Daisy’s life jacket

Daisy the dog in an orange, Size L Outward Hound life jacket
Daisy in her new life jacket.

We recently ordered an Outward Hound life jacket for our dog, Daisy.

Daisy is an 10-year-old mix (German Shepherd and Border Collie is our best guess) that I adopted in 2010. On our last 6-month trip, Daisy stayed with family while we were out, and we think that will probably be the best option for our next cruise, too, especially when we’re out of the U.S.

Many sailors do live aboard with dogs, but for several reasons, it’s not practical for us:

  • Our boat doesn’t have a swim step or other easy way for the dog to get up and down between the dingy and the yacht. Therefore, we would need to train her to do her business on the boat (we’ve thought of a few solutions, but none is very sexy), or frequently winch her 45-lb body up and down in the air from the yacht to the dingy to get her to shore to relieve herself, and bring her back. That doesn’t seem like a pleasant life for Daisy.
  • Also, Daisy isn’t a water dog. She doesn’t really swim, or like the water. She’ll wade in up to her “ankles” but otherwise doesn’t find much joy in it. She fell into a swimming pool once, and although she figured out how to swim, she definitely didn’t seem eager to go back in the pool. Ever. So confining her to a wet boat doesn’t seem like a good lifestyle for her.
  • There’s a lot of paperwork and logistics involved in bringing a dog outside of the U.S. To check into the Bahamas, you are required to have paperwork from your veterinarian signed and dated within 24 hours of your entry into the country. That may be possible on a power boat, but since crossing from Key West to Bimini takes us 3-4 days, it’s literally impossible to do this. We have heard of people getting paperwork signed by their vet with a blank or future date, but aren’t sure we could back up that story. Another option is flying your dog in from the U.S. to someplace like George Town, but there’s cost and logistics associated with that too, and Daisy is not used to flying. So going to stay with relatives with wide open running land seems like the best option.

Nonetheless, we bought Daisy a life jacket for weekend trips to the boat. We needed something with sturdy handles to lift her up from the dock to the boat. Despite our following the size chart, the Outward Hound jacket we purchased (size M for under $20) turned out to be too small for her 26″ chest, so we upgraded to a size L, which was the same cost. Pretty reasonable, compared to some of the $70+ jackets at West Marine.

Initially, Daisy HATED the life jacket. She froze up and whined whenever she had it on (think of the snowsuit scene in A Christmas Story). But after lots of praise and bribing with pepperoni, she has come to tolerate wearing it around the house for short periods of time, and after a while, she doesn’t seem to even notice it’s on. She even lets us lift her up in the air by the handles (with a little bit of support under her belly). Our next step is to help her jump up on things while wearing it, to get her ready for boarding Temptress. We’ll see how it works when we take her to the boat.

Happy sailing, Emily
Woof, woof! – Daisy

Bathroom / Head / Toilet Renovations

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The head (aka bathroom) on our sailboat needed some work.

We liked our manual pump toilet (a Raritan PHII marine head), which Clark installed about 23 years ago, but it was getting discolored and key parts of the system were wearing out and leaking salt water, so we disassembled it and replaced it with a new one of the same kind.

More about this toilet. Something we like about this toilet is that it uses a standard toilet seat, so it’s cheap to replace. The new one also has a soft-closing lid. But more importantly, this toilet works well with our  plumbing setup. Temptress is an ocean-crossing vessel, and we use her as such. By default, our blackwater goes into a tank, but while crossing, we almost always pump directly into the ocean (once we’re 5+ miles offshore, which is the legal requirement). A simple turn of a T-valve converts it back and forth from the tank to the ocean output. We also have a pipe we use for pumping from the holding tank into the ocean when we’re out far enough. This eliminates our need to hire pump-out service. See the last photo in the slideshow above for a diagram of how this plumbing system works. Combined with the AirHead composting toilet we’re installing in the aft head, we should not have to spend any money on pumping out in the future.

Additional changes to the head included stenciling and painting the sliding doors (I forgot to take pictures of the before), stripping and re-varnishing the teak grating on the floor, and adding this wall-mounted soap and shampoo dispenser we ordered from amazon, which is going to free up some space in the shelves behind the sliding doors.

We seem to be working forward-to-aft with our renovations and refinishing. We now we have the head done, and the V Berth / Guest Cabin mostly complete. We still have plenty of work left to do in the saloon, kitchen, tool closet and aft cabin!

Happy sailing, – Emily



V Berth / Guest Cabin Renovations (and lots of sewing)


We’ve got the V Berth (almost) done on the boat. Located all the way forward, it’s a rarely-used area that usually becomes a storage area for musical instruments, produce, and sailing gear, but we wanted to make it up so we have an inviting place for friends to stay aboard.

First, we needed to purchase new foam for the mattresses. We got some relatively cheap foam from thefoamfactory.com. Each 5″ HD High Quality Latex Foam Mattress was about $100 for an extra-long twin. Then we cut it into the appropriate shape based on the old mattresses by using a very sharp kitchen knife (lots of trimming, gluing and hard work by Clark, and trips to the boat to re-fit). All our boat mattresses are non-standard sizes and shapes, so we have to add on extra corners and pieces using contact cement, and then sculpt them by using the knife.

Note: In my opinion, these new mattresses are a tad bit too firm, so for my bunk, we used the same mattress, but glued on top on one of those cheap egg-crate foam toppers using more contact cement.

We chose teal upholstery fabric to compliment the saloon furniture cushions and all the patina brass on the boat. We found the upholstery fabric at our local Jo-Ann store. I had to hunt to find the right fish fabric, and finally found this amazing Andros Island Marine fabric at fabric.com for the shams and decorative pillows. It’s easy to find fish fabric with cartoon fish or neon colors, but I wanted something that had fish that I recognized on it from the Bahamas. The Andros Island Marine design comes in a blue pattern and an orange pattern, which is the one we chose. Jo-Ann had it on their custom rack for three times the price, but this was about $25/yard online.

Here’s some of our sewing project photos:

The starfish pillow was a huge hit on facebook, and I even had people ask me if they could buy one from me. So I posted the starfish pillow pattern here for downloading. Enjoy!

I’ve also discovered there is an entire facebook group dedicated to sewing projects for boats. Click here to join the Sewing on Boats facebook group.

We have a few finishing touches left on this part of the boat. In the coming weeks, we will be replacing the old lights and adding some framed, laminated fish identification cards as art. Both the new lights and the frames will go on the opposite end of the cabin. I’ll also be making a window shade for the 2’x2′ hatch in the ceiling.  I’ll post pictures soon.

Happy Sailing and Happy Sewing! – Emily

Starfish Pillow Pattern


This past weekend, I posted the “before” and “after” pictures of our V Berth in the Sewing On Boats facebook group and the DIY Sailboat Interior Projects facebook group, and people went crazy for this homemade cushion starfish pillow I designed!

Inspired by our snorkeling adventures during our 2016 cruise to the Bahamas, this pillow is about 16-18″ wide from tip-to-tip, and a much more cuddly version of the big red and yellow cushion starfishes we saw throughout our 6-month trip.  I imagine it will appeal to sailors as well as any mermaid- or sea-creature-loving kids.


To get the pattern, please fill out the form below. After submitting your information, you will receive an emailed PDF of the pattern within a few days. The PDF will print on 11×17 paper. You can also scale it down to print on smaller paper, but you will of course have a smaller starfish.

Fabric recommendations: I recommend a sturdy, textured vinyl type fabric for the top of the starfish (I found some on Clearance at my local Jo-Ann store), and something softer but still textured for the bottom. I would NOT recommend using the same fabric for the top and the bottom, since the rigid top fabric is what gives the starfish its shape, and the breathable bottom fabric ensures that you won’t get moisture trapped inside the pillow.

Cushion starfish pillow I designed and built

Please note that developing this pattern took considerable time and experimentation, so please consider contributing $5 to help cover the cost of producing and sharing this pattern.

I can also provide fabric samples and a printed pattern upon request. If you would like a pattern mailed to you, please include your shipping address and I will contact you to arrange for shipping and handling. Note: this option may take longer if I’m out sailing at the time you request it!

Happy sailing and happy sewing! – Emily