For ten years, surfer and environmentalist Liz Clark has been exploring the Pacific Ocean via a 40-foot boat named Swell. She first set sail from her California home base in 2006 to pursue a lifelong dream of extended sea travel, and she has since voyaged around Mexico, Central America, Kiribati, and Polynesia, covering over 18,000 aquatic miles.
More often than not, Clark has journeyed on her own, though she’s met treasured friends and like-minded outdoor explorers along the way. On her website, she says she enjoys “indulging in the freedom of solitude and making choices based on weather and swell forecasts rather than itineraries,” and her solitary steering has inspired a sense of agency and personal development as expansive as the deep blue sea.
Despite enjoying the freedom of solitude, she did welcome a furry, four-footed co-captain in 2013: a rescued cat she named Amelia in honor of Amelia Earhart, but fondly refers to as Tropicat. When Clark and Amelia first met (on land, of course), the feral feline was skinny and hungry, but seemed to have a “commanding lioness air and carefree bravado.” Clark immediately recognized the cat as a kindred spirit with a “similar thirst for adventure” and brought the new kitty crew member aboard.
Adapting to the nomadic lifestyle took a bit of time and tribulation for the cat, who isn’t particularly fond of the sea, especially after a few accidental incidents of toppling overboard. But Clark constructed a ladder from an old towel draped over the side of the boat, making it easier for Amelia to crawl back on deck when necessary.
They share high sea adventures but Amelia also joins Clark ashore for beach walks and jungle hikes, and she even pounces around the forest while Clark practices yoga.
As cute as she looks, this furry feline is a fierce hunter and likes to grab for fish over the side of the boat.
Though their time together can be exciting, Amelia and Clark have shared more than a few restful moments, too.
Clark refers to Amelia as the “star of her own mystery film–a sexy, heartless secret agent always on a mission.” Apparently, that mission took the wild and wily feline on a quest of her own in February 2015, when she escaped.
Clark assumed her cat copilot was gone for good–too adventurous and independent, just like her human companion, not to follow her own path. Fortunately, Amelia eventually returned after 42 days to rejoin Clark on her continuously evolving oceanic exploration.
Clark explains that her journey “isn’t just a surf trip–it’s a lifestyle, passion, and search for better ways for humanity to inhabit our shared planet.” Though her needs and resources are minimal, she says she has “never felt more fulfilled.”
It’s not always smooth sailing–with or without Amelia for a companion, the work can sometimes feel daunting. And yet, “without these adversities, the simple joys would never be as sweet.” We assume she’s talking about these stunning sunsets she gets to watch from the water with a furry friend by her side.
All images via Liz Clark.