July 31, 2014

Keeping the wildlife at bay

THE LIST OF CREATURES who want to share your little floating home with you is quite long. Offhand, I can think of a dozen birds, insects, and animals who are keen to take up residence in your boat and enjoy the comforts of a warm, dry place to sleep in, plus a steady supply of nourishing food.

There are ants, bees, and wasps. There are cockroaches, mice, rats, seagulls, pelicans, raccoons, sea lions and, in our northern cruising waters, bears. There are also flying fish in the trade-wind regions, of course, but at least you can fry them in butter and eat them for breakfast.

Raccoons can make a terrible mess if they get on board, and nobody argues with a bear. If a bear gets on board, you get off board as fast as you can. Sea lions are a big problem in places like San Francisco and even seagulls can make your life a misery by perching on your spreaders and turning your cabin-top into a skating rink.

But the wildlife I always found the most difficult to keep off the boat while cruising in tropical waters was the cockroach. There are many reasons reason why these cunning little devils have existed unchanged for millions of years. No matter what precautions you take against a cockroach invasion, they are almost certain to find their way aboard a boat in warm damp climates. Even if you dunk your bunch of bananas in the water before stowing it on board, these loathsome little critters invade the boat in the form of eggs hidden on the stalks and ready to hatch.

And cockroaches are such despicable insects, furtive and repulsive, spiky and abhorrent.

Once I was cruising in the British Virgin Isles with my wife June, and 17-year-old son Kevin, in our 30-footer, Freelance.  June’s sister Carol flew out from Salt Lake City to join us for a while.

In preparation for her visit, June took Kevin aside.  “My sister Carol has never seen a cockroach,” she said. “I don’t want her to freak out, or think I’m a bad housekeeper, so if you see one, squash it with your hand quickly and don’t say anything.”

As it happened, we’d recently had a war against cockroaches and there were very few on board, but on the first night of Carol’s visit, when she was helping with the washing up in the galley, Kevin turned to her and said casually: “By the way, did you get the message about the cockroaches? Mom says if you see one just squash it with your hand and say nothing.”

It took June years to forgive him.

Today’s Thought
gods i am pent in a cockroach
i with the soul of a dante
am mate and companion of fleas
i with the gift of a homer
must smile when a mouse calls me pal
tumble bugs are my familiars
this is the punishment meted
because I have written vers libre
— Don Marquis, the wail of archy

"How's that book on anti-gravity?"
"It's great. I can hardly put it down."

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