We moved onto our first sailboat in 2015 and our dog, Captain, was right there with us for the transition and adventures. Cap went everywhere we went and we fully intended to have her share our adventures on Ticket to Ride.
Unfortunately, Captain died while in the care of a pet sitter I found through Rover.com. I have not shared the details of her unexpected death as they are too awful to dwell on. Since Captain is no longer on the boat with us, we have experienced cruising with and without a dog and I thought I would share some of our thoughts.
Captain was six years old when we moved on board Let It Be and she adjusted pretty quickly to life on a sailboat. There were many aspects that she absolutely loved;
- spending more time with her humans than when living on land
- dinghy rides – anywhere, anytime
- running on the shore
- walks with ever changing smells
- greeting people who went past or stopped at the boat
- spying for dolphins
- wind in her fur while sailing
- sitting at the helm with us
- first cleaning of dinner dishes (to save water, of course)
- chilling on the floating lounge chairs with us
- breezes coming up through the trampoline where she liked to nap
There were also things Captain never learned to like:
- going to the bathroom on board (even though we praised her a lot)
- when we caught fish (I think she was a pacifist.)
- noises associated with sail changes
As for actually living on our boat with a dog as we sailed from country to country, here are a few of our thoughts.
Countries: By far the most challenging part of having Captain on our boat was making certain we had the correct paperwork for every country we visited. Each country has its own requirements and finding the latest, accurate list of requirements took time and decent internet. We had to prove Cappy was up to date on shots and often a current rabies titer test from an accredited veterinarian was needed. This meant we had to find a qualified vet, get Captain to the vet for blood tests and get the results within a specific time window. Not always easy, especially when you don’t own a car and many taxis or Ubers don’t want a dog in the car.
I was responsible for the pet paperwork. At every port of entry, I was nervous that we wouldn’t be allowed into the country because I had missed some piece of paperwork. Fortunately, we did not run into any problems while traveling in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bonaire, Aruba, Curacao, Turks and Caicos or the Dominican Republic. However, we chose not to sail to some places, like St. Kitts, because we had heard of issues with dogs.
Once we knew we were heading to the South Pacific, I began researching how to get Captain into various countries. What I found was that the difficulty in having a dog accepted was much greater in the Pacific Islands than on the Atlantic side. Many Pacific islands are rabies free and as a result they are very strict about receiving any dogs from a country with rabies. Several countries have long quarantine requirements for pets upon arrival. I was extremely concerned about how I would manage to get Captain into the places we hoped to visit.
If you are cruising in only one country and have a dog, the complications of pet ownership are significantly reduced.
Accommodations: At this moment, we are living the perfect example of how a dog can complicate things. We cannot live on TTR while it is on the hard, so we had to find a place to rent. We are in a small efficiency/hotel-like room in a great location that is close to the boat yard. This place does not accept pets. My search for a reasonably priced place to stay in Hawaii would have been much more difficult with a dog. When we were on LIB, we had to haul out twice and both times we could not find accommodations that allowed dogs. Instead we had to find a kennel where Captain could stay during the haul out.
Travel: Seeing our family is important, so we want to fly back to the U.S. on a regular basis. Flying with a dog is nearly impossible unless they fit under the seat. If you want your dog to fly in cargo (very mixed reviews on how safe this is), there are temperature restrictions for heat and cold indexes. Since we are usually in a tropical area, the dog might not be allowed to get on the plane because the temps are too high. What would we do if our flight was taking off and we learn that Captain had been taken off the plane due to temperature restrictions? Instead of taking that risk, we had to leave Captain with sitters a couple of times when we traveled back to the States. After our last experience, I don’t know where I would be comfortable leaving my pet if we wanted to go back to the States without her.
Shedding and bilge pumps: Almost every dog sheds and Captain definitely shedded a lot. Living in a smaller space with a dog made the shedding much more noticeable than when we lived in a larger home. I used to joke that the cause of death on my certificate was going to read “hairball in throat” because of the amount of fur floating about. But the bigger issue with shedding is the bilges.
If you own a pet that sheds, please be certain to do routine bilge pump checks. Somehow fur manages to fall to the lowest places in the bilge and it can clog up your pumps. We routinely check our bilges now, but when we had a dog on board, the checks were made more often to make sure the pumps were clear to run.
Potty Training: Some dogs manage to transfer habits to the boat without a problem. Not Captain. Regardless of how much we praised her, she still didn’t like “going” on the boat. In fact, on her first long passage, she waited 48 hours before going to the bathroom. After the first 24 hours, every hour or two we walked her on a leash all around the boat giving her the command to “go.” No luck. That was very stressful for all of us. Captain improved on passages, but she never liked that aspect of travel.
Food: When traveling with a dog in foreign places, the dog foods change and knowing what you are buying is difficult. Constantly changing foods can be hard on a dog. Instead of buying local dog food, I bought a dehydrated dog food called Dr. Harvey’s Canine Good Health which I could order on the internet and have shipped to us. I thought it was a high quality brand of food and I could easily store enough on board to last six months to a year. This dog food had to be rehydrated with hot water, then I added a protein source. I chose Dr. Harvey’s because the dehydrated food took up less room than standard kibble and I didn’t want to store kibble in the bilge and possibly attract mice or bugs.
Island Dogs: Although the rules were restrictive for getting a dog into the islands, very often the local dogs roamed free. On the whole, the dogs left us and Captain alone but there were times when walking the dog was difficult because local dogs were aggressive or numerous. Of course we didn’t want Captain to be harmed by another dog or cause harm to another dog, and that never happened. But be aware that on some small islands there is not a vet so if your dog is injured or sick, you will not have immediate veterinary services.
Ambassador: Having a dog on your boat is a bunch of fun. Captain was an excellent ambassador and she was often the reason people stopped to talk to us. In fact, it was common for someone to know Captain by name but not have any idea who we were. We met a lot of people who were much more interested in meeting my dog than they were in meeting us. If we spoke different languages, Captain helped us connect with few words.
Protection: This one is obvious but worth mentioning. I think a dog is the best protection available on a boat. If someone is going to commit a crime of opportunity, they will not choose the boat with a dog on board. Furthermore, many people have a slight or significant fear of dogs and even serious thieves will avoid a boat with a dog. Although we feel safe in our travels, Captain added an extra element of safety, especially if I was alone on the boat and an unknown person stopped by. I really miss having Captain keep me company and protect me when Frank is away.
Walks: Dogs like to get out and explore and having Captain on board insured that we walked every day. Rain or shine, she wanted to stretch her legs and get in a few sniffs. Cappy especially loved walks when we lived on the boat because we were always in new places with new smells. Being forced to walk everyday was a positive for all of us.
Fun and love: Although dogs require effort, energy and commitment, the fun and love Captain added to our boat/lives far outweighed the planning, adjustments and cleaning. There was something so joyous in Captain’s running along the beach or digging in the sand that simply watching her made us happy. The unconditional love we received was precious and we dearly miss the smiles and happiness she caused. I firmly believe that, for me, a dog adds to my contentment and well being.
Silly Things: When Captain and I would go for walks, I didn’t take a phone or radio. Instead when we were finished, I would give Cappy her command to “speak” and she would bark. Frank could easily hear and recognize her bark, so he would know to come pick us up. Of course, Captain figured out that when she barked Frank picked us up and the walk was over. Often she would look at me and need a second, firm command to bark because she wasn’t ready to end her exploration.
Blogging: Captain was extremely smart and would occasionally write our blog posts. Those posts were always the most popular ones and I loved using Captain’s voice for a creative outlet. It was far more fun to write from Cappy’s perspective than to simply tell you about our activities.
Cruising without a dog: We have been without Captain for two years now and we still miss her terribly. If we could have her back, there is NO question that we would, regardless of the hoops we would have to jump through to get her into various countries. Having said that, traveling without a dog is easier. Here are some of the reasons cruising without a dog is easier:
- one less “person” to worry about
- eliminates vet visits
- less expensive
- eliminates paperwork to enter countries
- gives us freedom to stay off the boat without arranging dog care
- allows us to fly home without finding a sitter or kennel
- reduces how often I have to vacuum the boat
- keeps the bilges clean and free of dog hair
- allows us to ride in any taxi or Uber
- means no potty patrol on passages
- leaves us without a welcoming committee when we return to home
- means less love and less laughter
If someone asked me if he or she should get a dog before moving onto a boat, I would say the decision has to be based on where they are traveling. By far, obtaining permission to bring a dog into countries was the most time consuming, stressful and costly aspect of having a dog. One must consider where he will be traveling and how difficult pet entry is in those countries. In my opinion, quarantine is hard on the pet and the owner, so I would not recommend a dog if you plan on visiting countries that require a quarantine.
My research showed that obtaining permission for pets to enter islands in the Pacific Ocean was more difficult than in the Caribbean, so I would think very hard before committing to a dog if traveling in the Pacific.
If I were getting a dog or puppy for my boat, these are traits/tips I would think about:
- a dog prone to motion sickness (car sickness) is probably not a good fit
- consider a puppy or young dog that can be potty trained on board
- I would train my dog not to leave the boat without a release command
- train your dog to speak on command so you can make people aware that you have a dog.
- conversely, teach the dog a “quiet” command so he doesn’t bark incessantly – you don’t want to be “that” boat.
- make sure to have an excellent recall because all the new territories are very tempting to explore and new smells are distracting to a recall command.
- a confident dog that handles new experiences well will probably adjust better to cruising than a timid or fearful dog.
- make sure it is a breed that swims (some breeds like bulldogs, pugs, etc don’t swim)
- consider your boat and if it is dog friendly – example: can a dog get up and down the companion way on its own?
- is this dog big enough or small enough to get into the dinghy from your boat and back onto your boat from the dinghy?
- will you need lifeline nets to keep the dog from going overboard while sailing?
- will you leave the boat to fly home and how will you accommodate the dog?
- do you have the time and budget to invest in entry requirements for your dog?
- during boat yard times, are you willing to put your dog in a kennel or find a place that accepts pets?
- Buy a collar with your dog’s name and your phone number or boat name stitched into it as dangling tags can get lost or rusted.
We are by no means dog experts, but these are some thoughts based on our experiences while traveling with Captain between 2015 and 2018. Maybe you will find this information useful or perhaps the tips will give you some things to think about. If you have traveled west from the U.S. and visited islands along the way to Australia and New Zealand with a pet, I would love to hear your experiences with gaining entry permission for your dog. If island entries have relaxed, maybe we can have add canine crew!
For those readers with dogs, give yours a few extra scratches from us…. we still miss loving on our Cappy-girl.
Thanks so much for reading our blog. We hope you are staying well and patient during these unusual times. If you would like to hear from us more often, please check out our Facebook page where we post more often. We also have an Instagram, but we post there less often than on FB.
Well I have not had a single minute to spend writing a post on this blog. It has been forever since mom let me sit down and paw out a few words!
I’m listening to something mom’s telling me.
I have been extremely busy here on LIB. When I first became a boat dog, I was unaware of how important it is to look INTO the water and not just monitor the land. Wow, since I figured that out, I realized I have a lot of territory to patrol to ensure my humans are safe.
But just like on land, my humans don’t always understand why I am barking and sometimes I get in trouble because their noses are really weak and they just don’t smell the things I do.
The best example is the dolphins I talked about last time. While we were on that long Intracoastal Waterway trip (2016 Sail to the Sun Rally), there were dolphins galore! But my humans were oblivious until they actually broke the surface of the water…duh!
Not me! I knew they were there and I barked and barked to make sure those dolphins didn’t get too close to my boat. I was so good at spotting those dolphins that other people in the Sail to the Sun Rally would take notice when I barked. Lots of times somebody would come by the boat and thank me for pointing out the dolphins for them. Big tail wag for that!
Trying to catch those dolphins.
One time there were so many dolphins at No Name Harbor in Florida, that MG let me jump in the water and herd them! I worked and worked trying to coral those things, but I never could gather them all together.
Frank let me rest between swims.
Frank finally came out on a paddle board to let me rest for a few minutes. I did not want to give up trying to make the dolphins behave, but my humans said I had to stop…. I was really tired and a little sad I couldn’t coral the dolphins. But it was still a lot of fun trying and I think mom and dad were proud of me! And later people from boats we didn’t even know came over to tell us they had fun watching me. More tail wags for me!
A nice walk on Conception Island
I liked the ICW but it’s really good to get back to the beaches again. We spent January through March in the Bahamas where the water was clear and blue and it’s really easy to see whatever swims under our boat. It sure is nice to be able to roll in the sand and run on the beaches again.
Me snuggling down into the cool sand for a rest.
Mom calls this a refrigerator but I call it a snack drawer!
One thing is hard about living on this boat…. mom keeps my food in this drawer that is right at my level. Every time she opens that drawer wonderful things happen. First off, the drawer is cold and cool air seeps out when it is opened. Secondly, there are excellent smells in that drawer; not the kind you want to roll in but the kind you want to eat! And thirdly, my food is right there and I could just reach in and feed myself!
Don’t tell, I get in trouble if I put my nose in here!
Anyway, every time mom or dad open that drawer, I think they should feed me or at least give me a snack. But nope, humans can be heartless! I don’t get a treat every time they go into the cold drawer ~ in fact, mom and dad eat a lot more out of that drawer than I do!
Mom and I climbed out on this rock.
This year we have been traveling with other boats and that is fun. We don’t always stay with the same boats but lots of people come over to visit me. It’s sad because none of the other boats have dogs to give them licks and keep them safe. But the good thing is I get plenty of extra snuggles and sometimes the visitors even bring me treats! Pretty much everybody thinks I’m a really great dog (I hear them tell MG and Frank) and that makes me feel really happy.
Chillin’ at a concert in George Town – it was loud!
Don’t worry that I’m getting fat with those extra snuggles and treats. I still get plenty of exercise riding in the dinghy and on the paddle board; chasing birds on the beach and flies off the boat; and generally swimming and hiking with my humans.
See how easy it is to see into the water!
I hope you like the pictures I put in here so you can see what I’ve been doing.
I’m helping dad keep an eye out for coral heads in our way.
All in all, life on Let It Be is really good….. but I still won’t use that silly, fake grass mom puts on the back deck unless it’s an emergency! Like that cheap plastic stuff is any kind of replacement for land! Sheesh, I can’t let them get out of the habit of taking me to shore. There are far too many good sniffs there and I don’t want to give that up!
I’m the dinghy lookout when we explore.
At the end of the day I snuggle with my dinosaur while mom cooks.
Oh, hey!…. I just heard my drawer open…. Gotta run!
Oh yeah, remember to come say hi and give me some snuggles if you see us somewhere. Woof woof for now!
I like mom’s Mac better than dad’s PC
So today mom and dad, aka Mary Grace and Frank, took off in the dinghy and mom left her computer open. I was a little bored so I thought I would write about what things are like for me on this boat.
It’s been five months since I have lived with a yard! That might sound great if you are a fish or a bird, but as a dog ~ well I sure miss my grass sometimes. This life on a boat is pretty interesting, but really nothing feels quite as good as a nice roll and scratch in the grass! So far I have refused to give up my daily excursions to the grassy patches, but I think that is really good for my people. They complain sometimes about taking me to land at least twice a day but it gets them off the boat and talking to other people and stuff. Plus I get to sniff some really great new places. I don’t know many of the dogs that live here, but they have done a great job of getting rid of the squirrels. I have not seen a single squirrel since we left Texas! Boy I would like to know their secret because I never could get them to stay out of my yard back home.
Anyway, things here aren’t too bad. I spend a lot more time with MG and Frank and they let me prewash the dinner plates! They say it’s to save on water, but I think they just realize I do a really good job of licking them clean before the final wash.
With just sails, it’s really nice!
So living on a boat is quite an adjustment. I don’t like the engines very much so I like it when we can sail without using them. But sometimes my people must sail the wrong way because we are like bashing into waves. Those days I stay really close to them. Sometimes I have to actually sit on MG’s lap, not because I’m afraid or anything, just to make sure she doesn’t fall off of the boat or something. But she is getting better and I don’t have to stay as close to her as I used to.
Anyway, now that we are on the boat, my people are with me all the time and I really like it. Living in the house I used to spend most of the day sleeping but here on the boat we are too busy for that. I found some great pictures of myself (mom is always taking my picture!) so I’ll show you some of the things I do.
I’m making sure the stuff stays in the dinghy and keeping an eye out for other dinghies.
Usually when we ride in the dinghy, I hang onto the front and bark to make sure everyone knows we are coming. I love going anywhere in the dinghy and if friends ride with us and think they should be on the bow, I just scoot right in front of them until they realize that is my spot and I need to bark.
My special dinghy spot.
I want mom and dad to stay healthy, so we take a lot of walks. Here is a view from our walk this week at Chatham Bay on Union Island.
This was some really nice grass!
We usually see goats and I love to chase them. At first this really worried mom and dad because I would take off and disappear. But I come back to the exact same spot on the trail every time, so now they don’t worry so much. On this walk, we saw cows! That was a big surprise.
This little cow wasn’t as interesting as the big ones.
Mom would not let me chase the cows so I just stared really hard at one. The one in this picture is just a little one. I was watching a BIG one.
They didn’t name me “Captain” for nothin’
When we are sailing, I really think I should be at the helm. I prefer to drive, but if we have guests on board, I sit back and socialize and let someone else have a chance.
Some days we swim to shore. I am a really good swimmer and my people have to wear fins to keep up with me. But I’m usually pretty excited to get there so I go really fast. On the way back I’m not as energetic, so mom or dad give me a ride back to LIB.
Here’s a pic of me on a boogie board. Looks fun, right?
Paddle boarding is great exercise for my humans. They added this blue stuff to the ends and I can really hold on now. I stand as far forward as I can and as soon as they tell me I can go swim, I jump off the board and swim to land. It’s really fun!
Hey, who’s up for a paddle?
I usually ride on dad’s board because he’s faster. (Don’t tell mom!)
Dad and I checking to see if mom is coming along.
I really like to help with everything, so when dad is looking for stuff, I do too. Dad is pretty hooked on finding coconuts lately. That’s fine with me though because it’s just one more reason to go to shore.
No squirrels, may as well help find coconuts.
One day we took the dinghy out to a tiny, deserted island called Mopion. It’s near Petit Saint Vincent if you want to find it. Anyway, it was kinda late in the day and everyone else had left so we had this great place all to ourselves. I could run around the whole island in like 10 seconds, but I’m pretty fast so don’t expect your dog to do it that quickly.
Mom and me sharing a laugh on Mopion.
Dad doesn’t do anymore of his old job, but mom still has some of those bill things to do, so she spends time on the computer doing that and posting blogs and stuff. I like to snuggle up with her when she sits still to do her stuff.
Mom doesn’t realize I know her blog password!
I’ll sit in the float!
Finally an action shot! Ha, this is dad holding the float and me jumping in. I didn’t know why he had on his mask and fins but when he offered the floating chair, I was like, heck yeah! But it got even better ~ mom jumped in the water too and they pulled me along while they snorkeled.
They snorkeled and I floated.
Wow, that lounge chair is great isn’t it? I actually fell asleep while they were busy looking at the fish. But who can blame me? My fur was a little wet, the sun was nice and warm and the water was gently rocking the chair. Come on, you know your would have slept too.
Mom and dad don’t always take me with them when they swim and snorkel. Sometimes we all go to the beach, then they go snorkel. When they do, I dig a little hole under the dinghy, just deep enough to reach the cooler sand. Then I take a nap and wait for them to come back to shore.
Napping under the dinghy is really comfy.
As you can see, my days are so busy I don’t get to nap like I used to in the house. And night time is busy too because I sleep outside and keep watch over mom and dad. I used to like to sleep inside near them, but now I like to be outside and up as high as I can so I can see really well. If anyone comes our way, I bark really loud so mom and dad know about it. I think they are glad I am keeping watch over them.
I could tell you some more stuff, but mom and dad will probably be back soon so I’m gonna finish. If you like hearing about things I do, tell mom about it in the comments and maybe she’ll let me write again some time.
Keep barkin’ y’all. This is Captain, out. (I’ve picked up some radio speak too.)
Jolly Harbour feels like the treasure at the end of a rainbow.
Jolly Harbour has been a very welcome anchorage after both of our passages from St. Martin. This time I was ready to return to Jolly because the surge in Nelson’s Dockyard made our lines squeak at night which made sleep a little difficult. Even though I really like English Harbour, I am such a light sleeper that the squeak kept me awake so I was ready for the quiet of Jolly Harbour.
Last June we visited Jolly Harbour, so we knew what to expect this time and we were not disappointed. The folks in Jolly Harbour Marina are very nice and always have a smile. Jenn was in the marina office again this visit and her warm welcome was appreciated.
One really nice change in JH is the upgrade to their internet signal. Jenn told us that in the past the marina had complaints about the wifi, so they upgraded the system. Since then she said they have not had any complaints. We were on a mooring ball and had excellent wifi on LIB. Thanks for the upgrade Jolly Harbour!!
As you can see from the picture above, there are a lot of private homes with boat docks along the edges of JH which offers a different view and feeling from many anchorages. These quiet fingers are perfect for paddle boarding.
Last year we wrote about our visit to Sha Sade where Frank had his hair cut. This year I visited Shamone who gave me a manicure/ pedicure and even dyed my eyebrows for me. It was like a regular spa day!
Shamone and Sadie’s store front.
The salon is in the building right next to the dinghy dock so the location is perfect for boaters. I will certainly go back the next time I’m in Jolly Harbour.
As most boaters know, Jolly has an excellent grocery and it is pretty easy to find familiar products. We were able to stock up on some essentials like M&Ms. 😉
Near the mooring balls their is a neighborhood with an open field and quiet streets which makes a perfect place for us to throw the frisbee for Captain.
She apparently thinks we should have gone there more often as she decided she would sleep in the dinghy between visits! She has only done this in Jolly Harbour, so I’m guessing this is one of her favorite anchorages.
Yes, that black ball of fluff is Cap waiting for another trip to shore!
This time we left Jolly Harbour to head to Shell Beach where we picked up our older son, Hunter. What a great reason to head out.
The focus of Hunter’s visit is kiteboarding. Frank has been anxiously waiting for this opportunity to kite with Hunter right off of LIB.
Let’s hope these crazy winds keep blowing…
Fair or not, St. Martin will not be remembered as my favorite place, at least from this trip. While the island is beautiful, I was sick the whole time we were on St. Martin, thus my impressions are negatively colored.
This trip we really only experienced the French side of St. Martin. Still even when sick, this is a beautiful place and we did manage to see some rather lovely spots. I am certainly interested in stopping here again later this year as I am certain St. Martin will be even more fun when I am feeling better.
For now, here are some photos to show you some of the beauty of the areas we visited this time.
Leaving Virgin Gorda, BVI
Arriving in St. Martin at dawn….. Captain is ready for land!
Exploring pretty little ocean side towns by foot.
Stopping for lunch and watching the Ski School teach with LIB in the background.
How about the Pink Iguana – with the Texas flag to represent?!
A narrow and beautiful entry to Anse Marcel marina
There is so much more to share, but my internet is very limited and I had a hard time loading this much. With luck, we will have better internet and I can post more often.
Hope you enjoy the views!
I mentioned our dog, Captain, in my last post. This Christmas was her first visit to Let It Be.
Initially, Cap was not a fan of being underway, especially if engines were involved. Mostly she hid under the table of the cockpit, closed her eyes and pretended to be somewhere else.
However, English Shepherd dogs are very adaptable and like to be involved in the decision making. So pretty soon Captain was up and about, making sure we were heading to a choice mooring ball:
In fact, by the end of her first two weeks of sailing, Captain was living up to her name and taking her turn at the helm:
And like any good captain, she took breaks, but stayed nearby in case we needed her help when she wasn’t at the helm:
I won’t be at all surprised if some day I find Cap has managed to make her own posts on this blog!