Boats, Dogs, Cruising and Training

Author:
Publish date:
Baxter the dog in his lifevest, waiting to go ashore

Baxter in his vest, waiting to go ashore

Dogs are dogs and boats are boats, and somehow the twain must meet

After persistent lobbying from daughter Lucy, who is crazy about animals of all sorts, we recently adopted a dog, and I’ve been confronted with the problem of introducing it to the boats in my life.

Thinking about this, I realized there are long strands of both boats and dogs in my family line but in alternating generations. My great-great grandfather was a crazy boat guy, of whom it was once said he’d buy a boat as thoughtlessly as he would a morning newspaper. His daughter, my great-grandmother, in her prime, kept more than a hundred dogs and today most likely would be branded a criminal animal hoarder. My grandmother always had boats, even lived aboard for a while, but kept no dogs. My mother meanwhile raised me in a menagerie that at its zenith included 10 dogs, a flock of swans and ducks, two otters, a gibbon and a civet cat.

Now it’s up to me and Baxter, a 2-year-old rescue dog from Georgia, to somehow fuse these opposing forces together.

I started with a small boat, Mimi, our 13ft sailing skiff. Holding it firmly against the dock while sitting in its cockpit, I invited Baxter to join me, and he looked at me like a prisoner condemned to the gallows. I tugged on his leash to encourage him, and he firmly resisted with all 40lb of his taut fighting-dog physique.

I didn’t push it that time, but I did the next. I just picked him up and put him in the inflatable, and when we got out to Lunacy, our 39ft cutter, we heaved him onto the transom like a piece of luggage. We took him sailing for a day, and at least he never panicked.

The big test came early this past summer when I took him out alone for a week’s cruise up the Maine coast. I brought along a bag of kibble, some toys and what I hoped might serve for a toilet: a brand-new welcome mat for the foredeck, plus a bottle of special spray to mark it with.

Baxter was nervous at first. Returning from his first walk ashore, he frantically leapt overboard as I landed the dinghy on Lunacy’s transom. Even with his life-vest on, he sank like a stone. The following day he started climbing in and out of the dinghy on his own and soon was more confident. Whenever I picked up his life-vest, he wagged his tail tentatively and waited calmly for me to put it on. When we were sailing he lay quietly on the saloon settee.

He evinced little interest in the welcome mat, however, even though I sprayed it liberally with marking solution every morning and evening. Eventually, he did lick the mat to see what this tasted like but showed no sign of wanting to relieve himself on it. Thus I plotted a strategic, if somewhat tedious, course up the coast, making quick stops each afternoon for toilet runs ashore.

At the end of the cruise, I had an old sailing buddy aboard and told him of this problem. He laughed and told me the tale of a boat dog he had as a young man and of the terrible ordeal it suffered. It never did its business onboard, he said, at least not until it went out on its first ocean passage. Then it was bottled up for days holding everything in and in the end only relieved itself when it was frightened out of its mind on a spray-drenched foredeck in the midst of a roaring gale.

I immediately realized how delusional I’d been. Training the dog to go on the boat during a coastal cruise with land always in sight obviously would require great discipline and also perhaps a sadistic eagerness to watch an animal suffer.

So, for now, I think I must bide my time and resign myself to pit-stop cruising when sailing close to shore. It seems the ultimate reckoning, the final fusion of the diametric energies in my family’s history, will have to wait until that fateful day when I take Baxter sailing offshore.

SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane, sails his Tanton 39, Lunacy, on the Maine coast and down in the West Indies whenever he gets the chance. He is the author of The Modern Cruising Sailboat, published by International Marine, and is a contributing blogger at SAILfeed.com

Check out some Pets Onboard! SAIL Reader's Pet Photos 

Related

MHS-GMR_3549

New Multihulls 2018

Farrier F-22 New Zealander Ian Farrier ushered in a new genre of sailing with his folding-ama trailerable trimarans, the best-known of which are the Corsair designs. Farrier’s last project before he passed away last year was this sweet little tri. Available in three versions, ...read more

shutterstock_373701682

Cruising: Island Comeback

The U.S. Virgins Islands have surged back from the devastation of the 2017 hurricanes, with new infrastructure plans that will benefit charterers and cruisers alike. After hurricanes Irma and Maria roared through the Leeward Islands in September 2017, it was impossible to ...read more

albintoilet

Gear: Albin Pump Marine Toilet

Head Start Is there room for a new marine toilet? Albin Pump Marine thinks so, having just introduced its line of Swedish-built heads—ranging from compact to full-size models—to the American market. The toilets feature vitreous porcelain bowls and either wooden or thermoplastic ...read more

07n_45R2699

Multihull Sailor: Classic Cats

If you’re looking for a decent sub-40ft cruising cat, you have few choices when it comes to new-boat offerings. It is a well-known fact that the multihull market has taken off in a way very few could have predicted. Despite Hurricane Irma’s recent destruction of a large part of ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Thanks a bunch  This scene is very calm and seamanlike. No frantic rope throwing or shouting. As he passes the line to the gent on the dock, the crew on the boat says, quietly and clearly, “Would you ...read more

mcarthy-and-mouse

Experience: McCarthy and the Mouse

Sitting at the helm in a light breeze, my arms crusted with a fine rime of salt, my skin so dry I’d lost my fingerprints, I heard a clatter and a curse from below. There were only three of us a thousand miles from shore and only one on watch at a time. Usually, the off watch lay ...read more