Cat stows away in engineer’s van on three-hour island ferry trip
An engineer had an unexpected passenger when his neighbour's cat stowed away in his van as he made a 100-mile round trip to fix broadband at an island fire station.
Tia the cat sneaked into Doug Craig's van as he loaded up in Oban, Argyll and Bute, early one morning, and hid in the back for the three-hour ferry crossing to Arinagour on Coll in the Inner Hebrides.
He only spotted the cat several hours later after he had fixed a fault in the fire station's broadband wiring, and realised the stowaway was his neighbours' pet.
Mr Craig, 31, said: "It was a last-minute trip due to an urgent data fault at the voluntary fire station on Coll. I was working for a few hours before I realised Tia was there.
"I'd noticed my tool bag was all hairy and thought it was really odd. I got the fright of my life when I saw two eyes shining out from the back of the van.
"At first I thought a Coll cat had sneaked in but then I got a closer look and recognised her from home. I thought, 'Oh no, I've cat-napped my neighbours' pet!'
"I've heard of other curious cats climbing into colleagues' vans on occasion - but I've never heard of one that went to sea on a 100-mile round trip."
Mr Craig contacted his mother back in Oban and asked her to let his neighbours, Elyse and Martin Hamilton, know where Tia was so they and their children, Stanley, seven, and Beatrix, five, would not worry.
He then dashed to the island's general store to stock up on tuna and biscuits before it shut for the afternoon.
As there was no ferry until the next day, Tia spent the night in the back of the van while Mr Craig slept in a tent.
She was reunited with her owners when Mr Craig returned to the mainland after a night on Coll.
Mrs Hamilton, a home economics teacher, said the family were surprised by their pet's late summer adventure.
She said: "Tia can be quite shy and independent and it wasn't until Doug's mum knocked on the door we actually realised she was missing.
"She's snuck off for wee excursions in others' cars before - and even gone to work with Martin - but taking a holiday to Coll is wildly adventurous, even for her.
"Thankfully she was too timid to come out of the van and go exploring. Needless to say we were delighted to get her back safe and sound.
"We're beyond grateful to Doug for taking such good care of her - as I was trying to fathom how we would manage a trip to Coll to bring her home.
"We're hoping she's had quite enough adventures for a while, although she seems to have really warmed up to Doug and we could see her trying it again to get spoiled."
Mr Craig, a former postman who joined digital network provider Openreach as an apprentice, works across a rural patch that also includes the Inner Hebridean islands of Tiree, Mull and Colonsay.
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