Pets aboard!

By Sue Cornell
For Points East

You’re planning a cruise with your household pet – most likely a cat or a dog – and you’re concerned with the animal’s health and quality of life aboard and at ports of call. Will your four-footer be seasick? How will it releave itself? Will it fall overboard? Will it be welcomed at marinas and villages along the way? And will it find places where it will be free to run and work off pent-up energy? Not to worry: With a little forethought, planning and training, your pet will come up aces on both sea and shore.

1507-featureSightseeing cruises
Does Spot love nature? When in Bar Harbor, take him on a two-hour, fully narrated nature cruise. Acadian Nature Cruises ( is “pet-friendly to friendly pets” and offers a scenic cruise on Frenchman Bay. You (and your four-legger) may see eagles, seals, porpoises as well as other marine mammals and birds. Nature cruises also feature views of Egg Rock lighthouse and mansions. And, if you have a cat who likes boat tours, she is most welcome.

In Cherryfield, Maine, Downeast Windjammer Cruises ( offers sightseeing cruises and fishing excursions around Bangor Harbor and on Belfast Bay. Cruises are dog-friendly, and Downeast’s mascot, Maggie, sails on every voyage.

On Cape Cod, Hy-Line Cruises ( allows dogs and cats on sightseeing cruises of Hyannisport Harbor and the Cape Cod Canal as well as their island-bound ferries. No pets are allowed in the first-class lounge or on furniture of the Traditional Nantucket Ferry (the Great Point), and both dogs and cats are strongly encouraged to wear a leash or be crated. Pets cruise free.

Pet-friendly harbors
Maine: The scoop from Bar Harbor’s harbormaster Charlie Phippen is clearly Fido-favorable. According to Phippen: “Bar Harbor is overall pet friendly, especially for dogs. Many of the local businesses put out dog water bowls in the summer.

“There are numerous parks and trails within easy walking distance the Bar Harbor waterfront. Many yachts come in with dogs aboard, and the first place they head is into Agamont Park, just across West Street from the Municipal Pier.

“Acadia Park also has many trails that are popular with dog walkers. All these locations require that dogs be on a leash and that owners always clean up after their pets. This is especially important in areas that are open to shellfish harvesting.”

Bangor’s harbormaster Jerry Ledwith reports, “Our marina is located on the banks of the Penobscot River. Adjacent to the river is a walking promenade with doggy bag stations and plenty of refuse containers. The promenade is approximately one mile long, with plenty of lighting and seating areas. Within a quarter-mile of the marina is a large grocery store carrying everything a boater would need for pet supplies.”

In Northeast Harbor, harbormaster John Lemoine says, “We like to think of ourselves as a “pet friendly” marina. Toward that end, we ensure that we always have sufficient “treats” on hand in our marina office as our guests are not required to leave their pet outside while conducting business or just visiting the office. All of the staff welcome our four-legged visitors and enjoy providing the treats.

“The marina offers a green-lawn walking area, with picnic tables and a supply of biodegradable scooper bags for ease of clean up and trash receptacles are easily accessible for disposal.

“There is an abundance of hiking opportunities among the approximately 50 miles of carriage trails throughout Acadia National Park, our neighbor, and pets are welcomed with leashes.”

Wayfarer Marine, in Camden, offers “clean grounds and a nice neighborhood to walk your dog through, ” says Karma O’Donal, who adds, “We do have a lot of customers who have pets and have treats and a water bowl for dogs in the office . . . . We are a very pet-friendly environment since the majority of our employees own dogs.”

O’Donal notes: “Camden provides biodegradable dog bags at the entrance to all parks and in most public places. Many of Camden’s inns and hotels have pet-friendly rooms. The Lord Camden Inn even provides dog/cat beds, a dish, and treats for your furry friend. Downtown Camden offers a number of pet supply stores with fun toys, food and fun for all pets. Most of the bakeries also offer homemade dog treats. Walking trails of Mount Battie, which overlooks Camden Harbor, are within reach of the harbor. All trails welcome pets on a leash.”

In South Portland, Spring Point Marina is pet-friendly. “We offer free doggie bags on the docks,” says director of operations Michael Soucy, adding, “Spring Point is conveniently located between Bug Light Park and Willard Beach (approximately a quarter-mile in either direction), which both allow dogs. The City of South Portland Greenbelt walkway, which runs through the marina property, can be used to access both the beach and the park.”

Vermont: Lifelong sailing enthusiast Suzanne Johnson of HealingWindsVermont, reports: “Just about all of the marinas I know are pet-friendly. It is so different here [on Lake Champlain, Vt.]… doggies are everywhere.”

On Lake Champlain, Shelburne Shipyard is “very pet-friendly,” according to office manager Karen I. Claxton. Says Claxton: “Many of our employees have dogs that come to work with them. That being said, many customers let their pets relieve themselves on our lawns when they stop in for fuel, pump-outs, or shop in our marine store. Waste bags, etc. are provided for their convenience. There are actually a few canine items (collapsible water bowls, etc.) sold in our chandlery. We ask that pets be ‘under control.’ Within a five-mile walk, there’s a wonderful town dog park.”

Also on Lake Champlain, Point Bay Marina has a “very active boating dog community,” according to general manager Todd Smith. The marina offers complimentary treats and dog walking/hiking areas. Biodegradable litter-pickup bags are stationed throughout the facility. Doggie life vests and water toys are available for sale.

New Hampshire: Wentworth by the Sea Marina, in New Castle, offers an area for pet walking, along with biodegradable scooper bags and treats. “There are paths and parks in close proximity to the marina as well,” concierge Sharon Barfield points out.

Massachusetts: Debra Lesynski wrote on behalf of Tug, a little Schipperke who lives and works at Merri-Mar Yacht Basin in Newburyport. “We encourage dog walking and visitors and Tug loves to meet new friends. We only ask that our visitors pick up after their dogs . . . it is the courteous thing to do. We, of course, supply poop-bags and a dumpster for disposal.

“I think Newburyport, on a whole, loves its dogs,” Jay continues. “There are vets here, specialty shops, and at least three parks where dogs are allowed (possibly even “off-leash”) – Cashman Park, Moseley Woods and March’s Hill.

“The first two are within walking distance of Merri-Mar – March’s Hill a bit farther away – but on a nice day any of them would be great to stretch your legs after being on a boat for any length of time. They are all beautiful and Newburyport (historic seaport) is definitely a beautiful city to walk with lots of maritime history, birthplace of the Coast Guard, its Custom House Maritime Museum, etc.”

Nantucket Boat Basin offers a number of pet amenities, including a small pet gift including a collapsible bowl, tennis ball, treat, and a discount card at a nearby pet store. There is a small animal-needs park onsite as well as many other dog-walking areas nearby.

A sister property, The Cottages at The Boat Basin, located on-site, offers pet-friendly cottages for boat owners looking to stay on land.

In Gloucester, Cape Ann’s Marina is a “pet friendly Marina Resort,” says dockmaster Jesse Combs. Combs adds: “Many of our boaters/guests travel with pets, and we simply ask that they are courteous to others and pick up after their pet. We supply doggy poop bags in various locations around the resort. We are walking distance of Stage Fort Park, which has a lot to offer visitors and their pets.”

Rhode Island: “Wickford Marina is a doggie paradise, according to a survey we made of 25 dogs that are normally in residence here,” says the owner of the 65-boat marina, Paul Galego.

“Since the average boat here is about 43 feet, we have many dogs, no cats, and very few children,” Galego reports “We must have 25 dogs in this small marina, and we try to keep both doggies and their owners happy.

“Before we can address the positives, we need to make sure there is no downside, meaning dogfights, barking dogs that disturb neighbors, and excrement. If we can take care of those things, the rest is easy.

“Along that line, we require that every dog be on a leash at all times while on the property. Loose dogs mean dogfights, which no one wants. All of our guests know that any dog that does a lot of barking either needs to be made happy or needs to stay at a nearby dog hotel when the owner is on board.

“We have a really nice pickup system that enables owners to pick up the excrement without handling it directly. Each pooper-scooper has a metal frame that insulates the owner’s hand from the material.

“Now that those things are taken care of, we find that all of our dogs seem happy and well-behaved and happy. We have a tent area where people gather, and it is not uncommon to see several owners and their dogs, who seem happy to be in the company of their friends.

“We are located at the end of a cul-de-sac, and there is plenty of empty land nearby, which has proven popular with our four-legged tenants. Wickford Village has many walking lanes and paths where owners can enjoy the scenery and history as their pets take in the olfactory picture.”

While Goat Island Marina in Newport doesn’t provide anything specifically for pets, it is pet-friendly and has an open space/field for dog walking. “The restaurant onsite is also dog-friendly, allowing pets to eat with their owners on the outside patio,” says general manager Mike Sweeney. “Plenty of parks are close by (Storer Park is at the foot of the Goat Island Causeway), and all have pick-up bags for owners to clean up after pets.

“There is a dedicated City of Newport dog park a mile and a half from our marina. Overall, the City of Newport is very dog-friendly, and you’ll always find plenty of people walking their dogs through downtown Newport.”

Newport has a number of pet-supply shops/boutiques if shopping makes your tail wag.

Connecticut: At the Mystic Seaport Museum & Docks, visitors are allowed to bring their pets on the grounds. “This usually means dogs, but we did have a goat one time. His name was Spartacus, and he was very friendly,” says director of communications Dan McFadden.

Pets, on leash, have the run of the grounds, with the exception of the exhibits, restaurants and historic vessels. “It is a particular benefit for visiting boaters overnighting at our docks. . . . . Lots of our neighbors use their memberships to walk their dogs on our grounds. We have several regulars.”

A short walk away, downtown Mystic is generally very dog-friendly.

In Norwich, American Wharf is a pet-friendly facility with a number of grassy areas and a special fenced-in “dog walk” area for pets to do their business. “There is also a nice dog park here in Norwich, just over a mile from our facility,” marina manager Michael Valentine says. We have baggies and a covered canister for the pet waste.”

For the wealthier pooch, whose people are transients, Delamar Greenwich Harbor offers amenities for dog. The hotel is located along their own 500-foot dock and accepts dogs under 100 pounds for a nightly charge of $50, a portion of which is donated to Adopt-a-Dog, a local charity which assists in finding homes for abandoned dogs.

“All dogs have a ‘doggie turndown,’ with their own dog bed, water and dog treat as well as a welcome amenity which includes toys for the dog,” says Cristina Kelleher, regional director of sales and marketing

The dock has an adjacent walkway along the harbor, and many owners and their pets enjoy taking a waterfront stroll while they are in house, she says.

Poop from the pet owners
Dogs: Josh Bagnati, dockmaster at Brewer Pilots Point Marina, whose dog Banjo is his trusty assistant in the dock office, says: “I think the most obvious piece of advice is to make sure your dog is wearing a flotation device, and is trained well enough not to jump off the vessel after a duck or anything else that may grab its attention.” Banjo, he says, loves to sit at the edge of the dock and stare at the ducks, but he knows enough never to go after them.

“If you’re cruising with a dog, be sure to plan on stopping frequently enough at dog-friendly marinas so the dog can get on land, do its business, and have a chance to explore,” he advises. “Dogs need to get out and smell new things, their noses are like our eyes; it’s how they see the world.”

It’s also important to make sure your dog is social. “Any dog-friendly marina you stop at you will be sure to have other dogs, and aggressive dogs are no fun for anyone,” the dockmaster points out.

Josh takes every opportunity to introduce Banjo to both dogs and new people. “All the Brewer Marinas are dog-friendly,” he says.

Bagnati has seen artificial turf used on the deck of the boat cruising for extended periods so the dog has somewhere to “go,” although some people may not be fond of that idea.

Cats: Cherylle and Skip Hird have cruised 23 years to the Bahamas in their Hans Christian 43 ketch, the Eleanor M. For 17 of those years, they had cats on board. Compared with traveling with a dog, Cherylle finds cruising with a cat easier, but being at dock is a bit more difficult. A cat is easier when you’re at anchor as well: A litter box sure beats puppy pad mess and making it to shore in time.

Their cats have always worn harnesses – “small dog harnesses rather than ones designed for cats as cats can wiggle out of them,” she says. Cats, she finds, tolerate harnesses very well, and much better than PFDs. A dog harness not only stays on better, but it’s best if you need to grab the cat. “Most collars for cats are breakaways. It’s a great idea, but if you need to grab your cat fast and all of a sudden, all you’ll be holding is a collar.

“When we were at the dock, I’d clip her into the binnacle so she couldn’t get beyond the cockpit, or I’d keep her down below,” she says. “Otherwise, she would walk off the boat, and when we’d be ready to leave, there would be no guarantee the cat was going to be there.”

She wrapped rope around the saloon table pole to create a scratching post. For the litter box, she used a small plastic box with a flip lid so, when she goes to shore to visit someone, she just flips the lid closed for travel. “It’s supposed to hold DVDs, but I use it for my cat,” says the resourceful sailor.

“Both cats tolerated the cruising part, and loved being anchored and free to explore the deck during the daytime,” Cherylle said. “They were always kept below at night.

The cats have tried seasickness pills, but the results weren’t worth the effort. “I found it was easier not to give her anything. She would just settle down and relax, but giving a pill was more difficult than not giving it.”

At times, a cat is difficult to find on a boat. To prevent the missing cat mystery, she attaches a key finder to the harness. “I would click on the key finder to find out where she was.” The first cat crewmember was Abby, a gray tortoiseshell. Cherylle swore she’d never get another dark-colored cat again because they are almost impossible to see at night.

“If you’re offshore with the companionway open, you won’t know if the cat has gone on deck,” she says. “There’s ways the cat can scoot underneath the dodger and go off onto the deck; you can lose your cat overboard.” Hird’s answer: An LED dog collar that goes around the cat’s belly. At night, the collar can be either solid or blinking. If they are offshore, and Libby wants to be up in the cockpit, Hird clips a thin twine to her. In all their years with the cats aboard, only Abby fell overboard – and only once! She swam to the bobstay and held on until rescued with a fish/cat net.

“Some people have lines or mats hanging overboard for cats to climb up if they fall overboard. We tried to teach Abby this, but she just swam around the boat and ignored the rope. After that test, we made sure we always had the long pole with the net handy for overboard-cat emergencies.”

Another advantage of cats, versus dogs, is that you can leave the cat downstairs with screens in. The cat cruiser says, “Dogs sometimes yip the whole time their owners are off the boat.”

“When visiting with our schipperke, Tug, we always ask about ‘pet friendliness’ (parks, trails, places to walk, etc.) – not only at marinas but also in nearby towns,” says Debra Lesynski, of Merri-Mar Yacht Basin Inc., in Newburyport, Mass. “We bring our own bags, but ask if they are available (for backup). We also have found it easier to inquire about dos and don’ts: Not everyone loves our dog like we do.”

Remember, cruising should be fun for everyone. Yes, we’re talking about dogs here, but for many of us, canines are part of the family, and they deserve to have fun with us.” And so do all those ship’s cats out there on the briny.

A resident of Killingworth, Conn., regular contributor Susan Cornell and her husband, Bob, “pretty much live at Pilot Point during the summer” aboard their Nonsuch 30 Halcyon – between southern New England cruises with their kids.