Put the "ing" in your Boating

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rat-cartoonDinner adrift is something Doug and I do often during the week. Late afternoon, we arrive at the boat, drive upwind into Georgian Bay, turn off the motors and drift while enjoying BBQ dinner and watching the sun set as the breeze slowly leads us back to the harbour.

We've enjoyed this habit for years, but on this day, one thing was different. The GPS didn't work. It wasn't a big deal at the time and we thought we'd look after it later-probably the fuse-Wrong!

rat-chewed-wiresA Real Mess!

The next time we arrived at the boat, we were greeted by a real mess. It was now obvious why the GPS quit. Evidence of a rodent was all around us-a hole in the carpet, holes in the headliner and bulkheads, chewed up crackers-foil bags and all. Even hard plastic containers that we thought would protect nuts were eaten along with the contents. It even ate two speakers in the vee berth. And the worst was the smell of urine and droppings all over. Above the headliner and under the helm many wires were chewed including the GPS-no wonder it didn't work. What a mess!

Rats Aboard

After much investigation and discussion, we concluded that we must have a rat on board. Carefully following the instructions of the sticky new rat traps, we only caught some fur. Then, we took the advice of friends and boaters and left an appetizing lump of peanut butter on a huge rat trap-the good old fashioned kind. The next day, we just opened the car door in the parking lot and Terry, a fellow boater, announced that he had seen a rat in the trap on our cockpit floor. "Disgusting" he said. We agreed, but were pleased to have caught it. Success at last!

Two days later, we caught a second rat-even more disgusting.

rat-1-ropeWhy Us?

Now for the cleanup and repair-lots of time and money. Why us? Why would a rat pick our boat out of hundreds in the harbour? We know from experience at the family marina years ago that mice, rats, muskrats, weasels, mink etc. don't belong in a marina for this very reason and we used to take great precautions to keep them out and get rid of them immediately if they did get in. It is well known in the marine industry that muskrats love eating the boot on OMC outdrives on the pre 1985 models. The result? The boat sinks. They also enjoy trim tab hoses disabling your levelers and spewing hydraulic fluid into the environment. We don't have the answer yet. In our case, we didn't have much food on board. The only food they got was crackers and peanuts. I guess that is why they started eating the boat.

rat-3-ropeEasy Boarding

It's easy for them to climb up the lines and through the canvas hole on any boat. Once inside, they travel through holes in and around the cockpit, where the deck overlaps the cockpit liner. From there, the channels where the wires and cables run, become their roadways. Sailboats are a little more immune because the cockpits are designed to be left uncovered and water tight. As a result, it is much more difficult for an animal to get in-but not impossible if it smells good.

rat-railPrevention

Prevention is better than cure, so it is important for marinas to keep ahead of these animals. Boaters should also take precautions and store food in glass jars and regularly dispose of garbage. Do all you can to discourage them from setting up camp in your marina. Believe me. You don't want one on your boat.

If you have had a rumble with a rodent, or found a better way to catch a rat, please add your comments to the end of this article so other boaters can benefit from your experience.

by Brenda Dawson

Comments (12)

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Well Brenda, I am sorry to hear about your problem with Unwanted Guests, as my wife and I call them. <br /><br />I think the only way to combat the problem is to keep a vigilant eye open for anything out of the norm.<br /><br />I personally have...

Well Brenda, I am sorry to hear about your problem with Unwanted Guests, as my wife and I call them. <br /><br />I think the only way to combat the problem is to keep a vigilant eye open for anything out of the norm.<br /><br />I personally have had ducks lay their eggs on the roof of our houseboat, and have had a case of having ants climb up our dock lines :sad:<br /><br />On our houseboat website, we get to answer plenty of questions from folks who also have had "unwanted guests", and there's plenty of simple solutions to rid your boat (or a houseboat for that matter) from un-welcomed visitors.<br /><br />Since we live on our houseboat, along with two small poodles, they tend to let us know if they see any rodents running around. I guess they would be a "environmentally friendly solution" to some of the problems.<br /><br />Thanks for a great article, and I'm glad we could share our thoughts on the problem, and some solutions.<br /><br />IAN from http://www.all-about-houseboats.com

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With your boating experience the little guys probably thought it was the safest boat in the harbour to invade along with those nice evenings drifting and dining on the bay. They're not so dumb, they know a good thing when they see it.

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Sorry to here about your varmint problem,I had a similar stow-a-way problem once,A bird (wren I believe)decided to enter the boat through the fresh air intake for the bilge. must have walked all the way down the flex hose till it landed in the...

Sorry to here about your varmint problem,I had a similar stow-a-way problem once,A bird (wren I believe)decided to enter the boat through the fresh air intake for the bilge. must have walked all the way down the flex hose till it landed in the engine room,nothing to eat so it croaked. Felt sorry for the poor little bugger so I removed the vent covers and put screen mesh under them, probably helps with the dock spider prob. too.<br /> Cheers Chris

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We also had a rodent problem on our previous boat , It had gained entrance through the plastic engine room vents . After using poison to get rid of the squatters , I replaced the plastic vents with metal and added hardware cloth to the inside to...

We also had a rodent problem on our previous boat , It had gained entrance through the plastic engine room vents . After using poison to get rid of the squatters , I replaced the plastic vents with metal and added hardware cloth to the inside to further protect the boat . then it was on to repairs , it is amazing how much damage these guys can do to a boat .

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Rats are a big problem on board any water craft.<br />To get rid of them you have understand them.<br />Rats are foragers and they like it quiet when they come out normally under the cover of darkness. Leave a bright light on and maybe a radio if...

Rats are a big problem on board any water craft.<br />To get rid of them you have understand them.<br />Rats are foragers and they like it quiet when they come out normally under the cover of darkness. Leave a bright light on and maybe a radio if you have power. You can get ultrasonic rat repellent devices that you can't hear but rats and pets do and they don't use that much electricity. If you have an inverter 12 volts to 120 volts you can plug it into that and it should work for about a month. Have a second battery charge it up at home and swap it out when you visit your boat.<br />If you do see a rat in the daylight, be careful because it is either sick or scared or both and they bite. A rat bite is very serious and should be attended to by a medical professional immediately. According to the CDC there are 4000 rat bites reported in the US each year the CDC also estimates only 10% are reported. <br /><br />They like peanut butter so much so that when rats are used in movie shoots the rat trainers use peanut butter to control them. More on peanut butter and traps later…<br /><br />House keeping!<br />Never leave a scrap of food around anywhere. No matter what! No packaged or sealed anything. I don't care how good you think the packaged is Rats will get into it . I truly don't think rats can read labels on food boxes but, if they have seen that box before and they think there is food inside they will get it open. Rats in a maze. I'm sure you have heard of rats in a maze, once a rat has figured out a maze it will always remember it. Rats have exceptional memory. So if they figure a way on to your boat and there is food they will keep coming¦ and bring family and friends. Do not stow anything you don't need on your boat and keep everything squared away, this is a good practice on board a water craft for many reasons. <br /><br />Here is a good Trick<br />Clean your boat before you go home with ammonia. Rats hate ammonia. If you have a rat on board splash half cups around in the corners and under the decks then get out of the way because the rats will run and if you are blocking there path they will bite you… they will clime over you to get away from the smell. Ammonia fumes are heaver than air and will burn rat's eyes and lungs. Rats hate ammonia so much so that they have jumped from speeding trainsit. New York City Transit Authority will not use ammonia in the subways because rats will run out on the crowded platforms and scare the riders. <br />Get a plastic spray bottle and mix 1/3 (one third) ammonia with 2/3 (two thirds) tap water spray down all the seat covers to and bottom, wipe with a small terry cloth towel if you have any leather or vinyl make sure you also wipe that down. Soak the towel with ammonia then place it out in the open but out of the weather so the fumes stay in the boat for several hours. The fumes are non flammable but make sure to put the towel on top of something plastic because ammonia can sometime discolor some surfaces and never mix it with Clorox or Chlorine. I'm not a chemist but I understand it's not good. <br /><br />Michael Spinner

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Keeping them Out!<br /><br />Stuff every hole with steel wool but on a boat steel wool will rust real quick so use Stainless Steel wool it scratches the nose and the inside of there mouths when they try to bite it. I have heard that they use a...

Keeping them Out!<br /><br />Stuff every hole with steel wool but on a boat steel wool will rust real quick so use Stainless Steel wool it scratches the nose and the inside of there mouths when they try to bite it. I have heard that they use a stick to push and pull at the steel wool to dislodge the wool but, do it anyway, don't make it easy for them to get in anywhere.<br />Dock ropes and fenders are bridges for rats to climb on board from the dock so moor your craft in the middle of the slip and keep your ropes tight. Rats are good swimmers and climb the mooring rope. You can get rope cones at almost any marine supply store to help prevent them from climbing up the ropes. I do remember some old-timer telling me to smear Vaseline on the cone so the rats slip and fall off it as they try to climb over... I never have tried that. Next to the rope and fenders cleats you can place traps, place them so there is no way for the rats to get around them. <br /> Good old spring traps work well and peanut butter or bacon is the stuff to use however I have seen on surveillance cameras of rats licking the peanut butter completely off the trap without tripping it. I have had great success by hooking rubber bands in the bate holder and then using peanut butter. Glue traps are great but if the boat is not attended the rat will pull off the glue trap and leave you with hair. I have also seen that on surveillance cameras.<br />The best is to have both types of traps, keep them together (touching each other) even attaching them together with a chain and fastening the chain so that the rat can not drag the trap under the decks then die. When in a glue trap the rat will panic and trip the spring traps that will kill them, if the rat is not killed it will gnaw out of almost anything even the chain. <br />Rats always travel in packs and the alpha male will come out first to investigate. The other rats circle around and come to the food source when they think it is safe.<br />I have seen many rats stepping around glue traps licking or nibbling at spring trap bate, if one rat trips a spring trap that makes a loud noise, then the other rats react and trip the spring traps that they are licking… a chain reaction like dominos. Snap, snap, snap. So keep that in mind when placing the traps. Glue traps do get hard being outside after a few days. I have found one place that has cold weather glue traps that stay sticky for a long time.<br />Yavarkosky Inc. Brooklyn, NY 718 832 4937<br />They also have stainless steel wool, they call them Stainless Kates<br /><br />If you leave bate on unarmed traps this might fool some of the rats but I would prefer maxim fire power. Never use the trap when a rat has been killed on it especially it the rat has dead for a long time. You can wash it but if the trap has the smell of death only the hungriest rat will eat from it <br /><br />Wire chewing is very costly.<br /> You don't really want to spray ammonia on your wires. I don't understand why the manufactures of wire don't put something in the insulation that rats don't like. Till then here is a few things you can try. Aluminum reflective tape from Radio Shack or just aluminum foil but be careful it is conductive and if you have exposed wire you can cause problems like shorting, grounding, and even a fire so use caution and inspect the wires carefully with a magnifying glass. The aluminum causes an electrolytic reaction with the saliva that the rats don't like. Rats will chew open aluminum cans with soda pop in it, go figure. I guess a better reward. <br />If the rats have chewed into the wires they rarely chew through the wire so if the copper is intact you can get a product called liquid electrical tape this stuff is real cool. You can get it at an electrical supply house and it comes in a jar with a brush. I fixed my wires, some spots I had to apply 3 or 4 times to get a full thick coating, but it dries fast and I fix all my wires in less than a half hour then inspected with magnifying glass. The only problem is that rats like this stuff to. What I did is I got fine ground glass and mixed it in with the liquid tape then I painted it all over the wires. I never had a problem after that.<br />I wonder if that will work on stern drive boots if you use rubberized paint and ground glass. If someone tries that let me know<br /><br />Right now in September and October it is important not to let rats on you boat. Your boat is less attended and the rats are looking for a warm place to nest so winterize your boat and de-rat it to.<br />Good luck and good boating <br /><br />Michael Spinner<br />=====================================================================<br /><br />[Powered by Jom Comment]

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Hi Doug and Brenda,<br />We had a problem with a mouse aboard our sailboat the year before last. It got in while we were still in the water and we couldn’t figure out – at first – how she had managed to get inside. After all, we had “Sophie”...

Hi Doug and Brenda,<br />We had a problem with a mouse aboard our sailboat the year before last. It got in while we were still in the water and we couldn’t figure out – at first – how she had managed to get inside. After all, we had “Sophie” completely closed up! I assume our intruder was of the female persuasion because our first alert to her presence was her use of all the tissue paper on board to make a number of nests (3 in all) in various hidden places which I only discovered after repeated searches – some of which extended into the following boating season. Thank goodness she hadn’t managed to establish her little families before we found her! <br /><br />Well, it turned out that we had overlooked one major, but unexpected, area of entrance – or maybe two (?). Our engine’s air vents in the cockpit (both the fresh air intake and the air exhaust) had only the plastic Dorado covers over them to keep out the rain. We have flat, screw-on covers for the winter but hadn’t put them in place yet because, to our minds, the season wasn’t over yet. But to our little squatter friend it was time high to find a winter home to which she had found easy entrance. Once through these gaping ‘barn doors’, it was just a ‘flex-hose tunnel’ stroll for any mouse or rat to find its way into our engine compartment (one-way). From there it was, of course, free range for any four-footed intruder of the rodent variety into a veritable ‘palace’ for wintering, raising a family and generally cavorting about to its heart’s content until spring temperatures would coax the new colony to try to find ways into the wider world – if such an exit could be found. Fortunately, we also used aromatic cheese to entice our little visitor to introduce herself . . . and we were not long to wait. Placing the repast close to the bilge (the only source of water) we were certain greet her at the most natural of meeting places. <br /><br />We treated the little black droppings we found with great deference (they only look like caraway seeds). Dried mouse or rat droppings can harbour the dreaded Hanta virus (or something very similar to it) and therefore are not just inconsequential little tid-bits of filth to be brushed away. We cleaned these up with a moist cloth and placed them into a plastic bag. Dried mouse or rat droppings pulverize when swept up or vacuumed, allowing tiny fecal particles to become air-borne like dust. Once inhaled, they can become deadly infections in humans. Great care needs to be taken when cleaning up after rodents so we urge all readers to take adequate precautions. In cases where infestations have flourished, protective breathing equipment and rubber gloves are recommended in order to clean up after them. At the very least – or in conjunction with – thorough hand and face washing should be done after each exposure. Exposure to rodents is not just an irritating and expensive aggravation; it can also be a deadly menace.<br /><br />Thanks for bringing this to mind. I hope somebody benefits from our experience,<br /><br />Gunter Kuch

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Thanks to all for your comments. Great Help. Special thanks to Michael for the "ammonia solution" to get rid of them. We are definitely going to try this. <br />Michael sent me a further email with more advice. "One other thing I might've...

Thanks to all for your comments. Great Help. Special thanks to Michael for the "ammonia solution" to get rid of them. We are definitely going to try this. <br />Michael sent me a further email with more advice. "One other thing I might've neglected to mention that I just thought of, is on a boat do not use rat poison. The rat poison has a very strong diuretic which makes the rats extremely thirsty. The thought being... the rats will come out to drink water instead of getting into the walls and dying. The nature of boats is, there's always water in the bilge, and the rats will head straight for it. When they drink water, it causes the poison to act faster and they will die in the bottom of your boat. They will start to smell very quickly and might be very difficult to remove."<br />I think this is worthy of consideration. No one wants rats--alive or dead on the boat!<br />Brenda

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With all the advice being given here it's a shame no one thought to ask a licensed exterminator what to do or how mouse poisons work. Most common rodenticides today are called anti-coagulants and cause internal bleeding via thinning out the...

With all the advice being given here it's a shame no one thought to ask a licensed exterminator what to do or how mouse poisons work. Most common rodenticides today are called anti-coagulants and cause internal bleeding via thinning out the blood. This is what kills the rodents, along with several other chemicals added to dry out the body fluids and help prevent odour issues. Rodents do not usually seek out water or go outside to die but go to where they have been nesting, usually a quiet place close to where they have been getting food. When dealing with rodents on boats there really is no right or wrong way but using multiple traps and poisons will usually gain the best results. On our boat each fall we place poison in tamper resistant bait stations in various places to ensure should any of the little fellas try to board there is always a nice meal and trap waiting for them. Being a little bit proactive is always best, so protect your vessel and let the marina know when there are issues and hopefully they can get a preventative pest control program going to ensure the boats are protected.

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I had problems with mice or rats chewing up my nice docking ropes. I don't know what attracts them to rope, but no matter what I did, it was an ongoing problem. I finally found a bag on-line called a Grubpack. These are usually used for packing...

I had problems with mice or rats chewing up my nice docking ropes. I don't know what attracts them to rope, but no matter what I did, it was an ongoing problem. I finally found a bag on-line called a Grubpack. These are usually used for packing food by hikers, but they work great for my ropes. The bags are made of woven wire and the rodents can't bite through it. And the bags never rust when they get wet because the wire is stainless steel.

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