Ah Rats!

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.


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

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