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I hear a thunk from above, and the boat rocks. A few seconds later, a black shape and a glowing pair of eyes appears outside my hatch. New Port meows, then extends a cautious paw into my boat.  He purrs, jumps to the top of my cooler, and then disappears under the stern, diving into a mess of cushions, sails, and dusty old pillows.

The cat here is not a stray, says the sign up at the showerhouse. He is fed and well taken care of. Please do not take him. New Port has been the marina cat for almost a decade now. There used to be two cats that lived at the marina, Port (or Old Port) and Starboard, but they died years ago.

When I first moved in, my neighbors on the dock warned me that if I was nice to him, he’d take up residence in my boat.

“I don’t mind,” I said.

“You will when he starts bringing you presents,” one of them told me. “The dead birds weren’t so bad, but when I found half a rabbit on the bow, that was when I kicked him out.”

They also warned me to make absolutely sure he’s out of the boat when I close it up. The poor guy got locked in a boat for almost a week once. Someone finally heard his desperate meowing and found him “a little worse for the wear.” He didn’t even scratch up the boat, though, and only left one little poop up in the bow. Sad thing was, there were 3 or 4 cans of tuna right on the shelf, but he couldn’t get into them.

After a few minutes, New Port navigates his way out of the maze under the stern, and spends some time rubbing his head against my laptop, stepping on the keyboard, and being generally distracting.

He makes his way out of the boat, and I hear him thumping along the deck up above. After a few minutes, I poke my head up. He’s still there, a black silhouette sprawled on his side. I climb up into the cool night air and join him on the bow, leaning back against the cabin.

“My boat is your boat, buddy,” I tell him, scratching his side. “As long as you don’t bring any dead animals on board.”

The lake rocks the boat gently. I could fall asleep right here, I think, as I lay there with New Port purring next to me, staring up past the masts of the sailboats, at the moon glowing behind the clouds.