Jonty Pearce cat-proofs his boat ahead of voyages with the beloved family pet

Carol felt that leaving our 17-year-old rescue cat at home while we went cruising for three weeks was crueller than taking Puffball with us.

I always feel embarrassed at asking my 93-year-old mother or pregnant daughter to visit our home twice a day to nurture and feed the cat while we are away; a week is fine, a fortnight pushing it but Carol fears that the poor puss cat will get lonely if left for three. After all, Carol does pay more attention to the cat than to anyone else in the household.

Puffball has been on the boat with us; she travels well by car and has even ‘enjoyed’ a fortnight in the camper in Scotland. She tolerated motoring up and down Milford Haven, but had not yet sharpened her claws on sails.

Mind you, there is no danger of her actually doing that; she sleeps most of the time, though will emerge into the cockpit occasionally for air and sometimes even takes a stroll around the deck. And therein lies the problem. Her fluffy paws offer no grip on our glassfibre decks.

Neither Carol or I wished to fit teak decking, so other systems of cat retention needed to be considered. While dogs are natural tramps and are happy to be seen wearing any old thing, cats exude a sartorial elegance that abhors any sensible and practical lifesaving aid such as a pet flotation device.

Puffball simply emulated Houdini and escaped each time we tried to make her don one. A collar and leash offer too many ways for cats to hang themselves up, so we (or rather Carol) resolved that we (or rather Jonty) should fit guardrail netting to stop a feline glissade over the toerail into the briny deep.

Continues below…

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As this request was inevitably suggested at the last minute, frantic sourcing of said netting resulted in a stopover en route to Aurial to purchase the necessary from Force 4 in Swansea, where a cheerful Irishman dispensed jokes, comments, advice and netting after we enjoyed a tasty meal in the bistro next door.

The netting did not actually get fitted until we berthed in Padstow en route to the Isles of Scilly; during the task I found it best to close my ears to the background Emmett burble of comments, expertise, and erroneous assumption from the bored quayside families trapped four feet away from me by the magnetic draw of their children’s time honoured crabbing activities.

Aurial had actually been fitted with netting when we bought her nine years ago; the previous owners had taken a year out with their young children to transit the French canals and spend the season in the Mediterranean. We had removed it as it was past it’s sell by date and grubby, but I recalled how it was installed and duly followed suit during the sunny Padstow afternoon.

A finishing touch was the rigging of removable netting sections to restrict Puffball’s access to the pulpit and pushpit; simple elastic bungies allow instant unhooking while keeping the cat securely confined. Carol is now able to relax while Puffball indulges in her evening perambulation of the deck – a job well done!