I did a lot of research before heading on our cruise with Bailey aboard. Here are some of the things that worked well for us:
Stretching tether – I use a tether/leash from Shockels and attach it to Bailey’s life vest whenever we are in rough conditions or when I take him topsides to use the potty mat in the dark.
Flashing safety light – I bought a small flashing red Pelican (Miniflasher 2130) light that I attach to Bailey’s life vest whenever we are underway in the dark. Our friends could see it from their boat so I know it’s very bright!
ID Tag – Have a pet ID tag made that includes your pet’s name, your boat name and phone number(s) where you can be reached while cruising. I bought a stainless tag with reflective backing from Pettags and put both my cell phone and Skype number on it.
Bailey has a new tag this year from Pethub. The tag features a QR code that can be scanned by any smart phone. If he’s ever lost and someone scans his code, I will be notified along with the location where the tag was scanned. The person who finds Bailey can also check online to find his owner. I think it’s a great idea if you are planning to be in remote locations where they might not have the ability to scan his micro chip. Lots of people in the Bahamas have smart phones!
Bailey likes his new tag
Life vest – Write your pet’s ID information on the inside of his life vest with permanent ink.
Potty mat – I ordered a whelping box liner from Drymate. I cut the material in half, put grommets in the corners and tied cording through the grommets. Bailey didn’t like foredeck so we tie it across the cabin top. It works great! I used the same material all season and it didn’t pick up any odors or stains. I just rinse it daily in the sea and allow it to dry in the sun. While underway, we store it in the anchor locker. Training Bailey to use the mat was my biggest concern. We used it only a few times on our trip down the ICW in places where we couldn’t take him to shore. He resisted it and waited as long as 36 hours before giving in. Once we were in the Bahamas and we directed him to the potty mat consistently, he ‘got it’. He now uses it regularly with little encouragement. I think that using it every day made the difference. The first time we stayed in a marina after 3 months of cruising the Exumas, he still preferred using his potty mat!
- Tick Bourne Disease -Ehrlichiosis – In 2010 (our second trip) we learned from several cruisers about an epidemic of tick disease problems in the Bahamas. I first heard about it from a cruiser in Long Island who told me that her dog got really sick with a high fever and they returned to Georgetown for care. I later heard from a cruiser in Georgetown that her dog died from the disease. It was discussed quite a bit on the cruiser’s net with some people saying that some of the usual tick medicines were not effective. I contacted the vet in Georgetown and also emailed the vet back home for some advice. Basically, the disease Ehrlichiosis is carried by the brown dog tick. The symptoms are high fever, loss of appetite and lameness. A simple blood test detects the presence of the disease. Also, if you find the tick and remove it from the dog you should save it for analysis. Treatment involves a course of antibiotics (Doxycycline or Tetracycline.) It’s similar to Lyme disease in that once contracted, it never totally leaves and can recur. The vet in Georgetown advised using Adams Flea and Tick Mist to help repel ticks along with the usual FrontlinePlus treatments. Our vet back home advised that FrontlinePlus does repel the brown dog tick and I should apply it every 3 weeks. I think that awareness of the symptoms is key. We kept Bailey on the beaches and out of any brush areas. We also checked him over every time he was ashore and combed him regularly with a flea comb–not an easy task with all that fur!
- Jelly Fish Stings – In 2010 we saw lots of Portuguese Man of War jelly fish in the water and on the beaches in the Abacos. The cruiser’s net warned people of their very painful sting. Bailey got stung once when he stepped on a jelly fish on the beach. I could immediately tell that he was hurt as he kept licking his paw. I followed the advice in the first aid companion (see below) and gave him a dose of Benadryl and applied a baking soda paste. He was fine later that day. Be on alert for jelly fish on the beach. Wear shoes and keep your dog away!
- First Aid references – I have several veterinary references to use ‘just in case…’ I found ‘The First Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats’ by Amy D. Shojai to be comprehensive and useful. I also read Doggy on Deck by Jessica H. Stone and Cruising with Your Four-Footed Friend by Diana Jessie; both of which were informative. They had a lot of information that would be useful if cruising in places farther away than the Bahamas.
- Medications – We took Bailey to his vet before leaving and stocked up on heartworm and flea/tick medications. She also gave us dosage advice for using OTC products such as Pepcid, Benadryl and Imodium for mild illnesses. We didn’t have problems with fleas the first year but some the second year and they were hard to get rid of. We used a flea bomb once and also tried diametomatious earth. I think what finally worked the best was Adam’s Flea and Tick Mist. It was recommended by the vet in Georgetown to combat the tick-bourne disease problem. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the strong perfume odor. But, if it works…
- Anxiety – Rescue Remedy works really well. I give some to Bailey before thunderstorms or if we’re going to be around fireworks. It takes around 20 minutes to start working so you have to think ahead. You can find it at pet stores. (I’ve even used it myself!) This past year, we bought a Thundershirt. Most pet stores sell them and it really works!
- Documents – Ask your vet for copies of your pet’s health records to use for verification that he’s received all of his shots. Bring a copy of his rabies certificate and tag number.
- Dog Food – Although you can purchase dog food in some locations (Marsh Harbor, Long Island, Georgetown) bring enough food to last for your stay. The stores have limited selection plus, you’d have to carry a large bag back to the boat! Also, there’s no telling how long the food has been sitting on the shelf.
Permits for the Bahamas:
- Bahamas Import Permit – Request a permit from the Ministry of Agriculture at least 2 months before leaving home. Instructions can be found on the Bahamas Government. I usually send cash and receive the permit about a month later. You are also required to have a health certificate (see below) but the customs folks seemed mainly interested in the import permit document. Note that you can send for the permit well in advance of your trip. It’s good for a year and you only have to show it when you check in. Many people seem to wait until just before they leave and run into issues getting fast response from the Bahams. It’s not going to happen!
- Health Certificate - Make sure that your pet is in good health before leaving home by having all necessary shots and exams done by your regular vet. To enter the Bahamas, you must have a Health Certificate signed by a vet within 48 hrs of entering the country. Generally, they understand that boaters are on different schedules than people who fly in and don’t fret about the date. I followed another cruiser’s recommendation and visited Town and Country Animal Hospital which is within walking distance of the Lake Worth dinghy landing. They were very nice and accommodating and used to working with cruisers. I didn’t have any trouble getting a signed, undated health certificate from them (with the understanding that we were crossing over to the Bahamas within the next few weeks.) I added in the date just before we checked into customs. The customs office at West End (Old Bahama Bay) and at Spanish Cay was very efficient and didn’t question any of the pet documents. I also used the Florida Veterinary League in Vero Beach. They are very familiar with cruiser’s trying to get to the Bahamas.