Wednesday 31 July 2013


My name is Oliver. I work as a marina cat here at Hindson. I’m an orange Tom and as such I guess I am a little on the small side for my type. I’d like to be able to say that even though I’m not huge I can punch above my weight class but, alas, that’s not the case as somebody here had me de-clawed. Kind of cuts down on my carousing, if you know what I mean. Plus, the place is full of dogs. They’re supposed to be on a leash but, well hell… you know.

My job is a pretty good one, I have to say. I patrol the yard at night, catching up with small rodents and the like and generally keeping a watch over things. It’s a big yard, but I get around okay. During the day, when the staff is here, I’m pretty much on down-time, you know? I get some food, go for walks and hang out at the bath-house, greeting the guests and sometimes giving them the old belly-ups for some strokes. Seems to make them happy. Sometimes, if I can sneak indoors, I’ll curl up for a snooze. That usually don’t last long though.

Anyhow, I want to tell youse about something that happened the other night. You’ll love this. Generally, I start my rounds around 1 or 2 in the morning. That’s a good time as the boaters are usually asleep by then or passed out from drinking (usually the latter) and I can get about with no interference. (The dogs are all locked up too, the losers). I break the patrol into 4 parts; the house and buildings, the pool and back lot, the northern docks and the main docks. I vary which one I go to when so’s that the rats and mouses don’t figure my schedule and hide up on me.

On this particular night I decided to stroll out onto the main dock around 1:30 in the morning and take a gander. Usually, because dock rodents don’t venture too far from shore, I only make it out as far as the ‘C’ dock split, but this night, there was something different in the air. I noticed it as soon as I got to ‘B’. I couldn't tell what it was at first but after a bit and when I had padded up the dock a ways, I recognized it... cat.

Now, by and large, I’m not a very ‘territorial’ guy by nature. In fact, I used to have a partner at the marina went by the name of Bucky. (The staff called him Ti-Ti for some reason. Haven't figured that one out.) He was a hoot, old Bucky was. He didn't care what anybody thought, he’d climb all over boats some of which I know for a fact had a mutt on them. But that didn't stop old Bucky. Trouble with Bucky was, he’d go over the road to hunt in the bush even though, like me, he had no claws to back him up. I told him a hundred times he’d get into trouble doing that one day. And sure enough, that day came and Bucky was just gone. Word has it a Fisher got him. That would be pretty hard, Bucky ending up as dinner for one of them tree-weasels. Anyhow, now I’m on my own and sometimes I get a hankering to hook up with my own kind. You know how it is. So when I caught that scent on the wind, I just had to investigate. Not angry, you know, just curious.
Fisher maybe like what gots old Bucky
There is a big boat right down the dock at the end where the smaller docks split off. It’s only been here a month but I like the owners. They always say hello and sometimes even give the old tummy a tickle. That’s swell. Sometimes I have to bite their hand to let them know I’m no push-over but, hey, that’s the game.

Well, you could have knocked me over with a mouthful of feathers if that smell I’d been smelling wasn't coming from their boat, the Mary Mary. They were ‘cat people! Well, I sort of knew that, but who figured they actually had one on board?

I hopped over the gunwale onto the deck. For sure there was a cat here and judging from all the hair floating about, there might even be two. And here’s something else. Unless I missed my guess they were females. Even better. Probably ‘fixed’ though, but honestly? I prefer them that way.

The doors were locked up and the lights were off. Most like the cats were inside too. So I took a look up on the bridge. Nothing. Then I noticed that the front hatch was open. I jumped up near the hatch and took a look down. Even with my vision it was too dark to tell. I got a little closer and climbed up onto the bug-screen that covered the hatch hole. Big mistake. That’s when all hell broke loose!

Usually screens are attached by screws or something but this one wasn't, it was just pressed on. I felt the screening begin to give way and before I could get off, the whole thing fell inside the boat with me scrambling to reach up to no avail. I landed hard, feet first of course and wondered how come everything was so soft. Then I smelled that smell. I had landed in the litter! What a break. But where were those cats? And how was I going to get out of here? I looked up at the night sky through the hatch. It was way too high to jump out. I would have to find another way. 

Saved by the box.
All of a sudden I noticed something odd. It was really, really quiet. But I could feel somebody watching me. My hackles were dancing. That don't mean nothing, it just comes natural to guys like me. I slowly mounted the steps into the main salon and could see that there was another stateroom at the rear. I decided to explore there. I got as far as the stairway when I looked up. There on the bench, was a beautiful, white long-hair. Man, she was a knock-out. I wanted to be friendly so I gave her the old grin but she wasn't having any of it. She glared down at me and that’s when I noticed her claws. She still had them! From where I sat they looked like two rows of shining needles right at eye-level. I hoped this wasn't going to get ugly because I could already hear the beginnings of her throat growl. So, discretion being the better part of valour, I hunkered down to the floor and tried to look as submissive as possible. Just to buy time, you know? This seemed to work okay as now the white cat just sat there watching me. (But her tail was doing the four-step the whole time.)

I guess the noise of my entry and the subsequent growl had awakened the humans because a light came on and then the guy who owns the boat was right there in front of me. Fortunately, he recognized me. “Hey, it’s Oliver! How did you get in here?” Then there was laughter and I knew that everything was probably going to be all right. The guy was nervous about picking me up though. Must of thought I was freaked out or something. Which I wasn't. And now that the tension was broke, I thought maybe Whitey and I could get to know each other better. But it wasn't to be. To this day I don't know if  there was another cat there. I guess, if there was, she was down lower in the stateroom.

I leaves the boat.
Anyway, the social occasion came to an abrupt end and this owner picked me up (in a fashion that must have made me look like a complete jerk to Whitey). He carried me out and bid me good night and dumped me gently on to the dock. It had been quite the evening and a patrol I wouldn't soon forget. I was exhausted. I decided to forgo the rest of the patrol (I mean, one night, right? What’s the diff?) and I slowly walked off down the dock. I took my time, it wouldn't do to hurry. As I went I raised my tail and bid them aloha, hoping that they would be watching through the windows. They were.

The author at work

Friday 26 July 2013

Trouble Amidships

Heat waves. Huge, towering heat waves, reaching for miles and now crashing down with tsunami-like force on most of the province. Temperatures in the mid-30’s, health warnings issued in urban centres, but even rural areas suffering in the brutal air.

Miserable Toronto mid-afternoon
This was the setting on my brief return from the boat to Toronto to do some work that had come along. It meant leaving the relative comforts of the Mary Mary and having to stay in our top-floor apartment oven for three nights.

So it wasn’t surprising that, even on the first night in our old bed, I was tossing and turning and sweating, even with the A/C on. My stomach was churning and painful. All of this I put down to the torrid city, being away from boat and questionable meals.

I put up with it for the required amount of time and on Friday, July 13th headed back to the boat, the work in town complete. I felt wonky the entire drive and by the time I stopped at a highway stop to get some gas and breakfast, I was spacey and feeling like I was moving in slow-motion. But I motored on and finally arrived back at Hindson Marina and collapsed onto the bed. Something was much amiss…

The next day I continued growing more feverish and painful and finally Brooke went into town and bought a thermometer (you should have one of these in your boat first-aid, we realize now) and it relayed the obvious. I had a fever of 102.8.

Off to the hospital…. I couldn’t stand up very well by this time but fortunately the emergency wasn’t crowded, even on this holiday Saturday and I was soon issued into the back-rooms where I could lie on a gurney.
Georgian Bay General Hospital - it looks nothing like this at the moment.
I was seen to by a young doctor who quickly came to the conclusion that I probably had appendicitis. This was confirmed, after drinking two glasses of foul-tasting dye, by a CAT-scan and I was admitted, post-haste for emergency surgery. There was a problem with room space and, at first, it looked like I was going to have to spend the night in the triage room. This was decidedly a bad thing. There were 8 curtained areas in the triage and the three immediately surrounding me held, in their murky depths: an old man who couldn’t hear very well and was continuing a lengthy conversation at the top of his lungs; an old lady who every now and then would wake from her stupor and start calling out “Help! Help! Help, help, help, help!” only to admonish whoever responded to her with further shouts of “Get away from me! Leave me alone, you fools!” and another woman, who had some sort of back injury and was moaning pitifully every few seconds. The potential for having to spend the night amongst these poor wretched wounded had me on the verge of panic.

But, fortunately, a room was found and I was re-located there. The next day, in the morning, I was visited by Dr. Walc (or Dr. Claw in Backwards Land) and he informed me that they would be ‘going in’ shortly. And so it was that around 10:30 a.m. I was wheeled away to surgery.
This was all happening way faster than my previous bout with abdominal surgery. When I had cancer and they removed my Prostate. There it was a long, drawn-out affair. Here it was steaming along and before I knew it I was spread-eagled on the operating table and a very-pregnant nurse (“I’m going to work right up to my due date!”) was bidding me farewell as the oxygen mask was lowered past her bulging stomach and onto my face. Farewell, as in ‘see you in dreamland’ I guess she meant. I hope she meant.

Next thing you know, wham bam, and I’m back in my room with a 5” gash in my side through which the offending useless sausage was removed. Apparently I had to have a longer cut than usual as my appendix was stuffed up under my bowel for some reason. Later I was to find out from my agent that when his brother had an appendectomy in China, the cut was only 1” long. Lesson learned: If possible have operations done in China. Of course, an hour after they operate you need to have it done again. (Sorry…)

Three days in the hospital altogether and then hobbling back to boat to further recuperate. More heat and more sweat but soon the weather would break and I could continue on. Looking forward to getting back on the water, but it won’t be until I can walk better than the 90 year-old man I seem to have become.

Which is all to say that I have good reasons for not updating the blog with important boating adventure news. I’ll catch up later.