Sunday, November 29, 2015

Turkey Trot

Dylan and Dee Dee had a fine time visiting family Thanksgiving week. The highlight was the annual Johnson City Turkey Trot, a 5K walk/run that takes place at 8:30 am Thanksgiving morning. They were predicting about 5,000 participants. And the best part... dogs can participate.

It was a beautiful morning with just a slight chill in the air. We lined up with the other dogs and stroller participants for the walk while my brother and his family went off for the run. The kids had a ball.

We crossed the finish line and the kids received a Turkey Trot medal! Well, actually, everyone who crossed the finish line got the medal but don't tell them that.

But the real prize - bananas! Dee Dee LOVES bananas. Dylan thinks their pretty good too.

Back to Grandma's to show off their awards.

The crew is back onboard helping get ready to head further south. It's interesting being in new places but for Dylan and Dee Dee there's no place like home.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Over The River...

Dylan and Dee Dee crossed several rivers and even climbed over the mountains through the woods in yet another rental car. They're spending Thanksgiving week at Grandma's house. It's been people and parks and walks. Both kids have been terrific. Yes, really, both kids.

But Dee Dee's favorite thing has been having her crate back! It's been 8 months since that fateful day at Great Harbour Cay when we took her crate down and reclaimed the salon. Since then the crate has been in the lazarette taking up some pretty valuable real estate.

However, Grandma's house has an abundance of "Dee Dee, No!" places. So we brought the crate to use when she can't be supervised.

Dylan on the other hand is a good boy and not in need of confinement. How could anyone not trust that handsome face?

We wondered what Dee Dee would do after all those months. Would we need to bribe her into the crate with a treat like we used to with Dylan?

Hardly. I was barely able to put the cushion in before she climbed in with a toy and settled down.

Now when we look around and say, "Where's Dee Dee?" We just look in the crate. She even settles in at bedtime.

Dylan thought the extra space in the double bed in Grandma's guest bedroom was great.

Of course, morning found the same two wet noses staring into my face. Am I lucky or what?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dee Dee loves Sherrie...Sherrie loves Dee Dee

There are times when two beings form an instant bond. Sometimes it's between two people. Sometimes it's between two animals. And sometimes it's between a person and a dog.

Sherrie says she loves animals, all animals. And it's easy to believe if you watch her greeting pets of boaters that come into Brunswick Landing Marina where she's the dockmaster. But something special happened when the crew pulled into the marina a little over a week ago. Sherrie met Dee Dee and Dee Dee met Sherrie, and well, the rest is history.

aCappella is docked two slips down from the marina office and Dee Dee spends hours staring into the office window watching for Sherrie. On Tuesdays, Sherrie's day off, Dee Dee hardly leaves her post.

And whenever Sherrie comes down the dock to help bring a boat in, Dee Dee starts to do a full body wiggle.

When Sherrie comes to the boat Dee Dee tries to climb up the side of the cockpit to get closer to her.

I know some will say it's because she brings the crew treats. That certainly plays a part. But watching the two of them you know it is so much more. Our friend Kristin on Kemo Sabe may have nailed it when she said, "It's because they're both sassy!"

We'll be leaving for a bit to visit family and we'll need to head south soon after. So the day is coming when Dee Dee will have to say goodbye. I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm more than a bit worried. Remember, Dee Dee has gone overboard before for something she really wanted.

So if in a couple of weeks you see a cute little yellow Lab swimming up the Brunswick River, please give aCappella a hail on VHF16. Or just scoop her up and take her back to Sherrie.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Another Dog Park...

We spent longer than we originally anticipated at Hinckley Yacht Services in Savannah but left with the engine room in better condition than when we arrived. Boat yards are not typically good places to spend time but this stop was made great by the other liveaboards there, the great staff, and... the courtesy car!

Not only could we hit the grocery store and visit restaurants but the kids got to go for rides! Just look at those smiles!

After taking the courteous precaution of using our "rental car covers" to keep the car clean, we were off most every day to some great spot for the crew. While they certainly enjoyed their long walk on the trails at Fort Pulaski (and the great smells that follow a hard rain), the favorite trip was to the dog park located in Daffin Park just a couple of miles away.

It's a large dog park with both small and large dog sections (Dylan and Dee Dee used the large...). It is covered in what looked like tall cedar trees that offered great shade from the sun. But the best part was the many friendly dogs and owners that were there every time we went.

Dylan and Dee Dee loved the smells.

Dylan made friends.

And so did Dee Dee.

Daddy brought treats which make everyone very popular.

Fun was had by every crew member. But finally the repairs where complete and it was time to leave. Meanwhile, Dylan and Dee Dee have been trying to figure out what boat system they can sabotage to force us to return. We will be back but for now there are many more adventures to be had and more dog parks to visit.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


We pulled into Hinckley Yacht Services in Savannah, Georgia earlier this week for what we hoped was a simple fix to an exhaust leak. As boat adventures often go, the problem was bigger than we had hoped. So the crew settled in for a stay. It was no big deal, we've done this before.

What we didn't anticipate was being stranded on the dock! The center of the picture shows the railing that runs along the walkway to shore.  The walkway is totally under water. The crew's walk was going to have to wait until low tide...

A combination of a full moon, north blowing winds, the time of year, the tilt of the earth - and we think something Dee Dee may have done - made for super high tides. They were at least 2 feet higher than normal. Hinckley's office even flooded with about 6 inches of water covering the floor! Many were saying it was the highest tide they had ever seen in Savannah.

With a few days onboard and a few days timing their walks to the tides, the crew showed that they can meet any challenge with aplomb. Of course, a few extra treats doesn't hurt.

Fortunately, there's plenty of things to keep an eye on at a boatyard.

Today they get their real reward. A trip to Fort Pulaski for a long walk on the trails. This hardworking crew has certainly earned it!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Dolphin Watch

Today we did a day-hop offshore from St Johns Island Yacht Harbor in Charleston to Dataw Island Marina. As we were approaching the inlet we heard that distinctive snort that can only mean one thing. The crew ran to the pilothouse door with faces full of expectation and shot like two bullets out to the bow when their dad opened the door.

First they looked to port.

Then they looked to starboard.

Then they fanned out to cover the whole bow. Dad was pleased to report that many dolphins were spotted. Miss Dee Dee whimpered and whined as the dolphins leapt out of the water. Maybe she recognized some familiar buddies...

Eventually, the pod of dolphins moved on but Dylan and Dee Dee maintained their posts ever hopeful of their return. The crew has many cruising days ahead of them with many more dolphin sightings to come. We only hope they are not up-close and personal.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Makin' Hay

The aCappella crew spent several days at Morehead City Yacht Basin waiting for weather. It was a great place to be. The marina is terrific, there's a field where the crew can chase a bumper, and we were joined by lots of friends including numerous boats from the Krogen rendezvous.

Tuesday morning the weather window came and we joined the parade of boats leaving the marina at first light. It was finally our first offshore run since returning to the boat. 

Dylan and Dee Dee fell right into the routine. It was one of those wonderful times when the conditions were even better than the predictions. So by mid-afternoon we started looking at the overnight forecast and decided to keep on going to Charleston.

You have to make hay when the sun shines.

It's now 4:32 am and the conditions are fine. Dylan and Dee Dee are sleeping here in the pilothouse while their dad sleeps below. In a few hours the sun will rise. As soon as we have a faster internet connection we'll upload the crew's blog and pics.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Party, Party!

Last Sunday was the dispersing of the fleet following the annual Krogen rendezvous at Calvert Marina in Solomons, Maryland. It's a highlight of our fall cruising and one the crew has only missed once in the past 6 years, the year we did the American Great Loop.

Rendezvouses are often times of great tribulation for Dylan and Dee Dee as Mom and Dad leave the boat for talks and events and parties. You balk at "tribulation"? Have you ever had your supper served 5 minutes late? Or had to go a whole afternoon without a cuddle? 'Nuff said.

The Krogen rendezvous has a dog parade - Dylan won Runner Up for being so cute. There's two days of "Krogen Crawls" where people wander the docks touring the other Krogens. Even without living on a Krogen the crew managed to attract plenty of attention by hanging out on the cockpit. It really does pay to be cute.

Unfortunately, they don't attend the highlight of the event - the final dinner, party, and dance. It's the party of the year!

Now we're underway again moving south. There will be anchorages, some familiar stops, and some new locations. The crew adapts to whenever the day gives them.

Soon they'll be dreaming of the beaches of the Bahamas and romping again with their best Bahama buddy, Gracie. Oh, the trials and tribulations of this hard working crew...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Life is Really Good!

Diesel price at Top Rack Marina today. Yes, that's per gallon including taxes. No, we didn't use PhotoShop.

Haven't seen a price like that in more than ten years!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Life is Good

A beautiful evening at anchor off the Chesapeake Bay.

We had a rainbow that ran from the starboard side...

to the port side.

And then a brilliant blue off the cockpit.  Life is pretty good.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Weathering the Storm

Like most boaters on the U.S. East Coast, the crew on aCappella has been keeping an eye on Hurricane Joaquin. For Dee Dee, this was her first hurricane. Dylan is more or less a pro having weathered Irene and Sandy. Of course, he had Dyna to keep him safe.

So as Dylan gave Dee Dee some pointers, Mom and Dad prepared the boat, putting out extra lines and fenders. We felt pretty good as Solomons, MD is well protected.

In the end it turned out to be little more than a bad rainstorm for us as Joaquin moved out to sea. Of course, we now know that parts of the Bahamas were devastated and a container ship is lost. So while we feel fortunate, we are reminded that it is Mother Nature who is in charge.

For the crew it meant the loss of some bumper chasing in the morning as their field turned to swamp. However, we still managed to work in a long walk or two. Dee Dee says she doesn't really understand what all this hurricane fuss is all about. The rest of the crew hopes she never finds out...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Crew Safety - What We Learned

The crew underway.
Everything involving Dee Dee's romp with the dolphins has been a learning experience. If you still haven't read her tale, you can see her post Swims With Dolphins. And be sure to checkout Lessons Learned.

In our quest to learn from our experience and provide better safety onboard for our crew, we have spent the intervening months testing a variety of dog harnesses. First, I want to state that any of the harnesses that we tested served the function of lifting the dogs and were better options than the Kong harness which failed us with Dee Dee.

Second, there is no such thing as a perfect harness that will work with every dog. Like people, dogs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  There are many factors involved that are personal to your canine crew member, water skills, for example. Fortunately, there are lots of harnesses on the market so you are sure to find something that will work for you.

As I've stated previously, the safest option in all cases is a quality canine life jacket and both Kurgo and RuffWear offer these. For us, we wanted a more comfortable option for our crew which are excellent swimmers and spend extended time underway including occasional overnight passages.

What I hope to provide here is a framework you can use to seek out the solution that is best for you and your precious crew. Following are the components you should look for in a safety harness.

Key Harness Components

1. Belly Plate
The belly plate gives you a firm foundation for lifting the dog making it easier. It distributes the dog's weight so you're not putting too much pressure in any one place. Lifting even a small dog from the water back into a boat creates quite a force on his body. I believe a good belly plate makes lifting not only easier but safer as well.

2. Safety Loop
The safety loop is an important feature for several reasons and it really does live up to its name. Bringing a dog back to the boat from the water is not the same as grabbing the harness while walking. The safety loop lets you use a boat hook to catch the dog and bring it up to the boat. It then gives you a good target to grasp and lift the dog. It also offers you an easy way to control the dog when needed.

Having the loop positioned between the shoulders will make lifting easier. A dog trying to get back into a boat will typically try to climb in with his front paws. This was what Dee Dee did when she returned to the boat. Having the handle placed between the shoulders allows you to work with that motion to bring the dog in.

3. Secure, Comfortable Fit
Consider all factors about your dog and not just weight and girth. Factor in the dog's length and where that girth strap will fall. Is your dog deep chested, like ours, or more barrel shaped? Find out the length of the belly plate to determine where it will rest on your dog's torso. You want something that fits snugly with minimal shifting, yet is comfortable during long term use. Good padding, especially at pressure points, is also important.

Dee Dee's medium size harness on the left. Dylan's large on the right.
As I discussed in the Size Matters entry, we had some challenges fitting Dee Dee in a harness due to her small size. The picture above shows the difference in length between the medium and large size belly plates on the Tru-fit harness. By swapping the medium girth strap for a large one we were able to make a perfect fit for Dee Dee. Note the two snaps at the back of the belly plate. This allows some even finer adjustments should you need it.

Make sure you can return the harness if you do not like the fit. And if you are unsure order multiple sizes. It is important to take care in finding the proper size and then fitting it to your dog. Remember, he will most likely be wearing the harness for many hours.

Following are the conclusions we came to for the harnesses that we tested. Remember, this is based on our very special crew members, so the specific harness we selected may not be the one for your precious bundle. My hope is that you will find the process we went through helpful.

Web Master Harness

The Web Master Harness
This well made harness has two lifting straps that did work for both Dylan and Dee Dee. However, their placement near the rear legs made the lifting more difficult. This may well be less of an issue with a smaller dog. Dylan and Dee Dee weigh 64 and 54 pounds respectively, so I definitely needed some help lifting them. The belly straps are well padded but the harness lacks a belly plate which better distributes the dog's weight when lifting. While this harness worked fine, I think there are better options.

Front Range Harness

The Front Range Harness
I really like this harness. It fit Dee Dee perfectly and has a good belly plate. The black plastic clips are easy to work with and do not rust.  If this harness had the traffic loop, it would be a definite winner. I had numerous communications with RuffWear hoping they would consider making this adjustment. Their final response was:

"...there are no plans to add a handle to it in the future. We believe that the harness itself functions as a handle and therefore, that need is being met for most users. I understand that for pulling a dog out of the water, this is not ideal. Unfortunately, we are not able to meet every need within a single product."

I hope they'll change their mind in the future or have a way to add a loop.

Pinnacle Harness

The Pinnacle Harness
I like this harness a lot as well. It is my favorite of the ones we tested. It has a very large belly plate, the least amount of webbing to stretch, and a large safety loop that sticks up nicely on Dylan's back. If we had been able to fit this harness to Dee Dee it would have been my single choice.

Tru-fit Harness

The Tru-fit Harness
This is also a good harness with its only drawback being webbing on the back rather than a back plate. However, this did not seem to impact the ability to lift. This harness has the added benefit of being a crash-tested car harness. And it has the maximum adjustability of all the harnesses we tested. This turned out to be the best option for Dee Dee.

Dylan and Dee Dee test the Tru-fit harness in the car.
If you do not have a car harness, this is a good choice for a harness that can do double duty or as an addition to the safety harness you use onboard.  The Tru-fit harness is also a great option if you have a dog that is hard to fit.

I have been communicating with Kurgo about the corrosion issue and they are looking into offering an option with stainless steel buckles. I for one would be happy to pay more for a longer lasting product. Of course, they need to determine what the added cost would be and if the market is big enough to make the design change.

Tru-Fit Smart Harness with Plastic Quick Release Buckles

As the crew was working on this series, we discovered a version of the Tru-fit harness that has plastic clips for the girth strap. As this is the most manipulated strap, this should certainly help the rusting issue. I have obtained one for testing (sorry, Dylan and Dee Dee, you're just gonna have to do some more swimming...). Note, this harness is not a crash-tested restraint. The crew will let you know what we find in a future posting.

The crew on aCappella hopes that you never need to use your dog's safety harness in a real situation. But as our littlest crew member taught us, the need can happen in an instant. Make sure that you are prepared. Get a good safety harness, practice using it, and then get out there and go cruising