September 8, 2015

Mischievous mice vs rubber ducks

ONE OF THE ASPECTS of sailing that has always fascinated me is the wide range of disciplines involved. Sailing as a sport touches on so many other facets of social and scientific life that it’s almost impossible to list them all.

Perhaps that’s why sailing has always fit in with my former calling as a newspaperman. Competent journalists must know at least a little about a very wide range of subjects, and a whole lot about at least a few. The same goes for amateur sailors.

And now it’s that time of year again when we have to remember how to thwart mice intent on turning rubber dinghies into Swiss cheese.

New Englander Carl Thunberg wrote an impassioned plea on the Cape Dory bulletin board. He said he owned a Cape Dory 30 called Leona Pearl. “Our very expensive 11-foot rigid inflatable boat is riddled with mouse holes,” he said. “Does anyone know of a reputable business that repairs holes in inflatable dinghies within a reasonable driving distance of Portsmouth, New Hampshire?”

And how do mice come to eat holes in a rubber dinghy, you ask? Well, many sailors in the Northeast haul their boats out of the water for winter. They deflate their dinghies and store them in garages or barns.

This doesn’t exactly explain why mice would want to chomp holes in them, but believe me, they do. Exactly the same thing happened to Carl’s previous rubber dinghy.

Perhaps Carl’s mice have discovered a new form of winter entertainment, sort of like a spooky fairground haunted house, in which you eat a hole through a layer of rubber dinghy, squeeze through, and run around inside the pitch-dark chamber until you have scared yourself out of your little mouse’s wits, and then you quickly eat your way out again.

Perhaps they have developed a genuine epicurean liking for salted inflatable-dinghy fabric, or maybe the dumb critters are hoping that by creating the holes the boat will magically turn into a giant Swiss cheese.

In any case, Carl’s experience is not unique. Other Cape Dory owners offered suggestions from their own experience, the main one of which is to strew the dinghy liberally with a fragrant fabric softener known as Bounce. Rubber dinghies that have been Bounced seem to be immune to rodent chomps.

There are other methods to protect stored rubber dinghies, of course, including barn cats, mouse-proof steel boxes, and, failing all else, the use of hard dinghies instead of rubber ones. But nothing is as cheap and easy as Bounce.

I must make a note of it. I wonder if it works on seagulls?

Today’s Thought    
Consider the little mouse, how sagacious an animal it is which never entrusts his life to one hole only.
— Plautus, Truculentus

The problem with the person who has an hour to kill is that he inevitably wants to spend it with someone who hasn’t a minute to spare.


Sixbears said...

Mice are attracted by the salt, most likely -although they'll chew most anything. Porcupines are even worse if salt is involved. Ah, the wilds of NH.

Robert Salnick said...

Perhaps it is the salt... Getting enough salt is not easy in the animal world (that's why salt licks work), or even in the human one - during Roman times, wages were paid in salt often enough to give us the word "salary".

Has anyone tried thoroughly rinsing their dinghy before storage?