Here we are in the dead of the New England winter. There is about 3 feet of snow piled up outside, and the temperatures will be dipping to zero tonight. What to do? Dream about summer, of scuba diving, and yes, of sailing. While I’ll happily bemoan our long and harsh winters here, I have to also admit, we are very lucky for three seasons of year to live near the ocean and get to play out there on the water.
My husband Mike and I keep our 32′ Sabre in Salem Harbor during the sailing season (yes, the Salem where the witches were hanged in the 1600′s). We try to get out on the boat as much as we can. Of course, we love to have the dogs go sailing with us too. Both Cassie and Moxie are great on the boat, and really love our adventures.
This past summer, we got to do a one week sail down Maine. It was our first summer with Moxie on the boat. Having two dogs on a 32′ boat, along with 3 adults and all our gear was sometimes a challenge. But for the most part, we were really pleased with how well Moxie adapted to life at sea.
This year’s trip included stops in Rockport, MA, Portsmouth, NH, Kennybunkport, ME and Portland, ME (and then back again). We arrived at Chicks Marina in Kennybunkport mid-afternoon on a lovely summer day, and tied up on their transient dock space. While Mike and his cousin, Jack, put the boat in order, I leashed up the dogs and took them for an afternoon walk.
One of the challenges of sailing with dogs is making sure they have plenty of “off-the-boat” time and exercise each day. So when I noticed the marina had a boat ramp, I asked the staff if we could let the dogs swim in this protected area. I was so happy to give them some quality time in the water, thinking this would certainly tire them out and they’d be content to chill out on the boat for the remainder of the day. HA!
Once we decided the dogs were pooped enough from swimming and chasing after a stick, we took them back to the boat, hosed them off, and toweled them dry. Then we settled in for a nice “Dark & Stormy” cocktail and enjoyed the boats passing by on their way in from a day on the water. In my mind, one of the greatest pleasures in the world is relaxing on the boat, with a drink in hand, after a fine day of sailing. Ah, THAT is a nice memory to have on this snowy night in January!
Jack returned to Finesse after a hot shower in the marina (another fine pleasure), and Cassie, being a true golden, was overjoyed to see him… after all she hadn’t seen him for about an hour, and that’s, what? a whole DAY in dog hours! Jack is a really good sport about the dogs, but who can blame him for not being quite enthusiastic about being cuddled by a wet dog right after a nice shower? Cassie is persistent though and was being a real nudge.
So, in a moment of just trying to save Jack, I did a very stupid, dumb thing… I called Cassie, saying, “Cassie, look at the ducks!”
Yeah, I can hear you groaning at me! What was I thinking? I know! I realized what I had said immediately, but not before my dog flew through the lifelines and splashed 6 feet below us into the current. CRAP!
Now, in my own defense, Cassie had never jumped off the boat before, (not that she didn’t think about it) so it really took me by surprise when she actually did! We had lots of practice reminding her to stay in the boat. “Stay on the boat” and “Get back in” and “Leave it” are familiar phrases in her vocabulary. But lobster pots, sea gulls and nearby boats are mighty tempting for a golden, and before this moment, we had been lucky.
Now she was off on a mission to get those ducks, who didn’t even have the decency to fly away. No, they taunted her by just paddling away, flicking their tails at her, and Cassie was only too happy to give chase. Mike and I were off the boat in a flash, chasing after her along the dock, and howling her name in vain.
This of course was quite entertaining to all the other boaters we passed along the dock. A half a dozen boats later, Cassie was still on the hunt — she was past the end of the dock, and still going strong. At this point, she was heading into the channel with the outgoing tide, and into oncoming boat traffic. Our hearts were in our throats as we called in vain from the end of the dock.
Finally (finally!) she realized how far she had gone, and had the good sense to turn around in a panic and swim into the current towards our voices. Mike scooped her up onto the dock, to a cheering crowd, and she ran into my arms with so much happiness and relief that I couldn’t possible be mad at her. Another hose down, another toweling off and we were all safely back on the boat.
No sooner were the dogs tethered securely in the boat, and our drinks once again in hand, we noticed a giant black inflatable boat coming up the river. The boat contained several serious looking people dressed in dark clothing, with dark sunglasses and dark hats… the Secret Service! (Seriously, they are not at all secret! They stand out like a sore thumb!)
Behind them came another motorboat with more serious looking people… and at the wheel, President and Barbara Bush! Wow! They were so close, I blurted out “Hi!” to them (yeah, I’m witty like that!). Barbara looked over, saw the dogs and broke into a big smile as she waved to us. I mean, who can resist cute dogs on a boat? The secret service people even looked over and smiled. That’s Cassie. She makes friends where ever she goes.
After they passed us by, we realized how fortunate Cassie’s timing was. Can you even imagine if she was in the water swimming into the path of the secret service? I couldn’t bring myself to think of what kind of danger or trouble might have befallen her. I do think she has a guardian angel looking over her, and luckily no harm came to her. She was finally tuckered out and happy to nap in the sun, dreaming of ducks.
From that moment on, Cassie had to be tethered a lot more on the boat, and we renewed our training attempts to discourage any thoughts of duck diving. Those ducks, by the way, truly were evil little creatures who hung around OUR boat the entire time we were there, just taunting her. Evil, evil ducks!Musings, Sailing with Dogs