Sailing With Pets: How to Cat-Proof Your Boat

After marrying in 2008, Luisa Mixon and her husband, Seth, set their eyes to the sea. Like many Sailrite® customers, their dream was to buy a sailboat, learn to sail, and eventually gain enough experience to live completely on board. When they envision their retirement years, they see themselves sailing wherever their hearts, and the wind, take them. Their journey towards making this dream a reality has been one of excitement, hard work and ingenuity. They grow closer to reaching it every day.

Before becoming sailors, Luisa and Seth would often browse used sailboat websites and peruse sailboat shows, window shopping and gathering ideas for the type of boat they would purchase when the time was right. Most of the searching was just for fun, as actually owning a boat had always seemed far on the horizon. Then one day at the end of May 2018, something amazing happened that would catapult them into a new life sailing and sewing: They found their dream boat for sale in Long Beach, California.

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Seth and Luisa sailing their newest purchase.

“The boat — a 1989 Ericson 38-200 named Astral — was beautiful and in excellent condition, so we ended up buying it. Less than a month later we were proud owners of a sailboat even though we didn’t know how to sail! Crazy, right?”

The couple then chose a marina in San Pedro, California, so the boat would be closer to their home, and learned the ropes from a few neighboring sailors. By August they had completed their first solo sailing trip and had fallen in love with life on the water. To complete the crew, the next step was to make the boat safe for Luisa’s two rescue cats, Charlie and Astro. You see, these aren’t your average felines. Charlie, a 13-year-old tabby, needs special medicine every 12 hours and Astro, a 10-year-old Bombay, requires special food for medical reasons. Considering that both animals warranted extra attention and could not be left alone for extended periods of time, it just made more sense to bring them aboard. But in order to do that, the living area of the boat had to be completely “cat proof” first.

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The Ericson (named Astral), Charlie (top right) and Astro – ready to set sail!

In preparation for this project, Luisa had already been following the videos of other sailors who had completed tons of DIYs for their boat. One of these was Project Atticus, a couple who sail abroad for months at a time and sew their own projects using the Sailrite Ultrafeed® LSZ-1. After looking at the Sailrite website and YouTube channel, Luisa finally felt she had the confidence to start a project of her own: a new bimini and screened-in cat enclosure. Naturally, the next step was to choose a dependable sewing machine and gather supplies.

“I had never touched a sewing machine in my life, so I was eager and nervous to start. We wanted the best for our boat, a machine with excellent quality that would last a long time, so I ordered the Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 PREMIUM and every single material and tool that was suggested in the videos. It was so exciting!”

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Luisa and her Ultrafeed LSZ-1 were ready to tackle any project.

Now fully prepared, the real work could begin. With their marina being so close to Catalina Island (around 20 nautical miles), Luisa and Seth decided to challenge themselves and plan a Thanksgiving sailing expedition. This meant that the new bimini and enclosure would have to be done quickly. Being from Colombia, Luisa’s DIY adventure came with a new set of hurdles, all of which she was able to overcome.

“My first language is not English, and I had never sewn before, so the hardest part was my pace completing the projects. I had to go slow watching the videos, understanding the English. And because I wanted my project to be perfect, or at least close to perfect, I had to go back and forth, checking to make sure I was doing things right.”

Luisa took a week off work and toiled for 16 hours each day to sew her own bimini and screened-in enclosure with help from Sailrite. She soon developed a love for the work and was extremely satisfied when the finished product fit perfectly. By the end of it all, she had created a lasting addition to Astral that would come in handy on future expeditions with her four-legged first mates.

“My cats love to be on the boat … once it’s at anchor and they’re placed in the enclosure, they’re very happy. They love to see the seagulls, seals and fish. It’s amazing for them and I’m happy if they are safe and happy!”

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Luisa and Seth initially eased into their sailing journey, hoping to gradually acclimate their furry companions to life aboard. They started staying overnight at the marina on weekends and then practiced anchoring twice at White’s Island, staying for four nights each time. Luisa’s confidence with the Ultrafeed has allowed her to create several other useful projects for the boat. Along with the bimini and cat enclosure, she’s created screens for the windows below deck, modified her V-berth cushions and sewn a generator cover. She has her sights set on sewing new sheet bags and sail covers, with many more DIY sewing endeavors on the to-do list.

The plan for this sea-faring couple is to eventually move aboard Astral permanently. They’ve been placed on a waiting list, as it can take years to get the liveaboard slip, but the faster this happens, the faster they can retire and start exploring the open ocean. As for now, the pair are simply enjoying the journey that brings them closer to their dream.

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“In the meantime, we are sailing every Saturday and doing boat projects on Sunday. We work regular jobs Monday through Friday but we are practicing and learning more about sailing every day … reading books, watching videos, and continuing to sail to Catalina and White’s Island. We want to enjoy our boat to the fullest before we cast off!”

14 thoughts on “Sailing With Pets: How to Cat-Proof Your Boat”

  1. WHAT A WONDERFUL STORY OF TEAMWORK AND A LOVE FOR THE SAME THING.
    SAILING LOOKS LIKE A GREAT PROJECT. GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR SAILBOAT AND YOUR GREAT LOOKING CATS.​
    BEST REGARDS,
    JOAB IRWIN

    1. Sailing seems to be an endless project, which has given us a new purpose in life, and we are so happy to bring our furry babies with us. It’s so rewarding. We thank you for your kind words!

  2. Enjoy reading your story. I am living with my husband and my 2 cats on a 38’ ft catamaran. My cats are 13 and 11yrs old and they ask some special care too but we enjoy to have them on board. Good luck in your project.

  3. Hi Seth and Luisa, thank you so much for sharing. Really enjoyed this article and all the pictures. Do y’all have a YouTube channel we can subscribe to. Would love to follow y’alls adventures. Luv from Alvin and Rita

    1. Hi Rita and Alvin, thank You for reading our story 🙂 We don’t have a YouTube channel (yet?) perhaps when we untie the lines we would have more time to work on it, for now, we just have an Instagram account (Sailing_SVAstral) where we share some of our sailing adventures. You are welcome to follow us there! <3

  4. Loved your story, I am a professional canvas fabricator and sailmaker and am thrilled when someone takes on a project and does a great job! I was a live aboard with my husband, sans cat, but add toddler! Some of my best memories! Congratulations!

    1. Hi Heidi, I never imagined all the hard work and dedication canvas project can require. Even the simplest project (that people think it looks easy to do) requires time and hard work, Ohh and so far I haven’t deal with sails :-O
      I appreciate your comment. Thank you!!

  5. You go girl! I lived aboard with my Dachsund, he looked so cute rushing around the deck in his life jacket. Cats are easier, you have to dinghy ashore for the dogs.
    Joy

    1. Hi Joy, Dachsunds are adorable!! So far we have only cats, and we’ll be that way for a while. Please give that bundle of love of yours a kiss from us and our cats 🙂

  6. I LOVE this! Our teenager cat “Dinghy” will be moving onboard with us Fall 2019 and this has given me confidence to make a cat enclosure for him. THANK YOU FOR SHARING!!! I would love any other suggestions and tips from other live aboard cat owners as well! (like…do they get seasick too?)

    1. Thank you! We aren’t liveaboards yet, however, I can tell you they love the boat and their enclosure! When we take them out, which is usually when staying at anchor for few days, Charlie the tabby, he gets seasick sometimes, he pukes and goes to the litter box right after the boat starts moving /sailing, then he just lay down and waits till we are at anchor to start checking the view (through the enclosure)! Astro, on the other hand, has never been seasick. We are on Instagram as @sailing_svastral. You can check us out as we go on our adventures and feel free to ask questions about the enclosure 🙂

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