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Cruising With The Chilbergs: Preparing For Four-Legged Guests (BLOG)

It happened again. She stepped off and called him an “Animal.” He tossed her bag on the dock and accused her of being a “Dog.” They were both wrong. The problem was not that he was an animal or that she was a dog, but that they weren’t.

“God should have stopped with Golden Retrievers.”

—Barbara Zink, my sister.

It happened again. The boat arrived at the dock with an eerie cloud of silence over it. The woman was staring ahead with clinched jaw. The man had steam coming out his ears and had a vice grip on the wheel as they came into the dock rapidly. The fenders were not down as the neglected vessel slammed into the dock. She stepped off and called him an “Animal.” He tossed her bag on the dock and accused her of being a “Dog.” They were both wrong. The problem was not that he was an animal or that she was a dog, but that they weren’t.

Many yachtsmen would rescue their dog overboard rather than one of their guests and certainly before their spouse! Just kidding.

Those who aren't familiar with the joys may cringe at the thought of having a dog or cat aboard during a cruise, especially a long cruise. I tend to be more concerned about two legged guests. Granted, if you are trying to lift a 150-pound St. Bernard into a tippy 8-foot dinghy during a squall, I more than understand.

A 12-pound Teddy Bear Schnoodle like Baci, however, is far easier. In fact, she tolerates Lee’s 12-pound terrier, Allie, so long as Allie stays away from Baci’s begging spot under my chair during meals. They both protect us from dolphin swimming along our wakes and are quick to greet passers-by on the docks.

Baci warding off the dolphin visitors.

Baci warding off the dolphin visitors.

As a child, I had to take our dog ashore several times a day. I think that it may have had more to do with getting me out from under foot than the dog’s bladder, but I’ll never know.

To train Baci to go on the boat was very easy. Both of my trawlers, a Monk 36 and now a Grand Banks 49, have wide walk-around fiberglass decks. A quick trip to Home Depot for a 3x2 piece of Astroturf under an equally sized piece of sod was all I needed. Baci took to it almost immediately and as the sod died, I threw it over board and then just the Astroturf remained. Shortly later the Astroturf was gone and the fiberglass aft deck became her spot. She goes out alone for privacy and is very lady like. In this case, small dogs are an advantage for obvious reasons! A pail with a rope gets salt water to wash off the decks and no one would suspect her presence aboard.


playtime is every time.

We also had a cat named, Rascal for 6 months aboard when the kids were young. Rascal was terrific at catching bugs and getting small fish out of old conch shells. Aside from the time she got a lure stuck in her mouth and pulled a fishing pole down the deck, she was no problem. Kristen was in charge of her litter box under the steps each day, so there was no odor. Rascal was far less of a problem than having to fish my son Hans’ Legos out of the bilge on a regular basis!

Baci and Allie do not consume my booze, plug the heads, complain about the weather, run out of clean clothes, deplete the water tank with countless showers, expect steaks & fresh fish, nor demand to be entertained. Usually, Baci just snuggles up next to someone on the settee hoping for her ears and tummy to be rubbed. Or she places a tennis ball next to us to be thrown.

A small bowl of water in the saloon and up on the flybridge with a bowl of dog food in an out of the way location is my idea of low maintenance. Baci also helps with guilt over too many naps. When Lee or I go into the master stateroom to lie down, Baci is quick to jump up and lay down on the softest spot. She assures us that naps are next to holiness, so we all sleep in peace.

Is there really any crime in an island nap?

Is there really any crime in an island nap?

Also, boat owners who left their pets at home, often call on the VH radio. “Ahoy, Mud Puddle Rose. We would like to invite Baci for cocktails and she can bring you along if she wants!” That is how they get their “dog fix” while away from their own and we in turn get to maintain our humanly friendships. Baci arrives, crawls on the captain’s lap, teaches him where to pet her and we get all the hors d’ oeuvres and booze we can consume. That more than makes up for the dog food bill!

Yes, an animal is a responsibility. But as Baci is snuggled up next to me as I write this blog and Allie is asleep at my feet, I wonder if God should have stopped at Teddy Bear Schnoodles.

Baci, who has now cruised with me over 12,000 miles says, “Keep on cruising.”

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