flying fish on trade-wind passages in the tropics, dispatched any number of birds (sad to say, but she is a cat) and enjoyed perfect health. The only times she has gone away from the ship are when well meaning people have picked her up as a friendly stray; this in spite of her numerous tags of identification on her collar associating her with the ship. This occurred once in Halifax and more recently in Bergen, Norway where the quest of locating her and returning her to the ship became nation-wide news in the TV and newspapers and a spirited public mission. Sometimes we wonder if she is not just a little bit of a media hound, er, feline.
Well, this is not entirely true. One time in the southern Indian Ocean, Chibley went off on her own we think. The Picton Castle was alongside at an island. It was very hot and she took off for a couple of days but came back before we sailed. There were some fishing boats nearby. Maybe they smelled yummy. Maybe she wanted some cool shade at night. Who knows? She didn’t say. After worrying the crew sick she just ambled back aboard, tail forming a furry undulating question mark as she ever so casually made her way up the gangway at midnight. She seemed oddly and inordinately pleased with herself, but she divulged nothing of her movements or adventures. From time to time we are asked why we do not, for her safety, lock her up in every port when alongside. The answer is simple; she is her own cat and she looks after herself quite well and we figured that out. Why do people who have cats in the house all do the same thing and never let their cats out? For the same reason, yet many cats are done in by cars while wandering freely outside. Which is safer? Living near a road with cars whizzing by or visiting a dock from time to time, say four times a year? Besides, Chibs is smart about such things. In truth, and she would not want this to get around, we do, in countries where it is required, incarcerate her in some location of the ship and keep her absolutely onboard. This, which she makes quite plain, she does not like at all. We are also often asked if she is the ship’s cat (or horrors, ‘mascot’); we say yes, sort of, but more better to say that the Picton Castle is Chibley’s ship.
So off we go here to attempt to chronicle Chibley’s remarkable sea-going life, the life of a sea cat. She who has licked more saltwater off her tail than any thousand lesser sailors have wrung out of their socks is putting forth her story here, personally for the first time. Do not expect a linear chronological narrative, this is a cat speaking a cat’s story and linear. Well, cats, it seems, just look at things a little differently; So, for our collective illumination and enlightenment, and even though she cannot write, here is Chibley’s Log. We trust that we will receive further installments as the spirit moves her…
Chibley’s Log – by herself; Chibley The Cat
Today – ate some food from a bowl, had some water too. Walked around home, see what’s going on. Not much right now. Home was still, dark and quiet and we had land tied up to us again which has been happening more than normal lately. The big hot Yellow was gone from the blue and I saw the sparkles up there. That happens a lot. Been a lot of grey fuzzy for awhile though recently. I had already gone on the land and sniffed it. Not so interesting, no fish, no burgers, no cats, a lot of peeps, a little bit of green grass so I chewed that and up-chucked and then I felt better. Felt good before but always feel good after a good up-chucking, don’t you? It was nice for the moment and not too many peeps about in the dark so snoozed on the hatch in case any of my friends needed to rub my belly. Sometimes they need to do that it seems and I kind of like it most the time.
Editor’s note: In the above account Chibley is referring to the Picton Castle’s stay in the lovely Cape Breton seaport of Sydney – “home” is of course, the Picton Castle. “Dark” is because it was night time most likely. Cats do not seem to make such a big distinction between night and day we don’t think.
Today – we had a get together of all the peeps at my home. I like it when the peeps do that, don’t really know why they do that but it is most likely to admire me. I let them. There is no bad in it. Then all the peeps pull in the big ropes, the big noise shakes my home and the land goes away. Then I went to the warm food place to see if there was something nice for me there. My friend who lives there sometimes has nice things to munch for me – I bring him things too, it’s only fair. Bits of Fish, very exciting! Up high there is no Big Blue but all is grey and fuzzy. This has been happening a lot lately. I hope it gets better but I don’t mind. I ate some food from a bowl and drank some water too.
Editor’s note: Here we believe Chibley is referring to a morning muster where the captain and / or mate describe upcoming events.These are common events. Chibley almost always attends these musters amidships around the canvas-covered cargo hatch, surrounded by the crew, after which it is pretty clear that the ship got under way. We think that she is also referring to fog and overcast skies in the above. She is more accustomed to the tropics. She seems to refer to her shipmates and all humans as “peeps.” Special peeps she calls ‘my friend’.
Today – still making noise but home is steady. Big Hot Yellow is back up in Big Blue. That’s nice. I can smell land getting close to us. I like how it smells. I wonder what land is coming to us? Maybe there will be burgers…
Editor’s note: The ship motored over smooth seas sailing from Sydney. When the Picton Castle approaches land from the sea, Chibley can often be found on the main pin-rail ( she is nicely protected by the t’gallant rail) with her head raised and if you look closely you can see her nostrils twitching. She is sniffing the breeze off the land. The crew do much the same the same thing too. Breathing in the perfume of pines and spruce of Nova Scotia (or palms and Frangipani of Tahiti in the South Pacific) is like ambrosia to those coming in from the salt sea after a long ocean passage.
Today – All very exciting – new Land! My peeps make a nice thing for me to go onto the land with. It is very nice of them. I went on the new land that came up to us today. Many, many peeps on the land. All size peeps. The small peeps always get excited when they meet me. I let them touch me as I am very nice to touch. Sometimes there are dogs, but I make them stay away. Dogs are gross. Well, most of them. I have met some nice ones too. But I still make them stay away.
Editor’s note: Here Chibley refers to a gangway and children. She also mentions dogs for the first time and although like most self-respecting cats she holds for short truck with dogs, here she allows for the fact that she was once pretty good buddies in Lunenburg with Rocky the famous Dory Dog, a story in itself. Rocky kind of had a crush on her and Chibley makes allowances for sentient beings that worship her.