Yesterday started off pretty mundane. The only thing different about today was that Skeeter didn't have his usual cup (or two) of coffee first thing in the morning, because we didn't have any propane.
|This guy NEEDS his coffee|
We locked up the boat, dinghied over to the marina, and went for a morning run. Afterwards, we picked up our recently filled propane tank from the marina and stopped back by the boat to drop it off. Then we headed out to Ace Hardware and Budget Marine to pick up some items needed for our ongoing boat projects.
|Redoing the cockpit benches, one of our ongoing projects|
When we got back to the boat I looked for Momo, our 15lb orange feline fur baby, as I always do. First I checked in the forward head (bathroom), where he likes to lay on the floor during the hot day, because he gets a cool breeze coming up through the grated floor from the bilge. Not there.
Next, I checked back in our cabin in his second favorite place, next to our bed. Not there. Finally, I checked in the chain locker (all the way forward, where the anchor chain lives). Not there, either. After walking up and down the boat checking the obvious places three times, I told Skeeter that I couldn't find him. We figured he was hiding out in a more creative spot, as he had numerous times before.
|Once he got into the nook behind the couch cushion without moving the cushion|
|Whenever he discovers a new hole he needs to check it out|
We checked everywhere we thought he could possible be, calling out his name. "Momo! Momo!" We even tried to bribe him out of hiding with his favorite treats, Greenies. We opened every cabinet and closet, checked in the storage spaces behind the couch cushions, under the floor boards, in the engine room, and behind the stove. We even blindly reached into deep dark holes that we couldn't see into, which is something I'm normally way too squeamish to do.
|Last scare, we found him deep in the tiny cockpit nook|
We checked outside too, in the off chance that he sneaked out when we dropped off the propane tank...in the cockpit, on top of the bimini (cockpit shade cover), in the deep cubby holes in the cockpit (he was in there my last "where is Momo" panic attack), inside of the sail bags, along the rails, under the paddle boards...
Now I was losing my calm and starting to freak out a little bit. I remembered that a few weeks ago one of our smoke detectors went off and he came running to us to see what was going on, so I tried setting off the smoke alarm to draw him out. Nothing. By now we were both extremely worried, and I was on the brink of hysterics. He's nowhere to be found. We'd checked everywhere. How could a 15lb cat just disappear?
|Momo is a big boy|
Oh shit... What if he sneaked outside when we stopped home to drop off the propane and he fell in the water? But he doesn't like being outside very much during the day because the sun is too hot. And he hasn't fallen overboard since we started cruising. But what if he got a little too close to the edge to see a fish flopping or tried to catch a bird and fell overboard? Probably not, he's too smart to have done that. Also, we have a thick rope hanging over the back of the boat to help him climb back aboard if he did fall in. But we hadn't made him do drills and climb up it to be sure he'd know how. What if he got swept down current and missed the rope? We didn't want to believe he'd fallen overboard, but it seemed to be the only explanation.
|He does like to hang over the edge to watch fish|
We got into the dinghy to motor around and look for him. Our first hope was that we'd find him aboard someone else's boat. Maybe if he couldn't get back aboard our boat he would have managed getting on someone else's. Like a crazy lady, I called out for him again and again between sobs. Even though we didn't want to imagine Momo could be there, we decided it would be smart to check along the down current coastline, about 250 meters away. If we found him, we were hoping to find a wet and tired meowing fur ball. It was impossible not to imagine our fur baby dead and bloated on the rocks, even though we tried to remain positive. Fortunately (or unfortunately, we didn't know yet) we didn't find him on the shoreline.
We zigzagged from the coastline toward our boat and asked our neighboring boats at anchor if they had seen anything. "Have you seen a big orange cat swimming by? We think he may have fallen overboard!" It seemed an odd question, but I wasn't about to let embarrassment stop us from finding him.
|When he was new to boat life he did fall overboard|
|A very unhappy wet Momo|
There was a man on board the first boat we approached. He looked at us very confusedly when we asked the question. I noticed an Argentinian flag on his boat, so I asked him in Spanish. Okay, now he understood. Knowing Spanish has come in handy in the most unexpected times.
The next boat was a French woman. Luckily she understood English well enough, because I wasn't sure if my explanation would have been comprehensible with my limited French. She was very nice, and seemed very concerned. She said she'd call us on the VHF radio if she saw anything.
Next we approached a small sailboat with a German flag. We saw a dinghy there, so we knew someone was home. We called out, and a sleepy German man came up from down below. We felt bad for waking him up, but he was very nice about it. He said "Cats are very good swimmers, they hate the water!" and gave us hope that our Momo could still be alive if he fell in the water. He also agreed to let us know over the VHF if he saw anything.
We were exhausted from the searching for him, mostly from the emotional drain. We were also probably pretty dehydrated from being out in the hot Grenadian sun, and also realized that we hadn't eaten anything yet, and it was already 2:30pm. But who could eat at a time like this? We headed back to the boat, heartbroken.
We couldn't help but search every nook and cranny again. I was balling, and told Skeeter to make a general announcement over the VHF radio to everyone in Prickly Bay to look out for Momo. Just before Skeeter's finger pressed the transmit button on the VHF radio, I opened a cabinet that I realized I hadn't yet checked. "I found him!," I exclaimed.
|There he was, content as can be|
Skeeter came running over to see, and we both collapsed to the floor. A mix of emotions flooded both of us. Momo crawled out, stretched from his long nap, and looked at us like, "Hi guys. What's all the commotion about?" I was laughing and crying at the same time, and Skeeter was laughing and at the brink of tears. "How the hell did he manage to lock himself in there!?," I asked. "How did he manage to close the door?"
Skeeter suddenly got a sheepish look on his face. Then he reluctantly confessed to me that he had been in that cabinet for a crescent wrench when we had stopped home earlier to drop off the propane. I had no idea Skeeter had already hooked up our propane bottle and been in there for a tool. If I had known, it would have been one of the first places I checked. Momo must have crawled in there while Skeeter was hooking up the propane bottle, put away the tool without looking, and locked Momo in there. I scolded both Momo and Skeeter while laughing and crying. "Bad boys! You're both grounded," I joked.
I can't believe Momo spent over 4 hours locked in that cabinet, completely content and as quiet as a church mouse. And worst of all, he didn't respond to our frantic calling of his name, the bribery of his favorite treat (Greenies), or even the smoke alarm. Bad kitty! And bad Skeeter! We spent the next hour cuddling with and petting our little turd-brain, as he purred happily.
The big lessons learned here today are, 1. Make sure Skeeter gets his coffee every morning, 2. If Momo is missing, retrace your footsteps to figure out where you may have locked him in, 3. Make sure you have looked literally everywhere before panicking, 4. Don't expect the little rascal to respond when you call out his name or offer treats when he's in his happy nook...he is a cat after all.