In 30 years working on South Ferry boats, Captain Ed Kotula has seen lots of four-legged stowaways. Mice, chipmunks, squirrels, even a deer once managed to get on board.
But until a Tuesday morning this past July, he’d never seen or heard of an unaccompanied feline patrolling the deck.
The captain remembered it was smack in the middle of the morning rush. After off-loading passengers and vehicles from North Haven to the Island and preparing to load the boat for the return run, the crew spotted a black and gray tabby with brown highlights scurrying here and there on the deck before leaping to one of the rails of the ferry.
It was an incident that the men and women who work on the boats definitely do not need when they’re trying to hit schedules during one of the busiest months of the year.
Innovation saved the day. Captain Roni King, working with the crew that day, got a broom and coaxed the cat — who had no collar, no tags — off the rail. Then it was Captain Mike Mundy’s turn to corral the cat to start getting some impatient drivers on board. He gently put a raincoat over the spooked cat and set her on the Island side.
Captain Kotula had a bit of trouble sleeping that night, he said, wondering about the cat’s fate.
Early the next morning she was discovered in the small gate house South Ferry has on the Island side. Animal Control Officer Beau Payne was notified.
“My first cat call, so to speak,” Officer Payne said, adding that usually the only calls he gets concerning cats is when they’re lost. He got the stowaway into a cage on his truck and drove to the office.
Captain Kotula decided, he said, “to take a shot in the dark,” trying to remember if he had recognized any vehicles from that early morning run the day before.
He recalled seeing Mark Daniels’ truck that he used for his tree service business. The captain and his wife Vicki are long-time friends of Mark’s mother and father, Sue and Al Daniels, who live in Sag Harbor.
He called home and asked Vicki to give Sue Daniels a call.
Ms. Daniels remembers her friend Vicki asking, “Are you missing a cat?”
Ms. Daniels looked around for her 16-year-old tabby, Margot. “I could be,” she said.
There had been a wicked thunderstorm the night before, but Ms. Daniels never worried about Margot, who is elderly and deaf, because “she’s a homebody, she never leaves the yard,” and assumed Margot had ridden out the storm in one favorite cozy spot or another.
Told the Shelter Island animal control officer had taken a cat from South Ferry, Ms. Daniels immediately knew it was Margot, and how she had managed to make it across the water.
The Daniels give courses at Camp Quinipet in the summer. One course is the craft of seine hauling, and since the nets are large and bulky, they borrowed Mark’s truck to take the nets to the Island. Margot likes to sleep in the spare tire under the truck, Ms. Daniels said.
It’s not clear what woke her, but she obviously ditched the truck in mid-stream.
Ms. Daniels caught the next boat to the Island and brought Margot home, who presumably has at least eight more lives to live.