No, we’re not talking about blondes; we are talking about that small vessel that most cruisers carry on their boat primarily to get them to and from shore. However, our dinghy, Day Tripper, serves many more functions than simply moving us to and from land.
For most cruisers who live on anchor and enjoy the water, the dinghy is a means for adventure, transportation, exploration, gatherings, rescue, towing, and the list goes on. In fact, the often neglected dinghy really is a “boat system” that needs research before the purchase as well as care and maintenance after the purchase. The dinghy is so important in my opinion, that its function and onboard management should be considered an integral system when purchasing one’s blue-water cruising boat.
Mary Grace and I have a limited perspective when it comes to blue-water cruising boats and their dinghies; we have had 2 catamarans and 2 inflatable rigid bottom dinghies. Therefore, much of the content of this blog will reflect our viewpoint and experiences; we hope you will share your thoughts in the comment section at the end of this writing.
Factors to consider: Certainly, the choice of dinghy will come down to some mix of the following:
- Intended purpose – this list is almost endless and driven by individual plans.
- Who and how many people will use the dinghy – A family of 6 obviously needs a larger dinghy and more powerful engine than a cruising couple.
- How will the dinghy be stored or carried aboard the big boat – If possible, please consider adopting a “never tow” attitude toward your dinghy. Many dinghies have been damaged or lost while being towed and dinghy lines often become entangled in propellers when helmsmen forget to shorten lines before reversing the main boat. Davits on the transom are an excellent investment that keeps your dinghy safe while underway and discourages theft.
- Budget – Reliability, especially in your dinghy engine, is absolutely critical. Dinghy and engine are probably not the place to go cheap. Find somewhere else in the cruising kitty to save dollars.
In the early days after buying our FP Helia 44, as I stepped out of our 11’6” dinghy with its 15 hp outboard, I had a giant case of “dinghy envy.” Tied up to the very well maintained dinghy dock and right next to my skiff was a beautiful, center console RIB with a brand new 60 hp Yamaha engine and a ski tow bar! In our limited experience, we thought the BVI dock maintenance was what we would experience in most of our travel, and that exotic RIB looked enviable.
After leaving the BVI for other islands in the Leeward and Windward Caribbean Chain, I quickly realized the wisdom and functionality of our very simple, small and practical dinghy! In most Caribbean cruising anchorages, IF there is something called a dinghy dock it is poorly maintained with boards missing, nails or rebar protruding, no cleats or mooring mechanism, and often shallow or surge prone water. All of these features are waiting to destroy any dinghy much less those expensive dinghies seen in the BVIs.
In addition, when out adventuring in the dinghy, we found ourselves pulling our dinghy up on the beach or over a rocky bottom onto the shore. That lovely center console dinghy would be too heavy for us to pull up on the beach and we would have to anchor it a bit off the shore out of the waves.
When the time came for us to buy a dinghy for Ticket to Ride, we already had 5 years of cruising experience to help us decide which dinghy would work best for our needs.
TTR Dingy and Engine:
- Boat: We purchased a new Hypalon Highfield 380 CL from Trade Wind Inflatables in Southern California. TTR’s tender is 12’ 6” short shaft transom weighing 183 lbs. and rated for up to a 30 HP engine. We liked the painted aluminum hull, factory installed hard rubber keel guard, forward locker for a 6 gallon gas can, flat double bottom floor, and oars with oarlocks. This Highfield 380 is the largest length dinghy we thought we could reasonably carry on Ticket to Ride.
- Engine: We purchased a new Yamaha Enduro 2 stroke 15 HP in Caracao and its first use was on TTR’s Highfield RIB. This is the same engine we had on Let It Be’s dinghy and we were incredibly pleased with the reliability and simplicity of this motor. Fuel economy and the amount of noise are not as good as a 4 stroke engine. Our second choice would have been a 20 HP 4 stroke Honda.
There are not many accessories or options available for a small, simple dinghy with tiller steering and pull start; however, there are a few additions we find important:
- Fuel filter: We installed an inline fuel filter which is bolted to the transom and designed for gasoline engines. Fuel problems are the primary reason for small engine problems; I do highly recommend a robust filter.
- Dinghy wheels: Our dependance on dinghy wheels in the Caribbean prompted us to insure TTR’s dinghy would allow installation of the same. We love our DaNard Marine Dinghy wheels for many, many reasons. Whether going up a boat ramp, beach or in shallow unknown water, our DaNard wheels have been invaluable. When deployed, they project 4 inches below the engine skeg tip; therefore, no need to tilt the motor when approaching the beach. The customer service from DaNard has been second to none.
- Anchor and anchor rode: Without getting into the never ending anchor discussions, the anchor we chose is a Box Anchor made by Slide Anchor. Folds easily, minimal or no need for chain, and holds our dinghy in almost any bottom surface. Would not be my choice for the big boat; excellent for the dinghy. We have 40 feet of 5/16 three strand nylon for anchor rode.
- Painter (line): The absolutely terrible condition of some cruiser’s painters is amazing to me. Knots in the middle, too short, totally frayed bitter end, and poorly secured to the dinghy itself. We would suggest a painter line such as 3 strand nylon, spliced to the bow eye (bowline knots come untied when not under pressure), long enough for towing if necessary, and easily tied to a dock, a cleat or your neighbor’s boat.
- Spare 1 gallon fuel tank: We have not YET (Not yet!) run out of fuel in the primary 6 gallon can but this spare is our ace in the hole.
- Cable and lock: Last but certainly not least, a cable and padlock are essential. I would suggest a cable that is at least 10 feet long and thick enough to be secure but not so thick to prevent it from passing through the base of a dock cleat or between two dock boards. The PVC covered lifeline SS cable with crimped looped ends makes up our dinghy cable. The lock: combination or key? We have gone from key to combination and now back to key.
Now that we have discussed the dinghy, the engine and some simple add-ons, let’s talk dinghy best practices. I do not profess to be a US Sailing teacher or know everything on this topic; however, our experience will help in starting this list.
Basic Dinghy Best Practices/Courtesy:
- Boarding and de-boarding: Huge topic here with many variables due to the variety of boat configurations and dinghies. This is one of the many places I will tip my hat to the inflatable dinghies. The stability afforded by the inflatable tubes of a RIB provide an excellent step for boarding. Most experienced cruisers know how to get in and out of their dinghy; however, we have all had guests aboard who are far less comfortable. In general, a well positioned hand hold at or above waist level is incredibly helpful for balancing during boarding. Secondly, an uncluttered dinghy floor reduces the chance of twisting an ankle or falling. Lastly, this is no time to be modest; sometimes the best method is crawling between the dinghy and big boat.
- Be prepared: If Mary Grace and I are going anywhere other than a short trip to shore in daylight both ways, the items taken along are quite different. VHF Radio: anytime we go adventuring or into “open” water. Life jackets: anytime we go away from flat calm water. Lights: going to or from shore in dark we always have a light. We have the official Red/Green/White light attached magnetically to our engine cover; however, a bright dive light held over the side and panned back and forth is more effective. PLB: snatched from our ditch bag when we are really going adventuring. Fuel: check frequently
- Kill switch lanyard: stating the obvious – always wear the kill switch lanyard in case you are thrown from the boat.
- Be courteous: Speeding on a plane through a crowded anchorage is dangerous and lacks courtesy. Slow down and say hello to your neighbors. Don’t be “that guy.”
- Lift it or lose it: Lift your dinghy EVERY night. If you leave your dinghy in the water at night; assume that it will one day go adrift or be stolen.
- Mooring to a dock: Docks used for mooring a dinghy come in all shapes, sizes, and states of repair. Let’s assume a purpose built dinghy dock that is wood, low to the water, and possessing some mooring attachment. Accepted practice is to tie your dinghy painter long and leave the engine in the down position. Lock the dinghy without locking someone else’s to the dock and take your kill switch key. Purpose built well maintained dinghy docks are not the norm; so, a few tips. Absolutely do not take any chances on allowing your dinghy to get below a dock and become pinned – and take tidal changes into consideration. Use a stern anchor in this situation or if the water surges or the dock presents damage possibilities of any sort.
- Landing on a beach: My word of caution: landing a dinghy on a beach and getting off a beach can be VERY dangerous for people and property if there is ANY surf break. Mary Grace and I have done it, don’t like to do it, and half the time it does not go well. Patience, preparedness, and acceptance that you are going to get wet are my best words of wisdom. Using the kill lanyard is critical. With multiple people or less than agile people we skip beach landings.
- Getting in and out from the water: Mary Grace and I don’t teach or test all of our guest about getting back into our dinghy; however, we both are capable of reboarding from the water even when tired. Having a dinghy boarding ladder available for guests is helpful and we often add it to the dinghy when we have guests. We both know the backflip technique for reboarding, which is helpful when tired or without fins.
- Know the limits: Again, last but not least, know your personal limits and the limits of your dinghy. Stay on the main boat when boarding is hazardous, the open ocean is not a place for most dinghies, be very careful at night and when around surf. Use common sense and err on the side of caution.
Buying/replacing a dinghy in most typical cruising grounds such as the Bahamas, Windward Caribbean or the South Pacific is very close to impossible. The answer is to buy a good product up front and maintain it carefully. Let’s talk care and maintenance in particular for an inflatable RIB:
Long Live the Dinghy:
- Rid the sand: Sand is one of the primary killers of inflatables. Keep sand out of your dinghy! Wash feet, flip flops, and gear before loading into your dink. Don’t leave your dinghy half up the beach with waves and sand washing over the transom; another good reason for good wheels which raise the transom above water level. Finally wash your dinghy out often even if washing with salt water. Periodically, pull the boat out of the water, partially deflate the tubes, and thoroughly wash out the area between the tubes and the rigid bottom. Sand gets into this area and grinds away on both surfaces.
- Clean and protect: UV is the other big killers of inflatables. Some cruisers love their “chaps”; we have chosen against chaps for cost and simplicity. We clean our dinghy regularly with a degreasing solution and then treat the Hypalon tubes liberally with 303 Aerospace Protectant.
- Handy repair kit: Patching holes in a Hypalon tube in the field is challenging and often leads to a poor result; however, it will probably be a necessity for most people at some time. A complete dinghy repair kit is essential; we have found Inflatableboatparts.com to be very knowledgable and helpful, plus they carry great products.
- Engine maintenance: Do it like your life depends on that motor; some day it actually might. Sea water impellers, oil changes, lower unit lube, spark plugs, fuel filters, clean and inspect. Always keep a spare prop on board.
Your dinghy is the lifeline between your wonderful life on the big boat and the opportunities and necessities of shore. Purchase the correct product, don’t tow the dink long distances, take good care of the dinghy and this little boat will take good care of you.
We sincerely hope that our readers will contribute their tips and tricks to this post. Sharing information is what the cruising community is all about. Thank you for your read.
As always, thank you for reading our blog. If you are new to dinghies, we hope this gives you some good tips. Those with a lot of dinghy experience, we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. If you would like to hear from us more often, please see us on Facebook or Instagram.
No doubt cruisers around the world have faced challenges throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic. While we consider ourselves fortunate to be in the immensely beautiful group of Hawaiian Islands, we too have faced some challenges during this last year. However, since our first introduction to the Kaneohe Yacht Club in June of 2020, this gem of a yacht club, its members and staff have been a haven of welcome and safety for us.
Way back in June we happened to meet Tommy Henshaw, a junior member at KYC, while we were anchored in the Bay. Upon learning that we needed to have some sail work done, Tommy introduced us to the KYC dock master who allowed us to spent a few nights on the KYC end dock so we could off load our sails. This was a huge relief as it allowed Jake, the North Sails rep, to come to TTR, help us remove sails and use a dock cart to get the sails to Jake’s truck. Much easier than trying to transport our sails via dinghy!
A week or two later, KYC kindly allowed us to once again tie to their dock when the repaired sails were returned to TTR. How awesome is that?
Fast forward a month or so…. we were doing some rudder work on Ticket to Ride and once again KYC allowed us to hang out at the end dock. This time we were able to stay for a two week period and we had the opportunity to meet the club members who would stroll down the dock to say hello. We also had many interactions with the KYC staff and every single person was a pleasure to work with!
Rarely have I met such a welcoming group of people!
Our two week visit was during high COVID time and the KYC was mostly closed due to state restrictions. None the less, those who were around the club would stop by for a chat, inquire about our plans and share stories about KYC and how much fun it is in “normal” times. Members shared information about favorite places to sail, things to do around Oahu and hikes that shouldn’t be missed.
Kaneohe Bay rests behind the only barrier reef in Hawaii and is a lovely place to anchor. So we spent several weeks in the Bay and watched the comings and goings of the Yacht Club from our anchor.
Fast forward to December 2020. After spending several weeks in Kauai, then running from Hurricane Douglas, hanging out in the roadstead anchorages of Maui, and spending weeks in Keehi Marine Center for boat work, we once again sought out the calm, protected waters of Kaneohe Bay.
When we returned to the Bay, we were again allowed to seek refuge for a week or two at KYC. This time the club was a bit more open and we were able to get a better sense of what KYC is like when completely operational.
During our December visit, I met a few KYC tennis players who invited me to join their round robin gatherings on the weekends. Because the days were short, the Friday night tennis was played under black lights! What’s not to love about such a free spirited type of tennis?
Members told us that New Year’s Eve in Kaneohe Bay was not to be missed as Hawaiian families go all out on fireworks and the bay would be lit up. Well, they were quite correct! At midnight the fireworks began all along the bay and must have lasted 30 minutes! I honestly believe this is the longest display of fireworks I have ever seen.
In January, Frank and I left Kaneohe Bay and sailed to Maui to seek out the annual humpback whale migration. We spent about seven weeks moving from spot to spot on Maui, watching whales and connecting with friends from our college days. The time in Maui was magical because of the marine life and the time with our friends. However, the rules in Hawaii require us to move locations often and the winds were tearing through the anchorages with gusts often in the 40 knot range.
After weeks of bumpy roadstead anchorages and changing locations every few days, we were ready for some calm water and we were looking for a refuge where we could recharge in a peaceful space.
With that in mind, we contacted KYC and made a proposal with these things in mind:
~KYC had less traffic and fewer visiting yachts than usual because of COVID
~the KYC end dock was not in use
~we were in need of a respite from constantly seeking new places to anchor
~we guessed that KYC revenue was down due to COVID
We proposed to the KYC Board that TTR be allowed to stay at the end tie for a month and in return, we would make a larger than usual guest fee. In addition, if any club member needed the end dock, we would leave the dock and anchor to allow the member to have first use of the dock.
Our hope was that this would be a positive arrangement for KYC because we knew it would be a great relief and fun rest for us. Happily, the board at KYC accepted our proposal.
We are SO thankful that the Board was able to think outside of the box during these crazy times and allow us an extended visit. We sailed back to Kaneohe as soon as a weather window allowed!
I did not realize how much I “needed” one place to call home for a few weeks until we tied up to KYC. The sense of relief at being on a safe dock, the knowledge that we didn’t have to move for a few weeks and the immediate welcome back from the members and staff nearly brought me to tears!
I do not think the KYC Board, members or staff have any idea how truly grateful we are for the time we had at their amazing club!
During our last visit to KYC, Oahu had raised the COVID level to Tier 3 and as a result KYC was beginning to come alive! Of course there were still restrictions and limitations, but wow, it was so fun to see the members enjoying their club again!
The minute we retied at KYC, we were welcomed with extreme generosity! Some members offered us the use of their cars for errands, others invited us out to dinner, we were invited into peoples homes, I was welcomed on the tennis court, we cheered on sailors sailing in the Beer Can Races, folks strolled down the dock to say hello, and as boats entered and left the dock, we called hello to folks by name and they knew our names in return. How incredible is that?!
KYC has a very active junior sailing program led by Jesse Andrews. Jesse and his crew teach dinghy sailing in a variety of boats like Optis and BICs. But in addition to these traditional junior dinghies, the KYC has a very active group of WASZP, 420 and 429 sailors. We loved watching the small dinghies tack in and out of the fairway and we were amazed watching the WASZPs zip down the lane – usually up on foils and moving silently through the water.
It is absolutely impossible to explain how much of a refuge KYC has been for us during the Pandemic. Cruising in Hawaii can be challenging because of wind, waves, storms and the ever present 3 day anchoring rules.
It is equally difficult to portray the warmth and fun of the yacht club members. There isn’t really a cruising community in Hawaii and I dare say the KYC members and staff became our cruising family.
If we were living on Oahu, we would definitely apply to join Kaneohe Yacht Club. In fact, we tried to join as “out of town” members, but that isn’t allowed unless one has already been a club member for two years. Although we cannot join KYC, this club will forever have a very special place in our hearts and in our memories.
KYC stands out as one of the most wonderful aspects of our year in Hawaii. Every person we met there absolutely exemplified the aloha spirit and we were blessed to have been recipients.
Thank you for stopping by to read our blog. We hope this story of the wonderful people of KYC brightens your day and fortifies your belief in the goodness of people. If you would like to hear from us more often, please see our Facebook page or Instagram.
Every so often the clutches on TTR need to be cleaned and lubricated. Although it isn’t an exciting job, it is a very important one.
For the unfamiliar, lines connected to our sails run through a clutch which helps control the movement of the lines and therefore the shape of our sails. If the clutch is locked down, the line will not move in or out of the clutch, thus keeping a line immobile so the sail will hold a certain shape. Pretty sensible.
On the other hand, an open clutch will allow a line to move easily in either direction so we can trim a line (shorten) or ease a line (lengthen). Suppose we were sailing and suddenly a big breeze came up and we needed to release a sail because there was more power than we wanted. The line would run through an opened clutch to the release pressure on the sail.
Clearly the ability to power or de-power a sail is an important function and clutches are vital component of sail trim on TTR.
Ticket to Ride has 21 clutches and we spent a looong day servicing them. The pictures below will give you an idea of our process:
Voila! That is the process we use to take care of our clutches on Ticket to Ride.
I am sure there is someone out there who has a different way of maintaining clutches. We are always open to suggestions, so let us know your clutch secrets! Or secrets in a clutch. 😜
Recently we have been spending time on “boat love” like the servicing clutches. We have been tackling exciting jobs like polishing the brightwork, cleaning the bilges, oil changes, servicing the Pontos winch, cleaning the hulls under the water, “lifting” the mast for proper rig tension, testing lights and equipment on the mast, etc.
We definitely appreciate Tommy’s continued dedication to TTR. He is always ready to sail or lend a hand on projects, as well as introduce us to new people and avid sailors.
We do our best to keep TTR in great shape and ready to take on our next adventure at a moments notice. We are looking forward to seeing borders open again so we can resume our travels. In the mean time, we have begun researching alternate opportunities since French Polynesia remains restricted. Who knows, maybe these two warm weather sailors will decide this is the perfect time to explore Alaska!
We will let you know as our plans develop.
As always, thank you for visiting our blog. We hope you will share any of your favorite maintenance secrets. It is always good to find effective, time saving secrets. If you want to hear from us more often, please look for us on Facebook or Instagram. Stay well y’all!
Disclaimer: I am NOT video savvy and I can only hope the quality of these videos is half as beautiful and inspiring as the real life sightings were. Also, I have lost audio on my Sony A6500 (user error) which really stinks because the sounds emitted by the whales are so fun to hear. Anyway, I hope you enjoy these videos despite my amateur status.
Aboard Ticket to Ride, we were aware that in January humpback whales begin arriving in quantities following their annual migration route to Hawaii. We wanted to see these giants and all indications were that hanging out on Maui was the best place to insure plenty of sightings. So in mid January we left Oahu and sailed to Maui. We have been anchoring around Maui for over six weeks now and the thrill of seeing and hearing the humpback whales has not diminished!
Humpback whales are a subspecies of the baleen whale and one of the larger whales that has a streamlined body with pleated skin (scientific name for this body type is rorqual). The females grow larger than the males and can be 40 to 45 feet in length and weigh 25-35 tons!
Perhaps the most striking or recognizable feature of the humpback whale is their flippers which can be 15 feet long and are often stark white (or partially white) in contrast to their gray/black bodies. When the whales are close to us, it is easy to see the bright white of their pectoral fins under the clear Hawaiian water.
One day we spotted a few whales to starboard, with one breaching, and we were surprised by another whale that approached from our port side! TTR was drifting without engines and the big guy in the video above was so close we could easily see his white fin and the bubbles he left in his wake right in front of our bow! The protrusive bumps on the heads of humpback whales are also very recognizable. You can barely see them in this video.
Similar to a snowflake or a fingerprint, the tails of the humpbacks have unique markings which can be used to identify them individually! The photo below shows a few tales with unique fluke markings.
I didn’t know much about whales when we left Oahu to search them out near Maui, but I have read a bit now and the more I learn, the more interesting these mammals become.
Humpbacks are found near all continents and seem to migrate to specific locations every year, although occasionally a whale or two will migrate to a different area some years. In general:
-humpbacks that feed from Northern California to Vancouver Island in the summer will find breeding grounds in Mexican and Central American waters.
-those that feed from Vancouver Island to Alaska in summer are found in Hawaii in the winter, though some will migrate to Mexico.
-humpbacks that feed in the Bering Sea, along the western Aleutian Islands and along the Russian coast are likely to be found in the Asian breeding areas.
The whales in Maui travel about 2,700 miles from Alaska each way. That sounds like quite the distance but some whales travel as much as 5,000 miles to a breeding ground.
The females travel to Hawaii to give birth to their calves and the males follow the females in search of breeding. Humpbacks feast on krill and small fish in the summer but once they begin the migration, they do not eat again until they return to the north.
The female humpback whale has a gestation period of 11.5 months and they have live births. Once the calf is born, it nurses until they return to Alaska and it begins eating small fish and krill. This means that a female humpback stops eating when she begins the migration, she births her calf, nurses the calf until they return to the north and she does not eat during that whole period!
Only male humpback whales sing! The purpose of singing is not known but theories abound. Some say the whales sing to help with location/sonar. Others say the singing is a way of attracting females. But whatever the reason, whales from one area all sing the same song which lasts 10 to 20 minutes.
But guess what?! The song changes every season. So for all you whale listeners out there, the tune will change from one year to the next. We can even hear the whales while on board TTR. Every night when I prepare for bed, I can hear the whales through the hull of our boat!
Humpback whales are seen in many parts of Hawaii, but the channels between Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kahoolawe have the largest number of whales.
Although humpbacks were hunted nearly to the point of extinction, their numbers have revived since the moratorium on whaling was put into effect. Rough estimates are that when whaling began in the early 1900’s, there were approximately 15,000 whales worldwide and by the time whaling stopped in the mid-1960s, only around 1,200 humpbacks still existed!
Two things happened to save these giant, graceful mammals. First, the whales became so difficult to find that the whalers turned to other species. Secondly, in 1966, after approximately 90% of the whale population had been eradicated, a moratorium was placed on whale hunting.
The IWC (International Whaling Commission) was created in1966 to educate people and raise awareness of whale endangerment. The IWC currently has 88 member countries around the world, though it does not have any enforcement power.
In the early 1970’s crude methods of estimating the number of humpbacks visiting Hawaii put their number at only a few hundred. A friend told us that at that time, during an eight hour whale watching tour, you were lucky to spot one or two whales.
In 2004-2006, a world wide survey estimated the humpback population at 20,000 with nearly half of those visiting the Hawaiian Islands during the breeding season. This is an encouraging recovery that gives hope for other endangered species!
I was surprised to learn that each whale only stays four to six weeks in Hawaii. So the whales I saw in mid-January will not be the same ones I see in March. The whales are continually changing as they cycle through the islands, then migrate back to their home feeding grounds.
The number of whales today must be huge because we can see them in the channel from our anchorage at all times of the day. In fact, sometimes they are very close, moving slowly through the anchorage!
Whales within the anchorage are usually a mom and young calf. The females appear to seek out shallow water where they can rest with their calves and perhaps find protection from predators or persistent males who want to breed. Just the other day we heard an exhale and saw a puff of breath from a twosome between us and another boat anchored near us!
Young calves need to surface more often than the mothers who can stay beneath the water for 10 to 20 minutes. As seen in the video below, a calf will surface, swim in circles and take three or four breaths before returning to the mother.
Females usually give birth every other year, thus having a rest year, though some will reproduce every year.
My research tells me that females do not mingle with other females while in Hawaii and they keep their young separated. However, the females do interact when in their feeding grounds.
Humpback whales who travel to Hawaii have very different agendas. The females are focusing on giving birth or reproduction. However, the females seem to be interested in quality and will seek the whales they deem the strongest and most healthy.
Male humpback whales, have traveled thousands of miles to the breeding ground and have only reproduction on their brain. Researchers believe the males are all about quantity and will breed any available females.
Although the whole population of humpbacks is about 50/50 male to female, in breeding areas like Hawaii, there is a 2.5 or 3 to one ratio of males to females. This is true because not all females migrate every year.
Often several males are seen together following or searching for a female. A group of males chasing a female is called a ‘heat run.’ The males in a heat run are often very active on the surface of the water and can be seen vying for the attention of the female.
We happened to come across a heat run and caught it on videos. The video above shows what the heat run looked like from the bows of TTR.
Fortunately, Frank was able to launch the drone and he caught this amazing footage of a pod of 20+ whales. The largest one, toward the front is a female. Here is a video of the same group of whales taken from above.
Heat runs can last for hours as the males chase the female. The males inflate their bodies to appear larger, expel streams of bubbles and push each other around in an effort to secure the female’s interest.
The recovery of whales is truly encouraging and witnesses that with effort, endangered species can recover. Through education and conscious decision making, we can be better stewards of this Earth and the animals that inhabit it.
This post is full of videos, which I try to avoid because they require so much internet! But, the beauty of these whales is unique and hard to capture so I wanted to share some videos in an effort to more accurately reflect our experiences. Hopefully you have much better access to wifi than I do and this doesn’t take too long to load.
Thanks for stopping by to read our blog post. We hope you enjoyed this glimpse of the humpback whales in Hawaii. We are so fortunate to see them! Please turn to our Instagram or Facebook pages to hear from us more often.
Like most people, our travels and interactions have been severely limited by COVID, and often we are just hanging out and doing routine activities like working out, maintaining Ticket to Ride and eating at home. But Frank and I wanted to make a trip from Oahu to Maui to see the whales that migrate there every year.
We have some college friends who live in Hawaii and they expressed a definite desire to sail with us, so we invited them to join us on our little jaunt.
Inter-island travel in Hawaii requires COVID-19 testing, so we found an accepted location and scheduled our first ever Coronavirus test to coincide with completion of provisioning and a good weather window. Happily the test wasn’t terrible and the results were negative!
Gloria, Dave, Frank and I set out to make a leisurely trip to Maui with a few stops along the way, assuming the weather predictions were accurate. The tentative plan was to stop first on the southwest side of Molokai in Lono Harbor for a night or two, next visit Needles or Shark Fin on Lanai depending on swell and wind. After Lanai we would explore a few spots on Maui and if the weather presented, we would take a day trip to Molokini.
We set off from Kaneohe Bay with one reef in the main sail plus the genoa. The wind was mild even though the channel between Oahu and Molokai (Ka’iwi Channel) can be quite sporty. It was a casual sail of 51nm and we arrived at Lono Harbor in late afternoon.
Lono is a man made harbor with a narrow opening that can close out if the waves build, so we were careful to choose a weather window that promised small swells for an easy entrance and exit. In the picture below, notice how flat the water is in the harbor and the entrance.
Although Molokai is referred to as The Friendly Island, we have heard that, especially during COVID, the locals want nothing to do with visitors to their island. We saw several individuals and a family fishing from the shore at Lono Harbor and we cheered for them from the boat whenever they landed a fish. There was plenty of waving and smiles and no feelings of ill will.
We were quite surprised to see this fellow swim from shore to the rocky pier at dusk. We aren’t sure what caused his flight but we heard a dog barking and thought perhaps the dog chased the deer into the water.
Sunset was an array of vivid colors that we enjoyed while sipping cocktails. We relished the quiet of nature that wreathed this harbor.
During the night Frank and I awakened to much greater motion on the boat, but attributed it to increased wind. However, in the morning, the harbor entrance had a little surprise for us….. the swell forecast must have been wrong or incorrectly timed because we had waves that were 8 to 10 feet instead of the 2-3 predicted. The entrance was by no means closed out, but we needed to time our exit carefully and we wanted to leave sooner than later before the anchorage became uncomfortable.
After studying the waves for quite a while, preparing TTR as if she were a monohull, and putting on lifejackets, we upped anchor and waited for a break in the waves to motor quickly out of the harbor.
Thankfully our timing worked well and our exit was uneventful. Frank and I were a bit too busy to get any pictures, but Dave caught some of the excitement on film. Though, as usual, film doesn’t capture the complete feeling.
Sailing from Lono to Lanai was easy enough and included a variety of wind but the sea state was mild. I think the shallow entrance at Lono significantly increased the swell at the entrance because the swell away from the shallows was insignificant.
Winter in Hawaii means the winds can come from any direction and as we moved toward Lanai, we were doubtful that either Needles or Shark Fin would be tenable for an overnight stay.
As we neared Needles, we knew conditions would prevent us from staying overnight, but we enjoyed seeing the unique rock formations. From a distance, the Needles blend with the black rock of the shore behind them, but up close the rock formations define themselves. Originally there were five spires, but today only three remain. Two are stubby protrusions of black rock but one looks like a large, tall tree stump with dormant grass on top.
Although it was a long shot, we sailed over to Shark Fin to see if somehow we could grab a mooring ball there to stay overnight. Once again the swell and wind were not in our favor so we pointed our bows toward Olowalu on Maui.
Olowalu has bunches of coral heads that are fun to snorkel. We don’t ever want to damage coral, so we hooked up to a mooring ball and enjoyed the steady breezes that flow between the mountains into the anchorage.
The next morning we awakened early, prepared coffee and breakfast burritos. Then we launched our dinghy, Day Tripper, and motored into the channel for breakfast in the dinghy while searching for whales. We saw many whales and had one incredible encounter. We turned off the engine and were floating near two or three kayaks when we spotted a whale and baby heading our way. Turns out it was four whales and soon they swam inside the loose circle we created with the kayaks. The whales came much closer than expected but we never felt threatened. Up close it is amazing how gently and gracefully these whales moved through us. Though we have seen some breaching that I wouldn’t want to be near!
We spent the remainder of the day in and out of the water, spying on the fish and looking at the coral.
Next we decided to find a mooring ball in a little spot called Coral Guardens. We had never been there, but we knew there were mooring balls and we wanted to explore the coral there. Since Coral Gardens is so close to Olowalu, we motored over and hooked up in less than an hour. After scouting the swing room from the mooring ball, we decided TTR would be safe there overnight and once again we spent the day relaxing and getting in and out of the water to look at the marine life. It was great to be back on Maui where the water was clear and warm enough for us to swim!
Fortuitously we had an excellent weather window to sail to Molokini, a small crescent shaped island about 10 miles southeast of Olowalu. Molokini is a favorite stop for day cruise boats but it is often too windy to stay there in the afternoons when the winds kick up. We had a pleasant sail to Molokini then spent most of a day tied to a mooring ball.
We snorkeled along the interior of the crescent and saw a nice variety of fish. Then we enjoyed lunch on the front of TTR and watched others snorkel the path we had already taken. It was a really nice change to see day cruises in operation and visitors enjoying the delights of Hawaii. Though the day charter boats are not carrying full capacity, they are making a go of things and showing a few visitors the beauty of Hawaii.
About 3 pm we released the mooring ball and had a truly delightful sail to Mala Wharf on Maui. Of these five days of sailing, this one was the best one. The winds were consistently 12-15 knots at a 120 degree true wind angle. We enjoyed champagne sailing at 8-10 knots as we moved along and searched for whales. We spotted many whale spouts as we sailed but we didn’t get close to any of them.
It was fun just to see the whales surface and watch the clouds created by their exhales.
Bouncy weather was predicted so we dropped anchor near Mala Wharf and enjoyed a final dinner with Dave and Gloria aboard TTR.
The forecast showed we were in for a day of rain and wind, so we dropped our friends off early, spent a quiet, rainy day on Ticket to Ride and planned our next move to Honolua Bay, just a few miles up the Maui coast.
****Special thanks to Dave and Gloria for allowing me to use some of their photos!
Thanks so much for stopping by to visit our blog. We hope you are staying well and sane as this pandemic continues to test all of us. If you would like to hear from us more often, please visit us on Facebook or Instagram.
**UPDATE: I have received a message from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources explaining that fires of any type on the sandbar are illegal. In addition, the message states that most of the trees are shipped in from the mainland and they have pesticides and chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Please look at the full response from DLNR in the comments on this blog to understand the extent of law concerning this event.**
Once a year, in January, on an evening when the tide gets particularly low, an unofficial event takes place at The Sandbar in Kaneoha Bay. Quite by accident we were able to witness this event because we had decided to anchor at the sandbar and enjoy a quiet evening or two on the hook.
Saturdays are often crowded at this local hangout, but this time there were quite a few boats and people making the trek to the edges of the shallows.
Well, it turns out that every year, after Christmas, an underground communication takes place and discarded Christmas trees are gathered for a huge bonfire. I don’t know how many years this has taken place, but the news travels quickly and quietly. Friends, families neighbors and pets gather early in the day and play in the water until dusk begins to settle and the tide has rolled most of the water off of the sand.
It is in the twilight, just before dusk truly begins that one or two pontoon boats, piled high with discarded Christmas trees, arrives at the sandbar. With jovial hellos, folks grab the trees and one by one carry them to a dry spot on the sandbar. Volunteers toss the trees haphazardly in a pile, as others form a loose circle around the trees.
As we approached the the pile and saw groups of people were gathering in the circle, Dr. Seuss’ song, “Welcome Christmas” which the Who people sing on Christmas morning, was playing in my head as I watched the smiling people. (The lyrics are quite nice if you take a listen.)
One minute before the lighting of the tree, a single Roman Candle firecracker was shot into the air.
One quick flame to the tree pile sparked a huge bonfire. It literally took only moments for the trees to become a heatwave of fire. The speed of the combustion made me realize how Christmas tree fires cause such destruction in homes!
In this contained and safe environment, the fire was beautiful and enchanting as it danced and devoured the branches. Though we were standing in only ankle deep water, the night air was chilly and the blaze dispersed warmth and light that were welcome.
I was truly amazed by how quickly the fire burned through the trees! I would estimate that an hour after the fire started, the majority of the trees were gone. The remaining debris was washed away as the tide rose and today there is no evidence that the secret burning ever occurred.
In the days after the tree burning, there were complaints on-line about the event as some believe the fire creates mess and debris in the water. For myself, I thought the event was very safe and I saw no mess created. We walked the sandbar the next day and found no trace of the trees. Plus, if any branches do drift off, they are natural and can decompose in the water.
What does surprise me is that people were complaining about the mess of the Christmas Tree burning while not complaining about the mess created by the fireworks set off on New Year’s Eve. I posted a video of midnight fireworks in Kaneohe Bay which were beautiful and more abundant than I have ever seen! I absolutely cannot imagine all the bits of trash left on the streets from that event!
But everyone has his own “hot” button. (See what I did there? hehe) I’m a visitor in Hawaii and we are simply fortunate to see both the New Year’s celebratory fireworks and the Christmas Tree burn.
FYI, those of us on TTR tried to keep a 6′ distance from the others on the sandbar. Even though we were outside and standing upwind most of the time, we did our best to keep distances. We also had our face masks with us if needed.
Thank you for visiting our blog. We hope 2021 has begun in a positive way for all of you. If you have comments or questions, we would love to hear from you. Be sure to visit us on Instagram or Facebook if you want to hear from us more often.
Well things on Ticket to Ride are unusually quiet and we don’t see that changing even after we ring in the New Year.
Thanks to COVID, this is the first time in 29 years that we have not spent Christmas with our kids. Well, there was one year when Hunter was in Spain, but Clayton was with us on Let It Be in Florida…. that’s a pretty amazing record that I was sorry to see broken. But, as stated earlier, we think staying home was the wiser decision.
Once again we are enjoying the delightful hospitality of the Kaneohe Yacht Club. We have taken advantage of the dock time with spa days for Ticket to Ride, or as Frank calls it, “boat love” days. This includes cleaning up stainless steel, waxing the topsides, which is all of the outdoor white surfaces that are smooth and not non-skid. Well, I guess this is just our equivalent of spring cleaning. But TTR is looking quite sparkly and fresh.
Soon after the new year, we will sail to Maui to see the whales that come each winter. We want to explore Maui and perhaps Lanai for a few weeks, assuming the weather cooperates. The sail to Maui is upwind, but at least we won’t be avoiding a hurricane like we were the last time we made that trip!
We are also thinking about sailing to the Big Island and taking a look at the recently active Kilauea Volcano in Volcanoes National Park.
Halema’uma’u crater, part of Kilauea, erupted on December 21st. Apparently there was interaction between a pool of water inside the crater and a new lava flow which caused a huge steam cloud to shoot up 30,000 feet for about an hour. Later it was reported that lava was shooting up about 165 feet inside Halema’uma’u Crater and the water had been replaced by a lava pool. About an hour after the eruption, a 4.4 earthquake was felt by some people on the the Big Island, although no damage was reported.
So we hope to go visit Volcanoes National Park if the air quality is good enough. It should be interesting to see if we can get anywhere close to the site. My guess is that the web cams are better than trying to actually go to Kilauea, but we haven’t explored the Big Island, so it might be an adventure.
Wow, just when we think 2020 is heading into the rearview mirror, Halema’uma’u crater begins rumbling so we see yet another phenomenon occurring nearby. Everyone is saying we look forward to having 2020 in hindsight…. I hope we don’t look back at 2020 and think it was an easy year!! (Ohhh, no, get that pessimist off this blog post!!)
It is almost impossible to believe that in March we sailed to Hawaii instead of French Polynesia and that we were thinking we would be here for a couple of weeks until this “little issue” of COVID was contained!
Looking back it is interesting to see how few nautical miles we have accumulated in 2020 compared to how many miles we traveled in 2019 even though we crossed the Pacific Ocean in 2020. I estimate that in 2019 we logged about 7,500 miles in California and Mexico. In 2020, our Pacific crossing was about 2,300 nm, yet we have only logged a total of about 4,000 miles this year in Mexico and Hawaii.
Ironically, we never even considered Hawaii as a cruising ground and now it is the longest we have stayed in any one place. Although technically it is a group of islands rather than just one place.
We certainly hope that 2021 will allow us to better accomplish our longer term travel goals!
Our current plan is to hang around Hawaii until we are able to have a COVID vaccine and we are free to travel internationally. We truly hope we will have the “all clear” by April. If we are really lucky we will even have the opportunity to apply for and receive another Long Stay Visa for French Polynesia before we leave Hawaii. That very desirable LSV is obtained from the French Embassies which are currently closed. But we remain hopeful!
As we say goodbye to 2020, we remain thankful that we have the opportunity to enjoy Hawaii, see many pretty places, meet a myriad of wonderful people and remain healthy. We can hope that the worldwide forced isolation has created in us a little more appreciation for our fellow man. And maybe we have a glimpse into some changes we can make to help restore our planet.
As we welcome 2021, we are hopeful that the we really are overcoming COVID-19 and that healing from this pandemic has begun all around the world.
From Ticket to Ride, we wish each of you a healthy, healing and happy 2021.
In response to COVID, Hawaii shut down or restricted access to many State Parks. The iconic Diamond Head State Park has been closed since late March – the whole time we have been in Hawaii.
The Hawaiian name for the crater is Lē’ahí but the common moniker of Diamond Head dates back to the late 1700’s when Western explorers mistook the calcite crystals in the rocky slopes for diamonds.
On Thursday, December 17th, I saw that the park was reopened and the very next day Frank and I went to hike this famous landmark…. no moss growing under these feet! Plus we wanted to go immediately just in case Diamond Head is closed again.
Geologists believe Lē’ahi was created in a brief, single eruption about 300,000 years ago. The crater is wider than it is tall and includes about 350 acres.
The extraordinary view from Diamond Head’s summit makes it the perfect place for coastal defense of Oahu. The Federal government bought Diamond Head in 1904 for this purpose. In 1908 construction was begun for the Kapahulu Tunnel through the north wall of the crater as was construction of gun emplacements. Four artillery batteries were built at Diamond Head between 1910 and 1916 and a fifth was built in 1943. Long range guns were installed along the outer walls of the crater, but no guns have ever been fired from Diamond Head during a war.
The hike to the summit was shorter than I thought it would be; less than one mile from the start to the top of the crater, and it took us to an elevation of 761 feet. That certainly isn’t like hiking a fourteener mountain, but the the top was high enough to allow us to see much of Oahu and the Pacific Ocean.
Looking toward “town” we could see boats anchored off Waikiki Beach where we had been anchored just a couple of weeks ago. When anchored off Waikiki Beach we had a unique view of looking at the skyline from the water. Now we could see that gorgeous blue water from Diamond Head.
The park had strict rules about wearing a mask even though we were outside hiking. The trail was more crowded than I expected it to be, but compared to pictures of the trail in non-covid times, there was no one there. I thought the sheer number of visitors was the reason for the mask mandate until we arrived at the tunnel.
As you can see from the picture above, the tunnel is quite narrow . The tunnel is so narrow that it is necessary to turn sideways to pass anyone. The passage is less well lit than this picture portrays or perhaps it just feels darker when entering from bright daylight. Regardless of the lighting, this narrow throughway is probably why everyone was required to wear a mask!
The hiking surface to the summit of Diamond Head is combination of old lava flow, concrete paths, concrete steps and a tunnel. This isn’t a difficult walk, but it is an interesting one and the views are worth the time and effort.
My pictures failed to convey the perfect circle of the Diamond Head crater, but Tim (#kitesurfingspud) posted an amazing picture he took of the crater the same day we were there hiking it. When I reached out to Tim, he very graciously allowed me to use his picture so you can see what a truly spectacular formation Diamond Head is. Thank you, Tim!!!
If the Instagram name #kitesurfingspud seems familiar, it might be because Tim is the person who captured the awesome footage of TTR sailing in Kaneohe Bay! Check out his Instagram as Tim has an excellent eye and his photos are stunning!
From the summit we were able to see the Diamond Head Lighthouse. It is so hard to believe that we toured that lighthouse back in June! When we set sail for Hawaii from Mexico in March 2020, we never expected we would be in Hawaii 9 months later. But we are very lucky to be where we are and we know there is much more of Hawaii for us to explore. We are surprised, but we have not complaints and we are very grateful for the new friends here who have made us feel so welcome.
As always, thanks for stopping by to read our blog! Your comments are always welcome. We wish you a Mele Kelikimaka (Merry Christmas) and we pray you have a happy and healthy 2021!
One aspect of our ownership of Ticket to Ride has been the amazing people we have met. As we mentioned in a previous blog, TTR garners attention and folks tend to chat with us about our boat. This has led to some very fun friendships and some really great pictures of Ticket to Ride under sail.
During the contract and building process of TTR, we formed an excellent relationship with Gino Morrelli and the rest of the crew at Morrelli and Melvin. Once we arrived in Long Beach, we were delighted to get to know the whole Morrelli family and we now consider them dear friends. Since the Morellis seem to know people everywhere we travel, they often introduce us via email to people in our current location.
When we arrived on Oahu, Gino and Laura Morrelli introduced us to Yana and Joey Cabell via email. We could not have anticipated how incredibly generous and welcoming Joey and Yana would be! Readers may recognize Joey and Yana’s names from Joey’s prowess on the world surfing stage in the 1960’s (Temple of Surf Interview with Joey.) as well as their ownership of the Chart House Restaurant in Waikiki. We had the pleasure of eating at the Chart House Waikiki twice before COVID temporarily shut the doors and we look forward to being able to enjoy the great food and atmosphere there soon!
Joey and Yana have been amazingly gracious to Frank and me during our time in Oahu. They have demonstrated true “aloha spirit” and opened their homes and lives to us. We cannot tell you how much we have enjoyed this gracious couple, their kindness and the experiences we have shared with them. Among other generous gifts, Yana and Joey were responsible for setting up our amazing tour of the Diamond Head Lighthouse.
A couple of weeks ago, we learned the Morrelli Family was headed to Oahu for a vacation and we were anxious to spend time with them. Joey and Yana hosted us all for dinner one night and at that time we hatched a plan for a Saturday of sailing and swimming.***
The weather for Saturday was perfect for the guys to go for a blazingly fast sail on Joey’s catamaran s/v Hokule’a while some of the others chose to relax on Ticket to Ride.
Hokule’a is a unique catamaran that Joey built some 50 years ago. Recently Joey upgraded the rigging and sail plan on Hokule’a and I won’t be surprised if he has additional plans to modify his sailboat. Joey may not be riding in surf competitions these days, but he is all about maximizing the speed on his sailboat and man can he surf the waves from the helm of Hokule’a!
While several people went sailing, others chose to hang out on Ticket to Ride where she was anchored off of Waikiki Beach. Floats, drinks and music were launched and we all kicked back to enjoy some relaxed time in the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Mid afternoon the sailors returned and anchored Hokule’a close to Ticket to Ride, so we dropped Day Tripper and dinghied over to pick up that crew. (Special thanks to Tommy for acting as transport captain so I could stay in the water.
We grilled burgers for a late lunch/early dinner and swapped sailing stories, caught up on jobs and events, enjoyed good food and great conversation. The sunset even included a green flash! Several folks on board had never seen one so that was a special treat for the end of an excellent day.
That Saturday was full of joy and was more special than usual for several reasons: we were able to gather with good friends; “mainlanders” were able to travel to Hawaii and enjoy a beautiful vacation; we experienced an event that felt “normal” and the special appreciation of seeing friends during COVID when so often we have to be isolated. Although we are all tired of this Coronavirus, it has taught us to relish and appreciate the times we get to be with friends and family.
Thank you Morrelli Family for sharing your vacation time with us! Yana, thank you for making every gathering a special occasion. We look forward to the next time we can all get together.
***Lest you think we have been COVID irresponsible, you should know that of the 10 people gathered on Saturday, four had negative tests just prior to travel, three already had and recovered from the virus and the other three have been very careful about exposure. Combine those factors with an outside gathering and we felt very safe.
P.S. Thank you to our guests who took the majority of these pictures…. I was wearing my hostess hat instead of my photographer had.
As always, thanks for dropping by to read our blog. We hope it brings a bit of entertainment and that you will let us know if you have questions about our posts or suggestions for things we “must see” while in Hawaii. We expect to explore Hawaii until international travel becomes somewhat normal again and we are confident that traveling to other countries won’t create a burden for them or a risk for us.
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.