Taking The Dog For A Walk – At Anchor

First you get the look. Then the whine. Ignore her long enough and you get the bark.

It’s time to take the dog for a walk.

Honey the golden retriever wants to go for a walk.

I’m wearing my walking gear. Are you?

A Dog Walks Off A Boat

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If you live on a boat with a dog, walk time is much easier when you’re at a dock.

At a marina, to take Honey for a walk, we simply

  • lift her into the cockpit
  • set up her Solvit Pet Ramp from the boat to the dock
  • give her the cue to “come ashore”
  • snap on her leash
  • walk from the dock to the first grassy area—quite a walk of its own in some marinas.

Easy, peasy.

Honey the golden retriever approaches her boat boarding ramp.

I feel so royal walking from my ramp to the boat and back again.

Not as easy as just opening the back door and sending her into the yard. But much easier than taking her for a walk while we’re at anchor.

A Dog Flies Off A Boat

Taking Honey for walk when we’re anchoring is a far more complicated process. It begins when we’re planning our trip.

We’re currently traveling in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, a route along the eastern United States that connects a series of sounds, rivers, creeks, and engineered canals from the Northeast all the way to Miami, Florida.

Given how populated the east coast is, you’d think we could anchor almost anywhere and find a place to take Honey off the boat.

Don’t count on it.

We often travel through salt marshes and mud flats that are totally inhospitable to humans and pets—loaded with snakes, alligators, and mud that can bury a man up to his chest.

Feeding frenzy in the Georgia ICW.

If you look closely (or click to enlarge the image) you’ll see pelicans, cormorants, and a dolphin feeding in a very populated (by animals) part of the Georgia ICW. But there’s nowhere to walk a dog.

Anchorages in more developed areas are near private property whose owners aren’t willing to share their private docks with strangers and their very cute dogs.

We look for anchorages near public boat ramps or businesses that allow boaters to dinghy to their docks.

Once we’ve found pet-friendly anchorages, we have to get there, set our anchor, and then we begin the long process of taking Honey off the boat.

Building The Dinghy

We have a folding dinghy that we store on the boat of the boat. It looks like a giant surf board.

Taking Honey for a walk at anchor starts with assembling the dinghy

  • removing it from its place on the rails
  • hitching it to a halyard (one of the lines we use to raise our sails)
  • pulling it up until it is vertical on the deck
  • putting in the seats
  • raising the boat high enough to get it over our lifelines (metal wire that keeps us on board)
  • dropping it into the water off the side of the boat.

Once the dinghy is built, we need to lower the 58 pound outboard engine and attach it to the transom.

Dressing The Dog

While Mike gets the dinghy ready to transport the princess dog on her walk, I dress her in her royal raiment—her Ruffwear DoubleBack Harness.

Honey the golden retriever waits in the cockpit wearing her harness.

I’m waiting. Aren’t you ready to walk me yet?

For the next part of taking Honey for her walk, I want her to be safe.

The DoubleBack Harness is made for raising or lowering a mountaineering dog. The harness supports Honey’s chest, belly (in two places), hips, and legs.

It’s the only harness I’ve found that I’d trust for what happens next.

Flying The Dog

Our dinghy is pretty stable. We can stand and walk around in it with no danger of tipping.

Even so, Honey was never comfortable when we lifted her by hand from Meander (the sailboat mothership) into Mini Me (the dinghy).

In fact, one night she absolutely refused to leave the dinghy even when I coaxed her with liver treats.

So now we fly her into the dinghy using specialized equipment.

We swing the boom (the moving spar that supports the bottom of the main sail) out over the dinghy. We tie it in place. Then we clip a block and tackle to the boom.

A carabiner on the block and tackle attaches to a sturdy handle on Honey’s harness. Once she’s ready, we use the block and tackle to raise her over the bulwarks of the boat and into the dinghy.

Honey the golden retriever is lowered over the side of Meander.

I believe I can fly.


Honey the golden retriever is lowered into the dinghy.

I want to fly like a puppy, to the sea. Fly like a puppy let my spirit carry me…


Honey the golden retriever lands in the dinghy.

Coming in for a landing.


Taking The Dog For A Walk

Next we row or motor Honey to the nearest public dock for a play or potty break.

I’d love to row Honey to shore. But in South Carolina and Georgia (where we are now) the current can be too strong to row against. (Check out what happened last year when Honey and I couldn’t return to the boat with the current against us.)

The next morning we repeat the process again before weighing anchor and setting off again.

After reading this, you may be wondering why we don’t always stop at marinas. After all, it’s much easier.

There are two main reasons:

  • Marinas are expensive—It can cost us anywhere from $40 – $100 a night to tie our boat up to a dock. It’s about the same price as a cheap motel. Except we don’t get television, maids don’t fix our bed, and we have to share a bathroom that’s often a several block walk from the boat.
  • Some places are so remote that we can’t get to a marina before nightfall.

You Gotta Walk The Dog

It’s not easy to walk Honey from the boat. But it’s just what we have to do.

And given how much the fuzzy bedwarmer does for us, it’s a small bit of work to make Honey happy.

Honey the golden retriever returns to Meander with Mike.

We’re coming back from our walk. Do you have breakfast waiting?


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  1. That would be just way too much work! You have to really love boat life! We are happy you do get her off the boat and out for a walk. I think many might just buy pee pads and not bother with walking.

    • We would love for Honey to adapt to “going” on the deck–at least sometimes. She just hasn’t been willing, no matter what.

      And after hearing from a boater who followed the advice to “wait the dog out” until they go, I’m hesitant to push her too much. This boater ended up traumatizing her dog to the point of shaking before she finally gave in and pottied on the boat. Not sure it’s worth the price if Honey is likely to get upset by it.

  2. That’s a lot of work to just go for a walk! Gives me a new appreciation for how easy it is to take my girls down 3 steps to the back door and out into our fenced-in backyard. Kisses to Honey and hugs to you and Mike!

    • Yep, I wish I could have shared this with my past self when I got irritated by the idea of taking Honey downstairs and out the back door on a cold day.

  3. PS. I LOVE your new header! It really fits your new lifestyle so well! Great job!!

    • Thanks for the compliment. I can’t take credit for it. A friend did it for me as well as choosing the colors and backgrounds. But I can’t seem to get the fonts working properly.

      I need a programmer with a clicker and some kit kat bars to help me figure out how to fix the fonts. 🙂

  4. Heaven forbid Honey ever gets a bad bout of diarrhea!

    Nice to see you on the blog!

  5. And we think its hard letting our dog out with tying her as she will run off. But you seem to have down….great to see you back here. Enjoy reading of your travels.

    • Well that’s one place where you have it harder than we do. Honey is definitely not the running away type. Thank goodness!

      I’ve had dogs that liked to go on adventures. It can be very stressful.

  6. Wow! Honey is amazing! I can’t imagine either of my girls being that good about flying–even after lots of practice!

    • I’m relieved that Honey seems to prefer it to us passing her down in our arms.

      Of course, you never know what Barley and Rye will do unless you try it, eh? They could be full of surprises.

  7. Holy cow! That’s an impressive exercise ‘just to walk the dog!’ She sure is great at the flying part. I think both of my two might freak out. Getting into the car is an adventure, I can’t imagine how they’d handle everything you guys have to do. Enjoy the ICW and keep posting more amazing photos of your adventures. ?

  8. Like some said above, I could see my crew possibly freaking out over the flying part! How long does the whole process generally take?
    I now feel bad about complaining about our process. In the winter for walks I have to get all bundled up, snowshoes on, and then get Luke’s coat on, Cricket’s boots on, and both of them in their harnesses and then leashed up. It now all sounds incredibly easy! Hopefully you’re not forgetful like me, I always forget something (treats, poop bags, tissues for me….) and have to go back to the house for it!

    • The dinghy’s full deployment, from the moment we first start hoisting it onto the deck for seat installation to the moment we fire up its outboard motor in the water, takes about forty minutes.

      Ideally, we will have lined up a few successive dog-friendly anchorages rather than just one. We can then leave the dinghy in the water for towing (sans Honey and outboard), to leverage the full deployment effort from our first anchorage. The shorter process of reinstalling the motor and the dog at those subsequent destinations takes about twenty minutes.

  9. Wow, and I thought boots and harnesses were bad in the winter. Bless you for going through all of that for sweet Honey. I’m also pretty sure that Sampson would FTFO (freak the ff out) if I were to try and fly him. Delilah might tolerate it, but I can’t be sure.

    • In truth, I would never have expected my puppy who refused to walk in a ramp lying flat on a sidewalk to tolerate this.

      I’m very relieved she finds it comfortable. Because carrying her by hand off the deck into a rocking dinghy stressed her out to no end.

  10. The next time CindyLu is freaking out because she just ate and therefore must. go. outside. right. this. very. minute, I’m going to read this post to her. What an amazing girl Honey is, for all she tolerates with that sweet disposition of hers! Did you have any difficulties with her bladder control, considering the “lifting” effects/pressure of the dinghy transfer? (I’m positive CindyLu couldn’t make it to shore!) And good grief, you guys sure do get a workout just getting to the walking the dog part. We all are feeling quite humble in your presence, you know!

    • Honey has an iron bladder. I can’t imagine what it would take to defeat it. She’s been perfectly house trained since she was 10 weeks old.

      But one reason we use a specially designed mountaineering harness is because it has so many attachment points to distribute the force on her body equally. She is not really getting too much pressure on her belly because there are also connecting points on the breastbone and around all four legs.

      Of course Cindy Lu is so petite. You could probably pass her around with no stress at all.

  11. Great job and while it looks like a great effort, I know you do it lovingly for your sweet Honey. I bet she is having many great adventures with you and Mike.

    • I don’t think adventure comes into it too much. For Honey, the joy is in being together as a family all the time.

      Although she gets a lot more chances to roll in stinky dead things on the beach than when we lived in a house.

  12. Wow, you guys are certainly getting your very own workout too while prepping to take Miss Honey for her walk!! Love seeing the Ruffwear harness on her – they’re one of my favorite active dog accessory brand.

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