I am from a long line of seafurrers and was named after Portuguese explorer and navigator Bartolomeu Dias de Novais. According to family history (not always a reliable resource), our forebears were on board when he set sail from Lisbon “to seas unknown, remote and unexplored”, sailed down the west coast of Africa and rounded the stormy southern tip of Africa (now called the Cape of Good Hope) revealing the possibility of a sea route to India’s spices (pepper in particular) some 550 years ago.
It’s even been suggested (I imagine tongue in cheek) that the model for this seafurrer on duty watch stretched out on a square knot on a column in the cloisters of Portugal’s Jeronimos Monastery at the entrance to Lisbon’s harbour was one of our ancestors.
I have always enjoyed spinning a yarn and thought it time to tell the tales of the ships’ cats that lapped and mapped the world for hundreds (thousands?) of years as the seafarers’ pest controllers, shipmates and mascots.
The extraordinary exploits and achievements of your seafaring ancestors have been well documented over the centuries. But there’s yet to be published a serious record of the seafurrers who sailed with them (Trim and Mrs Chippy memoirs aside), and their contribution to world maritime history. Hence this somewhat flotsam-and-jetsam anthology I have extricated from logs, letters, diaries and journals. Dip in and you will discover that our sea stories are inextricably entwined. I like to say they couldn’t have done it without us.
And I couldn’t have done this by myself either, and thus I would like to wholeheartedly thank my collaborators: Philippa, Adam and Ky – my patient scribe, illustrator and designer.