Mailport: August 2013
In the June 24 Inside Practical Sailor blog, we asked readers what breed of dog is best suited as a cruising companion, and so many of you responded that we wanted to share the comments and snapshots of canine crew hard at work. For more on sailing pooches, check out our Facebook page.
Chow-chows and schnauzers: We have had two dogs with us for years while cruising: a miniature schnauzer and a chow-chow. They both have acclimated to the boat quite well. Outside of the dogs looking at you with yellow eyes at 6 a.m. on a rainy morning when you would rather stay below, it’s been lots of fun sailing with companions like this.
A few thoughts: 1. While we like big, cuddly dogs, they don’t necessarily make it easy on you sailing. You need lots of food, big bowls of water, and lots of space for them to lie around. They also need to be hoisted up the companionway. Consider this as you get older. 2. We cannot say enough positive things about the mini schnauzer. They are smart dogs (18 to 20 pounds) with great personalities, and like to cuddle and be with you. They are not too big to carry up the companionway, nor are they too big to drag out of the water if they go in. Ours is smart enough to know what we mean by “tacking” and moves from one side to the other like a well-drilled crew member. (Our chow knew this too, but the size aspect offsets. That’s a lot of cockpit taken up when you want some room with lines or other people.) 3. Life jackets are a must, even if you have a swimmer for a dog. Keeping afloat in choppy water or when their fur gets waterlogged is tough.
Rick and Bonnie Fricchione,
Black Diamond, Hylas 49
Pitbull: We cruise with our pitbull, Kemah. He’s been great! He has his own section on our blog, “So Many Beaches,” www.somanybeaches.com, where his cruising adventures are recounted and you’ll find our tips on living aboard with a dog.
Laurie and Damon Jones
Mother Jones, Gemini 3400
Terriers: Our previous dog was a 10-pound Maltese, who sailed with us for about 12 years. She was too small for our Sabre 34; she had to be helped from just about any surface to another. But she was not shy about using the bow to do her business. When our Maltese passed on, we looked for another cruising companion. We thought something a little larger would be better—a dog able to make his or her way around the boat but still small enough to lift in and out of a dinghy and to be comfortable in the limited space aboard. We thought 40 pounds of doggage was about right, but that it would be easier to handle in two modules.
We ended up with a pair of West Highland terriers at about 20 pounds each. They enjoy swimming and sailing, and really enjoy dinghy rides to shore. Unfortunately, they hate to do their business on the boat. When we do 24-hour overnight coastal hops, they generally hold it until we get them back to shore.
Golfito Black Dog: On my birthday in January 2010, I was presented with a bundle of wiggles from off the Costa Rican ports beach. I named Ana for her presenter. Ana is the first of a truly distinct breed. Born without a tail, black and noisy, she may have some schipperke, but she has ears like a lab, weighs but 30 pounds, and is highly intelligent and perversely active, requiring fetch games constantly. She sounds like a guard dog as someone approaches, but promptly turns on her back, expecting tummy rubs from everyone. She does a pretty good job of keeping porpoises off the deck and frigates off the rigging; boobies ignore her. She is the first one into the dinghy, and would prefer to go ashore several times a day, but is content with one trip, if shore is in site, and sleeps well if it is not. Her noise and energy make her less than a perfect boat dog considered from afar, but our relationship and her excellent communication skills make her the most important thing on the boat.
Someday, GS 41
Chetco Cove, Ore.