How we chose our newest crew member

Our newest crew member has been aboard since the end of July, and for some strange reason, I’ve yet to introduce him! His name is Farley, and he’s a Maine Coon Cat. He’s still a kitten, but you might not know it by his size. This little guy is growing fast and like most Maine Coons, we expect he’ll be a large cat. The decision to bring a pet aboard has been brewing for a long time and endured many months of careful contemplation before deciding to start our search.

What we did eventually decide was that we wanted, specifically, a male Maine Coon. We scoured local shelters and online databases but never found what we were looking for. Now, for all of you that will chastise us for not rescuing in the end, I understand where you are coming from. Our decision, nonetheless, was to find a true Maine Coon because of it’s inherent and distinct qualities that we feel make it better suited for life on a boat. 

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First, these cats are known for a docile and loving nature, often deemed gentle giants. They like to be nearby and hate to feel like they are missing out. On a boat, there is a limited living space, so it is important that our cat enjoys our company through the long winter months. Even when allowed to roam free on deck he often circles the cockpit a few times before snuggling up or laying across our feet.

[Tweet “Many correctly guess that he is named after Farley Mowatt, one of my favorite authors”]

Second, the Maine Coon is tolerant to the Maine climate. With tufted paws, and a long, water-resistant coat of fur, Farley is equipped for everything from rain to snow, and even a little salt spray during dinghy rides. In fact, he loves water! We often find him lounging or playing in a puddle of water in the shower, or trying to sneak in while we rinse off. If Farley were to fall in the water, I’m sure he wouldn’t enjoy it. Yet with his thick coat that repels water, he will have an easier time staying afloat and swimming to safety.

Finally, I wanted a big cat. Our breeder did not breed for size, nor would we want one that does as it can lead to health problems. Still, I wanted a breed that was naturally large. On a boat that bounces across the ocean I figure a larger cat will have better strength and stamina to make his way around the boat as it pitches and rolls. Maine Coons come from a long line of rugged ancestors that have been used on farms and sailing ships alike (usually for hunting rats) and are a perfect match for our life aboard.

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Of the people that meet him many correctly guess that he is named after Farley Mowatt, one of my favorite authors. If you haven’t read The Boat That Wouldn’t Float, drop what you are doing and go get a copy, it’s a classic. Many others falsely assume that he is named after Chris Farley. He’s great in his own right, and I’m sorry to disappoint…but he was not the source of inspiration for naming Farley.

If you had asked me a few years ago I would have told you that I would never get a cat. In my mind, why would anyone get a cat instead of a dog? I had a dog growing up, and haven’t met all that many cats that I really liked. Once we made the decision to live aboard and moved out of our apartment, we entertained the idea of getting a puppy. We kept putting it off until the major repairs were done and we were settled into our new living quarters.

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After several months aboard we realized that a dog would not be a good fit for our current lifestyle. It’s not that a dog couldn’t live on a boat, or that we couldn’t manage to care for a dog, but that we couldn’t do both. Since neither of us is able to take care of a pet during the day, he would have to be left alone. Many people manage this, but they live ashore where the dog has access to a yard and room to roam throughout the day. Without a yard, and with limited space below decks, we couldn’t possibly expect a dog to be happy alone. We looked into doggy daycare for the days we were at work but they are prohibitively expensive. Thus the conversation shifted to the possibility of a cat, a species with a long history of living on ships.

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Today we couldn’t be happier to have found Farley, who is growing at about 1lb per week! He’s learning about his surroundings quickly and seems most content lounging on deck, staring out at the ocean. Amazingly Skye has been working at clicker training him and he is already coming when called, sitting on command, and giving high-fives. What a cool cat!

Matt Garand

About Matt Garand

Lifelong Mainer, and professional mariner, Matt Garand is the creator of A Life Aboard, a look at year-round living on a sailboat in Maine. Matt and his wife, Skye, live aboard in South Portland and use every available chance to throw off the lines and explore the coast.