Sailing with Racing Dogs

On a day of coincidental birthdays, we went sailing with racing dogs.

Beverly Jackson of Baltimore took her husband Thomas out on an afternoon cruise along the York River. Michel Gauthier did likewise for his wife Valerie. The couple lives in the small village of Casselman in eastern Ontario.

Sailing with Racing DogsValerie said, “We live on 47 acres at the edge of a forest, where we raise racing dogs. They’re a mixed huskie and whippet.”

Valerie took the helm as we headed upriver under the Coleman Bridge. “This is so cool.” Suddenly a pod of dolphin starting coming toward us, and then disappeared. Beverly said, “It’s just beautiful out here.”

Boat or Dogs

Michel said, “We used to have a boat, a 25-foot Chris Craft with a center console. It got to be too much, so we sold the boat and kept the dogs. We hitch them up and race them with a sled.” Like the Iditarod? I asked. “Yes, with shorter distances.”

Sailing with Racing DogsValerie added, “We had 22 dogs at one point, six of them puppies. We sold the puppies and are slowly phasing out the mixed huskies for hounds. One of the huskies got bitten by mosquitos and came down with heartworm. It would have cost $3,000 to treat him. We had to put him down so as not to infect the others.” Valerie works as a vet tech.

Sailing with Racing DogsI whined about our little Lakeland terrier, which will run for hours before we find her. “Our dogs do that sometimes,” Michel said. “As you can imagine, they’re very good runners. They can go for two or three days at a time as long as you feed them. Hounds, by contrast, will run hard for five miles and then simply stop and lie down. Our huskie turned up ten miles away at a neighbor’s place. We literally live in a forest.”

They said it gets down to minus-40 where they live, but the dogs seem to manage. On this sunny afternoon, we were fighting warm winds of 12 mph, dropping to 6 and then rising back to 12. The Gauthiers handled the ordeal well.

Sailing with Racing DogsBoating Story

We turned back near the Naval Weapons Station and flew the spinnaker downwind, ahead of a storm off to the northwest. I explained that the munitions are manufactured on base to avoid any hijackings of bombs. “I can relate to that,” Michel said. “When I was in the Canadian military we would have to escort convoys of trucks carrying munitions. The military usually doesn’t carry weapons, but we did for that convoy. Motorcycle gangs were notorious for hijacking munitions to blow up each other’s turf. They went after restaurants, bars and such.

I showed him how the collision course works. “When we were boating on the Ottawa River, I’d look back and see a float plane coming at us from behind. ‘Oh look, there’s a plane coming in to land. We should get out of his way.’”

The edge of the storm grazed us with some cooling rain, and then the sun came out. Beverly was the first to see a rainbow. Valerie explained: “Those are colors coming from the raindrops as they fall. You can only see a rainbow when the sun is out. Turn your back to the sun and look the other way. There’s the rainbow.”

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Sailing with Racing Dogs

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