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. But how do you get a big dog off the boat at anchor?
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.
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.
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 bow 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.
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.
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.
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