Goats go for a Boat Ride

Posted by John

Well okay, the boat was a Washington State Ferry and the goats were in the back of the family van, but the title is still accurate.

When categorizing those who cruise for longer distances than that which can be achieved on a weekend or annual vacation, there seems to be two types: those who live aboard with no other home, and those who maintain a separate home on land.

I envy those whose only home is their boat and the possessions which will fit inside it. However, for so many reasons that seem right at this point in life, we have chosen to keep our home and property and a lot of our things in waiting for our eventual return. At least that is the plan for now.

A few years ago when we first started formulating our cruising plan, we were responsible for a dog, a cat, two goats, fifteen chickens of various breeds and probably tens of thousands of honeybees in wooden hives. All of these creatures earned their keep, whether it was scaring bears away and chasing deer from the garden, or keeping the mouse population in check, or eating weeds and bugs, or eliminating blackberries and other invasive plants, or pollinating the fruit trees; or even just barking, crowing, clucking or bleating to warn us when something was amiss. Even a few well-placed bee hives will keep strangers from wandering around too much. But they all, including the honeybees, require at least supplemental feeding and human interaction. Not something from which you can just one day turn your back on and sail away.

The dog, the cat, most of the chickens and all of the bees were gradually lost through natural attrition. But what do you do with a couple of 175 pound pet goats originally purchased by a little girl with her own money, raised from babies, named by school children and shown at the county fair as a 4H project? When the goats first came to our house to live, we were told that we might as well sell our boat because we were now tied to the land more than we realized. So true. And that statement has echoed in my head for years.

For the past year we’ve searched for a new home for the goats, hopeful we had something lined up, only to then have it fall through time and again. Thoughts of where and how they might end up, and what happens if we can’t find them a new home, are the kind of thing that can keep you awake at night.

As a kid, while sailing with my dad on Lake Washington and watching boats coming through the ship canal from Puget Sound, I learned to recognize the differences between the bigger boats that were sailed mostly on weekends, and boats of the same size that were much more far ranging. The local boats had clean, white decks, everything neat and tidy, while the cruising boats had old jerry jugs and rope spools lashed to the rails, and self-steering gear mounted on their sterns where the local boats had swim platforms. The local boats appeared mostly of form, while the cruising boats seemed more of function. I used to think that a few chickens running around on deck would complete the image of the far-ranging live-aboard.

So yes, late at night I more than once gave some consideration, at least mentally asking myself the question, of what if we found a way to carry the goats with us on deck, perhaps lashed to the rail like jerry jugs? But of course, not a serious question. However, it points out that the process of just getting away from home for a few years is much more difficult than we originally had anticipated.

We finally found a new home for our goats but it meant transporting them from our home on the Olympic Peninsula, across Puget Sound by ferry, and north to Anacortes to a family that already has dogs and cats and llamas and sheep, each species with its own purpose. And now they also have a couple of goats whose job it will be to help keep the blackberries and other invasive plants in control.

Two big goats stuffed behind the back seat of a passenger van for a three hour road and ferry trip. What could possibly go wrong?

It turns out nothing went wrong, in part, I like to believe, because of thorough planning and preparation based on asking ourselves the very question of what could go wrong. The same approach we are using to get our lives, home and boat in order so that we may enjoy a few years of extended cruising.

If the window opened, he'd stick his head out
If the window opened, he’d stick his head out
Goats: the new kids in school; meet the guard llama
Goats: the new kids in school; meet the guard llama
Exploring their new home, while we say good-bye.  Have fun guys.
Exploring their new home, while we say good-bye. Have fun guys.