Boat Dog Adventures

What is it like for Honey living on a sailboat?

Let me tell you about our recent boat dog adventure. It’s not the kind of thing that happens every day. But it might have you feeling sorry enough for Honey to offer her a new home.

Honey the golden retriever has boat dog adventures.

My name is Honey. And I’m a boat dog.

Adventures In Anchoring

We’ve been living aboard our sailboat since September 2015. We finally started traveling on her in early November. And we finished dealing with engine issues and repairs in early January.

Because of our late start moving south to the Intracoastal Waterway from the Chesapeake Bay, we didn’t anchor out over night. Instead, we landed in a marina every night so we could take Honey off the boat for playtime and comfort stops. And so we could plug in our space heater using the marina’s shore power.

How cold was it?

Well, let’s just say that when we left Chesapeake, Virginia we were breaking ice.

The snowy view out our port.

January on the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal in Virginia.

But now we’re in lovely South Carolina. Temperatures are warm. And we’re running out of money (marinas are expensive).

It’s time to start anchoring over night.

Honey, are you ready?

Taking The Dog For A Walk

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We read about an easy anchorage off the North Edisto River on Steamboat Creek.

The current was less strong than in some of the nearby rivers. And there was a boat ramp nearby that we could use to take Honey to shore.

We motored Meander into the creek, located a spot that was about 17 feet deep (around 6 meters) and dropped the anchor.

After about an hour, we felt sure the anchor was holding well and we could go onto the next job, taking Honey for her walk.

We began by building our dinghy, Mini Mea. Yep, we have a dinghy that folds up on the deck. We have to open it up, install the seats, and drop the 85 pound monster into the water. It took us about an hour.

It’s quite an adventure on its own.

Dinghy hanging off sailboat halyard.

Heck just managing a 12 foot, 84 pound dinghy (here it is folded and hanging from a halyard) is its own learning curve.

Then we tied the dinghy to the side of the boat so we could get me and Honey into it to row to shore.

I jumped into the dinghy while Mike rigged up a block and tackle to attach to Honey’s Ruffwear Doubleback Harness, It’s a super strong harness used to lift mountaineering dogs.

Honey the golden retriever in her Ruffwear double back harness.

Uh oh, Thoreau said I would beware of enterprises that require new clothes. What could this new harness possibly mean?

We tied the block to the sailboat boom and my husband hoisted Honey with her legs dangling from the harness until she was high enough to move over the protective life lines. As Mike lowered Honey, I caught her in my arms and guided her into the dinghy.

Mike lowering himself into the engine compartment

How did we know the block and tackle would be safe for Honey? We used it to lower Mike into the engine compartment first.

Rigging the block and tackle to lower the boat dog.

Mike rigs the block and tackle so we can lower Honey into the dinghy from the end of the sailboat boom.

We had an easy row (easy because we were going with the current) of about a mile to the boat ramp. I tied off the boat, lifted Honey out, and took her for a walk along the dirt road that led to the ramp.

It was getting dark. The mosquitos and no-see-ums were feasting on us. But Honey was in no hurry. She was off the boat. And she was going to make the most of it.

Finally she had played ball, rolled in the dirt, and sniffed every bush. It was time to row back to Meander.

Pam rows the dinghy.

Rowing is loads of fun in a calm marina.

I Don’t Think We’re Moving

I loaded Honey into the dinghy. I attached my flashlight to the bow so other boats could see us. I untied my line and pushed the boat off the dock.

I rowed off the boat ramp and started pulling hard to get back to the boat. But instead, I was going in the opposite direction. The current had strengthened and was pulling me away from Meander.

Honey laid down on the dinghy floor while I wrestled the boat back into the boat ramp. After four attempts to leave, it was obvious I was not stronger than the current. We’d have to wait.

Luckily I was prepared.

I called my husband on the portable VHF radio I had brought with me and told him what had happened. I asked him when the tide would change, giving me a chance to get back to the boat. He told me sometime after 10 p.m.

This was around 6:30 p.m.

Looks like Honey and I are in for a long wait. In mosquito infested marshland. In the middle of nowhere.

Southern Hospitality

We started walking down the dirt road, looking for signs of life.

I’m usually pretty independent. But I was already thinking I’d be willing to ask for shelter if I found a house nearby.

Soon it was totally dark. I found a stone at the base of a reflective street sign and sat down on it with Honey to wait. And wait. And wait.

After about an hour, I was starting to feel a chill and worried that by the time 10:00 rolled around, I’d be too cold to row, or even think straight. So I started walking down a long driveway posted with a no trespassing sign hoping I could get permission for me and Honey to wait in a warm shed or garage.

The man who answered the door when I knocked was not surprised when I told him I was stranded on his island by the tide. He simply walked me and Honey over to an old potting shed that had been enclosed and heated. He moved the cat who lived there behind another door and told me and Honey to make ourselves at home.

Ahhh, love that southern hospitality.

When our host came back to check on us around 9:00 p.m., he told me about the history of the island. And he pointed out some of the fragrant plants located around the former nursery.

At 9:30 p.m. Honey and I said our thanks and started the mile long walk back to the boat ramp.

I radioed Mike to tell him we were coming back but he was busy and told me he’d call back in five minutes. I assumed he was dealing with the tide himself since the anchor line had begun to wrap itself around the keel of the boat when I had left hours earlier.

The current was still moving away from the boat. But it seemed to be weak enough for me to row against.

I started to get into the boat when I realize Honey was not with me.

Honey! HONEY!

Oh, there she is. A pair of glowing green eyes at the end of the dock.

I think she decided she’d rather live with the nice man with the cat than get back into the dinghy with me. But she didn’t hesitate too long and soon we were rowing on our way.

Charleston battery from the water.

Honey wonders why we ever left beautiful Charleston.

I Will Survive

There’s one thing you have to know about me: my brain turns off around 8 p.m. I’m an early riser and as the sun goes down, so do my mental faculties.

I knew that I needed to get moving because the current was going to strengthen. I wasn’t sure in what direction. But I knew I had to be careful.

I stayed close to the shore knowing there was a private dock that I’d pass before we got to where Meander was anchored. If I stayed close, I could hang onto it and call Mike again to discuss the strategy for getting me and Honey back on board.

Although the current was weaker than it had been, I was still rowing against it. I started shouting “Stroke, Stroke” to keep myself rowing in rhythm but that was a little dull.

So I settled on humming the disco anthem, I Will Survive, at the top of my lungs. Since I couldn’t find the signal whistle I had taken with me, I thought it would be a good way for Mike to know I was getting close.

Besides, there was no way I was going to pick up the radio and be swept all the way back to the boat ramp while I wasn’t rowing.

Meander’s anchor light, mounted at the top of the 45 foot mast, was my hope. I kept looking over my shoulder and seeing it get comfortingly closer.

Until one time I looked and the anchor light was gone. GONE! Now I had no way to find the boat with a dark green hull in the dark water on a nearly moonless night.

Honey, by the way, was totally relaxed. She laid down on the dinghy floor and started to doze.

I, however, was… well, less relaxed.

I was starting to near the private docks and planned to catch hold so I could call Mike and find out what was going on. When suddenly, I looked out toward the center of the creek and saw Meander motoring by me.

Apparently Mike had decided to stage a rescue. But he was passing right by us.

So much for I Will Survive. I desperately shouted to Mike and he heard my second cry. He threw down the anchor and I rowed for the boat.

It was only after Honey and I were back aboard and we had taken the boat back to our original anchoring spot that I realized why I was in such a hurry to get back to Meander even though the current was going against me.

Yep, because soon the current would be reversing and taking me toward the boat. Which is fine.

But what if it became so strong that it swept me and Honey past the boat? There would be no way to stop us from floating out of the creek, into the North Edisto River, and eventually out to the Atlantic Ocean.

My frontal lobe wasn’t working. But somewhere my instincts were telling me to start home against the current. Thank goodness.

Honey’s Morning Walk

The next morning, we decided not to take another dinghy ride to shore and risk leaving so late that we couldn’t get to our next destination, Beaufort, South Carolina, before nightfall.

You’d think Honey would be indignant about not getting time off the boat in the morning. But after last night’s adventures, she didn’t mind a bit.

We landed at the marina around dinner time with a perfectly calm and patient golden retriever ready to go to shore.

Boat Life Learning Curve

We learn something new every day living on the boat. We’ve had lots of adventures and even more misadventures. But we’ve never gotten hurt.

Honey’s also had quite the learning curve. But the biggest lesson she’s had to learn is one we started teaching her on land: we will always keep her safe.

Boat dog or land dog, she’s our Honey. And we want to have her by our side for years to come.

Honey the golden retriever and Pam in dinghy.

Life’s short. Take more boat rides.

Best City For Pet Travelers 2016

It’s March Madness!

No, not the one where talented young men stress their bodies making millions of dollars for colleges while they don’t earn a dime. The good one. The 2016 Best City for Pet Travelers March Madness.

It’s where pet friendly cities go head to head for bragging rights.

Our friend the doodle mom at Groovy Goldendoodles is rooting for her home city of Charleston, South Carolina. And since we just left Charleston and loved it, we’re going to throw all our support behind their lovely town.

To get just a little taste of the dog friendly elegance of Charleston, check out Doodle Dining at fine restaurant Circa 1886.

Charleston got a buy in the first round and is automatically moving to the second round. But you can vote for your other favorite pet friendly places by voting here.

The second round (when you can vote for Charleston) begins March 17. I’ll be dishing out some trashy taunting against Charleston’s competition. Hope you’ll help us push Charleston into the final four.

Your Turn: What would your dog think of being taken for a walk by dinghy?




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  1. I wonder what Honey thinks of all her recent adventures. She doesn’t seem the worse for wear, though.
    I don’t think we’d manage to get Zach into the dinghy. In fact, we probably couldn’t get him on the boat in the first place lol. Duster, when he was a pup, loved to kayak, and would still love to, if he still fit in the boat. At 100 lbs., that’s out of the question now 🙁 So getting him into a dinghy would probably not be much of an issue.

    • If Honey had a vote, she’d probably be living in a nice house and snoozing on the couch. But my hubby might also vote the same way much of the time.

      Ultimately, I know she most wants to be with us. And the boat is now home to her. So I’ll try not to feel too guilty about uprooting her life.

      Who knows what Zach might do if he thought he’d be left behind if he didn’t go along? Or maybe he’d catch the fever if he saw Duster having fun on board.

  2. Dear Dog! When I got to the point where Honey wasn’t with you, well, you know, I about lost it. Thank goodness you realized it!

    What a gem that husband of yours is. I’m not going to ask this right, but what’s the shallowest depth of water you can anchor in?

    • My only feeling of real panic was that moment when I couldn’t see Honey by my side. Because that’s when stuff gets real, right?

      In this area, the tidal range is 8 feet. Our boat draft is 5 feet. So we need at least 13 feet of water so that we don’t ground at low tide.

      We try to anchor in the shallowest possible water. We have to put out 7 feet of chain and anchor line for every foot of water depth. And every inch of chain that goes down with the anchor needs to be pulled back up. So shallow water is a real back saver for the hubby. 🙂

  3. Tell Honey should the open seas get to be too much she is always welcome to stay with her “Auntie Cathy” and the Boys LOL. Thanks for the plug and support. Looking forward to Thursday, gonna roll up my sleeves and get busy!!!

    • I would. But I already told her you gave me the treats I used to lure her on board. Now she thinks you’re “in on” the whole dinghy thing. #blamingauntcathy 🙂

      Can’t wait to see what you’ll be bringing to Thursday’s voting for Charleston.

  4. Holy cow, that was quite an adventure! I hope all of Honey’s trips ashore aren’t as exciting.

    Thanks so much for sharing the Best City for Pet Travelers competition! Charleston is a great town and I hope it does well in the tournament.

    • YOU hope Honey’s trips ashore aren’t exciting? I’d love to have them become dull myself.

      I was so excited for the Go Pet Friendly brackets to come up, I kept checking your website all morning. I think I was actually the first person to vote.

      Woo hoo! March Madness!

  5. I don’t think Richie would mind going in a dinghy as long as he didn’t have to go in the water. He hates to swim. We’re in the tournament too, and Colorado Springs also got a first-round bye! That contest is so much fun.

    • Honey agrees with Richie. Riding in a boat is definitely better than going for a swim. 🙂

      Good luck pushing Colorado Springs. I hear it’s lovely.

      I just hope it doesn’t end up competing against Charleston. Because I’ve spent the past several years of this competition honing my trash talk. 🙂

  6. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather read Honey a scary and adventurous story while she hovers over a litter box? You could even sing “I will survive” to add to the authenticity,

    • Yes, but how much of a blog post would I get from reading scary stories to a hovering dog while singing bad disco songs? 🙂

  7. eeeeeeeeeeeeeek!

  8. Wow, just wow.

  9. Oh my god, what an…adventure!

  10. Well, I guess going for a quick walk is something not to be taken lightly when living on board a boat. Treasure those land times, Honey, and get as much business as you can done.

    • She’s taken to bringing some of the land back on the boat when she rolls around on the grass when we go to shore. 🙂

  11. OH my goodness! Good job on rowing, just think of the strong popeye arms you are going to have!
    Glad you made it safe and sound back to your boat!

    • Living on a boat is great for certain kinds of fitness–for instance, I’ve developed amazing balance and flexibility. But we don’t get to do much that’s aerobic. Lucky we got rowing dinghy. 🙂

  12. I can totally relate. I, too, am a morning person. I would have been doing some serious deep breathing to keep myself calm. Sounds like Honey is a lot like Rumpy- a go-with-the-flow kinda dog.

  13. I don’t know which sounds scarier, walking around in the pitch dark on some island or worrying about getting swept out to sea!

  14. What an adventure!

  15. BJ Pup (Lynda) says:

    You are very brave and Honey is a trooper. Honey needs to write a book about her adventures and how she felt through each adventure.

  16. If Honey ever needs a new home she can come live with me… I am so jealous of the life you guys are now living I wish I had the guts to do what you did. Maybe in a few years time?! Glad to hear something is keeping you guys safe, look after one another and I do hope you will come to the UK

  17. Missy would love a Dinghy boat ride, Buzz not so much 😉 They’ve both been on a boat before, and my adventure pup loved every minute of it, while Buzz was just lying on the floor of the boat and hoping it would be over soon.

    You sure are living an adventurous life these days!!

  18. Sam is a 100% anti-water of any kind dog so sadly, he’d most likely wave a paw, shed a single tear and immediately start looking for the first human who would provide treats and a good ear scratch. You guys are incredibly brave, I wouldn’t have the courage to do what you’re doing. Stay safe and keep the mosquitos at bay (no pun intended). ღ

  19. Bud Skidmore says:

    you are far too kind in your comments, I too become a bit brain dead after 8 pm and my mother would be shocked that we offered no more than a warm safe place to shelter in place. Glad your adventure turned out ok and thank you for the toy you sent to Shadow our cat, she loves it. When you come back past Edisto stop in and we’ll try to do better.

  20. “Boat dog or land dog. She’s our Honey….” Those words nearly choked me up. Since Callie got her angel wings in August, almost everything I read about my friends’ love for their dogs gets me tears-eyed. Silly, sentimental me.