Spending his days sailing the open seas may not seem like a usual life for a cat, but Salty the Turkish Van wouldn’t have it any other way!
Berni and Andy Lockwood have always been keen seafarers and would regularly go sailing on weekends around the coast of Devon to escape the stresses of their jobs as healthcare workers.
Then, one day in 2010, when they were gearing up to sell their house, Berni joked that they should buy a larger boat to live in full-time with their Springer Spaniel, Pippa, instead of trying to find another house. Not long after, the pair bought a 45ft Bruce Roberts yacht, Camargue, named after a region in the south of France where wild horses can be found.
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The couple has been living on the boat full-time ever since and are enjoying their dream life, sailing from place to place and loving the adventures along the way.
“We’ve got no regrets at all,” says Berni. “It’s great fun, and we can still do most of the things we’d do in a house, only with less cleaning!”
The only thing that would make their idyllic new life perfect was a cat. Berni says: “I’m a cat person and we didn’t have one for years. Then, we decided we should get one, and Andy said I should get the breed of cat I really wanted. I’ve loved Turkish Vans since I was a child, and the fact that they love water is just a happy coincidence!”
Salty came to live with the family as a 13-week-old kitten and, now four years old, Berni says he took to his unconventional life straight away.
A cat with natural sea legs, Salty likes to wander around the deck and survey the view, with his favourite place to perch on the top of the hatch where he can oversee everything and everyone around him. He even has his own cabin where he can go and relax after a hard day’s work with his best friend, Pippa.
“They’re very close,” says Berni. “They’re like besties! Salty is quite a big cat — he’s over 19lbs, so he can hold his own, which is just as well because Pippa is quite boisterous at times!”
He can also be quite territorial — a common trait in Vans — so his food is kept well out of his spaniel friend’s reach. Berni says: “He likes to be at sea; there’s plenty for him to see and there’s so much scenery change for him to watch. The water is really cold so he won’t jump into the sea, but he does like to play with the washing up water and, after we’ve had a shower, he’ll go and play in the shower tray; he loves water with bubbles in it!”
The four-legged besties are kept snuggled up in the yacht below deck when they are sailing but, if the sea is very calm or there is something interesting to see, they will be allowed up for short periods on their harnesses to see what is going on.
Berni says: “Salty loves watching the cormorants and seagulls on the water. He’s even seen a pod of dolphins!” The mischievous cat’s exploratory urge has got him into trouble sometimes, though. Berni continues: “When Salty was about six months old, he worked out how to climb onto the chart table and TV, and do a massive leap up and out of the saloon hatch — he would then run off down the pontoons onto other people’s boats to sharpen his claws on their teak decks.”
“We always noticed pretty quickly when he snuck out and could get him back, but it took us a couple of weeks to work out how he was doing it.”
Not content with their exciting lives aboard the Camargue, Salty is also partial to going on hikes and even canoeing with his owners and canine best friend!
“He likes to sit on the front of the canoe when we go paddling near to the coast,” says Berni. “The water is only a couple of feet deep so he can see the jellyfish going past.”
The two pets will only be taken canoeing one at a time, though, as Berni says it would be chaos if they tried to take them both!
As he was harness trained from a young age, Salty will go for a half-hour walk with Berni each day on his harness to explore wherever they may be docked up, and they also go on weekly hikes.
He has his own backpack which he will sit in, and then come out to explore for half an hour or so, climbing rocks and having a good sniff around with Pippa.
Salty is certainly not the type of cat to lie around and be lazy, and Berni describes him as very dog-like — he even plays fetch!
At present, the seafaring cat and his family are sailing around the UK, and are currently on the west side of the country, ranging from Plymouth up to Wales, and up around the Outer Hebrides and to the top of Scotland.
So, if you spot a handsome, fluffy white cat onboard a yacht around the Scottish coast, give him a wave, as it could be Salty!
Salty’s high seas adventures have been well-documented on social media, and he now has more than 25,000 followers on Instagram @salty_sea_cat. If you want to find out more about Salty, you can also read his blog, and find him on Facebook.
This story was first published in the September 2018 issue of Your Cat Magazine. GET YOURS HERE.