How two crews and their dogs on identical catamarans became best buddies

Aww, isn’t that cute? So is the story behind this photo.

The pair are buddies Chester the golden retriever from Canada, and Awa, his new Spanish puppy best friend. They are fully fledged sea dogs and I met them getting ready for the ARC transatlantic rally (little did they know).

They met for the first time in April when their owners launched their respective Lagoon 450 catamarans two days apart at the yard in Les Sables d’Olonne. Chester’s owners Silke Sommerfeld and Rolf Oetter have hull No 130 and Awa’s master, Gonzalo Rubio Paris, owns hull 132.

Despite having only met beforehand on an online forum, the two crews – and their pets – got on famously and cruised down to the Canary Islands together “80 per cent of the time”. The dogs have become inseparable, with the younger one following everywhere. They spend their time hopping on and off each others’ boats.

Even if the dogs were parted for a day, they would greet each other, Gonzalo says, “as if they hadn’t met for three weeks.” The two boats usually rafted up together – you might say in a quadramaran formation.

“Awa comes over here to get some quiet time away from Gonzalo’s two girls [aged 4 and 2], and Chester goes over there for some excitement,” says Silke.

They both have their little quirks. Awa goes nuts when he sees dolphins and has a bad habit of peeing on the flybridge so that it all runs down the sides. Chester loves dolphins, which are “his biggest joy” says Silke. “He watches for them all the time. And he loves trips in the dinghy.”

As for the practicalities of sailing with a dog or cat, that’s an interesting subject. Not to mention the paperwork and the restrictions – many countries make you jump through hoops to import an animal, if they allow it at all. Silke and Rolf have far more papers for Chester and their cat, Sparkles, than for their yacht.

But more on that, and some practical tips and advice for cruising with animals, in the March issue of Yachting World.

Thanks for the photos to Kieran Higgs/World Cruising Club