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  • Writer's pictureSailing The Dream

Sailing with a dog - 6 months of Ella sailing

Ella the sailor dog comfortably sleeping

It has been almost a year that we moved to The Dream.

During that time Ella has lived only 6 months permanently on the yacht. The small season of 2017 (5 months) and now 1 month into the new season. In between the two periods she went to live back on land for the time, while John and I went to Australia. During that time she stayed at my mum's house and at the farm in the countryside even while we were still in Portugal. It was easier and faster to get things done if she stays with my mum during that time while we rush the works etc. The first season we spent pretty much all the time going from marina to marina only spending two nights at a mooring ball in the Deserted Islands of Madeira in Portugal, a natural reserve where Ella couldn’t set foot. We were still doing installations and arranging things so it was convenient to use marinas. During that season we had difficulties with her levels of excitement when sailing, the splashing of the waves, the birds, the engine, the pees and the poos... Nothing dramatic or impossible to overcome but indeed the source of some stress to all of us. We got used to some of the things, improved a bit in others and trained to overcome these difficulties. And we did, in retrospective, we are much better from when we started summer 2017. Ella is totally used to the boats daily routines especially when in the marina, to sailing in most conditions, but we are not there yet when it comes to living at anchor.

During the season of 2017, things were easy, the transition from a “normal” house to living on the boat happened very naturally, the only difficulty I would say was getting in and out of the boat with this goofball of ours. Jumping off the back of the yacht onto the pontoon is something Ella doesn’t like so an extra hand is always needed to prevent accidents and also to actually jump. When the swim platform can’t be used picking her up from the boat side is also reasonably easy because she’s only 25kg. Comes 2018 and we are now starting to live has real live aboard, the goal is to spend the majority of our time at anchor and this is where we hit the wall. A very big wall. Being at anchor means that pees and poos need to be made on board or on a trip to shore. In the small season of 2017, we did manage to convince Ella to use a mat for that purpose a few times, like when we stayed two nights at a mooring ball in the Deserted Islands of Madeira in Portugal, and Ella couldn’t go to shore and even under sail every 12h for pee (we only did two passages that were more than just a couple of days) and a frightening 36h for a poo on the passage to Madeira and the passage to Cascais. But now she’s determined to not use it! We are in the very beginning of the season, having left Portugal at the end of March, still winter. The first month we still used the marinas on our way to the Balearic Islands, because we were sailing in between weather windows and because being still quite cold it’s not so nice to stay at anchor (these are the first times we are at anchor). we now arrived in our first intended destination and we’ve been at anchor for over a week now (3 different anchorage’s) and the weather for a big part of the time has still been quite bad making any dinghy ride a true adventure not to say an insane idea. So Ella is committed to holding it for eternity and I’m committed to bargain with treats, “for the business to happen”. At the moment I’m very successful with the first-morning act but not so much with the remaining ones, I manage to convince her very few times. And only two poos both because she was almost exploding, I guess. The funny thing is that she actually knows the commands for the two things, she’s deliberately choosing to ignore us, hiding her head in our legs when we give her the command. This is causing some frustration. The other reason for stress is the sheer madness spin this young lady gets whenever we are going to use the dinghy, she’s completely obsessed with it but only until we arrive the beach, then all that matters is swimming and splashing in the water and staying at a safe distance of puppy parents that may decide to put an end to all the fun. We are working on calming down this behaviour by leaving the dinghy in the water by the swim platform and reinforcing the command “cockpit” whenever she tries to sneak there. Seems to be working, time will tell. But the pees and poos are leaving me very frustrated and sometimes (when it’s been way many hours that she should have done her business) it makes me think it was a mistake bringing her with us. I can see she’s not ok in those moments and I can’t help her, sometimes I think it’s unfair and wrong to impose this life on my dog. Luckily these moments always get solved by themselves and things go back to normal and I can see she’s happy here with us on The Dream. I guess the keyword is: training, training! (Training her and ourselves)

Would love to see Cesar Milan solve this one...



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