Sailor Liz Clark set out for a voyage in 2006, and is still sailing. She wanted to explore the Pacific to search for local environmental projects, to raise awareness of conservation issues, to document her adventures and to find far-off surf breaks. She found them all — along with one thing she wasn’t looking for: a first-mate cat.
Clark met Amelia the Tropicat while she was docked at an island, and they have been together for nearly three years, as her blog and Instagram page document. Clark had met other animals along the way, but only Amelia traveled with her and took to life on the water. Well, after a few hits and misses, which is impressive for a cat.
“It took her a couple months to really adapt to boat life,” Clark, who is originally from Santa Barbara, California, told Petcha.com.
Apparently it's National Cat Day, so here's a huge salute to my #felineFirstMate, elegant muse, and best furry friend #AmeliatheTropicat. the adventures are so much more fun together!!! and while we're on the subject–a huge high five to @uber for partnering with @humanesociety in such a unique and wonderful way to encourage kitten adoptions on car rides!!! We are not above animals, we must #learncompassion and end animal suffering!! ???? Favorite singlefin by @aquaticoddities and earth-friendly bathing and everything soap by @drbronners!!
“She fell overboard a few times, and I had to teach her how to climb up the towel cat ladder I made for her that dangled over the side so she could climb up if she fell overboard,” Clark continued. “But after a handful of acrobatics that landed her in the water, she learned where and how to play without having to go swimming as a consequence to a misplaced paw.”
“Now she’s right at home,” Clark said. “Hops in and out of the dinghy when we go ashore. I never leash her, just carry her if there are dogs or dangers nearby.”
Amelia, who Clark estimates was under the age of 1 when they first set sail together, would dock with her new sea-loving owner and take camping breaks away from the water. While Clark would surf or work on her book about the adventures aboard her 40-foot sailboat Swell, the Tropicat would enjoy stalking the wildlife (bugs), napping on tree branches and exploring the terrain.
It was during one of these sojourns a little over a year ago that Amelia and Clark became separated. Clark and the cat hitched a ride in a canoe to an islet for a surf break. Amelia fell off the canoe along the way and upon reaching shore she ran away.
“Normally we took walks and hikes and adventured often together and she always stayed nearby,” Clark said. “I think she was mad at me that day because I had laughed at her when she fell off the canoe on the way over to the islet.”
Clark tried to make up for it by searching the grounds where Amelia was last seen. She asked locals if they’d spotted the tabby and posted to Instagram about Amelia’s disappearance. No luck.
Days passed. Then weeks. Clark returned frequently to the islet where the Tropicat ran away. She left clothes she’d worn, cat food and fish. After a month, she began to lose hope. Her last effort was to contact a pet psychic. The pain of the loss had stunned her.
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Clark wondered if Amelia craved life on land and their time had come to part. She wrote a blog post saying farewell to her friend, which detailed the feeling of grief that so surprised her and her wishes for Amelia to enjoy her new life back on land.
And then, almost as soon as she’d let go, the Tropicat came back.
During one of her trips back to the islet a local let her know that the cat had been spotted. Elated, Clark went to the location where she’d been seen and, sure enough, Amelia was there and greeted her with several warm meows. When Clark walked back to the boat, Amelia followed.
About a year has passed since the Tropicat returned, and life at sea has continued as usual. Amelia might have even perfected some of her seaward skills: She’s started catching fish.
Clark says she’s surprised by how complex and sensitive Amelia is emotionally. Humans are quick to judge animals as stupid or simple but, “Tropicat is cunning, manipulative, and dignified. We communicate in a very real way.”
“The trust we have built through honoring her needs and giving her so much freedom when we go to land, has surprisingly earned me one of the most rewarding and wonderful relationships that I have in my life — human or otherwise!” Clark said.