Fortune’s swings 

In Fortune’s Swings, Able Sea-cat Bart shares Richard Hakluyt’s story of the ship’s cat that “lept into the sea” when John Locke was sailing to Jerusalem. It’s the first recorded rescue at sea reports the story curator for seafaring felines, the sailors’ indispensable shipmates, mascots and pets.  

It chanced the shippes Cat lept into the Sea

1553. THE VOYAGE OF M. JOHN LOCKE TO JERUSALEM.I John Locke, accompanied with Maister Anthony Rastwold, and divers other, Hollanders, Zelanders, Almaines and French pilgrimes entered the good shippe called Fila Cavena of Venice, the 16 of July 1553. and the 17 in the morning we weighed our anker and sayled towardes the coast of Istria, to the port of Rouigno, and the said day there came aboard of our ship the Percevena of the shippe named Tamisari, for to receive the rest of all the pilgrimes money, which was in all after the rate of 55. Crownes for every man for that voyage, after the rate of five shillings starling [sterling] to the crowne: This done, he returned to Venice…
The perilous life of seafaring felines and ships cats. Men rowing a boat and rescuing with one oar a very sad, wet moggy who has fallen overboard.
[August] The 17. day in the morning, we were by report of the Mariners, some sixe miles from Jaffa, but it prooved contrary. But because we would be sure, wee came to an anker seven miles from the shore, and sent the skiffe with the Pilot and the master gunner, to learne the coast, but they returned, not having seen tree nor house, nor spoken with any man. But when they came to the sea side againe, they went up a little hill standing hard by the brinke, whereon as they thought they sawe the hill of Jerusalem, by the which the Pilot knew (after his judgement) that wee were past our port. And so this place where we rode was, as the mariners sayd, about 50. mile from Jaffa. This coast all alongst is very lowe, plaine, white, sandie, and desert, for which cause it hath fewe markes or none, so that we rode here as it were in a gulfe betweene two Capes.

The 18. day we abode still at anker, looking for a gale to returne backe, but it was contrary: and the 19. we set saile, but the currant having more force then the winde, we were driven backe, insomuch that the ship being under saile, we cast the sounding lead, and (notwithstanding the wind) it remained before the shippe, there wee had muddie ground at fifteene fathome. The same day about 4. of the clocke, wee set saile againe, and sayled West alongst the coast with a fresh side-winde. It chanced by fortune that the shippes Cat lept into the Sea, which being downe, kept her selfe very valiantly above water, notwithstanding the great waves, still swimming, the which the master knowing, he caused the Skiffe with halfe a dozen men to goe towards her and fetch her againe, when she was almost halfe a mile from the shippe, and all this while the ship lay on staies. I hardly believe they would have made such haste and meanes if one of the company had bene in the like perill. They made the more haste because it was the patrons cat. This I have written onely to note the estimation that cats are in, among the Italians, for generally they esteeme their cattes, as in England we esteeme a good Spaniell. The same night about tenne of the clocke the winde calmed, and because none of the shippe knewe where we were, we let fall an anker about 6 mile from the place we were at before, and there wee had muddie ground at twelve fathome. 

Stays (staies)
Ropes, wires, or rods on sailing vessels that run fore-and-aft along the centreline from the masts to the hull, deck, bowsprit, or to other masts which serve to stabilize the masts.
CREDIT Richard Hakluyt’s Principal navigations, voiages, traffiques and discoveries of the English nation, made by sea or over-land, to the remote and farthest distant quarters of the earth, first published in 1589 and expanded and issued in three volumes from 1598 to 1600, was a compendium of voyages from ancient times.

Life’s highs and lows

My take on thisHigh tides, low tides; high points, low points. That’s life, especially when it comes to being “esteemed”, the flavour of the month or a gossip column “A-lister”. Spaniels may have been top of the pops in England in John Locke’s time, but where are they now? Cats rule the internet. But we felines have had our share of lows, bleak times and catastrophes. Religious bigotry, witchcraft hysteria and being considered the incarnation of the devil meant we were cruelly persecuted in parts of Europe for several centuries. But Locke was right. Venice was different. In this busy port, our pest controller prowess ensured we were much esteemed. And in the sophisticated intellectual and cultural world of Renaissance Italy in general and Venice in particular witch-hunting never really caught on as it did elsewhere. Indeed, Generalissimo Francesco Morosini, later Doge of Venice, was inordinately fond of his cat, a valiant seafurrer who accompanied him on his campaigns against the Ottoman Empire. Together, they reconquered Athens and the Peloponnese. Sadly, the Parthenon, which Turks used as a gunpowder store, was a casualty. Morosini shelled it.  


Who’s who?

John Locke (Lok) was a seafarer but on this occasion he happened to be a passenger on a pilgrimage. Richard Adams credits this story for inspiring The Adventures and Brave Deeds of the Ship’s Cat on the Spanish Maine, Together with the most lamentable losse of the Alcestis and Triumphant Firing of the Port of Chagres (illustrated by Alan Aldridge).

In 1554 Locke set sail for Guinea as captain of a profitable trading voyage (it returned to London with more than 400 pounds’ weight of gold, 36 butts of Guinea pepper, and 250 elephants’ “teeth’ (tusks). It also could be considered to be England’s entry point to the slave trade as they also “brought with them certaine blacke slaves, whereof some were tall and strong men, and could wel agree with our meates and drinkes.” Apparently the intention was for the slaves to learn English and act as interpreters on future trading voyages to Guinea.

Richard Hakluyt, scholar, priest and geographer (c. 1552–1616) was no seafarer himself, never voyaging further than Paris. However, his work has inspired generations of explorers, sailors and armchair travellers. He had a passion for geography from his early teens when his cousin spoke to him of recent discoveries and of the new opportunities for trade and showed him “certeine bookes of Cosmographie, with an universall Mappe”. He resolved to “prosecute that knowledge and kinde of literature” at university. Entering Christ Church, Oxford, in 1570, he carried out his intended course of reading and by degrees covered all the printed or written voyages and discoveries he could find. He took his BA in 1573–4 and MA in 1577 and at some stage began giving public lectures in geography that “shewed both the old imperfectly composed and the new lately reformed mappes, globes, spheares, and other instruments of this art”.