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SUMMER 2019 HOMEWARD BOUND (Part 5 of 7)

The ship’s cat. The same cat that had been with Picton Castle since she was a kitten, having come aboard in, well, the port of Suva in Fiji, just prior to the ship’s Westward Bound voyage in 2013. The cat that had been around the globe in Picton Castle one and a half times. The cat that had been to all manner of ports, islands, countries and continents. The street-smart cat that knew by instinct when to come back to the ship, when to finish shore leave and when to report back aboard ready for departure. And the same cat that had touched and delighted so many people during our summer campaign. Fiji failed to appear at morning muster on departure day from Erie. Nowhere to be found.

With a funny feeling in my stomach I took Picton Castle off the dock in Erie, one crew member short. What had happened?

Across the Lake, and back into the Welland Canal at Port Colborne. We made the downbound transit in nine hours, then went to anchor in the lee of the east pier at Port Weller in Lake Ontario. The following morning, our lake pilot boarded at 0700 and we traversed Lake Ontario, arriving in Clayton, NY, at a quarter to five the following morning. Two full days were spent in this picturesque town. Shore leave, ship’s work and training, plus chatting to the locals and tourists who came down to the town dock to see the ship. PRIDE OF BALTIMORE 2 joined us for half a day before proceeding on her passage.

So what of Fiji? Some frantic phone calls, search missions, and even a TV news bulletin later, Fiji remained elusive. A state-wide news flash. The internet went nuts. “Where is Fiji?” was the call taken up far and wide.

Fiji resurfaced in Erie, unharmed, after almost two days had passed since her disappearance. The Captain of Lettie G. Howard and the Erie festival co-chair, Sydnee Groenedaal, offered to chauffeur Fiji up to Clayton and, like a true rock star (minus the dark glasses) Fiji rejoined her ship in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, two-and-a-bit days after her disappearance. With scarce as much as a flick of the tail by way of acknowledging her Captain, Fiji turns around and, well, takes a stroll ashore in the still dark morning hours. Half an hour later, having appropriately surveyed Clayton’s waterfront, she comes back and puts in a nap. Phew. Back to normal, and Picton Castle with a complete ship’s crew. Thank you, Goldie and Sydnee.

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