Ship's Cat Fiji Returned Safely to Picton Castle


ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA, USA – One crew member of the tall ship Picton Castle made more friends and garnered more media attention than any other during this year’s Tall Ships Challenge in the Great Lakes, and she happens to have four legs and a tail. 

Picton Castle’s ship cat Fiji made a big impression on the public when her ship came to visit in Toronto, Buffalo, Cleveland, Bay City, Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay, Kenosha, Sarnia, Kingsville, and Erie this summer.  But Fiji stayed a few extra days in Erie without her ship.

Fiji first joined Picton Castle at the tropical island of Fiji in the South Pacific on our Westward Bound Voyage in 2014.  She then sailed more than halfway around the world, and since then has sailed one complete world circumnavigation voyage, crossed the Atlantic five times, and taken part in dozens of tall ship festivals.

Although she is allowed to wander off the ship and explore ashore, she usually returns to the ship on her own when it’s time to set sail again.  On the morning of Wednesday August 28, that wasn’t the case.  The crew mounted a search of the area where Picton Castle was docked at the Erie Maritime Museum but could not find the missing cat.  The ship had a schedule to keep, so Captain Dirk Lorenzen had little choice but to leave without her. 

Before departing, Picton Castle officers spoke with their counterparts at the US Brig Niagara and staff at the Erie Maritime Museum, asking them to keep an eye open for Fiji.  Fiji is microchipped and wears a harness while in port to identify her as a crew member of Picton Castle.  When the story broke in the local news, the people of Erie rallied and individuals headed for the waterfront to aid in the search.  

This is a story with a happy ending.  Although we may never know the full story, it seems that Fiji was picked up by someone who thought she was a stray and taken home.  When a relative relayed the news that Fiji was missing and that this stray cat might be Fiji, she was promptly returned to the Erie Maritime Museum.  Fiji is now in the care of the crew of the US Brig Niagara and will be returned to Picton Castle by them later today in Clayton, NY where Picton Castle is currently docked.  Picton Castle would like to extend thanks to the Niagara crew, the Erie Maritime Museum staff, everyone who assisted in the search for Fiji. 

Once Fiji is back aboard Picton Castle in Clayton, she will sail with the ship down the St. Lawrence River to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, where Picton Castle spends time between voyages.  After a chilly Canadian winter, she will sign on for Picton Castle’s next voyage, starting in May 2020, that will see her sailing across the Atlantic to Europe and Africa, then back across the Atlantic to island-hop in the Caribbean before returning to Lunenburg in the spring of 2021. 

Picton Castle is currently accepting trainee applications from those who would like to be Fiji’s shipmates on the next voyage.  No sailing experience is required, just good health and the desire to be part of the ship’s working crew.  Fiji might look more favourably on your application if you bring her some cat treats. 

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