A 'Purrrfect' Retirement for a Servant of the Sea


Photo: Daryl Wiest

Delaware’s “Tall Ship,” the Kalmar Nyckel, recently celebrated the retirement of its longest-serving crew member: Toolbox, the ship’s cat.

A darling of the media, the subject of books and the star of her own t-shirt, Toolbox completed her final sailing season with the ship last November. Unfortunately, Toolbox’s vision has gone, so she retires as “ship’s cat” with the love and appreciation of all who served with her.


It’s only fitting that the longest-serving crew member be sent off in style, and her retirement party was attended by the many friends she’s made through her years of sailing. Her shipmates auctioned off the last book “signed” by Toolbox, while guests held her, shared their memories of times with her and, of course, toasted “The Magnificent Toolbox.”

Photo: Mary Asher

Toolbox was born in a shipwright’s toolbox [hence, her name] early in 1998 as the ship was being finished. Captain Hiott brought her aboard as a kitten, and she has served ever since. She knows every nook and cranny of the ship; finds the warmest and most cat-friendly bunks; and has helped train more than 2,000 crew members in showing proper etiquette towards a ship’s cat. She delighted the crew and the public and always represented the best of the ship. And of course, she kept the ship mouse-free. She will be followed, but never replaced, by a ship’s kitten-in-training.

And where will Toolbox spend her “golden years”? With Captain Sharon Dounce (pictured at right), who will provide the 16-year-old kitty with a good home ashore!

Photo: Cassie Sleeper

The crew of the Kalmar Nyckel – and all of us who have had the pleasure of meeting Toolbox – wish her a warm, comfortable, loving retirement, and, as always, “Fair Winds and Following Seas.”


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  • i met this kitty when i was asked to bring my parrot lola, for a movie being filmed on the kalmar nickel. i remember that she was very interested in lola and didn’t take her eyes off of her the entire time. i enjoyed watching her watch lola with such intensity.

  • Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Toolbox’s retirement party. I heard through the grapevine that it was really the Cat’s meow of honoring a sea mate.
    The 2012-2013 flu bug caught me by surprise.
    Fortunately,I have some really nice keepsake pics of Toolbox that I took over the years of sailing on the Kalmar Nyckel since 2005.
    Special memories include Toolbox’s willingness to keep me warm on cold winter night watches. I wonder how many “stinky feet” the dear warmed over the years? Probably, too many to count.
    There will never be another cat to board our ship that will
    “woo” the sailors and guests with it’s intelligence, charm and ‘
    sense of duty.
    Big thanks to Captain Sharon for providing our “retiree”
    with a good and loving retirement home.

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