Captain Cooper, a Bengal cat, has been sailing almost 7,000 nautical miles with his owner, Stephanie Mansberger. Despite his love for water, Cooper is not only focused on maintaining a steady course and fulfilling his duties as a cabin kitty but also finds time to play. He loves using the mast as his scratch post, chasing birds who dare board his ship, and exploring all the nooks and crannies of the sailboat.
When not sailing, Cooper spends time kayaking and cycling together. Stephanie, who grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia, studied Interior Design and Communication Studies at West Virginia University. After finishing college, she set sail and worked as an interior design intern at WVU and as a sailing instructor in the Florida Keys with the Boy Scouts. She worked on becoming a licensed captain and obtaining her American Sailing Association teaching certificates.
After obtaining her license, she began working with Island Dreamer Sailing School as one of their instructors. She sailed with Island Dreamer for almost five years, mostly sailing the Miami/Florida Keys area but also taking fun trips in Greece and the Intracoastal Waterway. She was sent to the Bahamas to be a sailing instructor model for one of their teaching manuals and explored the Abaco Islands with the photography crew.
Captain Cooper’s love for sailing began when he was introduced to the breed by sailing students from Canada who had Savannah cats. They were suggested by someone on board who had dog-like qualities and could walk on a leash. The Bengal breed was loved for their intelligence, curiosity, vocality, water-loving nature, and interest in everything they were doing.
The author chose to adopt Cooper, a Bengal breed cat, after searching for Bengal breeders online. They found Indian Creek Bengals in PA, and the owner, Norine, was friendly and informative. Cooper was chosen due to his large kitten ears and markings, which made him a perfect fit for the author’s schedule. Cooper lived aboard with the author for around two years, and he had his own life jacket and water-activated strobe light for safety. He learned to use the ladder on the back of the boat for anchoring and sleeping in a soft-sided dog crate for nighttime sleep.
The author never experienced any issues with Cooper, such as getting sea sick or getting tangled in the rope. Cooper was always ready to help with tasks, such as cooking, doing dishes, or email correspondence. He was also an evening entertainment for guests, playing hide and seek and tag on the deck. Cooper was curious and wanted to help with everything, from teaching students how to tie knots to raising sails.
Cooper also provided company during long hours of charter laundry, driving with the author to a local laundromat for coffee and whipped cream toppings. Cooper’s love for water and his ability to play hide and seek made sailing more enjoyable for the author and their guests. Cooper’s presence on the boat made sailing more fun and made the experience more enjoyable for the author.
A typical day aboard the Catalina Morgan Capri involves waking up at 7am to prepare for future charters, preparing for the day and trip plan, and preparing for the next round of charter. The crew prepares the boat for the next round by gathering laundry, making meal provision lists, cleaning decks, repacking sails, organizing teaching materials, and making guest berths/heads.
During the day, the crew works out, read, play with Cooper, update their blog, and take a day off. They also prepare the boat for the next round of charter by preparing laundry, making meal provision lists, cleaning decks, and organizing teaching materials.
The crew shares some regrets about buying Cooper too much stuff, as the boat had a lot of things for him to explore and watch. However, they are used to seeing young and female captains in the Keys, and some guests are surprised or in doubt when they see them on the water behind the helm.
Some memorable experiences include the sunsets and photography opportunities of the Keys, exploring Boca Chita Island, and retelling the history of Boca Chita to guests. The crew plans to set sail again this spring/summer with a red sailboat, a Tanzer 26, currently in Oriental, NC, and will have several weekends to sail around the Neuse River.