So you’re at anchor in your favourite gunkhole and Fido needs to go ashore for a pee. Most people know this routine. It’s enough work trying to get the dog into and out of the dinghy without worrying about the razor-sharp rocks and barnacles ripping at your feet as you step ashore. Add to this the fact that the chances of keeping your feet dry during this whole rigmarole are slim to none, and it’s easy to see why this chore often tops the list of “Boaters’ Most Hated.” Below are some of the most common shoes for “going ashore.”
Boat shoes can work, but they take a while to dry and unless you have an old pair dedicated to traipsing in the mud, wearing your Topsiders ashore is a good way to ruin a nice pair of shoes. I often keep an old pair of boat shoes onboard that I don’t mind getting muddy and wet. The tops are usually splattered with bottom paint and they have bits of barnacle stuck in the sole. Like I said, they work, but they aren’t designed for beach scrambling.
Boots are another acceptable option. They will certainly keep your feet dry (barring any leaks in the rubber, or unfortunate miscalculations of water depth—there is nothing worse than having your boot fill with icy seawater when an especially large wave swells over the top of your wellies.) But rubber boots are hot, take up a lot of space on the boat and are great at tracking mud everywhere. Still, in the winter this is probably your best option. You can get them insulated for the really cold days and if you shell out a little more money you can get a pair with a pretty good hiking sole.
Flip flops are pretty much out of the question although they make getting your feet wet a non-issue. I know all too well the feeling of stepping out of the dinghy onto a slick rock and having my foot slide in the flip-flop and the flip-flop slide on the rock and next thing I know I am clinging to my flip-flop with my big toe while the dog is doing his best to drag me to my death.
In the summer, sandals are probably your best bet. Like flip-flops, it doesn’t matter if your feet get wet when you’re wearing them—unless you are wearing designer leather ones, but those should probably stay at home or at least in the saloon. They’re easy on-and-off and they transition into hikers, walkers well enough.
On a recent trip in Barkley Sound I was transitioning via dinghy from the mothership to shore multiple times a day. We were landing on various types of shoreline from shell midden beaches to rocky outcrops. I tried all of these footwear options, but found the best option was a pair of Keen Uneeks. Their soles are like a hiking boot, but their tops are like… webbing? The rugged sole combined with the form-fitting and comfortable upper made them perfect for shore excursions. Bonus: The soles are non-marking.
Some people might argue that going barefoot is the way to go and I do love the feeling of sand between my toes, but the feeling of barnacles and jagged rocks under my feet? No thanks.
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