The first time I read a story about dog and cats on powerboats — I think it was in Boating magazine in the late 1990s — I thought it was inane. Who, after all, would even consider bringing a pet on board a powerboat? (Folks who owned sailboats, of course, were another matter.)
Two things worth keeping in mind: First, thanks to a younger brother who was severely allergic to fur, I never had a dog or cat as a kid. So I am not by nature or nurture a pet lover. Second, in the late 1990s I was working at Powerboat magazine. We were big, bad macho guys testing high-performance catamarans and V-bottoms. The very notion of someone bringing a pet on board the kind of boats we ran seemed far-fetched, if not outright crazy. And, well, more than a little unmanly.
I held onto that erroneous belief — go-fast boats and pets do not and should not mix — until November 2016 when a member of the Speedonthewater Facebook page group posted a photo of his dog on board his powerboat. That inspired Jason Johnson, my speedonthewater.com co-publisher, and I to run a photo challenge on the page in which we asked members of the group to send us photos of pets on their boats. And the response was amazing. (We even ran a photo gallery/slideshow on speedonthewater.com called “Water Dogs.”
That’s why when an email from FB Marine Group, a full-service new and pre-owned powerboat dealership in South Florida, landed in my email box with “Boating with Pets: Are You Prepared For Your Pet’s First Ride?” in the subject line yesterday, I didn’t just delete it. Based on somewhat recent experience, I know there’s interest in the subject.
What follows are 10 great suggestions, courtesy of FB Marine Group, for ensuring success with your pet on board your powerboat.
The first time your four-legged friend comes aboard, it probably isn’t wise to go on a big adventure such as a deep-sea fishing trip. Like people, pets need to acclimate to the movement and feel of any vessel. Start slow and progress. Not all pets are comfortable right away. Take small steps.
2. Swim Test
Some pets love the water while others may need time to adjust to swimming. Take it slowly and test your pet’s reaction to the water far in advance to heading out on the water.
3. Life Jackets
Be sure to purchase a life jacket—yes, they really exist—for your pet if you have concerns about his or her swimming ability or stamina. A number of marine supply stores sell life jackets for dogs and cats. Make sure the life jacket fits properly so your pet can’t accidentally slip out of it.
4. Pet Overboard Prep
Make sure you have a plan for what to do if your pet happens to go overboard. You’ll want to discuss it with all of the passengers on your boat before in advance of your day on the water.
5. Bring Water
Your pet—like you and your passengers—will get thirsty during a day on the water. Bring plenty of fresh water, as well as a water-bowl, for your pet.
Make sure your pet is identifiable by appropriate identity tags.
7. Provide Shade
The sun’s rays are even stronger on the water, so make sure there is ample shade for your pet. Also consider investing in a pet-specific sunscreen—yes, it actually exists. Sunscreen for humans often includes zinc, which is harmful if ingested.
If your pet is larger or older, you may want to have a boarding ladder. This also can be helpful for getting your pet back on the boat from the water.
If your pet gets sick regularly, he or she might be better off staying on land. (The same goes for most humans who are prone to seasickness.) You also might want to discuss motion sickness medications with your veterinarian.
10. Prepare For Nature’s Call
Many housebroken pets will be reluctant “to go” on board your boat. But most can be trained to use carpet scraps, pee-pads and litter boxes placed in the cockpit.
Matt Trulio is an award-winning journalist who has covered the high-performance powerboat world since 1995. He wrote for Powerboat magazine for 17 years and was the magazine’s editor at large until it ceased publication in 2011. Trulio is the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site that covers the high-performance powerboat realm. He’s also the former editor of Sportboat magazine.