Sea dogs – Cruising with canines

Two special guests of honour regularly cruise on board the 50-metre steel displacement Heesen Ocean Z – Milo and Dottie, the owners’ dogs. The yacht’s captain, Billy Lockhart (BL), describes what life on board is like for these peripatetic pups. 

Do these sea dogs have their sea legs?
BL: I’ve worked for the owners for two-and-a-half years, and they have been bringing the dogs on board their yachts that entire time — and probably before my tenure. Of course, when we took delivery of the Heesen last May, that tradition continued. The dogs are part of the owners’ family.

We’ve been all over the world and are now in Europe. We’ve trained them to be boat dogs! In the beginning, they were timid and scared about going up and down the stairs, but now they are fully acclimatized and have grown into good boat dogs. They roam freely inside and out. The crew might be up on the bow working and Milo will just walk up and sniff around, saying “hello”, and then go on his way.

Are there any challenges to having dogs on board?
BL: Well, there’s obviously a different process of house training — you can’t just stick them outside onto the lawn. We have turned the bow into a yard with fake grass. Milo got good at it quickly, Dottie’s had her occasional accident on the silk Tai Ping carpet… but animals are animals. That’s part of the deal.

Any funny moments with the dogs on board?
BL: Probably when me and my bearded South African engineer take the dogs for walks on shore. It must look funny to see two big men walking these fluffy little dogs around. So we’ve given them scary “street names” to make them seem tougher: “Here, Rhino! Here, Killer!”

What do the dogs do when the owners go exploring ashore?
BL: When the owners go to shore for a tour or something, the dogs stay on the boat and hang with the crew. They ride to shore with the crew in the tender, and we find all the local parks and take them for walks. That’s when their Rhino and Killer personas come out!

Where do the dogs sleep on board?
BL: When the owners are on board, they stay with the owners in their cabin. Last year, the owners were doing some travel off the boat and it wasn’t conducive to bring the dogs, so they left the dogs on board with us for two months. The crew loved it! The dogs liked cuddling with the chief stewardess at night. Milo also likes to hide out and nap in the captain’s cabin. He will sit on the floor and stare up at the bed — because it’s too high for him to jump up onto it — until I notice and put him up on my bed for a snooze.

Have there been any near misses — dogs falling overboard?
BL: No near misses, luckily. We don’t actually have any nets on board, and that’s because they are very well behaved. Maybe with other dogs you’d have to take more safety precautions, but Milo and Dottie are attentive and don’t try anything crazy.

Should more Heesen owners take their dogs on board?
If anything, having dogs on board is a net positive. I’ve been working on boats for a long time and back in the day, the idea of dogs on boats was totally taboo. I think that’s changing. Now, granted, our dogs are little and they don’t really shed. And if they have an accident, it’s tiny. Not sure if I’d be OK with someone having a big St. Bernard on board, but obviously different dogs have different levels of impact and these dogs (Coton de Tulear breed) are low impact. They are small and not really any trouble to have on board. It’s a positive experience to have the dogs with us. In general, people enjoy dogs, and the crew get legitimate enjoyment out of having the dogs on board as well. I think it’s good for crew morale and for their mental health. I mean, if you don’t like having a cute little dog around, I can’t help you!

Text by Risa Merl





Mark Cavendish   Chief Commercial Officer

| Robert Drontmann   Sales Director

Heesen Yachts North America

Thom Conboy   Agent North-America, Mexico, Bahama's & Caribbean