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Raindance 03-24-2001 06:39 PM

CRUISING WITH DOGS
 
My wife and I sailed from Anapolis to the Bahamas and back on Raindance, our Pacific Seacraft Crealock 37. I thought it was going to be a disaster, but it turned out to be great. Here''s how we made it work for us:

We chose a boat that had enough room in the cockpit, was easy for the dogs to get forward with safety, and be able to go below without our assistance. The C-37, like most boats, has a ladder to get down below, but by removing the ladder and building large staggered steps (with good traction), and having a quarter berth next to the companionway, we had self sufficient dogs. The modification also gave us more room in the boat, a safer way to get up and down, and made engine access easier. An afternoon playing "what if we..." will go a long way to make your life easier, as other cruisers traveling with the standard ladder were always at the beck and call of their dogs.

Safety was easy. We puchaced bright nylon harnesses, which the dogs always wore. They never fell overboard, but a boat pole with a hook on it was always nearby. My wife practiced dog overboard routines until we both knew what to do. She had to fight the urge to jump overboard to "save" the dogs, and instead was only charged with throwing all the cockpit cushions overboard and to maintain contact with the swimming dog. Once we got back to the dog, we would idle the boat as close as possible, toss the dinghy overboard, and I would then get the dog into the dinghy, and ultimately back on board Raindance.

I can''t stress strongly enough that you should have an inflatable as a dingy if cruising with dogs (and kids). The stability will always set your mind at ease. Don''t worry about toenail punctures - we had an inflatable bottom, with no floorboards, and never had a problem. Another thing to look at is freeboard. Our C-37 has a low freeboard, which allowed the dogs to get into the dingy by themselves, and back onboard with just a little effort on our parts.

A final thing we did is to run netting from bow to stern. It caught me several times in big seas. Also, when in big seas, the dogs had to stay down below or in the cockpit. During anchoring or docking they also had to stay in the cockpit.

At first we always rowed the dogs to shore twice a day, no matter what the weather. This was a mistake, as the dogs only required one 3-day passage to learn that the foredeck was the new back yard. We had a saltwater deck wash pump, and it was worth its weight in gold. The teak decks didn''t mind - in fact, the teak decks were great for doggie foot traction. You might have heard horror stories about teak decks in the tropics, but our were of high quality and never leaked, never seemed to hot to walk on with bare feet, and made life easier for the dogs.

We bought one of those food shrink bag things, and spent an evening bagging up one week meal bags. We also brought canned food in case of an emergency bag leak. A real plus on many levels was the installation of a water maker - $2000 well spent. We used island water for showers (2X a day!) and dish washing, and used the water maker for drinking water for the dogs and us. I would strongly recommend that for anyone, regardless of bringing pets. You will soon learn that one of the greatest luxuries of cruising is the ability to be wastefull with water.

We had our vet prepare a dog medical kit, and got a dog medical book to help us out. We did all of the shots, blood tests, and checkups before the cruise, and prepared to follow the rules for bringing dogs into the Bahamas. When the weather was right for crossing the Gulf Stream, we didn''t have time to get the mandatory vet certificate in Miami. When we got to the Bahamas, imagration didn''t care, they just wanted the $20 fee for bringing in the dogs.

The dogs loved swimming, walks on the beach, staring at fish, and went crazy when we had dolphins at our bow. They spent most sailing time with us in the cockpit, and most motoring time at the bow on "dolphin alert."

We are not outgoing people, so having the dogs on board or in town brought people to us. Most cruisers didn''t know us as Jack and Toni from Raindance, they knew us as The Dog People. The dogs were never sea sick, never complained, always seemed to be having fun, and only had one problem. Our older Golden Retriever broke a toenail on a deck fitting that exposed the quick, but a radio call to other boaters in Georgetown in the Exuma chain of the Bahamas found a cruiser that was a vet. Between his medical kit and ours we reattached the toenail, wrapped it up, and protected her foot from water for 10 days until it had healed.

The final change was our destination. We had originally planned to sail from Seattle to the South Pacific, but we thought the long passages would be too much for the dogs. Also, most former British islands won''t let dogs get off the boat. Most former French and Dutch islands are more dog friendly, so we trucked our boat to Anapolis and settled on a shorter cruise in the Bahamas.

In summary, with the right boat, the right dogs, and the right destination, you will have a great time with your dogs, and have a richer experience for bringing them. I wish you good luck, and if you live anywhere in the West, I''d be happy to meet you with a picture album and make some recommendations for your boat.

Happy tails!

VWG 03-29-2001 08:34 PM

CRUISING WITH DOGS
 
Dear Raindance:
Thank you for the great information. My husband and I are planning to sail from Portland, Or. to Glacier Bay, Alaska the first of May and in the late summer, south to Mexico. We have 2 dogs (a skipperke and a doberman mix). Your information was so helpful and reassuring. We will now be living on our boat and cruising full time. I am wondering how you handled the times when the weather or seas were rough and the dogs were below. Do you have any suggestions that might lessen the stress on them. Do you do anything special with your dogs at those times (tether, crate, etc)?
Thanks for your insight and sharing your experiences.
Vicky

Raindance 04-01-2001 05:51 PM

CRUISING WITH DOGS
 
Our worst weather was crossing the Gulf Stream, which was just terrible. We brought tranquilizers that our vet gave us, so the dogs were groggy/sleeping during the crossing. Other than that, the only sense of stress that we picked up from them was just like at home - they were only unhappy when they weren''t near us. When they were above, no matter what the weather, they had nylon harnesses on. In bad weather, they were attached to the boat just like we were. You will have a great time on your cruise, and so will your dogs - just be carefull with them in bear country. If they wander ahead of you and a bear chases them, they will bring the bear straight to YOU!

crkelly 04-01-2001 07:34 PM

CRUISING WITH DOGS
 
Thanks for telling all about you experiences. You''ve given me more confidence with my live aboard dreams. I always knew i could have the dog with me, WOULD have the dog with me, but hearing from someone else doing the same is great. I have a Newfoundland Dog, that will be coming aboard with me once I finish the restoration of my boat. Again, thanks for the stories.

Chris Kelly

KelKarDen 04-15-2001 07:26 AM

CRUISING WITH DOGS
 
We own a Beneteau 381 and this fall we plan on taking her down the ICW to Florida. We own a small Shepard/Terrier mixed and would like to try to take a side trip to the Bahama Islands. What is the procedure for taking a dog ashore in the Bahamas??

Dennis and Karen

Raindance 04-22-2001 05:55 PM

CRUISING WITH DOGS
 
The official proceedure can be found in most cruising guides. You are supposed to get a vet certificate (I think it must be done within 24 hours of leaving port), sail to a port of entry, and then show the vet certificate to the customs official and pay a small fee.

We could not get a vet certificate before leaving, but the customs official couldn''t care less. He stamped the "official" certificate we made on our computer, took our money, and said "welcome to the Bahamas, mon." I don''t think you will find anyone who cares; we sure didn''t.

Denr 05-18-2001 01:55 PM

CRUISING WITH DOGS
 
We took our cat cruising a few years ago, what a life saver! We ran out of food half way across the Atlantic and ate the cat! He saved our lifes and was damm tastie stir fried.

sbuster 06-04-2001 04:56 PM

CRUISING WITH DOGS
 
Anyone with knowledge: for 6 months of off and on cruising I have not been able to convince my cocker spaniel that its ok to "go" on the boat. I''ve tried a specially prepared box on the rear deck of a 40 foot Cat cruiser along with the scent that tells him this is a place to "go". Still, he holds it till I get close enough to shore to dingy in. Rusty has done a good job of training me, but I would still love to take him off shore and not have him be in pain. Anyone, please help.

Raindance 06-16-2001 07:29 PM

CRUISING WITH DOGS
 
We had the same problem - the dogs did a great job of training us to row to shore twice a day. We finally went to a pet store and got some puppy training pads that were scented with dog urine and put them on the foredeck. That and a 3 day passage is what it finally took to break their habit. Almost everyone we talked to had to wait 3 days before their dog would finally go. If that fails, I know of one boat that had a 2'' X 2'' X 4" box that they grew grass on. It worked!

rubzow 06-19-2001 02:39 PM

CRUISING WITH DOGS
 
What great information! I think that the "Sue & Larry" article called Cruising with Canines is also very informative. I sail with my Shih-Tzu/Poodle cross. He always wears a life jacket when we cross the Georgia Straight (between Vancouver & Vancouver Island) or at least a harness when we are day sailing. When we first started taking Ralphie sailing, I gave him a Bach Flower remedy called "Rescue Remedy". You can find it at any health food store or holistic medicine clinic. Just a few drops in the mouth of the pet (or under your own tongue) will relax and calm them (or you) drug-free. See a photo of my dog''s life jacket on my personal page - rubzow. I bought the jacket from an outfit called Ruffwear in Oregon. Their website is www.ruffwear.com. In Canada, you can order the jacket from www.canineequipment.com.


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