My big learning project for the summer is sailing.
Yep, I’ve made it to 45 years old without thoroughly humiliating myself. That means it’s time to take up something new.
With its own language (you need to sail a beam reach on a starboard tack to approach the canal entrance). And lots of new skills (did you know docking a sailboat is like parallel parking–without brakes or a gas pedal?). Oh, and let’s not forget the physical embarrassment of being told to wrap a halyard around your butt and lean back if you don’t have the strength to raise a sail with your arms alone.
For all that, it’s exhilarating be a total beginner. To see the wind and the weather with fresh eyes. And to just be moving quickly on the water hearing only the sound of the wind.
I could see this becoming a lifestyle.
Where does Honey fit in? I would never make a decision that didn’t take my dog into account. Honey is family.
So how do I acclimate Honey to sailing and boats without buying one first? Pets are not allowed on the boats at the community sailing program we’re enrolled in. She can’t come with us for our liveaboard lessons scheduled for next month. And I wasn’t raised around sailing and don’t know lots of other people with boats.
There are some excellent sailing forums online with links to sites where people have written extensively about cruising with their dogs. The Park family cruising on Charbonneau answered all kinds of questions about cruising with their two (?!) Golden Retrievers, Max and Bailey. And Toby the Entelbucher’s family wrote a great article on their first time cruising with a dog aboard.
And, although I can’t find the link now, I’ll never forget reading the story of a family who discovered their dogs hated the heeling of their monohull sailboat. What did they do? They sold it and bought a more stable catamaran.
And that’s what worries me.
You see, I have a confession to make. I’m not rich. The only boat we could afford to buy would be too small to take us and Honey out on the water.
If we get to a point where we want to seriously pursue sailing, we’d probably have to sell our house to do it. That’s a big decision. And one that I’d want to be sure our whole family was prepared for if we made the leap. Our preparation will take years. And Honey’s might too.
So how do you teach your dog to sail if you’re not allowed to take her sailing?
Here’s what I’ve done so far:
- Gotten her used to wearing a life jacket (see a cute picture here).
- Taken her out in my kayak with me (see another cute picture here).
- Walked her around the boatyard dry dock in winter to get used to being around massive things.
- Taken her to the marina where we visit the boats and get used to them moving against the dock.
- Been working with her to increase her comfort around suddenly moving objects or flapping canvas (two of her fears).
So where do we go next? Any readers who happen to own a sailboat somewhere near the Finger Lakes interested in participating in a puppy socialization project? I’ll bring the beer and kibble.
I thought not.
So here are my questions for anyone interested in dogs, boating, and dogs and boating:
- What else can I do to prepare Honey to feel comfortable on a boat?
- Is there anything off the water I could do to teach Honey that a boat leaning to the side is perfectly safe?
- Do you think agility would give her confidence and skills that would translate to being comfortable on a boat?
- To the boaters–what would you think if you saw a note on a marina bulletin board asking for help socializing your dog?
- Are there other things I should be concentrating on first?
So thank you, dear readers. I can’t wait to read your insightful comments. My future is in your hands.
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