Cockroaches, like head lice and bedbugs, are something that most of us don't particularly like to talk about. We are especially reluctant to admit we have them. We don't have lice or bedbugs, but as of today, Nine of Cups certainly has cockroaches.
In our fifteen years of sailing, we've had and eradicated the little buggers four or five times. It is always better to prevent them from getting aboard in the first place, but it is hard to avoid roaches. When you buy groceries, they're in the plastic bags. If you set your backpack down for a minute on the floor, they crawl in. They lie in wait in packaged cardboard boxes of pasta 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.
Tying up to a jetty or pier also gives them a great opportunity to get aboard. We would almost always prefer to anchor out, but sometimes anchoring isn't an option. Such was the case in Mauritius. If we wanted to visit Port Louis, we would have to side-tie to the wooden and concrete jetty at the Caudin Marina, which would no doubt be teeming with unwelcome critters once the sun went down. We sprayed the docklines and fenders with insecticide in the hope it would keep them at bay.
As we were reading in bed one evening, I spotted a very large, very brazen, and undoubtedly very pregnant roach watching me from outside the screen over the port beside the bed. I gave her my most intimidating stare, but she just stared right back. I tried swatting her off the screen, but she merely scurried up the screen towards the deck. I grabbed a flashlight and went hunting for her, but had no luck finding her. A couple of days later, I spotted her on the galley counter, and this time I got her, but by then I was sure she had laid her eggs. Sure enough, a couple of weeks later we started seeing her little ones – first one, then a couple more. Once we arrived in Durban, I began our eradication program.
We use boric acid to eliminate them. It is much less toxic than most insecticides and very effective. For round one, we use an old salt shaker filled with the boric acid powder. We shake out a light dusting of the powder along the floor and edges of the counters where we've seen them, as well as under any nearby floorboards. The theory is that roaches are very fastidious creatures, much like cats. If they get dirt or dust on their legs and feet, they preen themselves. If they just tracked through the boric acid, it gets ingested as they clean themselves, and it does them in. Since they've tracked it back to their nests, the others living there, including any newly or soon-to-be hatched offspring will also get a dose. I sprinkled the boric acid around the galley and saloon four days ago. I saw one later the same day, but haven't seen another one since.
For round two, we make and distribute roach cookies. Our recipe is below. Obviously, keep them out of reach of children and pets.
- 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 teaspoonful of paste in used plastic bottle caps and let them air dry. We then distribute the caps throughout the boat, sometimes using double-stick tape to keep them in place. Any remaining roaches after round one are attracted to the cookies, which they munch and then take some home to their kiddies.