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Sailing with Charlie: Pets

Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre

Charlie’s a bit ambivalent about pets aboard a cruising boat. When he sees a beautiful retriever, or even an island mutt, standing on the bow of an inflatable dinghy whizzing toward shore, ears pinned back by the breeze, tongue lolling out expectantly, he gets a tinge of regret that he doesn’t have a four-legged friend.

But then he returns from dreamland and rationalizes the situation. There’s the hairy mess that has to be cleaned up almost daily, not to mention the odd poop and peep every now and again when shore can’t be reached in time. Dog food is expensive, shots have to administered, vets have to be paid – and if you leave the boat for any reason you have to find an expensive dog sitter or take your beloved Fido to a kennel. And when you clear in to another country there’s always the quarantine regulations with reams
of paperwork …

“Ahhh,” said Charlie’s friend, Shirley, “you’re forgetting the invaluable asset of a dog aboard – it repels unwanted boarders, potential thieves and undesirables.”

Charlie was ready for that one, “I have a pre-recorded CD of a vicious bark and growl – it goes off every minute when I’m off the boat; in dodgy anchorages, that is. Then I have a laser beam across the companionway that sets off a loud police siren if anyone tries to get below. So far so good”

There are other pets of course. A cat can be a furry friend if you can put up with its peculiar habits. A cat is a pretty creature to look at, apart from that it’s useless, unless you have mice aboard. A cat is demanding and meows loudly at meal times but rarely comes when called. It will sit there and lick itself while thieves clean out the boat. It has a mind of its own, so don’t ever think you will be its master/mistress. ‘A cat thinks it is God whereas a dog thinks you are God’ – never a truer saying. Interestingly, it’s possible to potty-train a cat by putting its litter box on the toilet seat for several weeks – then take it away and hopefully it will jump up and poop into the bowl. Getting it to pump the toilet clean takes more training!

There are other pets you could have aboard – a parrot perhaps; a monkey – it was a favorite in the golden era of sail; a hamster – mmm, not much use except as emergency rations.

Several years ago Charlie had a parrot aboard and it was a good companion and seemed to like life at sea. He was a green and red bird from the Solomon Islands, loved to eat tropical fruit like mangos, bananas and papayas. In Papua New Guinea he would fly away but always came back, until one day he didn’t. Probably got the urge to make more little parrots as is the nature of all species. A possible answer is to have both a male and female aboard but to only let one fly away at a time. Who knows, before long you may have a whole family of parrots aboard … Wouldn’t that be fun!


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