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Pets on vacation: can I take my dog or cat on a yacht?

Cats and dogs who live with us are a very important part of our lives. They’re members of the family, so it makes sense that as pet owners we want to plan holidays where they can come along and have a good time.
Many people think that a yacht charter is out of the question for those travelling with pets, but that’s not the case. With the right precautions and a bit of planning, cats and dogs can step onboard too.

How to take a cat on a yacht

If you live with a feline friend, you will be very aware that it needs a little time to adapt after any move or journey. Your cat will need to get used to the environment onboard a boat too – new spaces, new noises, new smells – but before long, the yacht will become its playground, with cabins and lockers to hide in, masts and the boom to climb, bimini tops and sail bags to sprawl on. If anyone on board catches some fresh fish, your cat will be the first to want a taste.

Some tips for sailing with a cat:

  • Set up a letter tray with anti-odour cat litter;
  • When the sails are up or the sea is a bit choppy it’s always best for the cat to stay below deck;
  • Before unfurling the mainsail, always check the cat isn’t curled up in the folds of the material.
cats 0n board

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How to take a dog on a yacht

The most important thing to a dog is to be with their owner, it doesn’t really matter where. Is a boat okay for humans? Well then, it’s okay for their four-legged friends too. If you have any questions you can always ask us for advice, but let’s start by dispelling some myths:

  • Will it be too hot? Of course it can be hot in summertime, but no hotter than in the city! At least on a boat there’s always a bit of a breeze, and one side of the deck is in the shade. And on really sweltering days, Fido can always cool off in the sea!
  • Will toilet time be a problem? Just like at home, on a boat you can take the dog out when he needs to “go potty”. Except here, going out means landing on a beautiful little beach with no rules or time limitations.

Tips for taking your dog on shore

If you take the tender to the shore, it’s not a problem – your dog will follow you (some dogs also enjoy sitting on a paddle board!). Remember to always make him wear a harness with handle, so you can help him get on and off.

If you’re swimming to the beach, make sure to assess the distance between the boat and the shore. If it’s a long way, here are some tips to ensure you can both plunge in safely:

  • Put a life jacket on the dog to help him stay afloat;
  • Even if you’re a strong swimmer, wear flippers: if doggy gets tired, you’ll have enough strength for both of you;
  • Take a red surface marker buoy (the kind used by scuba divers) to ensure you’re visible;
  • Use an inflatable hammock to let him rest;

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Do dogs get sea sick?

Some dogs do suffer from seasickness, but you probably already know how sensitive your pooch is if you’ve ever taken him out in the car. Ideally, he can get used to sailing as a puppy, because that will make everything easier; but even older dogs can get used to yacht life just fine, as long as you take it slowly. For his first boat trip, choose an itinerary with short crossings, preferably not too windy. You have to watch out not only for waves but for the current too, as it could make swimming difficult for him.

How to prepare for a yacht charter with pets

Just a few precautions are needed to make a vessel pet-friendly. Firstly, it needs to have netting on the lifelines – the same kind we use when kids are on board: not only does this protect against risks when sailing, but it also gives them some boundaries when you’re in harbour (although a net isn’t going to stop a cat from going off to explore the dock).

To train your dog for walking on the gangway, get him to try doing some exercises on planks in dog parks equipped with agility games. Walking along a narrow surface isn’t something dogs do every day, and the first time he might refuse; so, if you give him a chance to try beforehand in a familiar environment, by making it a game or giving him rewards, he’ll be more likely to overcome the obstacle.

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The main tip is to remember, this is a holiday: so don’t take silly risks. Before you set sail, check the weather forecast and plan for a calm crossing, without making it a race against time. Avoid too many swerves or sudden, last minute decisions. When you set off, make sure all the pets (and people) are on board; when you approach a harbour, if you think the manoeuvre might be complicated then you might be better off putting him in the dinette for a few minutes. As always, when sailing the best strategy is being organised and keeping a cool head.

If you want to go on a sailboat charter with your cat or dog, but you need advice on choosing the right vessel and the most suitable destination, we’ll be happy to help. Get in touch!

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