CJ, Bitts, and a Boat: An Adult Cruising Adventure
by Kathy Vanderburg
BookVenture Publishing, LLC

". . . my plan worked, and I was outta that that pet shop and on my way to a wonderful life with my new parents."

Told from the point-of-view of a precocious Cocker Spaniel, this is the story of Rich and Kathy Vanderburg’s life together and their shared love of sailing and dogs. The story begins when the couple sees a Cocker Spaniel in a pet store shortly after the death of another beloved Cocker Spaniel named KC. The couple buys the dog, and a year later they embark on a trip cruising down the west coast of Florida to the Keys and onward to the Bahamas on what was to be a plan for semi-retirement—to sail for six months and work for six months. As CJ discovers, plans sometimes change.

Kathy’s father is very ill; the couple decides to buy a new house. and they go back to work full-time. Then Kathy comes home with a prematurely born Shih Tzu that immediately captures Rich’s heart. Bitts, the puppy, is now a part of the family, and as so often happens, the years fly by. Ten of them pass before the couple retires, and then the first of their sailing trips is planned. The book is a travelogue of Florida’s gulf and west coasts as the Vanderburgs and their two dogs travel from port to port meeting up with other sailing friends along the way. There are wonderful stories of beautiful sunsets, relaxing dinners with friends, and beach trips with CJ and Bitts, all told through the voice of CJ. But not everything goes as planned. There are problems with the boat, and an unexpected emergency changes the course of both their trip and their lives.

Dog lovers will enjoy this memoir as it is filled with the adorable, laughable antics of the Vanderburgs’ Cocker Spaniel and Shih Tzu. Anyone who has owned dogs will recognize the unfettered joy of a canine let loose on a beach as she plows through the sand. Vanderburg captures the voice of CJ in such a unique and believable way that one might believe she can read the mind of her beloved Cocker Spaniel. While this book is a wonderful story of the joys of pet ownership and travel on the open seas, it is also a love story, the story of a marriage and the bond between two people that lasts a lifetime. Rich and Kathy Vanderburg share both a love of animals and sailing. They work hard—she as a registered nurse after retiring from the United States Air Force as a colonel and he in the airplane industry. They save so they can live the life they dreamed of when they retired, and this book is a chronicle of the joys and sorrows of their first trip after retirement down the coast of Florida and beyond.

Though the story is told mostly through the eyes of CJ, this is Vanderburg’s story. She tells it well, stepping back and allowing the story to unfold as her dog watches and comments on everything that happens along the way. It is a testament to the human capacity for resilience and survival, to create memories and honor those memories that have been created. It is a lovely memoir of one’s travels through life.

Return to USR Home