So, the owner and his family are about to board, the crew are lined up to greet them in their finest whites, the vessel is impeccably sparkling and twinkling in the sunshine on this lovely day, then BOOM! What the hell was that black puff ball that just bounced off the passarelle, tore through the aft deck knocking the bunch of flowers over, breaking a vase and scratching the varnished table before smacking into the glass doors with a wet thud, then flopping into the salon to have a good roll around on the cream shagpile? Ah, great! They’ve brought their dog. Who appears to resemble an oozing cross between Scooby doo and a Shetland pony. Lovely. What’s that noise? Wonders the engineer, bending to inspect the now broken sliding door before realising it’s the chief stew’s teeth grinding… Bringing animals on to yachts is fun isn’t it?
Like the beautiful big floppy (and a little smelly) Irish wolf hound, Bart, who arrived to spend a week on a 50m SY. He liked the engineer best, probably because he was also quite hairy. A kindred spirit. And one who didn’t mind stepping over him in the engine room, and stopped to give him ear scratches. Bart was a good boy. He wore socks so he didn’t scratch the teak, which made him slide around all over the place but he didn’t mind… and didn’t bark much or make a fuss. When he needed the loo he’d go to the aft deck and wait obediently for a crew member to pop him in the tender and take him ashore for a little leg stretch, a sniff, and to do his business. Then he’d hop back in and off he’d go back to the boat. The stews hated him due to his hair and slobber problem but by all standards, he was a little gem compared to others.
There’s the owner of the small sail yacht who liked to bring his 3 long haired cats with him on every trip. These were those mean cats… the sort who’d reach out to scratch you or trip you up when you were walking past, and it seemed they intentionally rolled around on every single surface to cover it in thick hair. That yacht can’t keep crew, I wonder why?!
Lots of dogs are trained to use a bit of astroturf for emergencies, however let’s talk about the owner’s bulldog on an old gaff rigged yacht. He’d bang his balls on every step down and let out a little yelp, and pooped in the winch handle sockets. Nice and easy to clean that up!
Bless the Siberian husky who was brought onto a charter by a well known chap. Poor doggo got seasick but the engineer says he was still easily the best behaved of the whole bunch.
One to warm your cockles; the German shepherd, a service dog, who loved to go out in the tender for a cruise. She’d go sit there and patiently wait for someone to take her for a spin and would cry if you covered the tender, or took it out without her. The stew had to hoover three times a day but said she’d do it all over again to have her back onboard. Nawww.
There’s the big Maine coone who liked to play with water, she’d spill everything she could to play with the stream, probably enjoyed the fact that people slipped over, and then spend the rest of the day sleeping in the day head sink plotting her next move.
Or the two brown poodles who on one trip developed stomach bugs. The ... horror… oh the horror… they were adored; the chef had to roast chickens for them and their meal prep took priority over the crew food. And they got helicoptered in and out.
One chef tells of a little dog he had the joy of cooking for; he had to put out three plates, restau fine dining style, and take away the two it decided not to eat. And the crew had to applaud when it pooped on deck.
A captain loved remembering the terrier who used to surreptitiously poop right outside the bridge door for him to step in. Every morning. Nice and warm between the toes.
Not just limited to our four legged friends, what about the 60m motoryacht with the huge fish tank in the crew mess? Fish got sea sick on the crossing and died. Did NOT see that one coming.
Or the owner who liked to walk around with his two African Grey parrots on his shoulders. The chief stew loved it when they ran all over the table and pooped everywhere. Loved it. Bird poop is so easy to clean and doesn’t damage anything, nope…
On a serious note, if you are going to have animals on board then if you do get the chance to prepare prior, make sure the animals have ID tags on their collars in addition to their microchip and they have their passport with them, plus all vaccination certs (especially rabies). You don’t want to get stopped in port for the dog’s paperwork being out of line – it’s hard enough getting Schengen crew stamped in and out.
Make sure all animals have a flotation device, and if you have the opportunity, do a good sweep of the vessel and make sure anything at chewing, scratching or tail wagging height is stowed away if possible. If you’re dealing with cats, museum glue down everything breakable… Similarly make sure there’s nothing overly hazardous is in reach either, you do not want to deal with an unhappy owner with a poorly pet… nor do you want to be responsible for whatever shoots out of either/both ends.
Mind their feet on hot teak too! If it’s too hot for your feet, it’s definitely too hot for theirs.
Get to a vet and get hold of animal seasickness meds just in case… always handy to have, even if they are experienced seagoing pups or kitties. Some human brands can be given to pets but check with the vet first.
When they’re onboard take it in turns to have play time with dogs or they’ll get bored and that’s usually when you’ll find something in their mouth that really shouldn’t be there. Like someone’s shoe. Or someone’s radio. Or the backstay… And again with cats, give them a little attention. If you can pin them down then give them a good brush every day to help keep the hair to a minimum.
Embrace the animals, for all their hairiness and slobberiness, their claws and bodily functions, you know you just can’t beat a cuddle from a pet.