“Why bring a cat all the way from England,” the Mexican Customs & Immigration guy asked, “there’s already ten million cats in Mexico to choose from.” I explained that Mexican cats could only speak Mexican… which would be of no use to us at all because we only spoke English. He nodded and excepted my explanation before waving us away, worryingly unconcerned. Dave.
I can’t remember who made the original decision, I think it was me. It must have been me if I think about it now, because I suggested to both Marie and Henry that we should have a ship’s cat, one that was grey to match the colour decor of our boat. It was a joke of course, I never expected either of them to take it seriously… but you should never make jokes like that around a pair of dedicated cat lovers.
JAlmost immediately I was inundated with internet links to cuddly little grey kittens. Dozens of them from all around the UK, from Inverness in Scotland to someplace I’d never heard of way off in Cornwall. Before I could say ‘Yikes, here comes Officer Dibble’ both Marie and Henry singled out a really cute looking male down in Ramsgate, a harbour town on the south coast of England… a very nice little sea port but quite a long distance to travel. Henry argued that with Ramsgate being a harbour and close to the sea any cat from there would already have its sea legs, which was a vague argument in which I did see some logic. Marie disagreed entirely, but she just wanted to cuddle a little grey kitten sitting on her lap.
So off we travelled down to Ramsgate… just to take a look of course because I already knew this was a really stupid idea…
“It took a while to find her but there she was hiding under the dinghy. We had to drag her out by her tail to sign the papers but right now she’s legal, Nellie is now officially the ship’s cat. She’s complained about one or two things but nothing we can’t deal with and, despite what she tells you, Nellie’s been given her proper rights under international maritime law. She’s gonna be on the night watch most of the time in charge of vermin and stuff like that, she’s not being overly friendly just now but even so, all the signs are looking good.” Dave
Nelly Nelson, Nellie for short, is now all official and legal. We had some explaining to do on the documents about why she was first called Nelson, but when we took Nelson there for the snip the veterinary said it might be best if we called her Nellie. That might not seem important but she needs her own passport and stuff like that.
Nellie has been properly and correctly inducted into the ship’s crew. She’s filed complaints about a couple of things, about being abducted and forced against her will, being press-ganged when nowadays that’s not legal but we’re dealing with all of that. She eats her fill every day so things aren’t that bad.
Now that she’s crew she’s got her own crew list profile, even though she’s a cat it keeps things legal. You can check this out if you want to, especially if you’re one of those cat people.
Hello. I don’t know who you are but me, I’m called Nellie. That’s what they call me anyway. They used to call me Nelson but I went five times to see that funny lady wearing the white coat, now they all call me Nellie. I think I’m supposed to be the ship’s cat.
Well I don’t wanna be the ship’s cat. The ship’s too small and it stinks, it stinks all the time of them and sometimes I don’t even know what’s happening. The floor of this ship moves around too much and I slide around hitting things I’d really prefer to stay away from, like the table leg and other stupid things like that. Yesterday I tried to jump from the couch, then the ship moved the other way and I fell in a heap on the floor.
If you’re a cat and reading this then you seriously don’t want to be the ship’s cat. Let me tell you why you don’t want to be the ship’s cat…
“At some point we knew it would be time to leave Alaska. Leaving Hoonah would be hard, we’d made so many good friends here in this part of the world that’s refreshingly faraway from mainstream living. Alaska is exactly what we’d been searching for really but, like everything perfect, it couldn’t be forever. ” Dave
Alaska to Mexico 2017
Somewhat belatedly we’ve now written up a transcript of our long voyage from Alaska to Mexico from August to November last year. This forms part of our ‘Where Are We Now’ section of our website that details everything since we left the Mediterranean in 2006.
Mexico is a new experience for us. We’re back in a third world environment to some degree although many Mexicans will argue with that description of their country, but compared to mainland America that’s perhaps what it is. We had to give up our plans for the Northwest Passage route home because of problems with our Volvo Penta engine, so Mexico is our only option considering that we have to make for Panama and the Panama Canal.
Ahead of us await hurricanes, salsa and that curious phenomenon called Donald Trump’s wall… something that many Alaskans are massively in favour of even when considering there are exceptionally few Mexicans in Alaska…
If you are interested in reading our rather lengthy transcript then please click the following link.
“Whilst I kneeled behind Marie to listen in on the speaker a guy walked around the corner of the building then stopped suddenly when he saw me kneeling right behind Marie on her hands and knees. “Whoa,” he said, “I’m sorry to interrupt you, it’s a free world and you guys should do what you wanna do.” He sheepishly disappeared back around the corner embarrassed. Marie and I looked at each other quite shocked.” Dave.
The Harbour Police office had a notice posted saying that all transiting vessels must use the communication kiosk located at the outside corner of the building. The notice said this provided a link to the main police office downtown for processing incoming boat traffic and arranging for the requisite vessel inspection… except the kiosk didn’t do any of that. There was a keyboard on the kiosk but some of the keys didn’t work, so when dialling any of the four numbers given we then received a message on the screen saying we’d dialled an incorrect number. After fifteen minutes of trying our luck with the keyboard we somehow struck lucky and got the number right, a faint voice on the line then gave instructions that we could not quite make out because the voice seemed to be coming from somewhere around our feet…
“First off, a storm sized wave swamped our stern sending our bucket under the steering wheel which then jammed, that then tripped our autopilot which meant we broached beam-on to the next big green wave that nearly capsized us. All because we’d forgotten to tie down the bucket. Then the same thing happened again five minutes later because once more we didn’t tie down the bucket.” Marie
We knew we’d left things late but what could we do? Dave said everything would be fine but the engine setback in Port Townsend cost us time, precious time we couldn’t afford meaning that we’d have to make the eight hundred mile passage from Port Townsend to San Francisco towards the end of October. October is when the Pacific winter storms start to build and is why every sailor worth his salts on the American west coast who’s heading south reckons to be gone from Townsend by mid-September. October is way too late they say…
“I said the old mining camp would be nothing but trouble but we still went there. It took five days to find the mine, what happened afterwards will stay with me for the rest of my life. Then it turns out Dave knew about the rumours all along…” Henry
So we finally left Elfin Cove to head for Sitka. The route first took us east along the tide driven Lisianski Straits to the Pacific Ocean shoreline of Chichagof Island, then we laid a course southwards through the stunning outside passage – taking us between countless small islands that protected us from the worst of the long Pacific swells breaking along the outer coastline. The route, often used by Alaskan fishermen, afforded a number of secluded anchorages that we could use to day-sail our way south. It is difficult to find words to describe to you this spectacular journey, this part of Alaska that appears in no tourist guide or cruise itinerary yet must easily rank as one of the most scenic passages we’ve made since leaving the Mediterranean twelve years ago…
“Things are changing fast in Alaska and our own complex situation changes too. Life on a sailboat is often not easy and the influences of the real world create social and family pressures that are sometimes difficult to ignore. There’s always an intrinsic reason to move on…”
Together we decided to leave Alaska to slowly make our way home. Our upcoming blogs and latest news will reflect our feelings that we must perhaps face things as they really are.
In July the three of us, Marie, Henry and myself left Hoonah for the last time to sail south. We left behind exceptionally good friends we’d made during our three years there, it was a heartbreaking decision but one we deliberated knowing it was time to move on. Partly this was because of the changes in Alaska in the face of relentless growth in huge monster-sized cruise ships that often brings tacky tourism and also because of our ongoing engine issues that finally put paid to our plans to attempt a transit of the Northwest Passage… and after listening to lots of advise it was clear that we must head south to get things fixed once and for all. It’s notoriously difficult to fix an English sailboat in Alaska.
In June my youngest daughter Louise travelled out to Alaska to join me onboard Sänna. To meet up with her I sailed Sänna the forty miles or so from Hoonah to Auke Bay just north of Juneau, all the way there worried about docking solo in the absolute chaos that is Auke Bay’s Edward Statten Harbour…
“I will give you water and share the fish we have for food. I will teach you when to sing our song and dance our dance, but you must not then plant your flag in this land and call it your land. Your King is not our King and your Lord is not our Lord.” Chief Kaawishté of the Tlinkit, Shakes V, 1878
The First Nation fisherman from Yankee Maid asked if I’d like three king crabs they’d caught earlier in the day. Sure, I said, I’d be more than pleased to take them off him. We got talking, his name was Robbie, he was true-blood Tlinget descended directly from Kaawishté, the tribal Chief Shakes over on Shakes Island… the Naanyaa.aayí clan still reside in present day Wrangell. Robbie bought over the crabs which he’d cooked up already so I dressed them down for my favourite crab & cucumber sandwiches (always cut diagonally) and fresh-crab salad. This was just fine. Afterwards I wandered over to Yankee Maid to thank Rob again. Come aboard, he said, you can meet Gerry our cook…