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Old 03-10-2013, 11:45   #1
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Question Advice for buying a dog friendly boat

Hello all, first time posting-we are new to sailing, we both have been doing it about 2 years now and are looking to purchase our own (preowned) boat in the next year or so. We have 3 dogs who we want to go along with us (1 large and 2 medium) and are looking for advice as to what boats may be more dog friendly. We will be doing only bay sailing, looking in the 26-30ft range and really prefer a boat with a swim platform. Any advice would be great, thanks!!!

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Old 03-10-2013, 12:16   #2
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Re: Advice for buying a dog friendly boat

I'm an old mono-huller but my husband wanted a catamaran. Our dog Max is a 100 lb Rottweiler/Shepherd mix about 12 years old. Husband pointed out the room the dog would have on a cat so we bought a cat for our dog. Max has lots of walking-around room on the decks, even astern of the cockpit, with no narrow/shallow steps. There's plenty of laying-around room in a very safe cockpit. The stairs (not ladders) into the hulls are easy for rickety old Max to use, likewise the steps to the swim platform. Deep and wide top step for jumping to/from docks. Good roomy walk-around decks and steps are not typical of all cats. You can check out our layout via the link in Classifieds. Think about a cat, with three dogs...

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Old 03-10-2013, 13:20   #3

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Re: Advice for buying a dog friendly boat

Small craft and dogs can be a difficult mix. Take a look online at Cabela's or Bass, some of the hunting suppliers. There are all sorts of things for retrievers and water dogs like dog life vests and boarding ramps, designed for rowboats and bass boats but equally useful for any small craft. And you won't find them in the sailing stores.
I think you will wind up without the swim platform, but using a portable one. And helping the dogs on/off the boat, and in/out of the cabin, manually.
Do also look for lifeline netting, because dogs seem to have no concept of "height" and can easily slide overboard. You'll also want to keep their nails clipped close, to aid their traction on the deck.
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Old 03-10-2013, 14:03   #4
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Re: Advice for buying a dog friendly boat

For some good general advice on dogs on boats, check out this post on The Monkey's Fist. Lots of good information from people cruising with blogs.

As far as recommending a boat, you have said that you have little experience and that you plan to do bay sailing, but you didn't give a budget. As you mentioned, a swim platform is great and really helps. But those usually only come on more expensive boats. I for one like Catalinas. You get a lot of boat for the money.

Fair winds,

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Old 03-10-2013, 14:27   #5
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Re: Advice for buying a dog friendly boat

Something like this then:

Catalac 8M Catamaran for sale Canada

Remember doggies don't grip a deck very well so something that sails flat would be a bonus.

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Old 03-10-2013, 18:28   #6
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Re: Advice for buying a dog friendly boat

don't you have it the wrong way round !!!

Check out my new blog on smart boat technology, networking and gadgets for the connected sailor! -
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Old 04-10-2013, 08:35   #7
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Re: Advice for buying a dog friendly boat

IT really depends on how agile the dogs are. My dearly departed Luke was a border collie/ golden retriever mix, mostly golden. He was quite agile and sailed on several boats I owned for years, was able to jump from the dinghy to the deck on his own and was very good at sea. But, he was raised on boats since he was a pup, some dogs will take to it, some won't, some even will suffer from seasickness. With Luke I did not need netting, he was very good, even in heavy weather and knew where to be on the boat for his own stability, on the other hand a friend of mine's labs were not as secure on his boat and the netting worked well for him. Many online companies sell netting for batting cages and sports applications, it's the same UV resistant netting sold by certain boat stores but much cheaper. Black with 1" squares works really well, I've had to put it on my current boat since my wife and I have a 3 and 5 year old sons who sail with us, it's stood up well to both UV and weather so far.
A cheap, affordable boat in that range is a Catalina 30, there are thousands of them and some of the later models had the stern access, even if you can't afford the later models the deck height is low enough to get the dogs on and off the boat from a dinghy without much drama.
The cockpit is large, the decks are wide enough, the below deck accommodations are spacious for a 30 footer and the sailing characteristics are forgiving. They are simple boats to sail and have decent performance. Best of all, sails and hardware are cheap due the number of them out there and Catalina's support is excellent.
Did I mention affordable?
Have you sailed with your dogs on other boats? It might be a good idea to try it first then make your own decision.
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Old 04-10-2013, 09:31   #8
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Re: Advice for buying a dog friendly boat

I cannot really offer much in that size range other than most fit dogs will adapt.

We have a 60lb lab mix and he was perfectly confortable on our previous boat, a 1985 Ericson 35-3. It had steep companionway steps and no swim platform. He eventually got used to the steps although was hesitant at extreme angles of heel(>20°). We had a transom ladder that I made some carpeted steps for that he could go up and down when needed. He also wore a good life jacket with a handle for hoisting out of the water if he fell in. We switched from a hard dinghy to a RIB and that also helped him get in and out.

Our current boat is great. It has normal 90° tread and riser steps in the companionway and a swim platform.
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Old 04-10-2013, 09:51   #9
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Re: Advice for buying a dog friendly boat

It's hard to recommend specific boats, but we have had 3 dogs in the 24-30lb range aboard. One nice feature is a boat with a very short ladder. SOme boats seem to have a 5 or 6 rung ladder to get below. Some boats only a couple steps. Another solution I've thought of is a boat with a portlite from the aft cabin through the cockpit footwell wall. I was on a charter boat that had this once... think it was a Beneteau. Anyway, if a boat had that or it was laid out so you could add it... a dog can get below by going through an adequately sized open portlite!
The Catamaran is perfect. Dogs slip on teak cabin soles, so consider buying one with a not too fancy sole and spend the saved money on a custom carpet.
"I spent most of my money on Booze, Broads and Boats. The rest I wasted" - Elmore Leonard

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Old 04-10-2013, 09:51   #10
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Re: Advice for buying a dog friendly boat

We have a 50 lb lab mix that we adopted but have also have had two other retrievers over the years and they all seemed to have adapted to the sailing life just fine. Of course, we only had one at a time and I could only imagine wrestling three dogs in and out of the dinghy for shore side trips. Look for companion way ladders that are not too steep and maybe only three steps. Our dog is still young and can leap from the cabin to the cockpit without touching the steps!
A catamaran has a lot going for it on the dog front, but most are pricey. You might be able to find an older Gemini for around 50K though.
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Old 04-10-2013, 11:32   #11
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Re: Advice for buying a dog friendly boat

I have a 40 lb-er that quickly adapted. He was a little leery of the steps in to the cabin at first but figured it out pretty quickly. He's even figured out tacking and switches sides every time much to the amusement of anyone on board.

I would say that you'll have to watch out for their nails...I keep his really short now in lieu of the boots. I didn't really think about dog foot odor, but it didn't take long and I couldn't stand the smell. Nails (at least black ones) will leave subtle marks on the non-skid as well as scratch whatever wood you have.

Also, just one dog makes a big mess, at least here in the PNW when it's raining. I put dri-dek in the cockpit so he wouldn't soak up all the water and bring it inside. I also keep him in a life jacket (Ruffwear) because it has a solid handle on it if I have to pick him up that way but when we're underway I keep him hooked on to a line with a carabiner clipped to his harness. He's jumped off at the dock after a jellyfish before so I can't take the risk underway. Dogs...

All that aside, it's really great to have him aboard!


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