Unwanted Critters Aboard

Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have problems from time to time with unwanted critters aboard. I'm not talking the domestic variety; I'm talking the 4 or 6+ legged variety. An occasional spider (small) is tolerable. You can't do much about the errant fly that comes in through the open companionway. Mozzies we don't like, so our screens are always in use when they're around. No, I'm talking about any critter that invades and gets out of hand aboard. I'm talking about the other creepy-crawlie varieties like roaches and rats, for instance. Eeewwww! We've never had a rat aboard, but if you tie up to a waterfront dock, the chances increase significantly that one will get aboard. We've certainly seen them up close, dead and alive. There are rat guards that some folks put on their docklines which at least give the rats something to think about as they're figuring out how to get around them. Once aboard, they eat and gnaw at everything including wood, wiring and foodstuffs. It ain't pretty and they're hard to get rid of. Traditional rat traps eventually do the trick, we're told, but it takes awhile and you have to hope they die in the trap and not get away wounded to die in some obscure place on the boat.


I remember friends in Ecuador who hailed the fleet about 8pm one night when a boa (no legs) crawled up their anchor chain, came down through their open forward hatch and settled comfortably in their head. Maureen nearly had a heart attack when she went forward to do her business that evening. A local guy finally went out to help them and, we're told, had the boa for dinner the next night. Rest assured, we never eat what we catch if it's been living on board!

moneybat in the Bahamas

When Jelly was aboard, she was great at bringing critters in as opposed to keeping them out. Huge moths (usually with a bite out of their wings) and small birds were her specialty. They were always deposited on my side of the bed and never truly appreciated.

We've been inundated by flies on occasion. One time in particular in Gloucester, Massachusetts, they about drove us crazy. David sat in the cockpit like the Mad Swatter, gloating and laughing maniacally each time another body was added to his growing pile of carcasses. He wanted to mount their little dead bodies on toothpicks as an example to the other flies, but I had to stop him.


Roaches are probably the biggest worry aboard. In the colder climates like here in Tassie, we'd never seen one ... that is until we tied up to the Elizabeth Street Pier. Roaches seem to like the undersides of pilings and piers. David spotted a few at low tide when our view of the underside of the pier was best. We hadn't seen any aboard and we sprayed the lines which we think deterred them from making any forays onto Cups. At least, we haven't seen any yet. What's the gestation period for roaches? Three weeks maybe. We're still on the look-out.

In the tropics, it was hard to avoid roaches. When you buy groceries, they're in the plastic bags. If you set your backpack down for minute on the floor, they crawl in. They lie in wait in packaged cardboard boxes of macaroni or crackers. They crawl inside bunches of bananas. We began leaving all of our groceries on the dock or in the dinghy, removing every item from its bag, box or over-wrap and inspecting it carefully before allowing it aboard. A hassle for sure, but much easier than trying to get rid of a whole herd of undesirables later.

Weevils present another issue in the tropics. They seem to come as an extra added protein bonus with your flour and grain purchases. You know how flour usually comes in heavy-duty paper bags? The tops are just folded over and glued shut...always a little flour loose at the top? Weevils seem to thrive in that floury environment and the poor packaging does nothing to deter them. I add bay leaves to all my dry goods canisters as a deterrent to unwanted bugs. I spread a few bay leaves around in our food lockers, too. It seems to work.

We've had bees and wasps aboard in great numbers especially in the tropics when we've had hands of bananas hanging from the boom crutch. We learned quickly to move the fruit elsewhere on the boat and never bring it down below until we're actually using it. We watched in dismay as an entire swarm of bees invaded the boatyard in New Zealand and visited Nine of Cups for a half hour or so. We were off the boat as we watched them land and were very, very relieved when they decided there was nothing there to warrant their attention any longer.

flying bugs

Ants were the bane of my existence for awhile. First, flying ants which came in swarms aboard the hardstand boats in Ecuador. It lasted for just a few days, but man were they ever thick. I fought with tiny little ants from Panama to Chile and they nearly drove us nuts. We watched one day at Shelter Bay Marina while we were on the hard. They marched determinedly up the hull and onto the deck and of course, found their way below into my galley. We sprayed them; we tried to drown them; we stepped on them; we used ant cups. Nothing seemed to work until we got to Chile's cooler weather.

We thought we'd share a recipe for Roach Cookies that has been effective for roaches and other creepy crawlers in the past. Obviously, keep them out of reach of children and pets.

Roach Cookies:

3 parts boric acid powder

1 part flour

1 part sugar


Mix dry ingredients with enough milk to form a thick paste. Roll out or put teaspoon size dollops on wax paper. Let them air dry. When dry, cut into roach-size servings. Actually, we put a teaspoon full of paste in used plastic bottle caps and to let them air dry. We then distributed the caps throughout the boat. The roaches munch and then take some home to their kiddies. It works wonders without using toxic sprays.


Days and Ways to Celebrate

A daily list of mostly obscure holidays and fun ways to celebrate them.

Sci-Fi Day

Isaac Asimov's birthday (1920-1992). His most famous work is the Foundation Trilogy.

Try reading or watching some sci-fi to celebrate.

Swiss Cheese Day

Not only eat Swiss cheese, but if you're up to your eyeballs in projects, consider the Swiss cheese scheduling approach...leave a few holes in your schedule.