Why I’ve Never Loved My Dog More

I don’t know if I feel worse for what I put her through or better for how proud I am of how she handled it.

But I do know that I’ve never loved my dog more. Here’s why.

(Sorry folks, no pictures. Once you read on, you’ll understand why.)

And We’re Off

We’ve had the boat up on the hard (propped up on stands in a boatyard) for a couple of weeks getting engine and propeller work done.

Living on a boat is challenging in most conditions. But having to climb steep steps to get on board increased the difficulty, especially for Honey.

Friday morning, we were ready to go. It was time to start moving south toward Florida and warmer weather.

As always, we check the marine weather forecast before leaving. North of us, the Chesapeake Bay was seeing high winds with gale force winds coming south with the evening.

It looked like we had good weather to make the 50 mile trip we had planned to Hampton, Virginia.

We were so anxious to get moving we got a little careless. I did not spend nearly enough time securing things in the cabin. And I figured I’d add an extra layer of clothing once we got underway.

Big mistake.

What The Bleep Was That?

We motored out of the creek and into the Rappahannock River where we put up our sails.

We followed the watermen who were going out for their day’s fishing.

The day was grey but not raining. But we still kept Honey below in the cabin. She seemed quite happy dozing on the soft settee and it was easier to work in the cockpit without her underfoot.

Besides that, the bay was rolling with lots of big waves. She’d definitely be safer down below.

As we got ready to put up the sails, I noticed something: several of the professional fishing boats were heading back to shore.

I didn’t blame them a bit. They were even closer to the water than we were with a less protected deck and I could see someone going overboard in the moving seas if they weren’t careful.

Suddenly we heard a loud grinding sound coming from where the propeller entered the transmission.

For once, Mike and I were in total agreement. It was the kind of noise that tells you to immediately shut the engine down.

Good thing we were a sailboat.

Rockin’ And Rollin’ With Honey

Sails are tricky. And ours gave us a bit of trouble.

Mike wrestled with the sails while I stood helplessly at the wheel. Since we weren’t under sail, we weren’t traveling fast enough for me to be able to steer.

In truth, we were adrift.

Even worse, we were parallel to the rolling waves instead of taking them on our bow (the front of the boat).

What does that mean for Honey and us?

Imagine you’ve filled the bath tub. As you get into the tub, the water rolls up on either side of you.

Now imagine being in a small boat in that tub. And the waves keep coming for hours at a time.

Most of the time the waves were about 6 feet high. But for a brief time, I saw waves that were probably as high as 8-10 feet.

As we rolled, Honey fell off the settee and items we had not put away carefully enough were flung around the cabin.

Smart girl that she is, Honey didn’t move. She stayed lying on the floor with her head on her bear while the container of engine oil rested against her side. Oranges rolled up and down the aisle. And charts continued to fly off the table.

But it got worse.

It Ain’t A Party Until The Vomit Starts To Fly

Mike is always the first to feel sea sickness.

I’m lucky. I’ve never suffered from mal de mer. But I knew it was only a matter of time.

There are very few people in the world who never feel sea-sick. I doubted I was one of them.

Honey had also never shown any signs of motion sickness.

But that was about to change.

I was the first to revisit my breakfast. However, I felt pleased to learn that I was capable of steering the boat screaming along at 7 1/2 knots (8.6 mph) in 20 knots (23 mph) of wind with the deck rails in the water while vomiting over the side.

Good times. Good times.

Poor Honey lost her kibble too. She looked so unhappy. But she never complained.

Do you know how badly Honey felt? One of the items that went flying loose in the cabin was a brand new bully stick. It was laying on the floor and Honey didn’t even give it a lick.

Honey’s Job

At one point I looked into the cabin and saw Honey standing at the bottom of the companionway ladder looking up at me, plaintively.

I think she just wanted to be close to us for a little while. But it wasn’t safe enough for me to bring her up. And Mike and I had our hands full sailing the boat.

I never wished more that Honey spoke English.

I told her, “I’m sorry, Honey. It’s not safe. Lie down. Just lie down.” in my most reassuring voice.

Luckily she did. And continued to lie down peacefully for many more hours. Many, many more hours.

Right Back Where We Started

This isn’t a sailing blog. So I won’t bore you any more with how sailing into the direction the wind was coming from meant we had to cross the wind over and over on a zig zag course.

Suffice it to say, it was a long trip. We spent 17 hours on the water and ended the day after midnight picking our way through the narrow channel back into the same creek we had left earlier in the day.

But we made it back into the marina before the predicted 30 mph winds started. And everyone was safe.

While I cleaned up the cockpit, Mike took Honey off the boat for a short break. He tells me she wasn’t too interested in playing fetch. All she wanted to do was roll around on the grass.

I can’t blame her.

But I can praise her.

Proud Of My Pup

If you’ve been reading for a while, you probably know that Honey tends to be a cautious pup. She startles easily. She hates walking on moving surfaces.

And yet she’s done everything we’ve needed her to do on board the boat.

Mike and I have talked many times about how we’d keep Honey safe and comfortable in a storm, when we were unable to sit right by her side.

We did not do the best job protecting her in the rough waves. I have a much better idea about how to do that in the future.

But Honey coped with the conditions. She recovered quickly. And she’s even forgiven us for putting her in those conditions to begin with.

Honey has become a very resilient girl. She bounces back from anything that comes her way. And that’s the best I could ever hope for.

I need to do more to protect Honey, and us, from hairy conditions.

But I’m proud of all of us.

Back at the marina, our engine technician came in on his day off to see what was going on. He saw that the clutch was shot. It turned out a line had gotten caught in our propeller—maybe someone’s anchor line that they cut and abandoned.

Line tangled on our propeller.

Well, maybe one picture. The source of our problems–a line tangled around our propeller. Click to expand.

No matter how much you plan, you can’t avoid those kind of dumb (and expensive) problems.

You deal with them. You bounce back. You go forward.

And seeing how Honey handled a long and tiring day, I don’t think I’ve ever loved her more.

Honey the golden retriever is captain of Meander.

A much happier day at the dock.

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Your Turn: One of my readers suggested a Q&A post about sailing with Honey. What would you most like to know about Honey’s and our new lives on board?










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  1. Wow – kind of scary too. So glad you are all safe and sound.

  2. Glad to hear all turned out well. Honey sure is a trooper! Clearly, she has great trust in you and Mike to do what’s best for her. Here’s hoping this is the last of your mechanical troubles.

  3. I’m proud of you all — and very impressed! I love the line “I was the first one to revisit my breakfast.”

  4. Wow, I hope I never get to experience that line on the prop. I can relate to the big waves and beating into the wind trying to get home for hours on end, while things crash and roll below. It is impressive how fast those fishing boats can go by to get out of the weather. Hoping it is all clear sailing from now on for you.

  5. Dear Honey,
    I know you love them very much and they love you. But know that if you ever reach your limit you have a home where the only water you’ll ever see is your water dish and an occasional bath at the groomer. There is just one step down to the patio and another down to the yard.

  6. wow! You all sound really brave to me! Glad it all turned out!

  7. This trip can be a challenge but I think you all handled it well. Give Honey an extra big hug and belly rub from me. Tell her I say “Good girl.” Florida is awaiting, and may it be peaceful!

  8. You know – as I read this I found myself rushing through to get to the end! I also held my breath!!! I am so happy to hear all is well. What a tale to tell. Life for you, Mike and Honey are filling up with oodles of memories quickly! God speed and Merry Christmas!

  9. I’m glad that you are all well after a rough day on the water. I know you said this isn’t a sailing blog, but I wouldn’t mind hearing about some the technical aspects of this adventure!

    Take care and I hope the weather clears up soon!

  10. Whew, sounds scary! I’m glad everyone stayed safe!

  11. Well, I guess things can only improve, but what a bummer you have had so much trouble already. None of us have had motion sickness. Mom has been in really bad turbulence on the plane and loves the feeling, she also loves amusement parks, but has never been in serious waves on a small boat. Hope things get fixed soon so you can get on your way.

  12. Bravo! Honey!

    I love that you live on a boat. This is something that I’ve thought about, but I’m a land lover. I love it when my dogs step out of their comfort zone – it’s such a banner day that needs to be celebrated. The most recent one was Zoey greeting a guest. She barked a couple times then returned to me to walk around the property. I was very proud. She usually barks up a storm and needs to be removed physically (J picks her up).

  13. First of all, I’m very glad you all made it back to the marina, safe and sound!! I’m sure it was a hair-raising day out there, and having unforeseeable problems on top of miserable weather didn’t help. Isn’t it amazing how resilient our dogs can be when the situation demands it? Lesson learned. I’m proud of all of you, too.

  14. BJ Pup (Lynda) says:

    The only thing I can say is: better you than me. I got seasick on a windjammer cruise in fairly calm weather. And when they pulled in the stabilizers on a big cruise ship going up the coast. I’ll pup-sit Honey if it gets too much.

  15. Sounds like all of you did really well under the circumstances!

  16. Yikes, Pamela, that all sounds so scary! I think Honey was braver than even I would have been! I’m just sorry you’ve had more troubles. I hope you are getting all of this stuff out of the way early, and eventually it will be all “smooth sailing”. Pardon the pun. 🙂

  17. Oh my gosh, you guys, what a tale!! Super scary that you had those high waves to deal with.. Within a year or so you’ll be able to write and publish a book of your boating adventures – vomiting while stearing and all 😉

    I don’t get seasick easily, but I remember one time on what was supposed to be a relaxing catamaran tour in Jamaica with my mom and my sister. 3/4 through our tour, the waves came crashing in and my poor sister was spending the rest of the tour bent over a bucket 🙁 I was close to getting there as well, but somehow was able to keep it down by focusing on one steady point ashore. Yikes, that was a crazy experience.

    Earlier this morning there was a tornado warning issued on the radio for the NC coast, in the Wilmington area, that was said to move up North. Be careful on your way down to Florida!!

  18. You and Honey are brave sailors! Glad you are ok; here’s wishing you all smooth sailing down south. 🙂

  19. That sure was more exciting and scary than I was expecting! Good job to Honey – my dog is very sensitive (or some might say fearful) so I know about your worries about Honey. I’m glad that she bounced back so well. And, most of all, I’m glad that you’re all safe!

  20. You’re a far braver woman than I am Pamela. And I’m sorry I laughed about you vomiting while steering the boat. It wasn’t nice of me, but I just couldn’t help myself. 🙂