Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mom and Dad's Favorite Picture



Today is Mom and Dad's turn to pick their favorite pictures. It's what happens after days of romping on the beach. Ahhhh, peace and quiet.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Three Musketeers


Life has been good for the Labs here at Great Harbour Cay Marina. But today the fun didn't end with the beach. They all got to join in on the Tuesday evening Drink and Drift. What's a Drink and Drift you ask? Well, you'll just have to make it to Great Harbour Cay to find out.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Dinghy Ride


If you can't go to the beach then a dinghy ride with your friends is a really good second choice.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sharing


Dylan and Dee Dee received two floating bumper toys for Christmas that they have been making good use of here in the Bahamas. One has a rope off the end making it easy to throw and easy for all three dogs to "share."


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Keeping Cool


The crew likes to catch the breezes from the cockpit. Dee Dee has even started getting "out of crate" privileges when Mom and Dad leave the boat so she can stay cool. So far so good...

Friday, February 27, 2015

They're Retrievers!


Today at the beach Dee Dee and black Lab buddy Gracie showed their retrieving prowess by relentlessly bringing back the bumper.  While Dylan spent the afternoon husking his own coconut.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dog Friends!


The only thing better than a romp on the beach is a romp on the beach with their dog pal Gracie.
After that.... nap time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Guard Duty



Dee Dee has decided if she can see it, hear it, or smell it, she can bark at it. On the positive side we have yet to be attacked by pirates, scoundrels, or viscous dogs. Good girl!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Shark Creek


Dylan and Dee Dee joined a flotilla of five dinghies that made the trek down Shark Creek. Fortunately, we never saw the creek's namesake but did see lots of sea turtles and some manta rays.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Dee Dee Husks Her 1st Coconut


Dylan and Dee Dee found a coconut buried in the sand. Dee Dee dug it out and Dylan showed her what to do. She was a fast learner.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Favorite Photo for February 22, 2015

The kids have decided that they need a sabbatical from their blog due to their extremely busy schedule here at Great Harbour Cay Marina in the Bahamas. Besides, how much can you say about dogs and beaches and the Bahamas? Walk to the beach, have a blast, walk back, go to sleep. That's pretty much it.

They've decided that they'd rather pick out their favorite photo each day and post it to their blog. Don't worry, if something really important happens they'll let you know.

For now sit back, relax, and enjoy Dylan and Dee Dee's greatest adventure.


Dylan and Mommy just chillin' at the beach.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

It's Better In The Bahamas!


The aCappella crew crossed over from Miami Beach, Florida to Bimini, Bahamas last Monday in the company of John, Marilyn, and Gracie on Carolina. Ordinarily a new adventure like that would have called for lots of pictures of the crew. Unfortunately, the crossing was not exactly as predicted so the whole crew (Mom included) was not in a state that warranted photo ops.


We made it safely to Brown's Marina in Bimini by mid-afternoon in time check into Customs and attend a boaters' potluck that night. Brown's has an interesting group of liveaboards who love Bimini. Everyone wanted to tell us their favorite things about the island. However, we had a small weather window the next day before things fell apart for many days so we decided to leave at daybreak for the long trip to Great Harbour Cay. We know we have to go back and stay for a spell next time.


Tuesday's conditions were much better which we think went a long way towards deflecting the mutiny the crew was contemplating when we fired up the engines.


Dylan and Dee Dee kicked in and did their part with Dylan handling the role of 1st Mate and Dee Dee stepping in as 2nd Mate. It was a long day with aCappella arriving at Great Harbour Cay Marina just before dusk. The weather was beautiful but that quickly changed the next day as we went from pouring rain to high winds and cool weather. We had to pull out our polar fleece (?).


The crew had to content themselves with watching they friend Gracie across the bow. Fortunately, it was sunny.


We did brave the winds and take both crews for a walk to check out some of the beaches on the island. Even on a blustery day they are beautiful.


Dylan and Dee Dee were kept on their leashes partly because we didn't want soaking wet dogs on a cold day. But mainly because I still had great reservations about trusting Miss Dee Dee. The last few times we had her at a beach she thought she could swim to Portugal.


Today was the big day. Dylan, Dee Dee, and Gracie, along with their people, headed out after lunch to the beach for their first Bahamas swim. Did they enjoy themselves? What do you think?





As for Miss Dee Dee No, she was a good girl and amazed us all by coming when called, often being the first one to start back towards us. Could it be that our naughty little girl is growing into a good big girl? Or...


...maybe someone stole her in the night and replaced her with a well behaved dog that looks just like her. Only time will tell.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Miami Beach


Dylan and Dee Dee only have time for a quick update. It has been a very busy week. We've been anchored at Belle Isle in Miami Beach so that their dad could attend the Miami Boat Show. The kids weren't allowed at the show but still had a great time watching the goings on in Miami Beach.


Of course, no stop would be complete without checking out the dog parks - and yes, in Miami Beach, dog parks is plural. It turns out there were two dog parks we could walk to. And the best part is that visiting either one started off with a dinghy ride. The first was at Flamingo park. It was a nice park but a long walk through Miami Beach.


The next day we went to the Belle Isle dog dark which was just a walk across the Belle Isle bridge. That turned into a favorite. The crew learned right away to line up around 3 o'clock for their ride in the dinghy.


Dylan got a chance to work on his Frisbee catching prowess.


It was a great week, topped off by good friends John and Marilyn showing up with black lab Gracie. Gracie and Dixie have been good friends of Dyna and Dylan for years. Dixie has joined Dyna in the huge dog park in the sky. The three of them had a blast.

Tomorrow we all plan on crossing over to the Bahamas were the two crews can take up their friendship and trade the dog park for a beach. Stay tuned - this will be Dylan and Dee Dee's greatest adventure!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Vero Beach Dog Park!!!!

The crew on aCappella has been to dozens of dog parks. It's one of the amenities we consider when choosing where to stop. The biggest problem is finding one close by. Often they require transportation, like the one we visited in Cocoa Beach, or a very long walk.

There are a few places were the park is right near the marina or anchorage. Vero Beach has been a favorite of the crew going all the way back to Tucker.  Dyna and Dylan spent many hours there in the past. We're been so often we've developed ongoing friendships including Jim Welles who had Dyna and Dylan to his house on more than one occasion for a swim.

We met Jim and his lab Duke over 5 years ago at what was then an informal dog park. It was a large field near the Vero Beach City Marina where dogs and their people met each day. Even though it was far back from the road, no fence meant everyone had to be vigilant. Residents would bring water for the dogs to drink. It was open to the river so our water loving canines often found their way in, not always with good results.

About a year ago Jim told us about plans to make it into a real dog park. Jim, along with others, formed Friends of the Vero Beach Dog Park and began raising money and getting support from the community. We were excited and couldn't wait to return and see what they had done.


We just spent three days at the Vero Beach City Marina and this is the best dog park the crew has seen, bar none. The first thing we noticed was the size. It is huge! 3-4 times the size of any dog park we have been to. The picture above was taken standing in the center - the fence is just before the yellow building. Now imagine that all the way around. Not only does it facilitate lots of running and exercise, it prevents those doggie squabbles that can erupt when confined to a smaller space.

Everything about it is just right with lots of doggie bag stations and trash cans scattered about, beautiful canvas awnings with chairs to shade dogs and people, doggie water fountains, tons of balls and Frisbees and tug toys donated by owners, there's even memorial pavers at the entrances to help raise funds. The park runs solely from donations.


And of course lots of dogs. Friendly dogs and friendly owners are everywhere. 40-50 dogs on the two beautiful days and even 20 or so when it was windy and rainy.

 

Dylan and Dee Dee loved it. Dylan made a special friend, Winchester.


While Dee Dee was the social butterfly making the rounds.


Every once in a while they would stop to catch their breath but then a ball got thrown or a dog trotted by and they were off.


Our mooring was nearest the shore, right next to the dog park. So Dylan and Dee Dee got to enjoy the park even when they weren't there. From the bow the kids could hear the barks, see friends through the trees, and I'm sure smell the doggy aroma. Dee Dee would look across and think, "Heck, I could swim that." We couldn't even look at the dinghy without pandemonium breaking out on the cockpit. It's clear we'll have to make this a stop when heading back north.


Mom and Dad certainly enjoyed watching the kids play and meeting other dog parents. But the real reward - two tired out crew members means a quiet, peaceful night. I bet they're dreaming about the dog park...

Monday, February 2, 2015

Time to Move

Over the years we've developed a cruising style that works well for us and our crew.  It balances our desire to seek out new places, keep up with the business of running ActiveCaptain, and ensure our crew remains properly spoiled. We always try to visit new places or places we haven't been to in a while and typically select a few spots to hang for a spell.


We're just finishing up 2 months at Cocoa Village Marina and have mixed feeling about heading out. We've found that staying somewhere for a month or so allows us to really gain a feel for place, finding our favorite places to eat and discovering what there is to do. It lets Dylan and Dee Dee fall into a routine and if you've ever shared your life with dogs you know they love a routine.


They know the best times to sit on the bow and watch, what time we setup the ramp for their afternoon walk, and when we sit on the cockpit for lunch. In the past couple of weeks, they've even learned what times the two Labs down the way come past on their walk. Dee Dee thinks they look a bit suspicious and leads the assault that has kept them from attacking us. What a good team!


But it is time to move on. We have a few more places to go before we begin waiting for the weather window to cross over to the Bahamas in mid-February.

Cocoa has been great but this crew has other places to explore. Besides, they hear the new dog park in Vero Beach is not to be missed and the only thing better than a good dog park is treats. Everybody knows that!

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Education Begins


Dee Dee's adventure with the dolphins led to much discussion, in particular from cruisers with dogs wishing to learn from our mistakes. We continue to receive inquires about our next phase of lessons learned, so thought it was a good time to catch up on where we are.

We are looking at two enhancements to our canine crew equipment, better harnesses and some sort of tracking/alarm device. The alarm device has proven to be rather difficult. Jeff has spent many hours researching and contacting various companies with nothing really accomplishing what we are looking for.  He has a lead on a new device coming out soon. I think it best that he address that in a future posting.

I took on the harness issue and have to admit there is not a perfect solution... sigh. It is still useful to pass on what I have learned and what we plan on using next. It feels a bit like the three bears but without the one that is "just right."


Several of you sent information about a harness made by Ruffwear that looked more substantial than the Kong harness we had been using. So I tracked down Susan Strible, Director of Marketing  at Ruffwear who read about Dee Dee's adventure before spending time with me on the phone. I was familiar with the company having selected their canine life vests after a long search when we first began cruising 12 years ago. I still think they're the best option out there. You can read a bit more about that in the most viewed blog posting on TakingPaws, All That Dog Gear.

I must say that it was instantly clear that Ruffwear is passionate about what they do. It comes out whether you are watching their videos, reading their product information, or talking to their Marketing Director. Susan has her own Lab and understands the importance of keeping our canine family close and safe. The first thing she did was to educate me. Who would have thought there was so much to a "simple" dog harness?


She explained that normal webbing stretches when it becomes wet. That is certainly what we experienced with Dee Dee's Kong harness. She further told me that there is a specific type of webbing that is made to get wet and therefore will not stretch. This is what Ruffwear uses on their life vests. Their harnesses are designed for hiking, climbing, etc. where the webbing may become wet due to rain or crossing a stream but not submerged for long periods. Those harnesses are not made from the waterproof webbing. Susan stated that if we wanted maximum safety, the dogs should be in their life vests.  I know she's right but our crew lives onboard so comfort must be taken into consideration as well.


Like all things boating, these products are trade-offs and each of you must make your own decisions. Labs are very strong swimmers and are at risk of overheating due to their heavy undercoats. While we certainly appreciate the added safety, we also know that a device that is not used is the most unsafe of all. Plus while the Kong failure was certainly disappointing, it did function well enough to get her back onboard.


So we decided to try the Ruffwear Web Master Harness with the idea that it would provide better protection than the Kong. What I like about it is that there are 3 points that secure the dog - around the neck, behind the front legs, and at the belly.


I like that each of the points have added padding where it secures the dog including the 3 point pad on the chest. While the webbing is still likely to stretch, the entire back is made out of a canvas material meaning less of the product would be prone to stretching. Overall, it is obviously a better quality harness.

As for the negatives, Susan pointed out some areas of concern. She said this webbing will stretch when soaked - the question is how much in a real situation. She also indicated that the harness was designed for assisting a dog over rocks, up hills, etc. while hiking and not to lift them out of the water.

 
The main design feature being the placement of the handle. Notice that on the life vest the handle is directly behind the head. When you pull the dog up you are lifting the head up and out of the water while also positioning him so that the front paws can be used to scramble onboard.


The Web Master harness has the handle further back so that you can better lift your dog's rear end to assist your dog up and over an obstacle. These are some clever designers. The question is, how well will it work in our application?

We acquired two harnesses and have done some preliminary tests. We will not be in the Bahamas until next month where we plan on doing extensive tests with the harness and the life vest in a full swim. We won't allow our precious crew to swim in a marina.

Examining the harness closely confirmed that it was a quality product. We were able to fit the same size to Dee Dee and Dylan by adjusting the straps.


I found the third belly strap tricky as setting it snug when they were standing made it too tight when they sat down. I fiddled with the fit until I found a good compromise and will see how it works when we take off and they wear them all day. We tried lifting each one and found that their heads do not tilt up but rather stay flat. We need to test this live from the boat to see how much of an issue it will be.

Then we soaked both the Kong and the Ruffwear harnesses for several hours in a bucket of water to test stretching. Both stretched somewhat when we then pulled on them but not nearly as much as we experienced during Dee Dee's swim. We speculate that the combination of being wet and 30 minutes of vigorous swimming caused the extreme stretching. Another test is needed in the Bahamas.

Our conclusions so far are that any harness is better than no harness and that the Ruffwear harness is clearly a more substantial one and very likely will outperform the Kong in live tests. We leave in a little over a week moving south again so we'll be able to test the comfort of the Ruffwear on the crew. Then a few weeks later the ultimate test when we take them swimming and even "rescue" them from the dinghy when we are in the Bahamas.

For now, there will be strict rules enforced against any crew member venturing on deck unattended. And sorry guys, you can't attend to each other.

Stay tuned for future installments.