Boat dogs — plural


Barney poking his head out of our friend's dinghy

Barney poking his head out of our friend’s dinghy

by Christine Kling

And then there were two. Dogs I mean.

Well, make that four really. Two humans and two dogs. That’s my new family.

Ten months ago I flew down to Fiji to meet this singlehanded sailor guy I’d been writing to and Skyping with. Only he wasn’t really a singlehander any more than I was at that time. We both lived alone on our boats with our dogs.

Since I had no idea whether or not I was going to get along with him or take one look and turn around and book a flight home, I decided to leave my little dog Barney at home in the care of my son. Wayne’s dog Ruby (a Spoodle – cocker spaniel poodle mix) really wowed me with her sailing skills on the passage to the Marshall Islands (she was never tethered and she knew when it was safe to get out of the cockpit) and I learned why everyone calls her Ruby, the Wonder Dog. I fell in love with her — and him.

So, Wayne, Ruby and I flew back to Florida last February from the Marshall Islands en route to a research trip to Europe. Ruby went off to stay with friends on their boat in the Caribbean and Barney stayed in Lauderdale.

By the time we got back, Barney had been living with Tim for about 6 months. We yanked him out of that environment he’d come to know as home, and we introduced him to Ruby. And in the first day or two at the house where we were staying, Barney fell into the pool and peed on the bath mat. Wayne quickly learned why he is called Barney the Yorkshire Terror.

You see, Barney is special. He’s not like most dogs. He’s something of a cross between the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow in need of a brain.

cardogsWe took off then on a month-long trip up Pacific Coast Highway to British Columbia and the two dogs had plenty of time to get to know each other in the car — and to fight over my lap.

Okay, so it’s probably true that we humans have no idea what dogs are thinking, but I swear I can see Ruby rolling her big brown eyes and looking at me saying, “Really? He was the best you could do?” I’m not sure, but I think she views him as her idiot little brother who she might grudgingly admit is okay to have around sometimes as long as he recognizes who’s boss on this boat. The two of them rarely sleep cuddled together, but we only have one set of dog food bowls, and Ruby patiently waits watching Barney eat half the bowl, and only then will she eat after him.

See what I mean? Wonder Dog.

Barney is a little guy with short little legs, and he can’t climb up the ladder to get outside like long-legged Ruby can. Personally, I think this is a good thing. It means when we leave and go ashore, we can put him below and he is safe. More or less. Unless he gets into the engine room and chews through a fuel line (He was visiting our friend Philip and he wanted to play in the water in Philip’s dinghy in davits. Every thought, ‘How cute!’ The next time Philip went ashore he discovered Barney had chewed a hole in his outboard hose. Not so cute.)

But Barney thinks he is Deck Dog Extraordinaire. He struts around the deck with his little bow-legged stride, and when one of these huge tuna net boats gets too close while bringing crew members to shore, he runs up and down the deck barking ferociously (well, his version of that) and most times Ruby will join in. Ruby always quits first and goes to find her piece of shade, but Barney works himself into a lather just so pleased with himself and he continues barking at the rigging or the sky — or something that only our special dog can see.

For our first month back on the boat, as he has been getting used to this much bigger boat, we’ve always left him below when we’ve gone ashore. But Wayne (who sometimes thinks Ruby is the standard of normal for dogs) suggested we try leaving him on deck. It worked fine at first. He would get super excited when he heard the outboard returning and he would race up and down the deck. It didn’t matter if we’d been gone 5 minutes or 2 hours. But a couple of days ago as we were coming back to the boat in the pouring rain with a big box with our new inflatable kayak in the dinghy, I heard Wayne shout, “Barney’s in the water!”

kayakHe was up against the side of the hull pawing at the boat. This put his body straight up and down and he was going under. He only floats if he’s horizontal and swimming forward. Wayne got to him and plucked him out by the harness. I hugged him to me. We hoped that he had just fallen in, but neither of us saw it happen. It was raining, the deck was slippery, and we guessed he ran to the bow and just kept on going. It wouldn’t be the first time for Barney.

So, a day later, we assembled the new kayak and when we went to pull it up on the deck for the night, Barney got caught between the lifelines and the kayak. He needed to turn around to get out. He turned face toward the kayak, but there wasn’t enough room for his little body. He stepped back over the toe rail, and whoops! once again the Terror was in the water pawing at the side of the hull and going down. I literally saw his face underwater, eyes wide open. I jumped into Philip’s dinghy and pulled him out.

An hour later he was racing up and down the deck barking at the net boats.

The Nubian Poodle Princess was watching him, and when she turned to look at me, I swear I heard her say, “Seriously?”

People think when I call him the Yorkshire Terror it’s because he gets into so much trouble. Truth be told, it’s really about the terror I have of losing him one day. He is a handful, he’s a character, but I adore him and he’s become a beloved member of our little family.

Right Ruby?


Fair winds!




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About Christine Kling

I have spent more than thirty years living on and around boats and cruising the waters of the North and South Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Caribbean. I’ve written articles and stories for many boating publications including Sailing, Cruising World, Motor Boating & Sailing, and The Tiller and the Pen. When I was married, I helped my husband build a 55-foot custom sailing yacht. After launching her, we sailed through the Panama Canal to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands where we chartered for over two years. While in the islands, I received my 100-ton Auxiliary Sail Captains license. It was that sailing experience that led me to set my first nautical suspense novel, SURFACE TENSION (2002), on the waterfront in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring Florida female tug and salvage captain, Seychelle Sullivan, the first book was followed by CROSS CURRENT (2004) and BITTER END (2005). The fourth book in the series, WRECKERS’ KEY was released in February 2007. At the end of the 2010-11 academic year, I took the motto of this blog to heart. I quit my day job as an English professor at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale (just when they offered me tenure, I said no thanks and took early retirement). I was living the dream of full-time cruising on board my 33-foot Caliber Talespinner on my very tiny pension and whatever I made from my books having parted ways with the big publishing establishment. I self-published two books on my own: a small collection of four short stories entitled SEA BITCH: Four Tales of Nautical Noir and my first stand-alone sailing thriller set in the Caribbean, CIRCLE OF BONES. In 2012 I was offered a publishing deal with Amazon's mystery/thriller imprint Thomas&Mercer and they reissued CIRCLE OF BONES. The sequel to that book, DRAGON'S TRIANGLE came out in June 2014. And as for me, I'm no longer a singlehander on my little boat. I met Wayne Hodgins in 2013 and after a whirlwind Skype courtship, I flew to meet him in Fiji and we sailed a nearly 2000 mile passage to the Marshall Islands for our "first date." We now sail together aboard LEARNATIVITY, a 52-foot motor sailor with our family including Barney, the Yorkshire Terror and Ruby, the Wonder Dog.
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5 Responses to Boat dogs — plural

  1. We used to have a 3/4 Yorkie, 1/4 Cairn terrier named Cricket. She was adorable and sweet-natured, except when she was a Yorkshire Terrorist. When we first got her at a couple of years old, it took a while for us to train her not to take off down the road or run across the highway. If she did something forbidden when we were out she made the best guilty face you can imagine.

    Thanks for the fun post.

  2. Rebecca Roman says:


  3. Wendy – Sounds like Cricket was a handful too. At least she showed a little guilt though. Barney is very special. He doesn’t even feel guilty – he just moves on to the next bit of mischief 🙂

  4. Jennifer Gough says:

    Love your blog and look forward to reading your books…Thank you for the enjoyment!!
    Cheers J

  5. Jennifer – Barney and Ruby both say thank you for stopping by the boat this morning and giving them some attention! They are dying to tell anyone who comes by that their owners never pet them and never give them any attention. Riiiiight!

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