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.
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.
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.
Then we tied the dinghy to the side of the boat so we could get me and Honey into it to row to shore.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Your Turn: What would your dog think of being taken for a walk by dinghy?