Domestic Cats Swim in Open Sea to Safety

By Elisa Black-Taylor

A cat at sea swims to safety
A cat (Jasper) is about to decide that he has to swim to safety.
Picture: © PA Images. Note: this picture (cropped) is published on PoC in breach of copyright. I admit that. I will argue fair use if challenged and/or make a payment. Please contact me about this before complaining. Thank you.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

This is an amazing story of cat survival, detailing an August 5 accident involving a couple who had restored an aft-house schooner and their two cats, who did a fine job proving that the domestic cat can swim very well in open sea well called upon to do so.

On August 5, Mark and Cynthia Schneider were out on their fishing vessel, which they dubbed the “Sea Princess.” It was the first real trip the couple had made since restoring the schooner. The family set anchor for some albacore fishing in the Pacific Ocean about 85 miles northwest of Coos Bay.

While out to sea, miles from land, something went very wrong with their engine, and there was an explosion. Mark determined later that a tiny hole in the diesel tank blew enough mist to cause a backfire, triggering an explosion.

Mark and Cynthia both have had extensive training on how to deal with emergencies. Not only had the couple taken U.S. Coast Guard training classes, they also practiced what they’d do in the event of a disaster at sea.

Although both suffered first degree burns to the face and hair, Cynthia remained calm enough to call the Coast Guard. Meanwhile Mark went below deck to check the damage. The fire suppression system on the boat had prevented the fire from spreading.

Cynthia put on her survival suit, then grabbed her purse, some jewelry and a camera and stuffed it all into a back pack. Mark came back on deck after checking the damage and announced they were sinking. Cynthia remembers Mark calling for their two cats, Jasper and Topaz. Both cats were shelter rescues who had acquired their sea legs while the boat was being restored in Winchester Bay. Jasper is a 1-year-old spotted tabby and Topaz a 4-year-old calico.

Time was running out, and the couple were unable to rescue Jasper and Topaz. Cynthia told her husband the their cat’s natural instinct would kick in when the time came.

Cynthia’s distress call was heard by Port of Bandon commissioner and fellow commercial fisherman Rick Goche, who was fishing at the time on the Peso II. The call came in at 5 p.m., and within minutes he and his brother Larry arrived and pulled the couple out of the water. Several other fishermen in the area who had seen the blast also showed up to help.

That’s when things got really interesting. Now it was time to rescue the cats. Actually, the cats kind of rescued themselves. As everyone watched the boat sink, they could see Topaz swimming towards them in the water. Jasper was still clinging to the bow of the now sinking Sea Princess.

Despite numerous attempts of Mark calling for Jasper to join them on the rescue boat, he hung on until the schooner capsized (see picture), then began swimming toward the family. Goche was able to rescue both of the cats.

Thousands of dollars of gear and about 40,000 pounds of albacore went down with the Sea Princess. Mark and Cynthia did have some insurance but not full coverage. A fund has been set up by the Newport Fishermen’s Wives to help the couple. Donations can be sent to: Newport Fishermen’s Wives, Inc., P.O. Box 971, Newport, OR 97365.

Isn’t this the most amazing cat story ever! It’s awesome how their survival instinct kicked in and saved their two little lives…



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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

27 thoughts on “Domestic Cats Swim in Open Sea to Safety”

  1. Wow – truly amazing. My only concern is the cat being sucked under by the sinking boat temporarily but perhaps long enought to drown. However looking at the picture it would appear the boat is sinking very slowly – no big bubbles around or turbulent water – so maybe that made it just fine to eventually hop off and swim for it.

    What an incredible story. Those cats have really seen it all haven’t they.

    1. How sad the couple lost their newly restored boat. That must be a real blow. They must be very sad about that – I’m sure alot of work went into it. I love most boats – not speed boats though, or gin palaces, just regular boats and wooden boats especially. I used to work on one. I also restored an on old British lifeboat once – the biggest ever built by the RNLI called the Princess Mary, made of 100 year old Burma teque. After it was decommissioned it was used to break the world record of being the smallest boat without sails to double cross the atlantic. It did have a steadying sale for rescue operations. After all the it lay in Padstow harbour as a bit of a wreck and my dad bought it for just under 10 grand, in about 1960, so that wasn’t cheap either and he worked on it and brought it back to life and took it down through France on the canals and kept it down there where we lived when I was growing up. We used to go out on for a couple months every summer and lived on it sometimes never stopping in a port for as long as a month so rationed food and water. Best times of my life. Later on he sold it a guy who hired me and another guy to restore it because after 30 years of use and only dry dock for the hull once a year it needed a ton of work. I love that boat. It’s an amazing boat. It holds enough fuel to not need to refuel for a couple years the way we used it. The deck shelter needs 17 coats of varnish to protect the wood from the salt water.

      Lifeboats are and always were typically small. The Princess Mary was built and launched in 1929. She weighs 60 tons and most of her is underwater which means in a rough sea she won’t capsize however if she does there are heavy lead weights in the bottom of the hull (which I had to shift around with help) that mean’t she would flip straigh back around again to an upright position. Her mast is for a steadying sail at I said and interestingly her propellors are in tunnels for protection. We ran into illegal tuna fishing nets a few times and were able to drift over them engines off to avoid getting caught in them. There’s no more tuna now of course. Bastards. We had her out once in a force 9 which might sound small compared to the maximum of a force 12 but in a 63 foot boat I’m telling you it’s like riding over mountains – she has a canoe stern so in a following sea she doesn’t get pummelled like these new fancy houses on water type boats. Very little space inside actually compared to a modern boat of the same length. But this boat is a work of art. It’s beautiful. The hull is beautiful. It is shaped like a giant canoe and the rounded deck shelter is the only room above deck and it’s open on the back. Nothing like a pleasure yacht in any way shape of form. The very slow but powerful motors are positioned in the middle of the boat for weighting reasons and she goes at a steady 9 knots in most seas. A pleasure yacht that costs a million pounds will go 25 or 30 knots in a calm sea but in a force 9 its will be going backwards. Different thing altogether. If it doesn’t just sink.

      The Aries as she is now called and was during my youth is a great piece of British building and heritage in my opinion – a true matery of the RNLI and in the 90s at least was still the biggest lifeboat they ever built at 63 feet. It was designed to save people from big ships, it even in its day had a big net like a trampoline so people could jump down to it from taller ship hulls. There are many special little things on that boat like a midway bow break water and a second steering wheel on the very back incase the usual one got broken. All kinds of things and of course ropes on the side. We even save people from a sailing boat once. IT was ironic that we were in a lifeboat! Being 60 tons it needed a proper big anchor, not a tiny one like they have these days. A serious hydraulic winch to pull it up. A classic style anchor I mean like on the old ships of the past. She has a remarkably silent engine, slow but strong as I said. To me that’s important. All these fance modern expensive boats are so noisy and use so much fuel its horrid. They really pollute the place with their sound and waves. This was my dads baby for as long as I was alive – he sold it when I was around 20 and thats when I worked on it after my travels in India for 3 years. A beautiful thing to work on. A real boat. They don’t make them like that anymore that’s for sure!

      1. Originally when in service for the RNLI she was white and had little chimneys for the engines nearer the front. But my dad kept her as true to form as he could making some cabins down under to sleep. No electric loos – all old style pumping etc. There is a model of her in the Science museum and I have one myself which needs alot of work. I took it when my dad died. The guy who owns it now is a nice guy. Not a fancy guy or anything who is using it in the same spirit as we did, just staying away from all the fancy ports and sticking to the nature and bays. Here she is seen in a little village where there are no cars, to this day, just about nothing there. Big fancy ports cost a fortune to stop in anyway so never mind that. It takes getting used – ducking your head and the small specs – living on a boat like this but its worth it!

          1. No need. Nice boat. Good memories, I expect. Here is another appropriate photo. A Bengal cat at sea and enjoying it as far as I can tell. The cat is mates with a dog who is also on the boat.

            Bengal cat at sea

      2. Lovely boat. Didn’t know you liked them and the sea as well I suppose. My uncle loved the sea and boats. He died years ago. He used to live in Spain (retired) and sailed around the Med all the time.

        1. Moving to Spain sounds very tempting sometimes. Especially because over there I could actually help cats – they have plenty of feral cats who need TNR unlike here.

          1. All the Mediterranean seems to have a feral cat problem and some harsh treatment sometimes. There is a need for substantial improvements as far as I can tell.

        2. The fact that I live in a country which has a total of zero coastline or sea is often a cause of frustration, especially in the summer! Your Uncle knew what he was doing it sounds like. The trouble with an old boat like that is it’s alot of work and my dad did it mostly by himself after he retired. He worked on that thing constantly. You really have to love it and be 100% devoted, or completely loaded so you can pay somebody else to do it.

          1. Ruth (Monty's Mom)

            You have so many interests, Marc. It seems like you have such an interesting life. Wisconsin is land locked, yet does not seem like it because of the proximity of the Lake Michigan. My dad wants to go in this schooner that docks near Discovery World museum in Milwaukee. It’s a replica of a very old sail boat, the only one of its kind on the Great Lakes. They do two hour sailing tours and longer overnight ventures too where you are trained and act as part of the crew. I get sea sick, but I will probably go. Any tips to help with sea sickness, Marc, or do you not have that problem? My dad says he’s seen that lake just calm and placid, the water just like glass. Yeah, and I’ve seen it as wild as any ocean too, with huge waves. We’ll see which it is the day we go, although I imagine they would cancel if it’s too rough.

            1. Lake Michigan is “the largest lake entirely within one country by surface area” – 22,400 square miles.

              Looking out over it, it must look like a sea. It must affect the climate of bordering cities etc.

              1. Ruth (Monty's Mom)

                I thought Lake Superior was the biggest. It is the coldest! Lake Michigan definitely moderates our climate. Like Lake Superior it can be very dangerous for ships, in some ways more challenging than the ocean. There is a song about the Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald on Lake Superior in the 1970’s. The Lady Elgin was another wreck, from the 1800’s or early 1900’s, that someone wrote a song about. The bottom of the Great Lakes are littered with wrecks of ships that went down. Lake Michigan is in truth an inland sea. Every summer swimmers drown when the big waves are rolling in. There are days it’s just too dangerous to be playing around in that lake. I see online all the time that they have issued small craft advisories due to waves or weather conditions.

            2. I don’t get sea sick luckily. But, ironically, I do get car sick. Not long ago I sat in a car for a 3 hour drive with one stop off and before I could properly get out the car at the end of the journey I had to stick my head out the side and throw up. Yuck 🙁

              Being up until now a city dweller I always rode bicycles and I even have an obseesion for old classic and antique bicycles and I never bothered to get a driving permit. Never liked cars. Ironically (alot of irony) I work helping to organise historic motor racing amongst other things. I don’t cars though I really dont. I might have to get a moped when I move out of town to get to work but I’ll probably never get a driving permit.

              A big old Schooner is probably one of the most beautiful things you could go out on and I highly recomment it. If it is large you shouldn’t have trouble with sickness. Even when the water is turbulent on the great lakes the swell is minimal. That is to say the waves may be high but they are sharp and close together so a big boat won’t rock as such. At sea the waves gather over much longer distances and become like long hills making even a big boat rock or just climb and plunge – usually if the wind comes up you can have smaller waves which run over the swell, the long waves. Even in good weather there is a swell especially if a storm has happened far out at sea. No wind but waves like big hills. You don’t get that on the great lakes. I used to live on lake Ontario and went many time to lake Huron which is fairly huge and I know how bad the storms can be. The waves can be very high and extremely dangerous for a small boat because of there closeness and sharpness. They can flip a boat side on. Hopefull this big beautiful schooner will be big enough to make it all ok regardless! Sounds like fun to me – I would definitely go 🙂

              1. Ruth (Monty's Mom)

                The schooner is 88 feet and is a replica of freight schooners used in the 1800’s. Is 88 feet long enough to give a smooth ride? I hope so. They have a second replica in the museum and we toured that. It seemed small.

                I see now that Michael was right– Lake Michigan is the biggest in one country. Lake Superior borders Canada.

                1. Yes, I was going to respond but you got it. It must look like a sea. Is a called a lake because it has fresh water rather than salt water? There are some landlocked seas aren’t there? Caspian Sea for example.

      3. Hello Marc
        I know the Aries very well I lived on board for two seasons in the late 70’s . At that time she was in the port of San Jean Cap Ferrat. We used to take her to Corsica for a month in August every year and go diving. Michelle P owned the boat and I probably met you on board at some stage. Mainly stayed anchored Girolata,Corsica. I would be interested in hearing from you if that suits.
        Nowadays I live in Australia and have just returned from sailing a catamaran from Bundaberg to Brisbane.
        Email po******@hu********.au.

    2. The story reminds me of the tiger. The Sumatran tiger has been seen swimming in open sea about 2 miles from shore heading for one of the small islands off Sumatra. Tigers are great swimmers and they like water.

      When the domestic cat has to, he swims very effectively even if it is the first time and in the sea. Humans have to have lessons.

      1. I didn’t consider the fact that it was probably their first time swimming. That makes it all the more amazing. It’s obvious now that you mention it. Maybe they had never swum before in their lives – can you imagine the bravery and overcoming of fear it must take to jump into deep water for the first time ever not even knowing how to swim. That is actually crazy when you think about it. Truly amazing. I hadn’t grasped the situation fully when I first read it. Thanks for pointing that out Michael, obvious though it may be.

        1. Ruth (Monty's Mom)

          I know how difficult it can be to swim in Lake Michigan when the sea is rough. Of course, that’s when I love swimming the most– four to six foot waves. Awesome, bring it on! Except that I stay where I can touch bottom when needed when it’s like that. To be a tiny cat out at sea, in the waves– that’s got to be tough. They were probably terrified. My mom had a cat who would swim out to them in Lake Delton because she got lonely onshore. That’s different than swimming out of necessity in open the open sea.

        2. Swimming is totally hard-wired into the cat as is jumping and climbing etc. People think cats don’t like water. They often don’t really like it but many do and all cats can cope very well in it and all can swim well.

          Looking at that choppy sea it must have been hard to navigate for a domestic cat but no problems. And they got out of the boat on their own by the sound of it.

  2. God, I love this story. I love it because cats are some damn good at survival and they do it without complaint and instinctively. People who own cats should remember or recognise how amazingly skilled the domestic cat is.

    Your cat is lounging around the living room. He is sleeping for ever. He wants his dinner.

    And…he is the best damned predator and survivor on the planet..

    Jumping, swimming, running, hunting, hiding, seeing, smelling, stealth…all are carried to an excellent standard and more.

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