These are the voyages of the sailing vessel Pétillant. Her original eight-month mission: to sail from Baltimore to France via Florida and the Bahamas, to successfully navigate the shoals of the French douane, to boldly go where few Maine Coon cats have gone before was completed in 2008. Now she is berthed in Port Medoc and sails costal Spain, France, and the UK during the summer months.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Back in Stuart Again

Well, it has been a while since we updated this blog, but it has been quite a busy time, with amazingly good results. We spent 2 weeks here cleaning up the boat and getting ready to move the kitties, which included a last-minute trip to the vet to get an up-to-date health certificate. This was a good practice session for the big trip, and everyone seemed to do quite well. Dante caused a stir in the vet office when we let him out of the carrier – one person asked whether he was really a domesticated cat.

On April 17, we left the boat with 4 kitties, 7 bags, 2 bicycles, and 3 carry-ons, for Miami airport. We were joined in Hobe Sound by our friend Karen, and we had a limo-service pick us up there for the trip to the airport. We had an entire full-size van and a trailer to ourselves, which was good because of the large number of bags, and the 2-hour drive passed with no delays.
At the airport, we found Jim and Patty, who had flown down from Jacksonville, almost immediately, and we merged all of the bags and presented ourselves to the Air France check-in. We wondered, at first, whether we might be able to get the kitties on-board without declaring them, because the initial check-in person did not say anything about carry-ons, but the ticket person noted that we had told AF that we would have a cat, and she asked us to weigh them. Our original plan had been to check in two cats with two people, and then switch the cats in the carriers, and check them in again, with two different people, but because things were going well, we decided to play it straight. We put the first two kitties on the scale, and they were under the 4kg limit. Then, Calypso went on the scale, and she registered 6kg. The agent looked hard at this, but didn’t say anything, and just asked for the fourth cat. So, next was Dante, and he tipped the scale at 9.6 kg (21 lbs, with the carrier). She looked at this, furled her brow, and said that he was too big to take inside the cabin. We responded that he was in the same carrier as the other cats, who were below the limit, and she insisted that he could not go in the cabin. We insisted that he could not go in the hold, and this started a review that escalated through 3 levels of AF management until we found a sympathetic manager who was also a cat owner, who decided that we could take him along. rxc asked at one point whether they wanted to see him, outside the carrier, and this was met with a firm “NO”. They clearly did not relish the thought of a monster cat loose in the check-in area.

With this approval, and boarding passes in hand, we moved next to security, where we had to remove the cats from the carriers and hand-carry them thru the metal detectors. The TSA people were quite amused by this procession of people schlepping cats, and of course, the big red slug attracted the biggest attention. The four felines did not complain at all over this handling, but Dante did resist a bit going back in the carrier. In the end, we made it to the gate about an hour before boarding. Boarding went well – no one wanted to see anything, and we settled in for the trip.

The kitties stayed quiet for the whole trip to Paris, getting a few reassuring pets through slightly opened zippers, but otherwise just accepting their fate, whatever it was to be. In Paris, we passed through immigration quite quickly, and then changed terminals, and had to go through security again for the connecting flight to Bordeaux. Security in Paris was a bit more exciting than Miami, because the supervisor of the screeners there was highly allergic to cats, and when we brought them out to go through the metal detectors, she fled in terror. She came back as rxc was trying to get Dante back in the carrier, which took a bit of time – he seemed to want to get out and take a look around this new world. She told us to move the cats out of the area quickly, in quite a nasty tone. A true Parisian…

The connecting flight to Bordeaux was uneventful, and we landed about on time. We picked up all of the luggage, which all made the connection with no issues, and then proceeded to customs. They saw all the baggage, and started to ask questions about where we were from and where we were going. We explained about changing residences, and that the cats were going to their new homes. They next asked for their papers(Papers pleaze), and we were so glad that we had had them chipped. They pulled out their chip reader, checked the batteries several times, and verified that we had 4 cats with the same chips that were listed on the papers, and wished us a good trip. It seemed like they were quite happy to be able to use their chip reader on a real animal. We then picked up the rental car, which was a medium size VW van. Unfortunately, because we had so much luggage, and 5 people, we had to rent another small car to get it all to the house. But we loaded it all up, and headed to the house, where we arrived about 3:00 pm, and let the cats out of the bags. They immediately headed for the litter pans we set up (everyone held everything for the entire trip, except Zabelle, who had to let loose on the absorbent diaper we installed in the carrier), and started to explore the house.

We then spent nearly 2 weeks getting installed at the house. We showed Jim and Patty and Karen around the area, with trips to St. Emilion, Marmande(which included our first French traffic accident), and up the Dordogne as far as Domme. A great time was had by all. Jim and Patty left to go up to Paris for a few days, and Karen stayed to help unpack and enjoy the French countryside.

On April 29th, rxc and Karen came back to Florida, and rxc has been working hard on getting the last bits ready for the crossing. More in the next installment.

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