Guess what? Although it would have been nice and easy for me, the story wasn’t over with Janis moving her babies out (read more about this here: Janis and the refugees)
The boat to where she moved her little ones was a steel-boat that caught fire some years back when someone inexperienced tried to weld a new deck on. Most of the interior had burned down to ashes and the inside was black. The only part not really damaged by the fire was the cockpit which is equipped with a spacious doghouse, the part aft made from canvas.
Very conveniently for her, some plastic crates were placed inside the cockpit and that’s were the babies went.
Steel-boats are always either cold to the touch or blazing hot, so I brought them a cushion for comfort. Although she was very happy about it she made it clear that she’d rather not want the babies to have contact with the outside world. I respected her wish and stayed away.
Everyone knew of course, especially the liveabord-sailors. Tanamera with Birte and Wolfgang is propped up right next to her boat, and Erica with Anne and Marc directly in front of her. Many times a day she and Coral would use Erica’s ladder to get onto the aftdeck of Erica, then jump onto the long bowsprit of Pintas Pilot (her boat), always calling her babies to let them know it’s her. Or calling for Coral (and sometimes also Malley) to come over and give her a hand.
Meanwhile Malley happily settled in with us. Liza (read more about her here: “Liza our new crewmember” ) was more than delighted to have a playmate, companion and someone to cuddle with and I’m very happy about it, she was getting a bit wild! Mr. Max too, he finally found some peace back as he was mistreated as a punch-ball for Liza’s energies.
Coral had decided to stick with her mum and enjoyed everything that had to do with the babies. Sometimes she would turn up out of nowhere just to say hello or have a bite to eat, but not very often.
Maybe 2 or 3 weeks down the line Janis and I had a little chat. I asked her about the babies and told her I would like to see them tomorrow to have a look how things are going. My understanding was to let her know I’ll be over on Pintas Pilot to have a look at them, but somehow she must have misunderstood.
Turns out she didn’t wait for me to come over. When I woke up the next morning she had carried 3 of the babies to Tonga’s aftcabin (it will be my aft-cabin again, trust me!) for me to see them:
2 cream-colored ones and a very shy black-and-white one, 2 girls and a boy. She made sure that I can spend a bit of time with them, cuddle them without them being afraid of me and see how they are.
So far so good. But 2 babies were missing: another cream-colored and a black-and white one. Around midday she carried them off again. To where? No idea!!!
For 3 more days she kept coming back to Pintas Pilot, loudly calling her remaining 2 babies and then she stopped.
About 1 week later I saw the original Patron of Janis and he told me that Janis is back. She had brought 3 of her babies with her and another youngish one with a collar (Coral). They are all in his workshop now.
Cool, not my responsibility any more, awesome!
I went over from time to time to say hello to the babies and everyone else. They were doing great and growing rapidly.
One day, on the way to my workshop, I had to stop, dropped everything and walked over to watch, it was so beautiful: Coral was playing with the cream-colored baby. They were simultaneously jumping up in the air as high as the baby managed – which was nearly 1 meter off the ground – and touched their paws in mid-air at the highest point. I absolutely loved it, they had a great time together!!!
Meanwhile Liza got wild and wilder. Her energies had to go somewhere and her mind needed more input to keep her busy. The space on board was clearly not enough for her. She was active, very active. Especially at night when I tried to find some desperately needed rest. But somehow I wasn’t able to convince her to go outside and discover what’s around. Going off the boat? You kidding me? No way! This is dangerous out there!!!
Then, one night, it was getting too much. Liza was playing with Malley, it went like this: running across the deck as fast and with as much noise as one can imagine, jumping through the one-day-to-be forward hatch onto my bunk, playing trampoline on top of my duvet, then along the portside of the engine-room to the aftcabin, back up on deck again, full speed forward, through the forward hatch to start the whole process all over again.
At 3 o’clock in the morning I definitely had enough. She needed to learn a different way to get rid of her energies and keep her mind busy. I got up, grabbed her and carried her down the ladder, a very delighted Malley following on my heels. It was a night from Saturday to Sunday. Everything calm, no cars no dogs around. I left her there, got up the ladder and went back to bed.
About 3 hours later, it was still dark, I went down to see how things are going. Apparently she had a great time but was super-happy to see me and get a lift back up again.
2 days later, I was just coming back from veggie-shopping at the market and wanted to check how the girls are doing upstairs. Liza was on top of the toerail, whining, trying but not having the courage to climb down this 3.5 m high Aluminium-ladder.
Oh hang on a minute, this is brilliant! I know she can do it, and now she really wants to, awesome! So, I went up, wrapped my arm around the ladder so I could hold my hand at the underside to give her a feeling of safety and encouraged her. Very very slowly and carefully she did it step by step and then suddenly she was down on the ground, proud like hell! I was super-happy for her :-D!
Gaining more and more confidence she’s now started to follow me around wherever I go, tail high up in the air and vibrating from excitement.
October came, Malley and Coral becoming 6 months old, time to get them neutered. I made an appointment with the vet for both of them hoping to find Coral because she already missed her appointment for the second vaccine. The plan was to bring them over the day before, because they are not meant to eat and drink before the operation, something impossible to achieve for me.
Malley was brave and easy to get in the box, but Coral was missing. Oh hang on a minute, she’s probably with the babies. Together with the empty box I walked over there and, sure enough, there she was! I got hold of her, into the box and off we went, what a relief!
Luckily I still had the coat from Liza, so I only had to buy 1 coat to keep them from chewing the stitches. Malley hated hers so much that she kept taking it off till very conveniently she lost it and it was nowhere to be found. I left her without and luck would have it that she didn’t mess with the stitches. Coral didn’t like it either, but she was a bit more relaxed about it. Still, finally, she managed to brake the zip on it.
I had a fleece-jumper laying around in a color I really couldn’t make me wear, so I cut it open, got me a zip and made a new one for her. She liked it a bit better than the other one
Both girls had to take antibiotics, so Coral stayed with us till the stitches got pulled.
The weather was weird this whole year (2020) and far too soon the strong winds and the rain popped up in the forecasts. I wanted to rig the cover aft for protection and found out that most of it was badly damaged by the cats climbing on top of my tent to play there (and thank you, no, I didn’t want them at all to go up there!). I patched it up and soon after the weather got so serious that I had to stop working at the stern and get this part properly protected too with heavy tarpaulins.
And then, the 21st of October, Janis’ Patron came over to ask me to have a look at the cream-colored girl (he found the little boy dead on the floor one morning a few days back before going out fishing in the morning and was very very sad about it, he didn’t want to loose this one also). It was a Saturday around lunchtime.
I went over there. She was laying in the sunshine and looked okay to me for starters.
“You need to see her standing or walking, there is something seriously wrong with her. She was up and playing happily yesterday, but now … ” he took her, lifted her up on her 4 legs, she bent her spine into a weird arch and was hardly able to move her back-legs.
Oh no, she must have been hit by something!
I called the vet in Nazaré, but it was past 1 o’clock already, office closed. I called the vet in Alcobaça but didn’t get a reply. I called their emergency-number but no reply either.
Right, let’s get her in the transport-box, the clinic in Alcobaça should be open.
On the way to Alcobaça I remembered they’re gonna ask me for the name of the little one. Oh bloody hell, what am I gonna say??? She needs a name. Now! At the roundabout between Valado dos Frades and Alcobaça I had to stop for traffic. I looked her in the eye and asked if Minka would be okay with her? She seemed to be okay with it, so that’s what we’re gonna say when they ask me!
It was about 1:45 when we arrived. Everything closed. Turns out they wouldn’t be open till 3 pm. So … we were waiting in front of the office.
My luck was that just before they opened I got a call back from the emergency-number, so we had priority above all the others waiting.
Rita was attending us. She’s absolutely wonderful and the only one I know of who even manages to give a tablet to Mr. Max.
She examined her and when she came to Minka’s tummy a reddish liquid came out onto the table. Oh my, I got scared, there is something seriously wrong inside!
As it was so busy she asked me to put on a suit and assist her with the x-rays. And then I had to wait …
Around 5:30 pm she showed me the x-rays. The part of the hip where the bone of the leg attaches was smashed to pieces. She gave me Antibiotics and Antiinflammatorys for the next 10/5 days and wanted to call the Orthopaedic on Monday to find out if this can be operated and get back to me.
On our way home I stopped at Janis’ Patrons workshop to let him and his son know. We talked about how to to deal with this and what would be best. It turned out that the only real option would be if she stays with me for now, there was no way out. The moment I wanted to get back in my car Janis came along, so I gave her the news too.
And now what?
I had a spare, freshly washed white cushion, fitted it into the box next to my bunk and then little Minka. A small litterbox from scratch and close to the entrance of the box – Rita had asked me to pay very close attention to this and call her immediately if something goes wrong (she even put the medicine into a small red envelope with the instructions written on the outside of it).
Then of course water in easy reach. And if I wanted her to survive, nothing goes without food. I had bought some paté for kittens on the way back. She was 1.5 months old by now. Do I need to use a syringe to feed her or will she manage just like this? I put some of the paté on the plastic lid of a Pringles-box to try and Bingo!!! She was wolfing it down. I gave her some more, and some more.
Toilet-time came. She had never seen a litter-box in her life. Apparently she didn’t want to make her bed dirty and this thing was so conveniently placed … What came out was red again and my heart sank very low.
Calm down and wait Dody, there is a lot of life in this little one!
And, sure enough, short afterwards she got serious about her needs and everything looked completely normal ever since. Whow, that was close! Only, with the rigid stuff, with the last bit she would give a tiny yell. Something must be painful with her posture in this.
The same night, Janis moved back in. To make life more convenient for herself she brought the other baby as well and babysitter Coral.
Great. Without pre-warning we were 4 more people now. The temperatures at night got fresh to very fresh and the only warm area was around my bed and my cuddly corner, something like 7 or 8 square meters we all had to squeeze in plus the litter-box of course, the food-bowls and the water. And only part of this is flat because the hull curves upwards.
The first one who got complimented out was poor Mr. Max, although I’m not really sure if it might not have been a little bit with his consent. He is not a fighter at all, and he is a gentlemen par excellence, a very cuddly one I must say! For nothing in this world I could convince him to come inside, he stayed on deck or, during daytime, in the caravan. He was on strike (I told him the sign he was sitting behind means “for sale” and luckily he stopped sitting there after I took the photo!)
The next one was Liza. Although she came from the same home originally she didn’t belong to the gang and Janis didn’t seem to be sure about her. At least she wouldn’t accept staying outside in the cold and found herself a sleeping-space in a transport-box in the cabin. Sometimes Malley would come over to join her.
And now our patient.
The first 4 days she kept her moving around to a minimum and stayed inside the box or next to the heater. She didn’t drink at her mum’s and Janis didn’t encourage her which made me quite a bit concerned. The few times she tried she was in pain and gave up instantly, so I kept on giving her kitten-paté for the moment, I didn’t want her to get weak.
One evening I had a long chat with Janis, explaining that her milk is very important for Minka. For her immune-system, for her health in general and for her defenses against illness in all her future life.
This was the moment Janis tried harder and harder to encourage the little one to drink. But, whenever this was going on Malley and Coral came along jumping on top to get their share and the little one was in pain again with all this weight around, never mind that by the time these two were already 7 months old. Another problem was that Minka needed to lay on her right side to have less pain (the left one being the one with the injury). But Janis preferred to lay on her right side too, so for Minka to drink she would have to lay on her injured side.
Once I noticed I explained the problem to Janis, and, sure enough, she changed to her left side. Slowly, slowly, it started to work.
There were days when the sun was shining for a bit and everybody moved on deck. Not Minka. I didn’t want her to get moody being inside in the dark so I took her on my shoulder “hold on tight now!” and carried her upstairs. She just loved it! Every day she got a tiny bit more active, started to play first with her little sister who I’m calling Mimi now, and soon with everyone else also.
Rita called me back. The orthopedic said that Minka needs to be operated, but it’s not an emergency. It could be done together with the sterilisation when she’s 6 months old which would save me quite some money. Because, the operation would cost 380 Euros. Phewwww!!!
I for sure didn’t want her to suffer and Rita neither. But who am I to tell? We agreed on me making a few little videos when they are up on deck again (the weather was terrible, everyone hiding in a safe place), watch them together and then decide what we’re gonna do.
We used to have another black tomcat spending the nights on deck, he looked very similar to Malley and might be her father. He was a very peaceful lad, one wouldn’t hear anything from him and he never caused any trouble. He disappeared after being chased away by Janis several times.
Meanwhile Mr. Max was allowed in. Well, not into the small warm area, but into the cabin. He loves my Icelandic jumpers and started sleeping on top of them.
They organized a watch-system for the nights. One of them had to stay out no matter how bad the weather was and they did it in turns, Mr. Max included. The only exceptions were 3 nights when it was gusting up to 70 knots. All of them were scared and even Mr. Max was allowed into the warm area.
There was another tomcat, dark siamese, probably the dad of Minka. Very beautiful, but claiming Tonga as his territory, frequently beating up Mr. Max and marking everywhere. As he was a Friend of Janis she didn’t chase him away, but I did. Many many times but he kept coming back.
Suddenly one day this stopped. He would come in the area, call, and Janis, Coral and Malley would come downstairs to meet him. At the same time I noticed Mr. Max being busy downstairs around Tonga, it looked like he was marking his territory!!! He had never done this before, someone must have told him, and apparently it did the trick.
Then, one fine day when I checked upstairs around lunchtime, everyone had disappeared on adventure-trips and left Mr. Max on his own in charge of Minka and Mimi. That was also the day when, in the evening, with a huge smile on his face, Mr. Max jumped into my bed, purring like mad and cuddling with me like he never did before.
Little Minka started to get more and more active and the resting-times between playtime got shorter and shorter. She found a way to get from the deck into the cabin on her own, with a tremendous effort she started to manage the companionway-ladder (for non-sailors: that’s the one that goes from the cockpit into the cabin below), first up and now even down. Running was next, and with time there were great chases going on on the deck. And a few days back I even saw her doing her first tries in jumping!!!
Whenever I come upstairs and can’t see Minka, I ask for her and sure enough her little head pops up somewhere and she comes to meet me.
It’s getting a bit wild from time to time as most of the gang is still pretty young. Malley and Coral 8 months now, Liza just turned 1 year and Janis isn’t very old either. I’m lucky insofar that they try to keep the babies a little bit at check. And when they get out of control, Janis usually goes downstairs and tries to dig up something interesting that keeps them busy for a while. This can be a dead mouse, a dead lizard, a bug, some of the isolation-material my neighbor cut out when he wanted to take his saildrive out and left behind on the floor and yesterday they were completely excited about a long black feather Janis brought back.
There is one thing I don’t succed to make them stop, at least Janis and Coral (I’m very happy Malley doesn’t do it any more): that is climbing onto the top of my tent, running along on top and sometimes even trying to make the holes bigger the tent suffered when some seagulls were playing there a while back, or the hole Janis made for access to the “hammock”. I dearly hope they won’t teach the babies, but I guess this will happen one day soon.
They have done quite some additional damage to the tent although it’s still in one piece. I need to take it down, replace half of it and get it back up again. Trouble is that I can’t do it when it’s raining for obvious reasons, I can’t do it when the wind is strong, and I will need probably 2 days for the job. Nighttime-temperatures for the next days are predicted to go down to 1º Celsius at night. This tent helps tremendously in keeping us warmish but still, a few days ago it was so cold at night that I was sleeping with a woolly hat – for the first time in my life! I don’t want to risk catching a cold so I guess I’ll have to be patient and wait for better nighttime-temperatures paired with dry, windless weather whenever that might happen. Well, that is, at least as long as it doesn’t get shredded to pieces with the next strong winds.
One thing is different from when Janis brought up Malley and Coral: these two she always took on adventure-trips, sometimes coming back hours later. So far she hasn’t made any attempt with Minka and Mimi.
Something else happened: Legua (the ancient Portuguese term for measuring distances at sea), the dog all the girls grew up with, has found out that the babies, Janis and Coral are on Tonga. As soon as he hears other dogs in our corner he comes running to defend his family. And yes, he recognized Liza as his lot as well :-D!
Coral? She’s missing her “hammock”, so she arranged for a new one:
And now I can’t wait to find out what kind of surprises 2021 has in stock for me, only a few more hours :-D!
Wish you all a very very happy 2021 from wild, windy and cold Nazaré/Portugal