|Issues about a family,
couple, kids, pets
living and cruising
on a boat.
This page updated: October 2005
Couples Cruising section
Kids Cruising section
Pets Cruising section
Also see my Lifestyle of Living on a Boat page
"The way to fight a woman is with your hat. Grab it and run."
- John Barrymore
A very good book: "Dragged Aboard" by Don Casey
(on Amazon - paid link).
A must-read book: "The Cruising Woman's Advisor" by Diana Jessie
(on Amazon - paid link).
SailNet - Don Casey's "The Third Essential"
SailNet - Randy Harman's "Captains and Admirals"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Women and Cruising"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Resolving Onboard Conflicts"
SailNet - Michelle Potter's "Finding a Sailing Mate"
Sailnet - Bob Cassel's "Making Sailing Enjoyable for Your Mate"
Rusalka Mist - Women Only
Several "Couples Cruising" articles in 6/2000 issue of Sail magazine
World Women Cruisers mailing list
From John Dunsmoor:
> I have been bitten hard by the sailing/cruising bug. It is pulling me
> to a boat, and the desire to stop living my life
> in an office is pushing me
> to the boat. My mom thinks I'm crazy, but
> most other people have been
> supportive and a bit envious.
> I think the biggest challenges that the
> boat will pose to the
> relationship [with my girlfriend] are
> the constant living together
> in close quarters, and the conflict with
> her love of gardens and cats.
> We're trying to think of some solution such
> as we get both a house and a boat, and she
> splits her time between house
> and boat. But we have to figure out money,
> marriage, baby, etc.
> She likes sailing and she will be good
> at it. I'll encourage her to
> take some classes on her own. Whether
> she'll like living on a boat for
> extended periods is another question.
You're not going to like this one: solution find a girl that wants to
sailing more than you do, full of passion, fit, someone who desires the
adventure MORE than you do. I know this sounds like Dr. Laura but it is
true, what you desire is more than an uphill battle, it will never work.
Either you will give up, it is a hard enough path without have an anchor
dragging you back. Or you will end up divorced because she isn't going to
put up with your never being there and your decision to be downwardly mobile.
You have been used to having a certain income and now you are making a
decision that is going to eventually cut your income by 90%. Just isn't
worth it any longer.
So is this girl going to be happy with a middle-aged boat bum, who would
rather spend his time walking naked on the beach of an island in the
Caribbean than at the grindstone ?
You are about to undertake a major shift in lifestyle.
Kids do great on boats; parents sometimes go into debilitating trepidation,
but the kids do great.
The closeness, well when it works, it works and when it is doesn't work it
is like wearing underwear that is too tight. Tolerable the first quarter
hour and by the end of the day absolute torture.
I have this same dilemma with my instructors. We have more captains per
square meter here than any place on earth and most of them are qualified. Or
should I say, that there is no shortage of qualified Captains.
Unfortunately, what is rare, is a Captain/instructor who has the right mix
of enthusiasm, energy, knowledge, teaching ability and humor to spend 148
hours as the center of attention to 3 to 6 strangers. For the ones that have
the right stuff, teaching is one of the most rewarding, easiest jobs on
earth. For those that don't a week is no less than the worst torture that
can be suffered.
We go through about 200 resumes to end up with a single instructor at the
end of a year.
I absolutely recommend going sailing with a mate, it is more fun, safer,
better in all aspects. At the same time if it isn't the right person then it
just will NOT work.
Have I failed to amaze you at my propensity for injecting unrequited
opinions into situations that are none of my business ?
A dialog I had with Judy Gammon:
Hurray for you. What a life! I wanted to let you know how great
a time you will have. I spent quite a
few years doing that (2 different cruises) and raised my kids (now grown)
cruising in the Pacific NW every summer (kept them out of trouble in the
80's). I cruised the Caribbean and Pacific and parts of the Atlantic. Plus
the NW and SE Alaska. Cruising is how I landed in St. Petersburg, FL. I am
an accidental resident. Anyway good luck. You are going to become addicted
to a great life style.
I'd love to get any tips you have about cruising or
living aboard, especially about how to make my
girlfriend more comfortable with it.
Well, I suppose the first question would be: how much does she
enjoy any short cruises you may have taken with her and was she excited to go
again. Does she enjoy constant changes ... does variety enliven her?
Some people need life to be very steady and that is what the cruising life is
not. It's always something new ... positive or negative ... depending on your
perspective. She should learn as much about boat handling, sailing and
navigation as possible. You have to be ready for everything that comes
along. If something were to happen to you what would happen if she didn't
know what to do?
Yes, she enjoys sailing and is good at it.
The problems are more in the area of "creature comforts", I think. She has a townhouse with
garden and 2 cats. She likes nice clothes and nice food and a very clean kitchen and house. She
likes a nice bedroom and bathroom.
Later, from Judy:
Your lady friend will probably love the cruising life and the wonderful
community of people. It is a very friendly, social life. It is as social as
you want it to be. If she is a people person she will no doubt enjoy it.
There are a lot of good books on how to liveaboard that you have no doubt
already read. If she has any hobbies or is a musician there will more time
to develop those skills. Computers work well on boats now. My feeling is
don't worry about it. Shove off with all the best intentions and plans and
see how it goes. The only way to find out if it's not for her is to just go
for it and find out. And it's no big deal if she ends up not liking it.
It's definitely not for everybody. That sounds easy for me to say, doesn't
it? Especially if she is near and dear and you want her to like it. But
there really is no other way to find out except to get out there. I can't
tell you how many times during a nasty squall or major mechanical problems
that we didn't say "I am going to sell this boat and raise goats in
Colorado"!!! But then Mother nature says "I'm sorry, so go enjoy your
sundowner and this sunset".
... ways to replace my girlfriend's current "creature comforts" ...
I guess getting the biggest possible boat, and making sure she has "ownership" of it,
will be the best things to do ?
... What do you mean "ownership" ? Oh, you must mean let her do as she pleases with
things on the boat? I think the one thing most women love the most is a good
shower with plenty of hot water. But let me tell you ... a hot sunshower on
deck under the stars has got to be one of the best things in life. You come
to appreciate different things when you get away from it all. And she will
learn that you can't just run the water all the time even with a
watermaker. Are you a retired person? Or doing a lifestyle change?
I loved my husband's attitude. Let's do what we really want to do now while
we're youngish and fit, and work when we're old. So she will tell you what
she wants. My friends in Hawaii didn't even have a head or an engine. The
boat is a perfect museum quality replica of the Malabar Schooner by Alden. A
30's design. It is quite a masterpiece. I stayed on it for a while before
they left the great northwest and even an old toughie like me found using a
bucket on deck NOT to my liking. Sometimes the best boat is not the biggest
We're in our early 40's; we'll be doing an early retirement.
It was my plan, then I met her. So she isn't fully committed yet.
Money probably won't be much of a problem.
Lifestyle, comforts, giving up a house, living together, retirement life are the issues.
Common advice about couples sailing:
- Both people should be able to do all jobs on board:
sail, recover MOB, navigate, run dinghy,
use radio, anchor/dock, maintain engine,
cook, first aid, etc.
- Best to learn sailing separately (at least separate
boats, maybe separate schools).
From Brian Woloshin on Cruising World message board:
To do when being cooped up together is driving you crazy:
[Re: On-board conflicts:]
Husband and wife retire and go cruising. Before retirement husband and maybe wife worked.
They spend evenings and weekends together but there is always some time apart doing
something else. Wife does traditional things like cook and clean.
Wife visits friends and grown children regularly.
Now they are on a small boat together 24 hours a day. Husband has new toys to play
with (fix, upgrade), is exploring new places and is having fun. Wife is still
cooking and cleaning but now the cooking is harder because she has fewer appliances,
cannot find the foods she likes, etc. Doing laundry is now a trip to the laundromat
instead of downstairs to the machne. Wife misses visits with friends and children.
And, one of the most stressful thing about cruising is anchoring. When anchoring wife
and husband are about as far apart as they can be on a boat and they yell at
each other to be heard over the engine.
Seen it happen over and over again.
- Have small areas of complete ownership by
each person: their bunk, their closet, etc.
- Respect each person's need for privacy at times: let them
retire to fore-cabin or bow, and shut you out for a while.
- Escape into a book or TV or radio or cyberspace.
- One of you takes a dinghy ride to somewhere.
- One of you goes swimming or snorkeling or diving or kayaking or whatever.
- One of you goes visiting to other boats.
- One of you takes a multi-day trip ashore somewhere.
- Stay in a marina for a night or two.
- Sail to somewhere less isolated.
- Sail to somewhere new and interesting.
- Occupy yourselves with separate big maintenance projects ?
If the other person doesn't want to cruise:
- If the boat issues are solvable (inexperience, lack of comforts,
want bigger boat, want calmer sailing, want calmer skipper, want warmer climate,
want more socializing, want better communications, etc), solve them.
- If the boat-unhappiness is just a symptom of some other cause (not doing what
other person wants, not spending enough time with other person, etc),
solve the root cause.
- One person sails to interesting place, other flies there to meet them.
- Cruise with buddies instead.
- Change yourself: stop sailing or just day-sail.
From Jeff Bacon on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
From Joel Tuttle on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
On a personal basis, my wife likes to sail, and spend a weekend aboard, and, is
trying to learn to actually sail the boat, rather than spend her time as crew.
However, we are 180 degrees apart when the topic of living aboard (or staying
aboard for extended periods of time) comes up. I would, she would not.
Maybe it's a "Hunter / Gatherer" thing. I know that I do not need to save my
kids grade school report cards, but she does. I know that I can be somewhat
itinerant, she can not. I can live without (traditional) furniture, a lawn,
garden, knick knacks around the house from 30 years ago, tons of photographs
that we don't look at, but need to save anyway, 25 changes of clothes, etc, etc.
Maybe we need to look at this from the other perspective. We love to sail, and
cannot understand why someone would not love it / like it as well. Well, maybe,
the other side says ... I cannot understand why those guys can spend every
waking moment, and every other dollar on sailing.
Again, maybe women are just different from men (not better, not worse, not
anything but different), and one area that manifests itself is in the sailing
arena, for whatever reason.
I can add even more to this ... My neighbor two docks down has called today
asking if I would like to buy a bigger boat as he is having to sell his boat
due to his wife (married two years) is pregnant and does not want to have a
child on board. Which is different than when they got married and she was
all for living on board and having a family on board, now the rules changed
and they are going on shore.
Suggested he rethink the issue carefully as now he is going to be land
based and no boat ...
I will add that my last boat was a trawler and I got it from a couple who
also had a kid and she also decided that this was not to be for the family
and her ultimatum was either the boat or me.
I think that you are right, both genders have different agendas, too bad
communication is such that we as guys are not told up front what the real
plan is. Maybe this is like I will marry this sailor and then change him.
Living aboard together:
- If there are 2 heads, make one "his" and the other "hers".
- Guys have to resist the need to know everything that is
being done and control it. Sounds sexist, but the woman may take
over the galley, stowage, clothing, berths, interior. Let her do it.
Good books about marriage (nothing to do with boats), if a single guy may say so:
"The Marriage Map" by Maxine Rock
(on Amazon - paid link)
(7 stages of marriage, lots of anecdotes about various couples)
"Happily Ever After" by Betsy Stone
(on Amazon - paid link)
(mostly about changes from just before marriage to just after marriage)
"Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" by John Gray
(on Amazon - paid link)
(men and women think in totally different ways)
The Man's Prayer, from "The Red Green Show":
"I'm a man ...
but I can change ...
if I have to ...
A dialog I had with an anonymous person:
My girlfriend and I plan to move to Florida. We will buy a 40-plus-foot boat; I want
to live and cruise on it full-time. She owns a townhouse now, with 2 cats and a garden.
I'm used to a Spartan one-bedroom apartment.
We're trying to figure out if we should buy both a
house (maybe with dock; maybe rent instead of buy) and a boat.
Or just a boat. Or a house first and then a boat later.
My girlfriend and I are still mulling over the house/boat thing. My feeling is
that getting a boat will be tough enough; why add getting a house too ?
But she has a townhouse with garden and nice furniture now; moving to a
boat will require significant sacrifices for her. But on the other hand,
we don't want to end up with her living in a house and me living on the boat.
Considering your age, young with lots of time left to 'get it done',
having a home base such as a house or condo might be a good compromise.
That could give you a place to store stuff while you get the boat ready,
and give your girlfriend a place to build a 'nest' until you are really ready to go.
Later, when you are ready, the house/condo could be rented or sold.
... but there are not many condos that
have docks like you need. A great many people in this area never do any house
maintenance themselves ... They contract everything.
When one pairs boat size with home base issues, one can solve some
interesting personal relationship problems. Most women don't seem to like
the idea of giving up the land-based nest, but frequently a bigger boat
helps "ease the pain", especially if one starts out slow.
But it seems if we have a house and a boat, we (including the cats) won't
fully settle into either one. And I'll prefer the boat, the cats will
prefer the house, and my girlfriend will be torn. We'll time-share, so the boat
gets neglected, the house gets neglected, everyone's moving back and forth
all of the time.
[And how do we do a long boat trip ?
Girlfriend without cats == unhappiness.
Girlfriend and cats in house and me on trip == unhappiness.
Girlfriend and cats on board for long time when not used to it == unhappiness.]
Seems better to "plunge": move everyone onto the boat (me first, a month
or two ahead of everyone else). Cats and my girlfriend come aboard for a 3-week
trial. If they like/tolerate it, great. If not, they look for a house.
By the way, I'd especially like your wife's opinion on this; could you
please run it by her ?
My wife is not a proponent of living aboard just for the sake of doing it.
She hates cooking and cleaning with a passion, and dislikes cooking on a boat
even more than at home because of the cramped conditions found on boats.
She is probably never going to give up her home base, but she will go away
on the boat for a couple of months at a time "for a purpose" such as
visiting the Bahamas or wherever. She believes that either the 'plunging'
or the 'home base' approach can cause conflict. No two individuals are
alike, and each couple needs to work it out for themselves.
My wife does like most things about being on the boat and being underway, but
hates heavy weather and being scared, even though she used to ask me to put
the rail down on the smaller boat we had previously.
She also understands that if she and I
had not met, I would be anchored in the Leeward Islands or somewhere similar.
OK, that's her version. I think that both methods have value, but I have no
idea which is best for you. Perhaps a little of both is appropriate. One
couple I know spends every winter in the Bahamas aboard their boat.
In spring they return home and tie up the boat to the dock in their
backyard. The man gets to go cruising, and the woman gets to keep her home base.
Another couple had a situation more like yours. This couple owned a house,
had a 30 ft sloop in the backyard that they used for
day-sailing and little overniters. They decided to go cruising, bought a 46
and began outfitting it. The house - boat conflict began to become
apparent so they rented the house and moved aboard the boat at
the City Dock ... Plunge. They chose the area for great
access to nearby anchorages. The guy was scared to death of this big boat.
Their first overnight trip was all of 8 NM, sea buoy to sea buoy.
The next trip was a little longer.
Each time they became more comfortable with the boat, and after a couple of
years headed up the East Coast, then to the Bahamas. The last time I heard
from them, they were headed for South America.
One more. Another friend is in the final stages of purchasing a 52
for cruising. He just sold his 38. He believes that the 52 is too large,
but his wife won't go in anything smaller. They plan to plunge.
One of the best ideas may be yours: you move aboard first, then your girlfriend
later. I'm just not sure that a 3 week trial is long enough, I think I
would try at least a month.
I meet a surprising number of spouses, male and female,
who fly home to take a break from cruising while the other half continues
on. After a time (it varies) the spouse returns to the boat and they
There is one more couple (more personal friends) that you need to hear
about ... This couple uses their boat a lot, but they are not liveaboards.
The wife loves to cook and make nests. To make that easier for her, they
decided early-on to call the various "rooms" in their boat "bedroom,
kitchen, bathroom, livingroom", and so on. They still have the home base,
but they spend just about equal time at both places. They frequently go
away on the boat for a month or two at a time. This boat would be a good
one for your girlfriend to see.
Series of messages on SSCA discussion boards:
From Bonnie Gilmore:
We have started the transition toward retirement (3-5 years away) and cruising
by moving aboard our Hans Christian 43. My significant other (male) is happier than ever;
I am having a difficult time transitioning. I think that part of the stress is that we
are still working full-time and commuting for the first time (an hour each way), and
don't feel 'connected' in either place. I also wonder how people balance all the
together time - showering, laundering, shopping, cooking - etc. In our home, he might
be outside while I prepared some surprise treat in the kitchen. Now we're both right
there all the time! (Guess I could send him up top.) It's only been a month, so I may
just need some time, but I want to have the best chance at success in our new life,
and would GREATLY appreciate insights from those who have already done this.
From Laura Ellerbrake:
The transition is difficult. Boats are inconvenient houses, but a great way to live
if you're traveling. We lived aboard for over a year while we were working,
and for a year while we were cruising. It was much easier for me once we got away.
My advice is go sailing as much as possible, even if it's just dinner and overnight
in a nearby anchorage. Somehow, once we're sailing or anchored the boat seems very
comfortable and cozy. There are plenty of pleasant things to do together and separately.
We also did as much long distance sailing and overnight passages as our vacation
time would permit,and this experience was very valuable. There's an organization
called "Women Aboard" that I hear is a very good way to network with other cruising women.
From Brad Smith:
I have lived aboard, alone, and have cruised part-time with my bride for several years.
My experience is that the need for privacy must be met differently aboard than in a
land house. Both people are, I think, well served to become especially sensitive to
this need and to be quite explicit about what they need at the moment. In my experience,
this openness and honesty in the moment is quite different from many land based
couples' way of relating and is an opportunity to greatly build mutual trust and
bring the relationship much closer. In my reading, I have come across silence, a
separate "private space" or "sanctuary", and determined ignoring as examples of ways
to create privacy in a most nonprivate space. And, I suspect, just sending him
(or her) on deck is also a perfectly legitmate way to get some space. I also agree
that working while living aboard is very much more difficult and stressful than
cruising while living aboard. I have done both and when working I, too, was never
anywhere because the two worlds are so alien from one another.
My personal experience:
Both of my cruises with my girlfriend led to major blow-ups
and break-ups with her. In some ways, the "pressure-cooker"
environment of a boat made us see the best and worst of
each other's personalities fairly quickly. Maybe this was
better than finding out the problems later.
Q: How can I find the woman of my dreams ?
A: Start by going back to sleep. ...
- Fred Sahner
"There are two classes of travel: first class, and with children"
- Robert Benchley
"According to Rousseau, children must develop naturally and spontaneously, at their
own speed and in their own way. It is eloquent testimony to Rousseau's troubled
life and complicated personality that he placed all five of his own children
- "A History of Western Society" by McKay, Hill and Buckler
From what I've read:
- Babies age 0-1 are fine cruising on a boat.
Protect them from the sun;
keep them in a car seat.
But grandmom may not like limited access to baby.
- Toddlers age 2-5 are tough (for parents) cruising on a boat:
there are lots of ways for them to hurt themselves
or hurt the boat (flip switches, open valves, untie things).
- Kids age 6-11 are wonderful cruising on a boat:
all kinds of great experiences, lots of shared
time with parents, they learn responsibility and
independence, meet other cultures, etc.
- Teenagers age 12+ are terrible cruising on a boat: they don't want
to be cooped up with their parents, they want to
be off socializing with other teenagers.
SailNet - Liza Copeland's "Cruising with Kids"
SailNet - Kevin Jeffrey's "Babies On Board"
SailNet - Kevin Jeffrey's "Juggling Offspring and Boats"
SailNet - Michelle Potter's "Sailing with Children: The First Day"
SailNet - John Rousmaniere's "The Right Age to Go Sailing"
SailNet - Tim Foley's "Sailing With Small Children"
Jamie Childress's "Bare Boat Chartering with a Baby"
SailNet - Kevin Jeffrey's "Kids on Board"
SailNet - Joe Boyle's "Sail Baby Sail"
Kids medical article by Paul Gill in 10/2003 issue of Cruising World magazine
Article about cruising with kids 1-5 years old, by Randall Peffer in 12/2005 issue of Sail magazine
Yahoo's "Sailing Kids Homeschool" group
From "Living Aboard" by Janet Groene and Gordon Groene
(on Amazon - paid link):
"Kids can adapt to the liveaboard life better than adults can."
Several large sections about kids in "All In The Same Boat" by Tom Neale
(on Amazon - paid link).
Book I haven't read: "All In The Same Boat: Family Living Aboard and Cruising" by Tom Neale
(on Amazon - paid link).
From Max Fletcher on Cruising World message board:
Took my son cruising at 9 months across the Pacific for 2 years.
Wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
We had high lifelines and netting all around.
I found it a lot easier (and much more rewarding) to be with
your child 24 hours/day, and always within 32 feet of you,
than in modern society where you have to deal with sitters,
daycare, driving, etc. The few occasions when we did want
to 'go out' it was hard to find a sitter, but those occasions
were rare when we didn't want to bring him along wherever we were going.
I was pleasantly surprised how many other boats had children aboard,
especially the French/European boats.
Beth Leonard's book has a chapter about children, and there are
one or two books written specifically about cruising with
children ("Babies Aboard" is one).
My son was about 18 months old when we sailed from the Galapagos
to the Marquesas ... we were sailing into Fatu Hiva after 22 days at sea,
when he climbed on deck, saw land, and started crying - it frightened him!
To him, the world was nothing but sea, sky and our little home.
From Andrew on Cruising World message board:
We left with a six week old and had the time of our lives.
Our daughter wasn't sick with all the usual kids stuff as
there was no one else around to infect her.
Babies sleep most of the time and they find that the inside
of a yacht is an incredibly stimulating visual environment.
A few points to help out. Make sure that your grab bag contains
all the baby items such as food, nappies, formula if your wife
is not breastfeeding and plenty of water if she is, space blankets
to keep the baby warm as well. Set up a good sea berth for the baby
that has plenty of protection in the event of a knockdown.
Ensure that every thing in the cabin is securely lashed down as
what would annoy an adult (like being hit with American Practical
Navigator in the head) could easily kill an infant - you can not
be too cautious here. Life jackets are hard to come by to fit
any child less than 10 kg in body weight. We modified a NZ made
Hutchwilco Wee Wilco to fit and found that despite the babies
large head size in proportion to the rest of her body, it does actually
work to right her. It has a grab handle on the collar as well.
Another really important issue is that of your partners sailing
qualifications. My wife was not as proficient as me in watch keeping/navigation
when we left and this meant rather long spells on watch for me.
What can assist though is a RADAR and GPS so that when downstairs,
you can keep an eye on what's going on upstairs when your partner
is on watch and vice versa. This becomes particularly important
if your wife is breastfeeding as no baby will keep to your watch
schedule no matter how much you ask them to - this means that you
will be spending time off watch at odd hours and could find either
one of you up/downstairs at short notice. The best autopilot/vane gear
that you can afford will be a godsend as you will be single handed
for nearly all of your time at sea. A plastic bicycle seat for
infants can be great once the child is able to sit up and gives
you somewhere to put the child when docking/doing things that
require both of you (in good weather of course).
We mounted ours on the front of the steering pedestal (watch out
for metal fittings in these seats, the compass is particularly
fond of them). Best advice is to slow down your plans and not
try and do too much in a short space of time. The mother can
be particularly tired at times and welcomes as many days as
they can just hanging around on the pick. All in all, I'd highly
recommend cruising with kids. You will never regret doing it
as it brings your family so much closer together. Be prepared
for strange comments from your relatives!!!!
From Amy on Cruising World message board:
Easier [to start with a six-week-old] than taking a six y.o.
Better you should start out on the boat and avoid the transition
I am currently going through with my daughter. We are full-time.
Sold the house, left friends and school mates behind, etc.
It is not easy, but we are still new at it and hopefully it will get better.
If I had the chance to start with one young enough to not yet
be hooked into community, I'd take it. Anywhere from zero to three probably.
We also chose to send Sarah to school for three years (Montessori) thinking
it would help us with homeschooling.
Sometimes I wish we hadn't since now she knows what she's missing!
But whatever you do, I believe in the experience ... it is very good
for most kids. The ones we meet are great. Hopefully mine will
be too after she has more time to adjust! And maybe Mom will adjust too!
From Phil on Vulcan on Cruising World message board:
I'm living aboard with wife, 7yo, 5yo and 10mo. It's great.
... On our marina there is another family 3 kids about the same ages,
another with one baby 6mo and one with a kid about 2yo.
Plus a few more with older kids. Kids learn really fast to be careful
on the boat and on the marina. Our 2 older boys go anywhere they please
on the marina without us. We don't have to follow them and watch them
all the time. They don't wear PFD's. Our baby is standing up,
taking the odd step. We are about to put some netting around the fences.
I've had to put a couple of small gates like people use on stairs to
stop him going up and down steps in the boat. Our younger son has slipped
twice getting from the marina onto another boat. Both times he grabbed hold
and only got his legs wet. Once he fell in while running in his full Batman
costume, hood, cape, boots and all. He bobbed up and had hold of the marina
in a second. Someone from another boat hauled him out.
Before we lived aboard our older boy, who was then about 3 fell off a marina.
We were walking along looking at boats. He fell behind, we looked around
and he wasn't there. He bobbed up and grabbed on, and yelled like we'd told
him to until we came running back. I think he's safer now we live on a
boat and it's a familiar environment than when we just visited on weekends.
Also safer than a road.
From Ron Hiner on BoaterEd forum:
A great trick I discovered: buy two PFD's.
And a kid-size human-shaped stuffed animal.
One PFD goes on the stuffed animal, at home, all week long.
The kid plays with it -- and puts on the other PFD.
On Saturday, it's pretty cool to put a PFD on.
And the stuffed toy goes sailing with us too.
From Dan / Augusta on Cruising World message board:
We lived aboard our 40' sloop for 12 years; both our children had no other home until
they turned into teenagers recently. For three years we cruised the Pacific and for another
three we sailed the inside passage to Alaska several times. The rest of the time we were
based in the NW and lived aboard and sailed regularly. These years were wonderful
for us and the children. Home Schooling was a challenge at times but worth every bit
of effort we put into it. How to kid proof your boat? If you prepare the yacht for offshore
sailing then you will make it kid proof for the most part. Netting on the life lines
will give you added comfort although they will reach an age where that will not stop them.
We always, I repeat, always had our kids in life jackets when on deck or even walking the
dock when they were young. Yes, they did fall in at least once. We would fit the life
jackets well and take them to the pool and see how the jacket worked. You will be surprised
to find out that most life jackets for kids under five or six do not keep the head up.
We would cut and patch the flotation until the life jacket worked properly.
On our last cruise across the Pacific we went on a less traveled route which was
wonderful but did not provide as many other kids for our two to play with.
If I were to do it again I would take the milk run where more yachties with kids will be found.
From various people on Cruising World message board:
[Re: What toys to bring for young kids ?]
- Musical instruments.
- ... Plenty of books, containers for shells, craft stuff.
The world becomes their toybox! Plenty of cruising kids but you have to look for them.
The bonds that they will make with the other cruising kids is special. ...
- A game called "Wordspin".
- Craft materials and hot glue gun (this is extremely important since waiting
for glue to dry is a total drag for kids).
From Dave C. on Cruising World message board:
[Re: What toys to bring for kids ?]
We have cruised with our two children since they were 4 and 6 respectively (now 10 and 12).
When they were younger we could not have enough crayons and paper/coloring books aboard.
Elmer's glue and popsickle sticks for making all kinds of things (houses, boats, castles, etc)
was also popular. A servicable wooden sword and pirate hat for my son (I had one too,
and we'd do the Erol Flynn routine on deck - a popular spectator sport for nearby cruisers).
As they got older it was books and more books. We couldn't keep enough aboard. A fun family
board game we never tired of was "Sorry." One toy I wish we hadn't brought on our last
cruise (8 mo.s in Bahamas) was Gameboy. My son was glued to it for the duration of the cruise.
It was a common grievance among other cruising parents.
The best source of entertainment for your kids will be other kids, and you will find yourself
cruising with other kids' boats to places where there are other kids.
It is a wonderful experience. Enjoy.
Baby on boat, from Steve and Jacquie Ree on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
PFDs start at 20 to 30 pounds which is about when they start walking.
Until then we found our car seat to be really useful.
We never used a bassinet or cradle, just put pillows or towels around
baby as they don't move around much until they start crawling. No need
for anything gimbled as babies love rocking, the more the better as
they find motion very soothing. Remember the commercial when they had to
drive around to get baby to sleep? Well a sailboat's motion is even
[For baby] we have a sea berth beside the engine room which is approx
2' X 6' and I installed a lee cloth with snaps, works great and
babies love the engine noise for some reason.
I can tell you that netting on your lifelines adds a whole lot of
emotional security as well. And if you have jacklines a harness works
By the way babies are natural water enthusiasts, just watch out for
they tend to want to step off the dock right into the ocean as they
can't conceive any dangers. It is a good idea to allow lots of
supervised freedom on the docks (PFD of course) after about 1-2 years
old and baby might fall in but no worries this just helps them
establish their own boundaries.
"Oh, Apu, kids practically raise themselves these days, what with the internet and all !"
- Baby can sleep in a car-seat on the cabin
sole (no chance of falling if boat moves).
- Activities for toddlers: feed bread to fish,
play with toys and bucket of water in cockpit.
- Use good sun-protection for kids:
sunscreen, sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats.
- The USA has rules about one parent taking children out of the
country (requires a letter from other parent, I think).
I know they are enforced by airlines. I assume they apply if
traveling by private boat, too.
- Buddy-boat with other boats with kids.
- Give each teenager a handheld VHF for their 13th birthday; it will
make you feel a lot better.
- From article by Carol Elwood in 1/2003 issue of Southwinds magazine:
Day-sailing with young children: put PFDs on them before
getting to the dock; the dock is dangerous, and
boarding the boat is dangerous.
- Homer Simpson
SailNet - Kevin Jeffrey's "Schooling the Sailing Child"
SailNet - Doreen Gounard's "Homeschooling in the Tropics"
"Education At Sea" by Nellie K. Symm-Gruender and Zachary S. Symm
"Cruising Kids" article by Pnina Greenstein in Nov/Dec 2000 issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine
Schooling article by Jeananne Kirwin in Jul/Aug 2001 issue of Living Aboard magazine
Keystone National High School
McGraw-Hill School Division's World
Do a general web search for "Distance Learning".
Sonlight Christian curriculum
From TLip on Cruising World
We used Brigham Young University for our daughter for grades 9 and 10.
We came "back" her Junior year and she is right on track. BYU was ok, sometimes
difficult at exam time as all test had to be given by a proctor. We usually had
the exams sent ahead to a public library, and once had an exam proctored in the
tropics by another cruiser (THANKS DIANE) who was a certified teacher.
(BYU is very strict about this.) At the same time we used Calvert for our two
grade-school girls and felt that Calvert was a much more complete package.
(Very detailed complete lesson plans for every day which we, non-teachers needed.)
Too bad they only go to 8th grade.
We traveled with many "home school" boats; some took education seriously,
some felt life's lessons were enough. We dedicted 8:00am to 1:00pm almost
every day for school and found that important for our needs.
Presently our oldest daughter is in a private school in Vermont on a partial
sailing/academic scholarship, our middle daughter was in the local public school
for a month and was bored (not challenged) and is back in Calvert, and our youngest
is in second grade (public) doing well. As for my wife and I, home schooling and
spending two years "out" with our kids was the greatest thing we ever did.
From BobG on Cruising World
We used U of Nebraska for our son, and we were very pleased with their program.
It worked well and our son did better in this program than he had been doing
while attending one of the 10 best high schools in the country, where he fell
through the cracks. After the U of Nebraska program, he was able to go on to college.
From Paul Marcuzzo on The Live-Aboard List:
Although we are not cruising yet, it did get us
interested in home schooling. #1 daughter is in 6th grade and #2 is in 3rd.
Both have gone to public school in TX one year and decided that home
schooling is a better option. They figured out starting between 8 and 9 and
finishing early afternoon was a big plus, also if we wanted to take a day or
week off to go somewhere we could.
We do use Calvert, it's pretty good deal, you get everything you need in a
box, however this year we went with a different Math course (Saxon) and it
is very good. Before you leave your home base I am sure if you check around
there is a home school group in your area. They can provide a lot of
information and support when you first start if you need it. They will also
have info on local book fair happenings.
This year our oldest daughter is pretty much on her own for the day to day
stuff the syllabus is geared towards her. We just check her work over and
give the tests. Pre-6th you will probably spend an hour or two the day
before getting ready (unless you remember all this stuff :-) ) and then spend
4 to 5 hours doing it.
I should mention that when the girls went to school they had straight A's
and were always complimented by their teachers. This helped reassure my
wife (who has been doing most of it) that she was on the right track. They
also are active in Girl Scouts and other activities - hopefully to be
replaced by cruising shortly.
From John Lucy on The Live-Aboard List:
We are not full-time cruisers yet, but we do homeschool our two. Charlotte is
(almost) 9 and Kingsley is 7. They are both doing extremely well and have far
surpassed other children their own age. Seems when you let the kids learn how
they like to learn (very challenging sometimes) they learn more. I know our two
are complete sponges. We spent 6 weeks cruising last year and intend on more of
the same this year. As soon as we finish our big boat (presently on 26') we are
going around the world.
We use the Nechacko School District # 98 in BC.
Very good and very flexible.
All they require at this point in time is proof that the kids are learning
something. They also provided us with a set of CD's so the kids can be assessed
to where they are grade wise.
The only catch is you must be a BC resident to take
advantage. With regard to homeschooling while cruising ... I believe that an
itinerary and some knowledge is all you need ... you know, a guideline as to
what the children should be learning when. Then set your schedule to make that
happen. I don't believe children need to be registered in any school district.
Just another form of gov. control.
From Mark Mech on The Live-Aboard List:
We have home schooled since day 1 and have used a number of sources.
One of the people we heard from early on was a principal for 20 years, but
home schooled some of his own kids. He said he didn't like using curriculums
for anything but extra curricular activity, he liked to use many sources.
I have heard good things about Calvert, but haven't used it as it is about 3
to 4 times more expensive than most systems. We have used Saxon Math, it is
recommended by many educators, but my son says the Abeka math is far more
challenging. We are using the Abeka curriculum, but supplementing it with
the Robinson Curriculum (CD's) and many outside sources such as assignments
from library books etc.
Our son is 11 and is about 2 to 3 years ahead of the public schools, this is
par for the course for home schooling, No amount of teaching skills can make
up for 1 on 1 attention. It is amazing how much time is wasted in the school system.
Summarized from schooling article by Jeananne Kirwin in Jul/Aug 2001 issue of Living Aboard magazine:
- Consult with local teachers and principal before leaving.
- Some less-used (e.g. locally developed) distance-learning
courses are out-of-date and/or very expensive.
- Some subjects are cumulative, so very important that your child doesn't
lose any ground relative to their peers:
- Some mini-subjects might be required: drug awareness, etc.
- Calvert system seems very time-consuming.
- Mail-in courses not practical if postal system is not good.
- Schooling is more important the longer you'll be gone.
- Be flexible: okay to skip a day, have an all-math day, etc.
- Cyber-learning not practical if power is limited, don't have computer per child.
From Dakota Rose
... At the [George Town Exumas] market it cost us $27 to fax
12 pages of schoolwork back to the county home schooling office. ...
- Have a regular schedule of 2-4 hours
each morning for sit-down schooling.
- Sending exams and work to official school authority:
optional in elementary school, mandatory in high school.
Pregnant woman cruising:
- Avoid overheating and dehydration.
- Extra weight may impair sense of balance.
- Avoid seasickness because of risk of dehydration.
- Make sure diet is balanced.
- Minimize rough rides.
BoatSafe Kids' "Pets OnBoard"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Cruising With Cats"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Tips for Cruising With Cats"
SailNet - Tom Wood's "Pets Afloat"
SailNet - Sue and Larry's "Cruising with Canines"
Very good chapter on pets in "Living Aboard" by Janet Groene and Gordon Groene
(on Amazon - paid link).
Charbonneau 's "Sailing With Pets"
Article by Bill Lindsey in 11/2003 issue of Cruising World magazine
Book by Capt. Dr. Dave on "Fidelis": Captain Doctor Dave’s Wilderness Veterinary Companion for Cruisers and Other Outbackers
Book (I haven't read it): "Cruising With Your Four-Footed Friends" by Diana Jessie
(on Amazon - paid link).
Crossing national boundaries
Petswelcome.com’s "International Pet Regulations and Policies"
- Keep up with vaccinations.
- Save all documentation.
- Try to get proof your pet was not landed at various islands you entered.
- Research rules and paperwork well ahead of entering a country.
- Have an ID chip in your pet's ear for positive ID.
New Zealand and Australia rules article by Jeff Williams in Feb 2002 issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine
From Colin Foster on The Live-Aboard List:
> I was told that since my boat is documented
> with the USCG it is "Sovereign USA Territory" as
> opposed to just being state registered with 'state'
> numbers. As such, I was told, I can have my bird and
> dog aboard with no concern as to if the host country
> allows dogs/birds, etc. That is as long as I anchor out.
> TRUE ?
It may be technically true but local restrictions can make
it untenable. They may require you to anchor in a
"quarantine" area which is usually very remote.
They may require a security deposit and submit to
daily inspections to make sure the animals are still
on board and are healthy. You will have to pay for
these inspections and health tests. They may require
that the bird's wing be clipped so it cannot escape
your boat if if gets free. They may even require
you to stay aboard until the animals are tested for
communicable diseases. So yes, it may be true that
you can have your bird and dog on board but that
doesn't relieve you of local laws and regulations.
Insisting that you are in "Sovereign USA Territory"
is likely to get you in deep deep trouble.
Third-world countries don't appreciate our good
natured generosity and lovable attitude, and any
protection the local authorities may have provided
will not be forthcoming. Try calling in the USCG
for help then, when some big nasty boogeymen board
your boat in the middle of the night!
From Rick Kennerly on The Live-Aboard List:
We came down via Bermuda and the islands with a Cairn terrier as deck watch.
While the vet health certificate and vaccination records are easy, the
rabies antigen blood test (only done at a university lab in Kansas
commercially, while some state rabies labs will do it for citizens) will be
the fly in your Metamucil. This test is required to enter all former
British colonies in the Caribbean with a dog or cat (Bermuda, BVI, St Kitts
etc). Before you arrive, you fax all this stuff to the appropriate
government entity to get an entry permit, which are usually only valid for
30 days after issue.
What's difficult, is that you have to have a separate animal entry permit
for each animal for each island nation, and the antigen test that is sent to
Kansas cannot be older than 30 days. So you'll be in for a round of FedEx
air express (hint: pack in dry ice and do not use the word blood in any
description of what's inside -- we used "medical samples" -- otherwise FedEx
will require all kinds of special packing, wrapping, and extra charges.
That's the strictly legal side. As with all systems there is a bit of flex,
if you're good with people and politics.
Bermuda required that we arrive within 10 days of the issuance of the
permit. Because of a bad burn before we left and a bit of bad weather in
the Chesapeake, we didn't arrive until day 12. Customs went ballistic,
accused us of smuggling rabies into the island, talked about impounding the
boat, killing the dog, and were in all ways extremely ugly about it all.
The island director of health, contacted at home on a Sunday, had them
anchor us in 40 ft of water, at least 1/2 mile from shore, assured us
Customs would shoot the dog if found ashore for any reason, and ordered me
to report to his office on Monday. I had all the paperwork in hand and a
very pleasant woman issued me a permit on the spot. Shore leave for Seaman
We had to skip the BVI due to lack of time, but the process and (we hear)
attitudes are similar. Customs = hardnosed. Department of Health =
reasonably intelligent and cooperative. We have friends that sneak into the
BVI all the time, run their dog ashore, and have yet to be caught. However,
the law in all the former British colonies is extremely punitive to both
your bank account and freedom if caught, and deadly for your animal.
USVI, Puerto Rico, the Dutch and French islands are all pretty cool about
dogs. Unfortunately, having dogs aboard really complicate or rule out a lot
From Michael Horrell on The Live-Aboard List 5/2003:
Australia and Great Britain (not sure about New Zealand) have recently adopted
the "Pet Passport", which waives the quarantine period for animals with proven
vaccination history and certificates of health.
Contact the local embassy or consulate and they can give you the details, I
don't want to mis-speak and create confusion.
From article by Jan S. Irons in Nov 2008 issue of Blue Water Sailing magazine:
Do you intend to leave the boat while you travel inland to experience more of the culture ?
Pets frequently are not welcome in hotels and restaurants.
Who will take care of Buster while you explore the ancient ruins ... ?
Like us, do you want to cruise six months and live in the USA during
hurricane season ? Bringing a pet back and forth requires special vaccinations,
airline hassles, in addition to stress on the animal. And we haven't
taken into consideration daily living, taking the dog ashore,
getting adequate exercise, and how well they deal with heat in the tropics.
From Paul Martin on alt.sailing newsgroup:
From Bolton on alt.sailing newsgroup:
... If you're talking extended cruising ... dogs are a pain in the
butt to the owner and have a hard life aboard. Other countries don't
like you bringing pets ashore and have stiff fines against it. Others
will make you quarantine the dog the day you hit port. Being cooped up
on a small boat for a long time is mean to an active animal. If long-term
cruising is what you are planning, and you really care for the
dog, place him with someone who will take proper care of him. ...
Take the dog, who will have a great time! Ours is a 100-lb black Lab. Age
5 first time we took him sailing and he adjusted just fine. He is "klutzy"
(some dogs are ballerinas and can balance on the gunnel of a dink) so we use
an inflatable. He is big/strong enough to jump from the inflatable to the
deck. He wears a harness, so if his jump is a tad incomplete, the person on
deck just hauls on the harness to give him a little assistance on getting
the rear end up and over.
Six months before he came aboard, we started training him to "go" on
command. Morning and night, each and every time, we said "Max, go to the
bathroom." Once on the boat, he remembered and understood the command. If
we're near shore, he will look longingly at the grass, trees, and shrubs -
but eventually he will go on the boat. We carry small scented trash bags to
keep his poop in until we can get ashore or far enough out to get rid of it.
We use a bucket to wash the pee overboard; we use a bucket to wash all the
Lab hair overboard too.
If the weather looks iffy, get the dog below early. It is not easy for ours
to handle the 5 steps down to the cabin when the boat is rocking and
rolling. He has his own blanket sort of under the v-berth so he can lodge
himself into a spot in rough weather.
When we're ashore we are morally obligated to take him for a good run. If
we can't get ashore, he swims for exercise. He's happy and we love having
him with us. Ours is a 36' ketch.
From Susan Meckley on CompuServe's Sailing Forum:
Train your K-9 crew member to 'go' on a piece of indoor-outdoor carpeting. Of
course in advance you have installed a grommet in it. Then, once it is
soiled, just throw it over the side, and voila! It's clean again.
From article by Sherrie Roark in 5/2002 issue of PassageMaker magazine:
If you have the room for it, put in a lawn.
Put down sheets of plastic, and then a couple yards of sod
from a nursery. If it's near the edge of the deck, just wash waste
off. Throw the sod and plastic away at the end of the trip.
From John Newcomer on CompuServe's Sailing Forum:
> ... We would like to have a cat onboard. ...
I can address your questions as we have been living with two cats on board
for 6 years now, albeit in marinas in Southern California. Life underway will
be a different story.
> 1. Should we start with a kitten and then it will only know life onboard?
Our cats were 4 years old when we moved aboard having lived in a house
with a yard previously. Yes there was some adjustment for them but they
adapted. We don't let them roam the docks but keep them tethered. They do
sometimes escape but come running back when I yell at them. They also swim
well we found out. We use rabbit/cat harnesses with light line tethers rather
than collars so they don't strangle when they get tangled up. This also
provides a handy grip away from flailing claws when retrieving them from the
water. You can also get a boat hook through the harness.
> 2. Where do you keep the kitty litter?
> There is only so much space and odour might be a problem.
The litter hides in a covered, plastic litter box in the shower/head (we
shower ashore). It gets tracked all over the place so we keep a small
rechargeable vacuum handy (dustbuster type). There is a product called Litter
Liners that is sort of a diaper for the cat box that works great. They are
hard to find (Ralphs in our area is the only place) but simplify dumping the
litter as the box never gets wet or dirty. Changing the box twice a week with
two cats using is about right for us. With one cat or a kitten you could go
longer. The clumping sand type litter is a disaster on board. At least the
normal litter can be seen and dealt with and doesn't grind into the cabin
sole too badly.
> 3. What about food? Dry or canned (considering we won't
> be near stores in many areas of Bahamas).
For food we use Iams for the less active cat (blue bag). They have been
eating it for 6 years now and don't complain. It hasn't caused any urinary
tract problems (like the store bought stuff does). It also seems to have less
odor when processed and deposited in the litter box.
> 4. Any entry/quarantine problems - we are presently living in Canada.
We brought our cats over from Europe and had no entry or quarantine
problems. No one asked to see their medical records which we went to some
expense to have up to date.
> 5. Safety precautions - netting, rough weather etc.
When underway we keep them below so they don't go over the side. They
get seasick at times, so when it is rough we lock them up in the head with a
rug or blanket to cling to so they can make a mess in a confined space that
is easy to clean up.
... It is nice to have a pet on board even though it
complicates life in an already cramped space.
From Rick Ermshar on CompuServe's Sailing Forum:
After 18 years of living aboard with a couple of cats, perhaps I can help a
bit. Yes, start with a kitten. Walk it around the boat and dip its paws in the
water so it realizes what's out there (sometimes when the water is glassy calm
they think it's a solid floor!). Also, restrict it to the boat for the first
several months so it really realizes where 'home' is. Once you start letting
it outside, hang a towel or a scrap of carpet over the side and into the water
so it can climb up if it falls in.
Leave the litter box in the cockpit in fair weather to help the problem of bad
odors, and otherwise just clean it daily!
Dry food is best: easier to store, less inclination for the cat to want
people-food, no rusting wet-food cans, etc. Also, if you go away for a few
days you can leave a couple of bowls of dry food, where with wet-food it would
spoil rather quickly.
Also: in strange ports cats can easily get lost on the docks. With my kittens,
starting at the very beginning I repeated the word "dinner!" loudly every
single time I fed them. Then in strange ports, if they wandered off I could
stand on deck and yell "dinner!" and they'd come running!!!!!!!!
Ah, good old Pavlovian training! ...
A couple of other thoughts:
#1: it's easy on a sailboat to leave a
small porthole open so the cat can get in and out.
#2: cats get seasick pretty
easily, so if you see its eyelids starting to droop, watch out -- it's about
to go puke in your topsiders!
#3: there are animal-sized life preservers you should use at sea.
A cat story I'll never forget is the time I was cruising in the Rosario
Islands off Cartagena, Columbia. We were at anchor with a sunshade over the
cockpit, which the cat loved to sit on top of. The wind got up over 30 knots
and the sunshade was flapping pretty good, sending the cat airborne.
Absolutely hilarious (if a bit scary) watching him fly 4 or 5 feet up in the
air and then landing again -- he seemed to love the game!
From Paul Martin on alt.sailing newsgroup:
Cats do very well on boats. However, the best boat cats are normally
brought on board as young as possible as they are less likely to know
what they are missing by prowling ashore. By this I mean boats that
rarely come to a dock.
If you are going to be staying at marinas or bring a cat from home,
it will be entirely up to the cat whether it stays aboard. Once taken
to sea, the cat may decide 'never again' and leave the premises as
soon as it sees you stowing things for sea.
For the most part though they tend to stay around their 'home'.
I've had three cats over the years and they are great company once
they get you trained.
There are various ways of handling their 'litter' problems ...
From Gary and Phyllis on the Morgan mailing list:
Oh yes, we have a cat on board. There are a few questions you need to ask
yourself. How big is your boat, how big will the cat get, how old is the
cat, is the cat long or short-haired (this is important because of all the
filters that get clogged with cat hair), is the cat accustomed to
We moved aboard our Morgan 32 four years ago when Fela (our Calico) was 3 years
old. She had never been on a boat. She is a big cat (appx 15 pounds dry)
so she needs a big cat box. We finally bought one of those with a top on it
and put it in the cockpit while we are at dock. Seems to be working out
pretty good right now because we are always at dock (full-time job).
She does okay normally except when we run the engine. All we have to do is
reach for the key and she makes a bee-line for the v-berth and won't come
out for a couple of hours afterward.
You are right, cats can swim and pretty good. One night when she decided to
go roaming and fell in she swam about 100 yards or so to the boat ramp. She
was not in too good condition when a neighbor found her but she survived.
This was just the last time she fell overboard. The thing you have to think
about is how to get her back on board if you are at anchor. Net does not
work with Fela, she just jumps out of it. Just have to grab her by the nape
of the neck, if you can reach her.
We do love our cat but wish she had shorter hair, wasn't sooooo big and we
had a bigger boat. Good luck with yours.
From Terry and Audrey Adams on the Morgan mailing list:
We have 2 golden retreivers and a cat (she is a rag doll) aboard
audraseaventure and the boys (the dogs) love the boat but they are
happy as long as they get to go anywhere. They lay up under the dodger
and sleep till I bring out the ball. As for the cat (sophia) she has
been the boat since the day that we brought her home from the cattery.
Tn fact the day we bought her we stopped at the boat and took her inside to
see what she thought. She's been on board ever since, she's a good
traveler she goes snow skiing with when we go to mountain. The issue of
the litter box we put it in the rear head because that's where her box
is at home. We put strips of carpet around the two masts on
audraseaventure and these are the scratching post and she has full run
of the boat and when we are sailing in moderate winds we always have a
leash on her and from day one she has had a cat harness on and wears it
all the time at home on the boat or in the camper, she doesn't seam to
mind. She will sit out on the bow pulpit and watch the ducks swim under
her or when we are coming into the dock she will sit out there and check
everyone out. On the 462 she has a full toy box full of her favorite
toys and she chases the balls and fuzzy play mice up and down the hallway.
She's a real delight to have aboard and she keeps you entertained.
When she got old enough we took her to the back of the boat and had my
wife's brother swim out from the boat and call her and then we kind of
gave her a little push and she found out what water was and then she swam
back to the boat and she has only had to have one more flying/swim
lesson. We can walk away from the boat at the dock and she just walks the
decks and watches everybody on the docks.
Starting from a kitten is
always better then starting later in life. The rag doll breed is a super
cat and very adaptable and that is why we bought her in the first place.
Well, so much for the rattling on but we don't have kids and they are our kids.
From Patrick Dickey on the Morgan mailing list:
We have been living aboard with a cat for about 1
year, and he has adapted very well. He is the dock
mascot, and everyone seems to like him ... even non-cat
people. I qualified in the "non-cat person category"
until we got this cat. Always had dogs before living
on land, now I believe cats are probably better suited
for living aboard a sailboat than say a dog simply
because of their dexterity. I would imagine a dog
would have more trouble going up and down the
companionway ladder. Also the dog has to go out
everyday to do his business, we have left our cat
alone aboard for up to 4 days, however someone on the
dock always volunteers to visit with him. His litter
box is in the forward head and he uses it
consistently, no accidents! He has fallen into the
water 3 times, luckily we were topside when he went in
and we fished him out. He did however swim like an
olympic swimmer. I recently purchased a system called
the "turtle". It is designed for small children who
may fall into a swimming pool by accident. It has a
small remote sensor (about the size of a wristwatch
face) that attaches to his collar. There is a base
station located in the boat (12v or 110v) that sounds
and looks something like a smoke detector alarm if
activated. Upon immediate submersion of the sensor it
activates the base. It seems to have about a 250 ft.
range (I tested it when we got it). However since
we've gotten the system he hasn't gone in. Figures.
Hope we won't need it.
He is a great companion, and with him and my wife
aboard there is NEVER a dull moment.
We are glad to have him; and our only concern now is
when we begin our cruising, what hurdles we will have
with foreign customs and regulations for pets.
I have learned that many times, animals are much more
adaptable than people. Try taking your cat aboard for
short period at first to allow it to get used to the
new environment; if you are patient, your cat will
From Laura Spanton on the Morgan mailing list:
My cat is a 15-pounder. She's 11, and has been with me through
thick and thin. I took her aboard my old 35-foot Pearson and she was
fine, as long as I was aboard. I kept her on a leash while underway for
the few times she wanted to be topside, and when at anchor, she was
longing for shore. She didn't mind the engine so much, but when I was
docked, she would usually find her way off, even if to sit on the dock.
When I would come back to the boat at dock, there she would sit like the
princess she is on the foredeck, waiting for supper. (Might explain why
she's so big!)
I have friends who keep a section of carpet draped over the side of
their boat for their cat to climb back aboard. I would suspect one of
them had to be in the water when the other person literally threw the
cat overboard, so the person in the water could encourage the cat to go
for the carpet.
Litter boxes: Great in cockpit with full cover, or bimini/enclosure. On
my new Morgan, I will give her the forward head for her box (I will take
the aft head as my own) until I get the bimini arrangement worked out
(have to make dodgers), but as long as we are at dock (still working,
will be for sometime), she will get off the boat I am sure.
From DJ Brooks on CompuServe's Sailing Forum:
... I have trained our cat to NEVER get off the boat. Did this by dunking her as a
kitten the two times she did. She doesn't even LOOK at the dock. I've met too
many people who have had to sail on and leave their pet behind to God knows
what peril. Also, she stays down below when we are underway, unless it is very
light going, and then she stays in the cockpit with a tether.
In rough seas, she crawls under the bedding in the quarter berth and snoozes.
Have the cat neutered, but do not de-claw it. He or she may need them to hang on.
One concern is vet care. Vets appear to be hard to come by in some places.
Some vet should put together a Vet-Sea-Pak along the lines of the
Medical-Sea-Paks for humans.
From Terry Palmer on CompuServe's Sailing Forum:
The book we keep aboard is "Dog Owner's HOME Veterinary Handbook" by Carlson
and Giffin. Cost $25. Macmillan Publishing Company.
... in boat training him, I put a leash on him and walked him to the
foredeck, all of the while asking him to pee-poop, or your dogs favorite
phrase. He wouldn't go at all for the first two days, then finally couldn't
hold it any longer and pee-pee all over a boat cushion. We never scolded him
for doing his thing, only reward him with a dog biscuit. I walked him about
10 times a day to start with. Now, he goes in the same spot on the foredeck,
and he walks himself. He will not go on the boat if we are at a dock, but
never has a problem at anchor.
Claymore, our dog, gets very nervous for the first few hours each day, but
does not get seasick. I use two leashes and tether him in one corner of the
cockpit. He seems to feel more secure, and he isn't apt to get under foot at
critical times. The two tethers are at a 90 degree angle. He doesn't eat or
drink water in the morning, he eats and drinks the moment the anchor is down.
I sometimes give him a few saltine crackers if the water is rough.
I don't encourage Claymore to jump into the water from the boat for three reasons:
(1) he could decide to jump in at a VERY bad time and we might not be
able to recover him
(2) little animals make great shark and alligator bait
(3) little dogs are not strong swimmers and tire very quickly.
I do let him swim and dive for sticks once we are on a beach
and we can get him out of the water if trouble approaches.
I keep a life jacket on him when we are underway.
Dog biscuits and dog food sometimes get bugs in them if kept for a long time.
We put the food/biscuits on a cookie sheet and bake them until the critters
are dead. The dog doesn't know the difference. We cruise for 4 to 6 months
a year and can't always find dog food and biscuits in the islands.
Heartworm medication and flea preventatives should be a monthly treatment.
Mosquitoes can carry heartworms, and fleas ingested can cause tapeworms. ...
From Rick Kennerly on The Live-Aboard List:
If you're going offshore with a dog or cat, you'll need to educate yourself
and prepare for their emergency first aid, just like you do for human crew.
A severely seasick and dehydrated dog can die between the Chesapeake and
Bermuda, if you don't know how to successfully rehydrate them while at sea
(hint: it's NOT done in the same way you hydrate a human). You should invest
in some hands-on time with your vet to discuss techniques, have them
demonstrated, and buy emergency supplies for the animal. Your vet can also
advise you on doses of common human medicines that help animals and when to
use them, as well as those which will kill your animal.
You should also have a good reference manual. We've got "The First Aid
Companion for Dogs and Cats", by Amy Shojai. It was the pick of a bad lot,
particularly since every section ends in the admonition to get to your vet
as soon as possible -- pretty useless when help is three days away in any
direction. I hear that there is a good emergency first aid guide out for
rescue dog handlers, but I haven't seen it yet.
Your dog should also have a custom-made harness, just like the crew. We
adapted a commercially-sewn harness for Scruffy, replacing the plastic
closures by sewing on SS D-rings and SS closures and adding a between-the-legs
strap so that he'd tow on his back and head up without slipping out. He
had two tethers, one a bit longer for the cockpit, the other for trips
Because dogs are not built like people, it's tough for them to get
comfortable in a seaway, so we also made him a custom non-skid bean bag. We
took a fabric placemat with that rubber non-skid on the back, attached a top
of cotton twill, and sewed in a 5 or 10 lb bag of rice (don't open the bag).
This would give Scruffy something to lean against while underway that
wouldn't slide around too much. We frequently used it as a kind of wedge to
keep him in one place while he slept.
Still, all in all, he was miserable at sea for days at a time and, as I said
before, we'll fly the dogs home and then come back for the boat when we
leave Puerto Rico.
From HGA on Cruising World message board:
I am a dog lover and I am a sailor.
I have a boat large enough for my 80 pound Golden Retriever
but for the very reasons you mention [toilet arrangements, in/out of dinghy,
up/down companionway stairs, scared by thunder], I just don't think
a dog on a boat is a good idea. In particular, on a sail boat,
a dog can get in the way and will have trouble orienting themselves
when the boat heels and when the boat changes tack.
... Less of a concern on a power boat. Unless you have an exceptionally
large, stable craft, I think your dog will probably appreciate being
left on shore. ... Dogs also
can fall overboard, and although they can swim naturally, pose a threat
to all onboard who attempt to rescue them, may not be seen by other
boaters and run over and, all things considered, unless kept in
a confined space below are more trouble than they're worth.
From Steven Shelikoff on rec.boats.cruising newsgroup:
> My wife and I have two Golden Retrievers, and a small cruising sailboat.
> We'd like to take the dogs along, so we're looking for solutions to some
> anticipated sticking points: 1) How can we help them be more sure-footed
> and secure as they move around on a tilting, pitching deck (does anyone sell
> boat shoes for dogs -- which would keep them from scratching up the
> brightwork, too)? 2) Does anyone know any tricks for transferring them
> between the boat and a tender (inflatable, or regular dinghy)? There's
> quite a height difference. 3) What additional issues are going to
> require creative solutions?
Don't know about 1. My dogs are pretty sure-footed but when the deck is
tilting and pitching, they are confined to either the cockpit or below.
I do have netting around most of the boat from the lifelines to the toe
rail. 2, I just sort of "help" them up the boarding ladder to get
aboard. Getting into the dinghy is more like having them jump into my
arms and lowering them not so gently. I have two dogs that weigh about
70lbs each and my stern is at about chest level when I'm standing up in
Additional issues are DFDs (doggie flotation devices) and bathroom
duty. Mine always wear their DFDs when above deck. I've also got them
to "go" on a piece of astroturf at the bow that I can wash off when
necessary. Another issue is fur. You should keep vigilant on cleaning
up shedding fur so that it doesn't get into the bilge and clog up a
Other than that, the dogs are fine.
From PrinceMyshkin on rec.boats.cruising newsgroup:
We have a 35-pound mutt who's quite a seadog, yet has sense
enough to stay in the cockpit underway. At anchor, she goes anywhere but we
also have netting on the lifelines to make sure she does not go overboard.
The netting actually keeps a lot of things on board. We also tether her when
things are rough and we have a PFD (Pooch Flotation Device) that she also
wears. She doesn't mind it. In fact, she knows we are going somewhere when we
put it on and welcomes it.
Never heard of boat shoes for a dog. Ours is pretty sure footed on the nromal
deck non-skid. She does not scratch the brightwork. She sort of tumbles from
the cockpit down the companionway to get into the boat, a controlled crash.
She can also get herself out from the cabin to the cockpit.
She jumps from the deck into the dinghy off the stern, another controlled
crash. She climbs aboard via the stern ladder from the dinghy with help. Once
she gets her forepaws on the ladder she can make it the rest of the way but
it often helps to have someone in the dinghy push while someone on deck pulls
on her leash. But she has done it without help. Our boat is 37 feet and the
freeboard is considerable.
Sanitation is the big problem. In four years we have never persuaded her to do
her duty on board and she can go an extraordinarily long time before she gives
up, and then only with great embarrassment. She must be taken ashore. Our
previous dog was a Maltese who was paper trained at home and had a piddle pad
in the cockpit on board. But this one insists on going ashore. Nothing we have
been able to do so far has caused her to change her mind.
From Rick Kennerly on YahooGroups liveaboards mailing list:
... dogs and boats:
Living aboard can really be broken down into three different modes: living
on a dock and seldom moving, periodic inshore passagemaking with stops at
anchor and/or a dock (like dragging the ICW twice a year), and offshore
passagemaking with lots of anchoring out. A dog suited for one mode may not
do as well in the others.
Offshore is the toughest. This last spring we completed a long offshore
trip and while Scruffy did
well, he didn't really thrive offshore. If you're going offshore, you'll
need a very agile dog, a dog that is supremely confident of his athletic
abilities, and one with a low center of gravity. But even then, dog claws
are not cat claws and the dog will struggle the entire trip to feel secure
and comfortable as he slides around. Next offshore passage we'll ship the
dog. I think we'll all be happier.
After that consideration however, I don't see why a person can't have a dog
aboard. Even big, long-legged dogs with a high CG can be good crewmembers
on protected water passages.
But you also need to consider your physical abilities. A lot of people have
big dogs -- labs, goldens, etc. -- aboard. But big dogs are a struggle to get
back aboard the boat from the water or even into a dinghy from the water.
And you can't always count on being able to winch the dog (even if he's
already in a harness) back aboard. I've know people who've had to tow a big
dog to shallow water so the dog could step into the dinghy.
Coats. No matter how careful you are with grooming, enough of a shedding
breed's hair will eventually find it's way into the bilge to wrap itself
around the spindle of your bilge pump (regardless how thoroughly you screen
it). Even if you're diligent about cleaning your pump screens, it's the
hair that washes down to the pump from seldom cleaned areas of the bilge
during rough conditions that will get you. This is not a disqualifier, just
Get a swimming breed. At best, dogs with short coats, high muscle mass and
low body fat struggle to swim and at worst tire easily and sink like stones.
I saw an American Bulldog go off the dock and straight to the bottom once.
The owner had to swim down to bring her back up to the surface (actually,
several people went after the dog since she was THE Marine Corps mascot at
Camp LeJeune). It's body fat and trapped air in a thick coat help float a
dog. Don't try, but I don't think you can drown a Chesapeake, a Golden, or
a Lab -- they just seem naturally buoyant -- but their high CG works against
them as passagemakers. You'll notice the contradiction concerning coats and
pumps and trapping air.
No matter what you do to help keep a dog aboard, it is a certainty that the
dog (like most people) will end up in the water. So, you've got to dedicate
enough time to teach the dog how to rescue itself. Cats can climb back up
a rope left over the side. Dogs can't. At a marina, that means teaching
the dog to strike out for the beach (not a seawall) when she goes in.
Swimming under piers and around pylons can be confusing and frightening for
a dog. So it takes a good deal more training than you might suspect to get
a dog competent at this. With smaller dogs you can create a small
low-floating, outdoor carpeted platform with webbing loops for the dog to
step into get herself out of the water. Our platform stays in the water
even when we're at a dock and always when we're anchored. She can't get
back aboard the boat, but at least she's out of the water. We have
installed a bell on our platform so the dog can find it in the dark.
On our finger pier, we put a baby gate between the two dock boxes -- our
neighbor doesn't mind. The dog can get on and off the boat but can't get
past the gate. The downside is that the dog has to traverse the gap
between the dock and the boat. But we went this route when it became clear
she was not going to stay strictly on the boat.
Dogs I think make good all around LAs: Cairns -- of course!, Scotties,
Westies, Poodles (which are actually a kind of water spaniel -- you have to
trim a poodle, but you don't have to "fru-fru" the trim), Skipperkes,
Portuguese Water Spaniels.
My limited observations of dogs on boats leads me to think that
dogs are not happy on board. Most I've seen are absolutely
delighted when they are taken off the boat for any reason. They
want to run, sniff, investigate.
I also see many anchored-out boats where the owners are slaves
to the dogs: they have to dinghy ashore at least twice a day,
rain or shine, calm weather or rough,
just to let the dog do his business.
And what do you do with the dog when you want to fly back home for a while ?
What do you do with the dog while the boat is in a boatyard, up on jackstands ?
From Rich Hampel on rec.boats.cruising newsgroup:
Once you get the dog trained to stand up between the dinghy and the caprail, just a little push
is all that's required. Consider a harness with an added wide chest band. Also add a looped
'carrying handle' on the back of the harness to snag the dog with a boathook when needed. Getting
into the dinghy, just hold onto the harness handle to help steer as the dog jumps in from the deck
and to help soften the landing.
Footing - if the dog is long haired, be sure to trim the hair near the footpads to fully expose the
rough pads. Keep the nails trimmed very short.
I tether my pooch's harness to the binnacle in rough going.
I added ribbed textured carpeting on the companionways steps to aid the human and canine footing.
I have cockpit mounted shower to clean up the dog when reboarding (me too).
Be careful with not having enough water put out for the dog to drink on a hot humid day. Dogs can
dehydrate very quickly. I use an inverted 32 oz. plastic soda
bottle screwed into a wide deep dish. The dog takes as much he needs, the dish automatically
refills, and the dish doesn't spill in a seaway.
In any of these 'new' procedures that you introduce your dog to be sure to use lots of praise, etc.
I don't go anywhere with my boat without my dog; they enjoy it as much as I do, maybe more.
From Keith on rec.boats.cruising newsgroup:
The guy that invented the original razor cut boat shoe sole did it by
wondering why his dogs didn't slip around. If you look at the pads of
their feet, they will resemble boat shoes, albeit not in a geometrical
pattern. They should be fine if you just clip their nails. Maybe for
boarding, make a gangplank out of a 2x12 and cover it with astroturf?
Don't forget the doggie life preservers. Your biggest problem is going
to be doggie smell and hygiene if you're on extended trips.
From Bryan Genez on Yacht-L mailing list:
I've been sailing with 1, 2, or 3 dogs for the past 9 years. My
oldest, a Schipperke, has sailed the entire East Coast, from Nova
Scotia to Florida. I didn't start out using a life vest, but after a
couple of overboard drills, I've learned. They all wear vests any
time we're underway. The best I've seen are the British-made
Crewsavers. Pricey. Alternatively, a vest that puts the flotation
on the dog's back, with straps under the chest and belly and a
lifting handle on the back should work.
If/when the dog goes overboard, stop the boat. Don't circle around;
the animal won't understand you're coming back, and will swim as hard
as possible in your wake.
My animals are trained to use the foredeck for elimination. A paper
towel and bucket of seawater gets rid of the evidence. When the
weather gets snotty, they seem to lose the urge!
Some dogs will get seasick. A half-tab of Bonine, available over the
counter, seems to do the trick for us.
I store dry dog food in gallon-size zip-locks. Keeps well, and easy to store.
From Jared Sherman on the SailNet liveaboard-list:
[Re: Getting dog out of the water:]
Any of the hunting suppliers (cabelas.com)
carry special gear for water dogs and retrievers.
You'll find dog PFD's cheaper than the marine suppliers carry them.
And ramps, designed to stow and
deploy from duck boats so the dogs can easily climb aboard or at
least climb to a platform above water level.
From John Dunsmoor:
Pets can be a wonderful joy to have around or a very large pain.
Depends on the pet and depends on the situation.
Cats do better than dogs. They seem to fend for themselves mostly,
don't really need the company of anyone and with the help of a strip
of carpet can get themselves back onboard.
I lived next to a boat on Guam that had a cat.
Each morning around sun up I would watch the cat
attempt to walk the dock line to shore.
The cat never made it, or at least never made it
when I was watching. But each morning it would try.
It would get about ten feet or so, half way.
Then hang upside down for thirty seconds, and then by one paw,
then with a tiny meow of resignation drop into the water.
Swim to shore do its business and about noon time it could
be seen again. Attempting to walk the line from the shore
to the boat. The cat did this every day, twice a day for six
months that I know of. I always wondered if it ever
made the trip without having to swim.
The owner was an old man, and that cat and the ever
refilled six pack of beer were the two companions he loved most.
Traveling with animals can be a Customs problem.
A lot of countries do not have rabies and we do.
So shots and quarantine are the norm.
For a cat, quarantine is not so bad, they are happy enough
to stay close to the boat and the can opener.
For a dog it is a different matter, they usually are desperate
to go to shore to whiz and bark at things.
Now I would think that this might work against
taking a mature cat onboard, one that has established emotionally
where home is supposed to be. Could be a real tough nut for the cat.
Since your mate is a cat person I presume, then she
already knows what it is like to deal with cat hair,
and all the other wonderful nuances of pet
ownership ... in 80% less space.
From Mike Hughes on CompuServe's Sailing Forum:
... [Cats] can be pests in a marina, partly because people don't think they need to
control them to the extent that they accept as appropriate for a dog. It is
hard to keep them from exploring other people's boats. They were a real
problem at one marina where I lived aboard for a while but it was mostly the
result of a few people who refused to get their cats fixed. ...
From Kim on Cruising World message board:
My husband, our two cats and I live aboard a 31' Douglas (Brewer designed) sloop.
Basically, the cats had no choice but to live aboard with us.
They have adapted each in their own way. The older cat is 15 and hardly
ever leaves the boat (We are currently working full-time to pay off the boat
and we live at a marina). The younger, 3 year old hardly ever stays in the boat.
He spends most of his time around the marina grounds.
When we go out for the weekend, we capture the young one,
stick him in the v-berth, and leave. Once we are away from the marina
and have the sails up he's allowed to come out. Both walk around on deck,
and seem quite curious about being surrounded by water.
If things get a little hairy, we stick them back in the cabin,
and they stay there. While we were tacking around a buoy in a race
last weekend (yes, we race our home), the older one came out of the
companionway, took one look at the swinging horizon and the intense
action in front of him and jumped right back into the cabin. It looks
like he's learning something. When we get on a rate of heel greater
than 15 degrees, you can find the old cat lying on the upwind side
with his feet propped out against something or in the v-berth nestled
in the covers. The young one gets into the hanging locker in the
v-berth (a very tight fit) and pretends to be asleep.
Sorry about the long answer, but in all they seem to have adapted
while at the marina. We are not sure how they will act when we begin
to do much more anchoring and mooring out (starting next spring) ...
From William Sellar on The Live-Aboard List:
I introduced a 10 year old Siamese to sailing. He adapted fine and seemed to
like it. He had also been a house cat. Cats are natural sailors.
I'll bet that most would do better than we expect. I introduced my current cat as a
kitten and now at ten she is a great sailor.
Start her out just being on the boat in the harbor. Work up gradually to
heavy weather. Although my cat takes heavy weather better than most people.
From Pierre on The Live-Aboard List:
Cats really make better pets aboard small boats (under 40') than dogs. They
are for the most part independent of their owners. They do not require
shore trips and can deal with heeling better (their claws do this). The
down side to this is if your cat takes a liking to using the teak as a
scratching post (one of mine tries this occasionally). Most of the people I
have come across with dogs onboard have dogs that seem to be dying to get
ashore. That seems really unfair to the dog.
From Carey on SSCA discussion boards:
We are currently cruising with kitty ... Make sure you bring a collapsible cat carrier with you
for those times he/she needs to be transported. Lastly, having a pet on board will restrict,
somewhat, your land touring unless you can link up with other cruising folk who like animals
and would be willing to keep an eye on kitty.
From Bryan Genez on Yacht-L mailing list:
> I have heard of people with cats leaving a towel tied
> to the swim ladder and if the cats
> go over they will swim to the towel and climb back in.
The best cat solution I've seen was on a French boat I encountered in
Nova Scotia. The owner was towing a large - maybe two foot square -
block of styrofoam about 4 feet astern. If his cat went overboard,
it would swim to the styrofoam, climb up, and leap back aboard the
boat. There were claw marks all over the block, so I know it was used.
From Pierre on The Live-Aboard List:
Gotta disagree with you on the "boats and dogs go together" bit. Boats and
Cats do, they complement each other well. Cats are self-sufficient, don't
need to be taken ashore and seem (from my experience) to adapt far better to
life afloat. Every dog owner in my marina seems to have issues with their
dogs madly jumping ashore when they get back from a sail. It's like the
dogs can't get off the boat fast enough. I even seen one in so much of a
panic as to jump to the dock while the boat was still attempting to dock.
From Brent Evers on The Live-Aboard List:
Not my experience - my dog loves running around my boat - seems to like
being on it just as much as he does on land or in the water itself.
Frankly, I've gotta disagree a little with the "cats are wonderful on
boats". Most people seem to have good experiences with cats aboard, but
I'll point out a few negatives I've run across with cats too.
1 - They claw, and there's a lot of fabric on a boat for a cat to claw and
play on. I've known one owner whose sailcovers went to hell in a season
cause he couldn't keep the cat off them.
2- If they don't do well with a litter box, and some don't, there's no land
nearby for them to run to, and since they aren't 'boat' trained, they
'adapt' to doing their business around the docks, etc. Case in point - the
cat down the dock from me that takes to crapping in every other boat's
cockpit in a 50 foot radius of his own.
3- Prone to mischief, they end up in the water quite often - the one I know
of like this always - fortunately - manages to find his way out - how he
does it, I don't know.
Again, I know most people enjoy their cats on their boats, and have few
problems, but I'm not sure they're any better suited than a dog, in certain
From Rick Kennerly on The Live-Aboard List:
... I occasionally deal with people taking birds overseas. It's much
easier to get a listed bird out of the country than it is to get it back
into the USA. So, If you have pre-Endangered Species Act bird or if your
bird may ever be placed on the list, be certain that you get documentation
of owning that bird from the Federal Parks and Wildlife folks BEFORE you leave
Traveling around isn't nearly as difficult as trying to get back into the US
with a listed bird. Go straight to the horse's mouth -- the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service. It all
depends on the paperwork you present when you come home, particularly with a
bird listed on the protected or endangered species list. Screw it up and
you'll be visiting your expensive bird in a public zoo. You don't say what
kind of bird you're getting, but you'd be surprised how many species of
tropical birds that are fairly common in the USA that are also on those
There are FWS permits you will
have to obtain. You're also going to need USDA inspection
along the way and US Customs
will be interested in your bird as well (they recently caught a guy bringing
in 38 tropical birds worth 1.8 million dollars, it's big business).
From Grandma Rosalie on The Live-Aboard List:
April 98 issue of the SSCA Bulletin has a letter about taking a parrot to the Bahamas. It says in
1) If your bird is covered under CITES (endangered species) you need an export permit. If you
return within a year, you will not need an import permit. Call 800-358-2104 several months prior to
leaving. Good for only 90 days. Must be countersigned by local F and W officer.
2) Write or fax for a permit to import a companion bird to the Bahamas. This permit must be
presented when clearing in. Good for 45 days - cost $10.
3) Take the Bahamian permit's enclosed Health Certificate to a vet or an avian checkup, and get a
copy of "US Interstate and International Certificate of Health Examination for Small Animals"
(just interstate is not enough).
4) Have your International Health Certificate countersigned by a USDA vet. $16.50 and be sure to
bring the CITES permit with you.
If your bird is microchipped the only ports that can scan it are Ft Lauderdale and Miami. After
the vet verifies the bird ID and health, he will be quarentined to the boat for 30 days, and you
can't leave the area. After 30 days the vet returns to clear you and your bird ($160).
Some of this is only for the Bahamas, but I think the US stuff would apply no matter where you
You're going to be living in closer quarters with your pet than you do on land.
This may be uncomfortable; for example, older dogs sometimes have flatulence problems.
Getting rid of cat pee odor: Liquid Enzyme (available through
janitorial supply places), or ODO BAN.
Rabies is present in most South American countries.
DogBoots to keep dog from slipping on deck, or damaging deck.
How to Toilet-Train Your Cat
Medical supplies for pets (in addition to those you should already have for humans):
David LaVigne's "Tropical Cruising With Your Pet"
- Antibiotic aerosol spray.
- Veterinary thermometer.
(Dog and cat normal temperature is between 100.5� and 102.5�F)
- From my sister Carol: "It's
important to use only cat medicine on cats,
since they'll lick off whatever you
put on them and might get poisoned."
- Vetwrap (Coflex) bandages (don't use medical
tape on animals; requires shaving, hard to remove).
- Biocaine Lotion ?
- Oral feeding syringe
has a pet first-aid class. 4 hours for $30.
Petswelcome.com’s "Emergency Pet Clinics"
From Night Swimming on Cruising World message board 10/2000:
- Pet may disappear when you land ashore.
They should have a tag with lots of info: your name,
boat's name, phone number, radio call-sign, etc.
- Keep pets from getting to any stored
ethylene glycol (old-style green anti-freeze).
- Small pets can die quickly from hypothermia if they
fall into very cold water.
- Some marinas won't accept pets, at least for liveaboards.
- Give cats a freshwater rinse after they swim in saltwater,
to keep them from licking up lots of salt.
Not a problem for dogs ? Probably a good idea anyway.
- Male dog will tend to mark more with urine; female dog is better.
- Places that have very strict rules about pets: New Zealand, Australia, UK, Guam.
[Re: Paperwork to take a dog into the Bahamas:]
All depends on how nice you are to the customs guy.
Officially, you must have a proof of rabies shot within last six months,
official health certificate for the dog, and a Bahamas pet import
license (which you get months in advance from the govt for $10).
Last time we cleared in without the import license, because the govt
of the Bahamas never mailed us one. The customs agent was cool with
that - a lot of people had complained that they never received their forms.
He did insist on seeing the health certificate and rabies form, however.
If I were you, I would definitely go to a vet in FL and get the certificate
and rabies vaccination. Officially the certificate is supposed to be
within 48 hours of entry into the Bahamas, but the customs people know
that is impossible for boaters and won't check the date.
My last one was a couple of months old.
You might be able to get in without the import license.
Generally, the customs guys are very friendly and really want you to
visit the country. I suppose you could say you never received the one
you requested and paid for. Be friendly and nice.
I would NOT recommend trying to conceal the dog.
They have never searched our boat, but I'm sure you would be in big
trouble if they found an illegal pooch. Without the import license,
they will probably give you a brief lecture and let you in, but they
do have the right to refuse you entry if you don't have all the
paperwork for Fido.
From jollyroger on Cruising World message board:
Several boats that we have cruised with have cruised with dogs in the South Pacific.
There was an article about this in an SSCA Bulletin about two years ago that covered
this in good detail by Bruce and Pam on Aquabi who have cruised in both the Caribbean
and the South Pacific with a dog. So if you contacted SSCA they could look it up in
their Bulletin Index and direct you to the correct Bulletin (or sell it to you if
you don't have it or can't beg or borrow it from someone).
To summarize, dogs must have all the proper papers and are generally not allowed
ashore (unfortunately, many dog owners have a tendency to ignore this on the more
remote locations, since dogs seem to need more room than the space on the boat
to exercise) on most of the Islands until you have been away from rabies locations
for six months. In French Polynesia you can then get approved that your dog is rabies
free and it makes it a bit easier the rest of the way. ... in New Zealand
and Australia, quarantining is usually the rule and if not quarantined (i.e. kept on boat)
is checked by MAF weekly and if the animal is found ashore, would be destroyed.
Australia and New Zealand take this extremely seriously. The dog usually goes to
jail (quarantine center) for about 3 months ... if you get cleared for New Zealand
and sail directly to Australia from New Zealand, the Australians will not require
further quarantining. If you go back into the Islands (Fiji or New Caledonia) in between,
the quarantining process starts again.
Bringing animals into these islands is no simple task, but we have seen people
cruise with birds, dogs and cats and put up with the grief that results.
If you plan on doing so, the one piece of advice that I would offer is to expect
to have to jump through unreasonable hoops that you may not like. I always hated
to hear animal owners incessantly complain about the regulations, requirements
and additional costs that animals incurred. Remember it is their country and
whatever rules they want to create, reasonable or not, is their choice ... your
choice is whether to even stop in that country or to bring the animal along in the first place.
From Dave Cleveland on Cruising World message board 11/2000:
We just returned from 8 months in the Bahamas with our dog. We had no problems
whatever with authorities or the regulations. We found dogs not uncommon on other boats.
Here are the regulations for the Bahamas:
An import permit is required from the Ministry of Agriculture.
Applications plus $10 fee must be made in writing to the Director of Agriculture,
P.O. Box N-3704, Nassau, The Bahamas. To get a copy of the application, you
can call 242-325-7502 or 325-7509 and ask them to fax it to you.
For the USA and Canada the following are the main provisions of the
Import Permit for dogs or cats:
- The animal must be 6 months of age or older.
- The animal must be accompanied by a valid certificate showing that it
has been vaccinated against Rabies within not less than one month
and not more than 10 months prior to importation.
- The animal must be accompanied by a Veterinary Health Certificate presented
within 48 hours of arrival to a Bahamian Veterinarian for examination.
- The permit is valid for 90 days from date of issue.
That said, we had all our papers in order upon arrival in West End and
the officials hardly gave them a look. We never presented the Health Certificate
or the dog to a Bahamian Vet for examination, and stayed much longer than 90 days.
No one ever asked us about our papers or Import Permit or gave us any trouble about our dog.
A note about the Bahamas: as a rule Bahamians are terrified of dogs because
most dogs in the islands are kept as watch/guard dogs, not pets.
Our non-descript black Lab would clear a swath down a crowded street in Nassau.
We figured having her aboard was a great deterrent against theft even though
her greatest threat would be to lick the thieves to death.
With respect to the regulations in other countries, you can get Jimmy Cornell's
World Cruising Handbook for a quick $70 for a thumb-nail description of each
country's requirements plus addresses and phone numbers, OR you can simply
look up the nearest consulate of the country you intend to visit in the
Yellow pages before you leave and ask them for the info. Cornell's book
is really only worth it if you are circumnavigating.
Hope that helps. Remember to bring all the dog food you can carry as it
is EXPENSIVE elsewhere.
From Dave Cleveland on Cruising World message board 12/2000:
[Re: Taking dog sailing in the Med:] ... A friend who cruised the Med with two dogs
and a cat told me Spain, France and Italy were no problem.
From Sam Densler on The Live-Aboard List:
Lots of responses saying: the pets really aren't that hard to
take care of, they're useful for security (sometimes even lifesaving), they're fun,
and they're part of the family.
Let me state very clearly up front, I mean absolutely no disrespect by
the following question, I just want to understand something that is
terribly foreign to me. Why would anyone even consider bringing a pet
Downsides: pet hair, food, bathroom issues, smell, fleas and ticks,
damage due to chewing or claws, and the general concern that someone has
to watch the animal limiting your freedom of movement unless you always
take the pet with you everywhere you go longer than a day or two.
Upsides: companionship from an animal that doesn't judge you or yell at
you or spend all of your money on shoes and handbags?
Please enlighten me, I have never understood this.
Let it be known that I do think many animals are cute and cuddly. I am
not an animal hater. But this is a small space we live in. And I am
borderline OC when it comes to cleanliness. What makes the downsides
worth it? Thanks in advance for helping me understand.
p.s. I really have no issues with one's right to keep a pet on board, I
just don't really want one on my boat ...
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