The “she” in this case is our pup Ocean and the “it” is her favourite pastime – swimming off the boat. So, how does she swim off the boat? Well, the concept sounds simple (dog + boat + water = swimming) but, as most dog-owning sailors will tell you, it ain’t that easy.
There are basically three elements:
1. Having a dog that loves to swim
2. Getting that dog from here (A) to there (B)
3. Most importantly, doing the whole thing in reverse. I say “most importantly” because this is also part of our Dog Overboard planning.
Missing one of these elements means no swimming. Well, the people crew can still swim since we have a swim ladder attached to the back of the boat. For the pup, well, the ladder would be challenging. Not that it can’t be done – we know of two large dogs at our Club that manage their swim ladder quite well – but it is not the norm.
For us, we cut our “get the dog swimming off the boat” teeth with our last boat (Chaika) and our last dog (Brecken). Another German Shepherd, Brecken was a swimmer extraordinaire. Her drive became our impetus for solving the dog swimming equation. And that solution turned out to be a combination of boat design and one awesome piece of gear to compliment it.
The boat design? First, Wild Horses (and Chaika before her) has a “sugar scoop” transom. This is essentially a swim platform attached to the stern of the boat. Second, the boat has a walk-through transom i.e. part of our stern seat can be lowered to the cockpit sole. These allow Ocean to walk one level down from the cockpit and then easily jump into the water.
The awesome piece of gear? It is a dog ramp appropriately called the “Load-A-Pup”. Genius. The Load-A-Pup was created for hunters to be able to get their dogs back into their runabout boats but it attaches to most swim ladders so that makes it a solution for just about anyone. It also checks a lot of our needs – it is aluminum (won’t corrode in salt water), lightweight (easy to handle) and foldable (it takes up almost zero space in our cockpit lockers when stored).
There you have it! As soon as we get to an anchorage, we drop the dinghy that hangs from our stern arch, and get out the “Load-A-Pup”. And then we swim! This past summer, truly one for the record books in terms of heat and beautiful days, we swam pretty much three or four times a day, if not more. It is great exercise for Ocean, especially when you add in a one or two knot current! At the end of every day, she collapses into bed by nine o-clock. That is one tired pup. But, trust me, come morning she is ready to do it all over again!
Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.