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Old 01-18-2015, 12:07 PM   #1
City: Juneau
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Vessel Name: Pavane
Vessel Model: CHB 34' 1978 North Sea Trawler
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Big dog - getting him down to swim step

We have a brute of a dog, a 130-pound Shar Pei/lab/whatever mix. We want to take the dogs with us cruising but we'll need to figure out some way of getting him down to the swim step so we can take him ashore in the punt. An aluminum ramp would probably work, but it would have to be parallel to the stern so the top could not be propped against the rail. I'm wondering about rigging a framework out of 2x4's that we could attach the top of the ramp to. Has anyone had a similar problem?

We'd likely have to do something similar to even get him on the boat from the float -- the finger we normally tie to is too narrow to accommodate the length of the ramp.

Our other dog is a light (45 pound) and agile standard poodle and we're not worried about her getting around.

We've got a 34' CHB trawler and live in Southeast Alaska. Many, many beaches await those dogs -- we've just to figure out some logistics.

Thanks! I hope this is not a repeat. I poked around and found some good stuff but not this particular topic.

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Old 01-18-2015, 12:25 PM   #2
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A couple of years ago ago someone on the list posted pictures of a boom/hoist they used to raise and lower their big dog, they also had a harness fit to the dog to lift it on or off the boat. They said it worked well for them. Others have made ramps or ladders.
Good luck

For something similar check this article

Steve W.
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Old 01-18-2015, 01:01 PM   #3
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One of our Tibetan Mastiffs was deathly afraid if getting on and off the boat at the dock.

I made a simple plywood ramp to go between the swimstep and the dock, with a hinged piece we could hold up so he wouldn't see the great big scary water.
Kevin Sanders
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Old 01-18-2015, 02:30 PM   #4
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We had one of there when we owned a large dog. They're well made, folding and you can add flotation to allow it to be used in the water to help the dog get onto the swimstep.

My boat is my ark. It's my mobile treehouse and my floating fishing cabin. It's my retreat and my respite. Everyday I thank God I have a boat! -Al

@DeltaBridges - 25 Delta Bridges in 25 Days
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Old 01-18-2015, 02:57 PM   #5
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Need photo's...sounds like a great mix!

Kept this link in my boating folder; maybe to buy, maybe to slap together something similar myself;

doggydocks Floating Water Ramp for Dogs
"The most interesting path between two points is not a straight line" Murray Minchin
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Old 01-18-2015, 04:15 PM   #6
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Transom gate! More important than that, you need to figure out how you will get him back on the boat if he falls off! Our dog weighs 70 pounds dry; once he fell in off the dock and the only way to get him back on was to jump in, climb on somebody's out drive and push/pull him back on the dock.
Don't believe everything that you think.
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Old 01-18-2015, 10:58 PM   #7
City: Juneau
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Vessel Name: Pavane
Vessel Model: CHB 34' 1978 North Sea Trawler
Join Date: Jun 2014
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Steve, the boom/hoist may be the way we go, and the link was excellent. We've been thinking along these lines as well. I love the precision of the description in the link.

Murray and XSBank, yes to being able to get the dogs out of the water if they fall in. Molly our poodle is the classic "pudel hund" -- she is an absolute natural in the water -- while Murphy our Shar Pei mix also loves the water but has to swim hard in order not to sink. Doggy life jackets are clearly in order.

Al and Kevin, thanks for the great info as well. I really appreciate the responses.

Want to post a pic of the pups but struggling with the multiple technologies involved ...

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Old 01-19-2015, 07:36 AM   #8
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After damaging a rotator cuff lifting our 115-lb Rhodesian Ridgeback onto our sundeck, I bought an extra-wide, folding aluminum ramp from these guys. Discount Dog Ramps - $59.99 & Up

Works great at the dock, but we'll probably use the davit and a dog sling when we're lowering him to the dink. Next boat dog: a Chihuahua!

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Old 01-19-2015, 08:43 AM   #9
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Been there with the same size dog. Make sure he has a chest harness for when (not if) he goes overboard. That way you are not lifting him by the neck! We were fortunate enough to have a transom door to the swim step for dinghy trips, however boat to dock sometimes got tricky. We used a light weight wooden gang plank with some tackle to position and secure it. Make sure it is wide enough. Some carpet for him to dig his claws in is a must!
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Old 01-19-2015, 12:35 PM   #10
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we got a WAG products boarding ladder on eBay (from the manufacturer). Check out The dog took to it quickly. not sure if you have enough room for it, or any of these ramps, for the end to still be on the swim platform? Good Luck!
2003 Silverton 38c (not a trawler)
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Old 01-19-2015, 04:24 PM   #11
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We had a dog that would take a swim in the pool several times a day. He would get hot/bored and go for a swim. What was odd is that he would get out of the pool via the pool ladder not the pool step. Ya would think the pool steps would be easier to use to get out of the pool but he liked the ladder. Go figure. The dog was a poodle/terrier mix and weighed no more than 20 pounds.

I would like to say we trained the dog to do this but he figured it out by himself. It would be nice if you could train your dog to do something similar but I would still want a way to life the dog out of the water ourselves just in case the dog needed help.

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Old 01-19-2015, 05:00 PM   #12
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dog hoist

My wife Celeste and I began trawler-shopping in January 2007 and soon recognized that cruising with Striper, our 45-pound Portuguese water dog, might present a problem in getting her on and off the boat and into the dinghy while anchored. We felt it important to have a boat layout that allowed the dog to be with us and to move about the boat on her own, so we looked at several basic boat designs, including pilot-house trawlers and trunk-cabin trawlers.

The pilot-house trawlers offered the ease of allowing the dog to simply walk from the deck level through the stern door onto the swim platform and into the dingy. However, they also had a fly bridge that required climbing a ladder, something the dog could not do on her own-and she is too large and heavy for us to carry up and down the ladder. The trunk-cabin trawlers offered a fly bridge with relatively easy access for the dog, but the trade-off was that the trunk cabin trawler has a deck level about three and a half feet above the water. This meant that our challenge was to figure out the best way to get her to and from the dinghy from deck level.

Before we took delivery of Say Good-Bye, our 1982 41-foot DeFever, we read many articles and books and talked with other cruisers traveling with pets. We gleaned a lot of great information, but really nothing that would quite work for us. We considered a ramp, but the placement of the steps-and the davits that protruded from the transom just above them-made it a poor choice. We were stymied until I suddenly realized that we could simply transport Striper in much the same way that livestock are offloaded from ships. We could use a customized reinforced doggie life jacket and a block and tackle system on the boom to hoist Striper up and over the stern rail, drop her down to the swim platform, where she could make her own way into the dinghy.

Here's the technique we devised:

The life vest we purchased is a Fido Float Life Vest from Arcata Pet Supplies - Online pet shop for all your supply needs for just under $20. It's a padded floatable doggie life vest with mesh underbelly support that zips up the back.(Other well-made vests will no doubt work as well.) The dog steps into two front leg holes in the mesh underbelly and the vest is zipped snugly. The original design of the vest had one woven adjustable strap handle sewn onto the front of the vest near the collar and a second strap handle located near the hind leg area. The front strap goes around the dog's chest, forming a "handle" on her back near her head, but lifts her from underneath. We had The Ship's Tailor (a local canvas and sailmaker) add a woven adjustable strap just in front of the dog's hind legs, going around her belly area, thus reinforcing the second "handle" on her back near her tail. This modification affords total support from underneath and distributes her weight evenly between the two handles. The woven straps are adjustable to fit comfortably.

We feed a heavy line with spliced eyes at both ends through both handles of the vest and attach both line eyes to a shackle. Using a block and tackle attached to the boom, we attach the snap shackle to the two eye splices of the lifting line. Then I go down to the swim platform, where I control the 4:1 block and tackle that hangs from our lifting boom. I carefully hoist the dog from the aft deck up and over the stern rail, then lower her to the swim platform. My wife assists from the deck level by ensuring that the dog is guided up and over the stern rail so I don't snag her legs on it! A lightweight Rubbermaid container lid approximately 2 feet by 3 feet is all that's needed to cover the slots in the swim platform, allowing her a solid place to touch down. The line is unshackled and removed from the life vest and attached to one of the davits temporarily while we are ashore. Striper gets a dog treat, then hops into the dinghy and we're off. This method is safe and efficient . . . and best of all, Striper likes it!

One caution for dog owners. Don't just lift your dog with the boom and expect the dog to cooperate. Training is essential so the dog knows what to expect. We started by putting her in the vest, then manually lifting her a few inches off the deck. allowing her to hang while holding her. We rewarded her with a treat, petted her and verbally reinforced the good behavior. We repeated this several times so that she associated getting into the vest and being lifted with a fun and rewarding activity. Next, using the block and tackle, we lifted her higher to the level needed to get her over the stern rail. Again we reinforced the maneuver with a reward and repeated it several times. Finally, we went for broke and lifted her up, over and down, disconnected the apparatus and she hopped into the dinghy.

Your dog will soon learn that the process enables her to go with you in the dingy where more fun activity takes place, like exploring the land areas, beaches, the essential personal relief . . . and of course, all those dog treats!
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Old 01-19-2015, 05:07 PM   #13
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dog hoist

Forgot to mention that the dog hoist article was taken out of Chesapeake Bay magazine. I didn't want to take credit !!
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Old 01-20-2015, 02:35 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Pavane View Post
An aluminum ramp would probably work, but it would have to be parallel to the stern so the top could not be propped against the rail. I'm wondering about rigging a framework out of 2x4's that we could attach the top of the ramp to.

We go cruising in the summer with two large Labrador Retrievers in a 42' Grand Banks Classic model. The vertical distance from the cockpit to the swim platform is around 4'. I considered a ramp parallel to the stern but felt it would have to be too steep for the dogs to use.

Instead, I built a sort of staircase with two large steps which worked well. Sorry I don't have pictures. I used plywood for the horizontal platforms and 2x2s for the vertical supports and used 1/4" polyester line to give support and rigidity and attachment to the teak swim platform.

The dogs quickly got used to the system and would go up or down without need for encouragement.

Last summer I was aboard a 50' Grand Banks and used a different system. The boat happened to have a long passerelle at the stern that we extended down to the dinghy as shown below. The passerelle was supported by the dinghy when the dogs were on it and by lines to the flybridge, which extended to the back of the boat, when not.
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