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ghy from the davits while trying to hang
onto a boat that was now a bucking bronco.
I managed to get it lowered and secured,
then tried to figure out how to get into it as
it tossed around in the waves. Grabbing both
davit lines, I attempted to make the 5-foot
drop from the stern rail into the small center
of the dinghy. It was hard to know where to
aim; I lost my footing, then ended up hanging midair in an “iron cross” fashion, my feet
searching frantically for the dink.
Finally, I was able to drop into the dinghy
just as Sloopy came rushing by. I grabbed his
fur with both hands and heaved him, a tum-
bling wet mess, into the boat. I’d just had
time to hug him when I felt cold water rising
around my ankles. In my rush, I hadn’t put
the drain plug in! Luckily, I was able to reach
down, locate the tethered plug, and insert it
to stop the inflow of water.
The next considerable challenge was how
to get an 80-pound wet dog up and over the
boat’s stern and into the cockpit in raging
seas. By this time Dick had come back to
help, and he heaved and dragged Sloopy,
legs flailing, into the boat. Coupled with
adrenaline and relief, and a lot of pushing and pulling, soon we were all back
in the cockpit, exhausted, but happy to
Deb and Dick Rodenhouser now live in
Oriental, North Carolina, after years of living
and sailing on the Chesapeake Bay.
Getting a person (or animal) back on
board is harder than you think. To
learn how to do it, see this article
online, at www.BoatUS.com/Magazine
Several hours, multiple hugs, and quite a
few tears later, I was able to digest a few
very important lessons learned.
■ First and foremost, it’s critical to wear
a life jacket.
■ Even if your pet is a good swimmer, put
a life jacket on him, too, and secure him
in the cockpit via his life jacket, not his
collar. With a life jacket (that has a handle)
on the dog, it’s easy to grab the handle or
attach it to a halyard.
■ Always apply the “spotter” rule, where
someone on the boat keeps his/her eyes
on the person (or in our case, dog) who’s
■ Learn and practice the Quick Stop crew-overboard retrieval method, as well as
your approach to the person or dog in the
water, and the rescue maneuvers you’ll
apply when you get there. Learn which
one works best for your boat. You and
your crew need to know instinctively what
to do in an emergency.
■ When sailing, at the first sign of a
change in the weather, reduce sail, and
put pets belowdecks.
■ Finally, given the difficulty of rescuing
our dog, even with a ladder, we realized
that it was time to add a swim platform to
the stern of our boat.