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Life Is Not Always Plain Sailing

Plans have altered dramatically for Two Drifters and some serious life-changing decisions made. Just six weeks ago, we had all our ducks lined up in order to do a transatlantic crossing from North America to Europe this summer. Finally aiming to sail back to Greece, a country we fell in love with during our first few years of sailing, with the aim of putting Two Drifters into charter and offering people the chance to sail with us around the gorgeous Greek islands.

While in Panama, the boat passed its rigging inspection, the sails deemed sea-worthy, the crew organised and we just had the life raft inspection to do in Florida on our way to Bermuda. Then disaster struck, as our dear little cocker spaniel, Molly, fell disastrously ill with tick fever (a disease transmitted via a tick bite).  Almost overnight, she went from bouncy, happy and content to lethargic and depressed and with a high fever. Off her food, she become skin and bone within a few days. It was heart-wrenching.

We had countless visits to the vets in Panama and some overnight stays for Molly while they quite literally put her into intensive care to treat her symptoms. I can’t begin to tell you how traumatic a time it has been for us, as we nearly lost Molly on more than one occasion. We have wept buckets as she fought for her life.  Molly already had a heart murmur, but it had never been a problem to her, until now, as the tick fever attacked her heart, lungs and kidneys. Her immune system very low, she caught canine bronchitis and also got a nasty bacterial infection on her nose and bottom.

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Molly, content on a beach, but dealing with a bacterial infection on her nose and tail


Being in a foreign country and not speaking the native language was just another obstacle in our way. But as long as Molly was fighting her cause, so did we, not once giving up on her.

The support of our sailing companions, friends and family has been immense and we are deeply grateful for the love and affection shown to us and Molly.  The many offers to sit with her for a couple of hours so we could go shopping or just take a little time-off together were much appreciated. We were also more than grateful for the assistance of two retired vets who were on our rally, as they quickly saw how ill she was and galvanized us into action to get her hospitalised immediately.

Molly on a stay in the 'dogspital'

Staying overnight at a vets in a ‘dogspital’ was needed on a couple of occasions. Good thing she had her favourite teddy to keep her company


Dr Aixa Bonilla, the wonderful Panama vet who we met when Molly spent her first night in ‘dogspital’ has kept in daily contact with us over the last six weeks on WhatsApp, offering advice and help to our continuous queries as we’ve nursed our little dog back to life. Now that’s a vet-in-a-million, with a true passion for her vocation and endless love for animals. We are so grateful to have crossed her path and for anyone reading this needing a vet in Panama, she is the one to visit. (www.facebook.com/petlifepty)

With rest and recuperation, Molly gradually showed a little improvement, so we were able to sail onto the Colombian island of San Andres and Providencia to join our boat friends. However, one thing became very clear, her long-haul sailing days were over. This little dog was not going to cross the Atlantic on Two Drifters, so with time of the essence we needed to look other means to get her to Europe.

While she had lost a lot of weight, she’s still too large to be put in a dog carrier in the cabin of a plane, and also her bladder wasn’t strong enough for an eight-hour flight.  Putting her in a crate in the cargo hold was also quickly discounted.

One small smile on the horizon was the possibility of her travelling on the QM2 as they allow dogs on the transatlantic voyage from New York to Southampton. But the thoughts of Molly and I cuddling up in a five-star luxury cabin were soon thwarted as Molly would be relegated to a kennel with restricted visiting times; not good for a poorly pup who needs lots of TLC.

Time was pressing on and decisions needed to be made about our future and soon. With hurricane season looming on 1 June and insurance companies being iffy about where boats will be insured to be this season; there was an unenviable minefield of ideas being thrown into the proverbial cooking pot.  Do we head north up the coast of the Eastern USA? Do we stay in the Caribbean and head to a known hurricane hole? Do we stay in Central America.

One item, going up the Eastern Coast of the USA was quickly knocked off the list as our current insurance company refused to cover us for any known wind storms this side of the Atlantic.  We needed to find a destination that has little threat of hurricanes and to also a new insurance company to cover us.

Molly on a drip

Molly on a drip, which Skipper has carefully set up inside the boat


And all of this going on with Molly on a daily drip to keep her hydrated and being hand-fed her food, let alone making it all into a smoothie twice a day in order to get an incredible amount of antibiotics down her. The commitment and dedication to feeding her Skipper has shown is nothing short of wonderful as it was taking a good two hours each morning to get her sorted.  Our sleep pattern, also disrupted as the constant rehydration continues at night helping her to drink her water ….and then the obvious need to take her outside to spend a penny (or ‘to go potty’ as our American friends say).

Using a syringe to feed Molly

Hand feeding Molly, and sometimes using a syringe to get her to eat or take tablets

With no internet and few distractions (aside from looking out for pirates) on our three-day sail from Providencia to the Guanaja, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras, we finally made our decision. And boy do we now feel so relieved.

We will stay with the boat this side of the Atlantic for the next year at least. We have arranged to spend hurricane season in the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, where several of our sailing friends will be as well.  And for the next few months we will enjoy quietly exploring the Bay Island of Honduras, with little need to go much further until June.

Molly continues to improve daily, in very slow steps, but it’s still improvement. We have designed a ‘Molly Trolly’ (see lead in photo!), which means she can come out and explore with us more often and not worry about getting too exhausted by walking too far.

Her latest improvement was to actually give me a paw in return for a treat, which made me literally cry with delight and relief. This, and the waggy tail when she’s on a beach, are the first signs we’ve seen of our beautiful dog’s personality coming back. It’s slow, but it’s positive and we have paws crossed for her to resume a normal, happy, life, albeit a much quieter one.  

As for what we do next season? Who knows, I think we’ve had our fill of decisions for now, but I am sure we will continue our adventures in Central America and the Western Caribbean with gusto and a much fitter dog.

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Molly is always happiest on a beach


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