Boat Life Gloom: Off Leash Dogs

See the leashes…..  We use them…..  But as in other areas, marinas also have folks who are less concerned about doggie safety and the impact they have on others.    There are some very well trained dogs who don't really need leashes,  they pass as if on leash close by their owners – I'm not referring to them. I'm also not referring to dogs mistakenly getting off their boats by surprise.  It happens, it's happened to us.  I'm referring to folks who just don't seem to care.  Marinas tend to attract a large number of folks who believe dogs should be free and wander at will.   It's almost like they confuse living out in the country with the openness of the Bay.  As sailors, we can sail anywhere we can and want on the Bay – roam free.  But people forget,  just like there are rules of the road for sailing,  there are land rules to follow in a marina.

I'm sitting here tonight again feeling the effects to of those careless folks who don't think rules apply to them and let their dogs offleash in our marina.  I know this is a larger problem,  not one of the marina only. It really ruins my day.  I work very hard training my two and they aren't perfect,  but it makes it so much harder when others are oblivious and outright uncaring of others.

I'm at a loss of how to handle the owner who's dog is running full speed at my dog and yelling "he's friendly". I got into a little argument with a guy tonight when I told him I didn't care if his dog was friendly as his dog should be on leash. Mine is friendly as well and would like nothing more than me dropping her leash for them to play.  But we're in a park, not a dog park there are other people around and I'm trying to have a walk with my dog. He instead verbally attacked my dog who was visibly excited about his dog racing around us. Fortunately it was short lived as I wasn't sticking around too long. He doesn't care about the leash law. Unfortunately he lives here.  And I get to see him and his dog most days.

I've had neighbors let their dogs romp through the parking lot – clearly out of sight….. I've had dogs charge at my leashed dogs repeatedly while the owners fumble around surprised they are supposed to manage their dogs,  not even carrying a leash.  Our marina has had problems of people letting their dogs roam unattended.  I haven't seen, but have heard of some letting their dogs poop on other people's boats. I've picked up poop off of the dock from neighbors dogs so mine don't get the blame. It's always suprising.

Our marina has a large park and off leash dog play area – big, with lots of space, hills, a couple trails. There's really no reason to have your dog meandering through parking lots, streets and the city park area.  There's also little enforcement in our marina, I assume due to funding issues.

Admittedly, I am sensitive to this.  I have pitbulls and for the most part Tack and Clewie are good – though they have had some leash reactivity.  As most people know, pitbulls get a much more limited range of acceptable behavior and mistakes.  They need to be so much better than the average dog. And even if they do nothing "wrong" people will overact by just looking at them.

But I also lead some pitbull walks with a local meetup group and know that there are other dogs who have issues with dedicated owners working with them.  These folks need safe places where they can train and work with their dogs in a controlled environment. Most marinas in our area are city parks and are also under leash laws… Public parks are a great place to work on training in exciting environments at appropriate distances.  I just wish folks respected the rules.

I'm also surprised about the lack of respect for your neighbor.  Marinas are close communities…. sometimes you are relaxing in your living room with your neighbor relaxing in their living room less than 10 feet away.  And pretty much everytime you leave your boat, you run into someone.  So in this sort of environment, it's surprising when folks don't see and respect the impact they have on others.

Better with two – depends on who you ask

Here is a photo of the Abbot and Costello bit these two got me into this morning….  And yes, I need to explain.

As you know, we live on a sailboat – the entrance to our boat is an about 5 ½ foot ladder – it’s pretty darn steep.  Tack being 50 lbs learned (was taught) to climb it pretty soon after coming to live with us.  When Clewie saw the advantages Tack had of being able to climb out on his own, she also quickly found the motivation to do it by herself as well (though she will usually let us lift her unless she’s super motivated).

*** Going down is a different story, both dogs get lifted down… Greg and I have each devised the version we prefer to make it easier for us – but the dogs absolutely don’t jump….. unless it’s raining and we’re slow (or not super speedy fast) getting them in from the rain – because, of course, they might melt… it is rain after all.

Back to this morning….. I was headed out – climbed the ladder, moved the hatch, turned around and replaced it…. By this time,  they had climbed into the position above – Clewie sitting on the top step and Tack perched halfway up the ladder waiting for Clewie to move so he could climb the rest of the way.  Both were looking up at me with waggy “bring me with you” tails.

I don't like them "figuring out" how to get down by themselves (ie: jumping from a precarious position), so went to put them below myself.

When I opened the hatch, Clewie ran out with Tack following…..  I said back inside, grabbed Clewie and went back down to lift her below…. Reached up to get Tack, who ran to the back of the boat – then I head up to go get Tack and Clewie climbs back up.

I end up scooping Clewie like a football with one hand and climb backwards down the ladder while hanging on to Tack’s collar.  After putting Clewie down, I quickly get up and lift Tack down as well. 

The next try – they both stay off the ladder….


Potty Times

The most talked about doggie topic when people find out we sail with dogs aboard is about how they do their business.  We have a piece of fake grass that we use for them to do their business….. only on the grass…..  we don't want them to go in the marina on the boat – though there have been circumstances when one was sick that we did bend that rule.  Once, Clewie was on heavy doses of Prednizone for suspected MMM and needed to pee about every 2 hours.  My sanity needed her to use the "fake grass" some of the time.

And for the most part, I would rather they not just go anytime we are out sailing.  They are able to let us know they need to go – and we have been able to put the mat down, then pick it up when they are finished.   I also think that guests find this more tolerable – at least it will give you a chance to prepare grandma or kids that the dog is about to go to the bathroom.

The biggest trick in training this is to have them know to go on command, and on a fairly regular schedule (so you can predict it).  It's also helpful to have a good routine in place. for example, we regularly go out for "bathroom breaks" where we have a strict routine and distance for them to do their business. This also helps at home when the weather is nasty, or they are injured so that you don't have to go on a long walk just waiting for them to go.

But back to boat potty training, when you are all prepared and ready to try out going aboard – then, you be STRONG the first time you go out to try it at anchor.  If you cave after 10 hours….. and bring them to shore, then you have taught them to wait it out for 10 hours until you bring them to shore. The first time they go is the hardest – and when they do, make it the biggest party with high value treats you can muster.  

training details

We have full details about how to train this from Dr Dunbar (above)….. who we were lucky enough to attend his community training talks when we adopted our previous dog from the Berkeley Humane Society.  We asked him after one of the talks… and it has served us well… Matey was a superstar with taking care of her business while cruising and happily living aboard.  We have met many cruisers who need to go to shore every morning and evening.. which means no overnight passages.  It also means that in uncomfortable and potentially dangerous conditions at anchor – your dog would need to be brought to shore multiple times a day.  Once down in Mexico, we were boat bound in a Norther with gusts to 50kts…. it would have been uncomfortable, not to mention dangerous to have to row Matey ashore.

Clewie is well on her way to being even better than Matey – I can usually get her to produce one and two on command (as long as she has something to do), she really gets it….  Tack is the reason for this past weekend's project.  He has pee down pretty good, but struggles with the serious business.  It helped a lot to actually put on their leash and say the same words/routine as when we go out for a bathroom break in the marina.  He is older, about 4 years old (3 when we adopted him), so that could be the reason.  But he's also a more cautious dog than courageous Clewie.

Our toilet is a purchased piece of fake grass mat … which was pre-cut.  The size is a little bit small for Tack… I believe.  I suspect when he gets more experience, it will be fine being smaller, but this weekend, I thought I would make it a little bit bigger by attaching a larger piece of astroturf.  Kinda like toilet training wheels.

My hope is that he will be more comfortable with the larger target and then I can trim it down a bit.  But since it's been awhile since we did an overnight at anchor – they think it's a nice lawn on the back deck that I've created for them….

Boat Life Perk: Night Herons

(photo from: wikipedia article)

This is not my photo…. though we see these guys on our dock hanging around almost every evening.  Unfortunately, When I have Tack or Clewie with me, they are too focused on loosing their marbles for me to get a photo… I want to, but I can barely manage unlocking the gate and walking through.

So, birds are a perk for our dogs living on a boat – they get to see amazing wildlife up close and personal.

Here's a video of Clewie discovering how much fun sailing can be – though we are motoring…  but back from an overnight to Sausalito a couple of months after moving in with us. Clewie and the birds

I'm not so crazy about them chasing the birds.. and the rule has been they can sometimes stay on deck while we are home… but once the bird chasing happens, they need to come back inside.  Tack is a little calmer than Clewie, so he can usually handle lounging outside a little longer/better.

The also love the bird poop on the dock along with the mussel shells the seagulls leave around after they've eaten their meal.

They've yet to enjoy chasing schools of fish in clear warm water… but perhaps one day.

Bird life definitely gets two paws up from the furry Pura Vida Crew…..

Sheep Dung in November

Sheep Dung????  If you heard that and thought, ewwww, no way would I like that, get me far away…..

This might just change your mind.  When I hear “Sheep Dung” I think, romping, wine, BBQ, relaxing, hiking, gorgeous views.  It’s because Sheep Dung Properties is our doggie Nirvana.

We started visiting about 13 years ago with our previous dog, Matey… she loved it, but although we had a great time, we did visit during burr season and every romping session was followed by a nice sit down session while Greg and I took turns pulling burrs off of her.

But now – we have these two pittbulls and they come with nice short hair… so – burrs don’t bug us anymore….

We tugged

We fetched

We hiked

We trained

We played

We took in the views

We felt on top of the world.

Seriously, it was super relaxing, and we felt a world away.  The weather was beautiful this time of year, A little cold for swimming, but Clewie and Tack aren’t really into that anyway.  The coyotes whooped and hollared the night away and C&T let them go to it… no whining to get outside to join them from these two.

Clewie was up to making any kind of new friend she could….

We woke to cloud cover and beautiful light streaming through….

While we waited for a “Off the Hook!!!!” mexican lunch place to open, (Libby’s in Philo, CA), we discovered a little park with walking trails through the redwoods to explore and get some posing done.

Here are a few more photos of our time…..

Trails through the 500 acre property that is Sheep Dung

Back of the Barn from one of the trails

Interesting display on the trail……

Mornings brought Valley fog

Gate at the entrance to our 2 acre fenced area.

Tack getting some Jolly Ball time…. he was so cute and kinda obsessed with it.

Ahhhh, nighttime fires…..

The cabin

Cutie pies ready for some spectacularness

I know it kinda looks like an ad… but it screams – RELAX

For Tack, Happy is plopping with a ball in his mouth – but better in leaves.

The Boy, posing….

Two little pirates



A little update to share how these two are doing.  This past weekend was their last training class on Sundays. Now we move to Saturday mornings… Very happy about this – Greg’s schedule will now allow him to handle a dog – so instead of me doing class with two of them – each dog gets individual class time.  Followed by an adventure with their pittie friends.  It’s so great that pittie moms tend to flock together – and it leads to groups of pitbull friends – I love being a part of that.  And I love that Clewie and Tack have doggie friends to do things with.

This week so far has them romping at the part and being marina rats early part of the week – tomorrow we head out to Sheep Dung – their second visit.  We went this past January just days after bringing Tack home.  I’m looking forward to being in my favorite Doggie Nirvana locale with a relaxed pack.

The above pic is of them in their halloween costumes – we ended up bringing them trick or treating at a WAG doggie daycare.  It was great experience having them in costume around other dogs and people in costumes and they did great….

Then on Saurday they attended the Boo Festival at Jack London Square…. there must have been a few hundred dogs and lots of people…..The only hiccup was Tack getting bullyish when Clewie was playing with another dog.  I guess he either didn’t understand they were playing – or wanted to get in on the action…. but 2 on 1 is out of my comfort zone….. Luckily, I had a couple friends there to manage tack’s leash so i could just handle a playing Clewie.  But it was super fun and I’m really glad I can bring both to these sort of things by myself.


Struggles with the Dinghy

Tack Here,



Most of the time, my life is pretty much like any other dog….. On days where the parents are earning money for my treats and cookies, I stay at home.  I’m a mellow guy, so I get to hang out in the whole boat – Clewie stays in her crate.  most of the time, I can be found sleeping in the upper sea berth – it’s a little nook just above the settee (like a couch).  About midday, my chauffeur comes to pick me and Sissy up to bring us to play with our pack friends for a couple of hours……

After we’re all tuckerd out – we get delivered back home and get to nap a couple of hours till Mom comes home.  Then we get to romp and play – or if we’re too tuckered from earlier we can have snuggle time on the couch.  Eventually – dinner time comes around and we hang out, watch TV, and snuggle – sometimes going for more walks.

But sometimes, the parents start moving the house…… they put a thick jacket on me and keep us under the dodger.  Right now, till we get used to things, Mom tethers us so we don’t go wandering, but she says when we get our sea legs a little more, we’ll be able to hang out with out the tether.  I really don’t have any desire to walk around… though Sissy does…. I just like to hang out on the comfy chairs out of the wind behind the dodger.

A couple weeks ago – we went on a little sailing adventure….. toward the end – we were in a raftup with about 7 other boats…. i LOVED the visiting part – people were coming over all day, giving me pets and snuggles.  But….. I learned we also have a wee small boat.  I like our home boat much better…. this small one is only big enough for our family…… maybe some toys as well…. and it’s rubber – dad had to inflate it.  let’s just say, I didn’t trust it…. when the wind blew, I got down real low.  When Sissy came, I was braver – she’s one tough cookie – me…… I can be a little unsure about new things.

We took the little boat ride to shore a few times.   And I was slowly getting more comfortable…… but I think i’m going to need more practice so I don’t struggle so with it.




New Beginnings

We’re back…..  really we haven’t gone anywhere….. our cruising has slowed because Greg is working most weekends while I am at my Mon – Fri  job.  Readers might also notice a new title “Two Pitties Afloat” and wonder what happened to Matey.  We lost her pretty suddenly – she had a spinal injury while recovering from TPLO surgery early 2014.  It was a tough time…..

But we have added furry crew again to Pura Vida – this time 8 paws aboard……..  Clewie and Tack… they’re pitbulls and we’re having a blast with them.

Clewie joined our family September 2014, and Tack joined up this past January.   They’ve each had their dramas – some together, some separately.  They’ve both been out sailing and it’s been fascinating to see how they each learn from each other.

I just wanted to introduce them – we’ll have adventures coming……

Clewie on the left – Tack on the right


Delta_Willow Berm….Eden Isle…..Home

Patrick and Sharon came up to visit us and have dinner.  We picked a nearby restaurant which was a converted old ferry. The place also featured a local bar band…..yes, music so loud we couldn’t talk while it was going, complete with 50yo groupies dressed in black dancing around…only in the Delta (hopefully).  We had a good time hanging with Patrick and Sharon anyway…..

We were staying at Willow Berm Marina which seemed like a resort for cruisers.  marble showers with calming music and fountains inside.  Free bikes to borrow, continental breakfast and little shady oasis pods all around the park – one complete with hammock, sand and palm tree.  It was the perfect mid vacation “break” from the hook.

Ducks of Willow Berm
A little rain that passed through
relaxing oasis within the marina

We stayed for two nights.  We also had time to do some fishing – and found a hot spot just across from the guest dock – so an easy quick dinghy ride to get our fill of bass.

Guarding or plotting to take one for herself?


The delta is full of little islands that are privately owned by groups of people.  Some are elaborate like the one owned by the St Francis Yacht club and have docks/ water/electricity/and plenty of shore amenities.  Pura Vida’s previous owners belonged and she used to come up there every summer for a few years, but she’s keeping mum on the stories…..  Others are barely a bit of dry land at high tide…..  some have moorings which you can easily tie to…some have elaborate decks and lounging areas for parties.  some have shore boats at local marinas so members can easily get to the island.  One island is mainly owned by members of the Berkeley Yacht Club, so we’ve heard many stories about it through the years and wanted to check it out.  Getting an invite wasn’t a problem and after a quick phone call to our friend Bob Gray, we got a good description…look for the island with two palm trees.  Done…there’s only one.

Eden Isle – two palm trees
Path a bit around the island
Mt Diablo from the mooring

We picked up a mooring, took an initial walk around the island and enjoyed the swing and patio before heading back to the boat for dinner.  The next day we went exploring for ice cream to go with our freshly made brownies.  Surprisingly, this is a hard things to find, but we managed to find “birthday cake” flavor…that’ll work.  We also tried out fishing, but were spoiled by our previous hot spots.  After exploring a creepy abandoned houseboat section, we returned to Pura Vida for more lounging.

Pura Vida at anchor

After two more nights, it was time to start heading back in the direction of home.  Returning from the Delta is the hard part.  Because you want to go with the tide out, and since that’s usually also upwind, you hope the Ebb happens in the morning when wind is usually lightest and ideally if you have the time, you’d want to be anchored or snug for the evening by the time the current changes around.  So we planned on two days to get out to Glen Cove – just East of the Carquinez Straight.

We dropped the mooring early in the morning, and took off down river to Frank’s Tract.  Now this is one weird area – at least I thought.  I’m afraid of heights…and the levee here is about 40 feet above the ground.  So I was sitting in the cockpit, looking sideways and getting that nervous feeling in my stomach.  Fortunately I quickly switched sides so I didn’t have to look down anymore.  Rumor has it the levee broke at Frank’s Tract so fast that there is still a lot of farm equipment in the flooded field area, so although it might look like you can sail in it, you want to stay in the original channel.

We made it to a new harbor to us (Driftwood Yacht Club) in Oakley.  Then had a nice shower and walk to Carl’s Jr.  It was kinda fun/freaky getting into the marina – we had to go over a shoaly area and with direction from the harbormaster – turn at the red bouy and head for the house on the corner…you should be fine, but watch your depth.   Since most of the marina is small powerboats, a 47 foot sailboat is a little odd, and they aren’t used to our 6 foot draft.  We had the only mast in the whole place.  Another freaky part was the next morning when the wind which hadn’t let up all night, was still blowing us directly onto the dock.  Now we are tied along a dock that is the far end of a narrowish fairway, maybe the length of our boat – with boats lining both sides.  Greg used a spring line on the bow and the power of our propwash to pivot the stern out, then backed us out perfectly even while we had an audience.

We charged along with the current and confidently under the Antioch bridge….

So remember when I said the wind was already up and had been all night?  Remember also when I just said we were charging along with the current…..well, strong current going out against a good wind/chop coming in….means choppy ugly seas across Suisun Bay.

Beating to Suisun Bay
Matey hiding…this is literally how I found her….Her bed even slid down from the step it’s usually on.

Super glad to have Pura Vida which is a good heavyish boat…and this is where her bigness also adds value.  Lots of water, but she made good progress of it.  And with relative comfort for her crew.  I have never once questioned Pura Vida’s ability to take care of us…this has to be my favorite thing about her.  And why she will always get the best of what she needs.

After a few hours of slogging, with growing confidence we passed under the 70ft railroad bridge again, were were pulling into Glen Cove in time for a hike to the grocery for lunch.  I love that google maps when giving directions, takes into account if you are on foot – then gives you a nice hike through the trees instead of roads to walk down….if one’s available 🙂

Welcoming Glen Cove Marina

One night in Glen Cove, then up early for an easy trip across San Pablo Bay to complete the remaining trip hope to Berkeley.

Delta_Locke to Willow Berm

Dust Storms while in Potato Slough

Sitting at anchor with sandstorms going on around us. I’m reminded that Mother Nature doesn’t always give you the trip you want.  But you have to deal with what she gives you.  Last night was another example…I was exhausted from not sleeping well in Locke because it was so so hot….  We had a great slow paced day meandering down the Georgia Slough – which is gorgeous.

Pretty Georgiana Slough
Breakfast in Bed

We bypassed a few marina’s while deciding back and forth whether to go in or anchor out again at Potato Slough.  Eventually we opted for Pirate’s Lair…but a couple hours after being settled in, they informed us that we just couldn’t stay – there was a big organized cruise coming in and they needed the space.  Fortunately we had a little time to catch up with Cynthia and new Beau Mark – from BYC.  Mark not only made a run in for a favorite fishing lure for us, but also told us of a hot spot so we could check it out in the morning.


Cindy and Mark

So after one false start where we left the marina without our dinghy…..I cannot explain the disappointment and embarrassment at that one….. we were off just around the corner to Potato Slough.  While checking out the anchorage, a nice fellow pointed out his friends mooring which was tied to the Island for us to pick up and tie to…..  I’m not the biggest fan of other people’s moorings….but well….I’m human and succumb to laziness of setting my own just like anyone else…..  And we had a tough run that morning getting our stern hook up – at least we weren’t dragging …. We’ve been moving so much and needed a break.   It’s hard work this here cruising stuff….. J


Matey getting ready to romp on the levee

So we picked up the mooring and chatted with a couple of the locals…there are currently 3 boats here plus us.  The other 3 are regulars….they bring there boats here every year for the summer.  We are on a mooring of a fourth – who we did get to meet today as he was dropping off supplies for the Island.  So I mentioned I wanted a good night’s sleep last night….well, didn’t get it.  The wind started to pick up and I started worrying about the mooring.  We were only tied on by a smallish line and we weren’t sure how old it was.


Overnight the wind started to pick up…. Peaking today with gusts to 35 kts.  Just a bit ago, we took Matey to shore.  She’s been taking a hiatus from using the Astroturf this trip.  On the return I mentioned she was pampered and I think she can speak English with the look she whipped around at me.   Maybe it was me…but she’s not pampered…as she approaches 10, she’s allowed to go to the bathroom on land whenever we can….  She’s been through a lot in her 10 years so far.  Not many doggies have crossed oceans and been succumbed to as many coastal trips and overnights as we’ve made her do.  But she also got to play on a lot of beaches and chase fish in wonderful swimming water.  Not to mention spend a year traveling with us.


Swing bridge on the way to Pirate’s Lair

I think the wind is finally settling down.  Ahhh… .  I hope it’s a quiet night.  And…there’s another gust.   We’ll see.  Tomorrow we’re heading into a marina.  Some friends are coming to visit and it’s too difficult to make it happen out here at anchor – and we’re overdue to spend some time onshore…hoping to find a little store to top off provisions.

Yep – -we did go aground.  🙂 oops…..