Travels with Rudy
by Scott Broecker
As the evening wind picked up, so did the swells, the fresh fish caught earlier sizzled and spattered on the grill and Suzanne struggled to keep it from sliding and tipping. Like most new sailors the first day at sea was getting the better of Rudy.
At just six months old, Rudy had only a short time to sturdy up his young land-legs before sailing off on a huge adventure. His adoptive parents Ty and Suzanne Giesemann had been living their dream aboard Liberty, a fully equipped forty-six foot sailing sloop that would become Rudy’s new home.
When Ty and Suzanne decided to adopt a canine companion, who would also be their travel partner, they first needed to research the considerations of traveling with a dog and having him along on board. A small sturdy affectionate dog that could handle the unusual conditions was a priority. During a stop over in Charleston, South Carolina they found their perfect shipmate and pal, Rudy, an adorable miniature, long-haired Dachshund.
Both retired Navy officers and certified captains, Ty and Suzanne had spent the past two years cruising and touring the eastern seaboard and were currently embarking on the first leg of a journey that would take them half-way around the world.
Rough seas wallowed through the night making Suzanne's late night watch miserable. Poor Rudy had thrown up several times, and Suzanne was nauseous and fighting sleep. After the depth alarm sounded mysteriously, Ty looked out the galley porthole and spotted a surfacing whale. Fortunately, the morning brought calmer conditions and with a shower of kisses, Rudy let Suzanne know that he was feeling better.
Delighted to arrive in colorful Bermuda after a rough 5 day trek, it was disappointing to find out that Rudy would not be allowed to go ashore. Ty and Suzanne's request was denied due to the fact that Rudy was still under 10 months old and too young to receive his required second consecutive rabies shot.
The plan now was to make final preparations before attempting the 1,960 mile long trans-Atlantic crossing to the Azores.
Confined to an anchorage outside of the harbor during the 5-day stop over with no chance of going for a land walk soon, Rudy gets his exercise playing endless games of fetch, chasing his stuffed toys (all known as “Mr. Sheep”) across the main salon. Trained to use a padded litter box made especially for dogs, Rudy is content staying on the boat. But just like a leash for a land dog, Rudy gets excited when he sees his bright yellow life jacket, also known as his aqua dog suit, get taken out. Rudy knows right away that a new adventure is in store. This day it means heading out for a kayak tour of the harbor with Mom.
As Bermuda fades into the horizon, Ty sets “Liberty” on a southerly course towards more favorable currents. Experiencing the highs of smooth sailing and lows of lousy weather and rocky seas, the trip becomes a roller coaster of emotions. Thanks to Travis and Grant, the two extra crew members along for the crossing, the watches are split up allowing everybody a bit more rest. Suzanne is comforted by Rudy and glad to see that he seems to be adjusting well. Hanging out and staying cool in the shade under the boat's Bimini cover, Rudy wears a tethered harness to keep him safe. He can still wander around the inside deck area with easy access to his bed, box, and non-spill water bowl.
Seeing Rudy stare up from his full bowl, Ty wonders if he might not be feeling well, but soon realizes Rudy’s dilemma and tops his dinner with the expected dusting of shredded cheese. As Rudy happily chows down under the table, Ty examines the navigation chart above. The boat takes a sharp pitch forward and then rolls to the left. Bracing himself against the table, Ty figures after the six continuous days of sailing they are slowly closing in on the half-way point. This milestone also denotes how far they are away from the nearest land, almost a thousand miles in either direction! Excited to contact worried friends and family, Suzanne sends out sailmailannouncing their progress and location. After looking at the globe, the distance still seems daunting!
A low line of squalls moves in like a freight train causing a rapid change in wind direction and speed. Nearing the end of her a.m. watch, Suzanne immediately alters “Liberty's" course to north northeast hoping to get around the storm. When Ty takes over for his watch, Suzanne joins Rudy who’s already been in bed since 9pm and slowly dozes off. Sitting at the helm, Ty watches, stunned, as the jib slides down the forestay due to a broken shackle and is now hanging over the side 8 feet into the water. While he is wrestling to fish it back into the boat, Ty calls for Travis to help him, then tells Travis to call for all hands on deck! Bolting up from her sound sleep, Suzanne fears Ty has been swept over. Racing up the stairs in shock, she trips, falling hard and spraining her thumb. Greatly relieved to see Ty on deck, she helps to get the jib in and lashed down.
Liberty slowly makes her way northward, rolling in the 9-foot swells and buffeted by 20-knot winds. Ty investigates a strange noise coming from the engine room and discovers a through-hull leak. With the potential to sink the whole boat in a short time, he instructs a change in direction to bring the hole above water. With a rubber plug, duck tape and hose clamps he makes a successful repair.
Fighting the constant motion becomes exhausting. Rudy with his stable four-legged stance seems to be faring better than anyone. With the intense 30-degree rolls, books begin flying off shelves, the toaster tumbles, and Travis finds out the hard way that Rudy’s box has flipped over. A wine glass that slid off its rack is retrieved by Rudy. Days go by with no progress.
Having weathered the storm, gray skies give way to blue, and the sea finally calms. Ty repairs the shackle and the crew helps to reinstall the jib. Feeling relaxed for the first time in a week, with the smooth sounds of Kenny G playing in the background, everyone breathes a sigh of relief as they take in the beautiful sunset. With the boat back on course, a pod of dolphins appear, streaming in and out of the bow wave as if to point out the way!
A day before making landfall in the port town of Horta, Ty and Suzanne celebrate their ninth wedding anniversary. For the occasion, Rudy happily chews away on his special steak bone. Dreaming of finally arriving on the green islands off of Portugal, Grant asks Suzanne what she will do first. With out hesitation she answers, “Walk Rudy.”
Followed by dolphins, they sail into the crystal clear harbor with an incredible sense of pride, relief, and accomplishment. After traveling 2,700 miles and not touching land for 26 DAYS, Rudy easily clears customs and ecstatically spends the next half hour zooming around in circles.
As Liberty sails onward Rudy's adventures continue as he explores the coastal countries along the Mediterranean.