Saturday, February 06, 2016

I Smell a Rat: Rodents and Boats Don't Mix

We have a rat on our boat. At least we think it's just one, I guess we can't really be sure. We've been told it's a "small" one, a "juvenile" to be exact. Not that this minor detail makes me sleep any better at night, because it does not. A rat is a rat in my book (I mean, the word itself is disgusting enough to make me gag), and in my boat - they are not only not welcome, but really, really bad news.

The first sign of trouble was when our lovely neighbor was packing up his boat to go home . "Hey there..." he seemed apprehensive and I got the sense bad news was coming. "I feel like I need to tell you..." he paused. "We have a rat or a mouse on board." He made a "sorry to be the bearer of bad news" face and I thanked him for the warning and bid him adieu. Rats are not an issue at this marina, there are marina cats everywhere and if a rat is found on a boat here - it's often brought from another place. Call me naive, but armed with this knowledge and a little of the "it won't happen to me" mentality, I didn't really consider his rat might become our rat. Unfortunately for us, that is precisely what happened.


For the record, I keep a very clean boat. All food is double bagged or in airtight containers. I wipe all counters with antibacterial surface spray multiple times a day. Floors are cleaned every couple days. I hand vacuum after every meal. I diffuse essential oil like a boss. Dishes are done immediately. No food is left out on counter. I have been told by more than a few people that I have OCD tendencies...Having three toddlers, however, means that no matter how hard I try to keep messes at bay, there's always a little morsel or two left up in the cockpit after any given outing. A nibble of cracker here, a piece of popcorn there... No doubt these little snacks are what lured our neighboring rat aboard, thus turning him into a resident. This is very, very bad for a plethora of reasons.

Not only do rats carry disease and are, in general, the physical manifestations of all things disgusting - they wreak a tremendous amount of havoc where they reside. They can destroy an astounding amount of property in a very short time. They have been known to critically damage infrastructure (by eating their way through integral pieces), sink boats (by chewing through essential hoses), and even start fires (by gnawing on wires, causing them to short). Yep. Despite what most people (who haven't had the pleasure of dealing with rats) think, a rodent's greatest weapon is not their significant 'ick factor', but their teeth. You see, one fun factoid about rats is that their beveled incisors, open-rooted and highly specialized for 'gnawing', never stop growing and in order to prevent themselves from getting 'long in the tooth' (literally), they must continuously chew and brux in order to keep their length at bay. What do they chew on you ask? Well, anything. Plastic hose, wire, and leather are all fair game. Just take a look at what our resident rat did to my favorite pair of (discontinued, formerly Grecian-style) sandals in a single evening:

This was literally my favorite pair of "fancy" sandals. Gone. This means war!

"I hear something," I whispered in a hushed tone to Scott. It was three a.m. and I was reading in bed, waving the white flat to my insomnia when I heard the distinct clicking sound of something chewing. "It's the ****ing rat!" I gasped as I grabbed his arm and finally shook him awake. "He's in our shoe cubby!" I said, laying completely still and horrified. This was the very first we'd heard of our rat. Sure, we'd seen signs. A few droppings under floorboards, a roll of paper towel with nibble marks and, the most peculiar, a half-eaten Mr. Clean magic eraser. All of these items lived at the bottom of the cupboard where we keep our garbage and it was, up until this moment, the only place we'd seen any real signs of a rat or mouse aboard. No indication whatsoever in our main living area, upper cabinetry or where we keep our food... a small relief for sure. After consideration, however, it's most unsettling because our rat resides out of sight in the under belly of our boat where pretty much all the important systems, hoses and wires that keep our boat working and floating *also* live. Suuuuper.

The next morning Scott emptied out our shoe cubby and we discovered that our rat does indeed love shoes. He ruined no fewer than four pairs. We cleaned out the locker, disinfected and Scott reconfigured our array of mouse traps because, prior to the shoe incident, we were pretty sure it was a mouse (which now seems so much less disgusting) and not a rat. I posted the shoe pic to our Facebook Page (to temper all the beautiful pictures of paradise I post!) and not only did our fans pretty much confirm the work was that of a rat, but that the traps we had set were not going to get him. Awesome.

Later that morning, I was walking down the dock with the girls, reeling from our morning of shoe destruction, when I noticed a man in dark shades walking down the dock with what appeared to be a rat trap in his had. Of course I stopped him. "Hi," I started, awkwardly. "Is that a rat trap you have?" I asked, hopeful. He looked at me, "Are you from the boat Asante?" He had the cool confidence of someone who eradicates vermin for a living. Confused, I replied that I was. "These are for you then, I hear you have a rat aboard. Bring me to the boat and let's see what we're dealing with."

I walked him down the dock, still confused at how he knew about our issue. "Did my husband call you?" I asked. "No, Brendan called me and told me to come down." Later that day I would see Brendan, the awesome marina manager here, and he would confirm that he saw my Facebook post and immediately called his guy to come help. I thanked him profusely, "It's what we do" he said with a smile (have I mentioned how much I love it here?) Anyway, I digress...

He came aboard, and after looking under a few floorboards and at some droppings gave his diagnosis: "You have a rat. But it's a small rat. A juvenile. And it's just one. Not a big problem..." he replaced a floorboard and started unwrapping the giant glue traps, "We will get him. We just need to be patient." I replied that I wasn't so sure how patient I could be, I mean - were my kids going to get diseased from this thing? "Only about one in a few hundred rats are actually diseased. If you get bit, that's bad - but as long as he's not in your food and contaminating what you're fine." He placed the glue traps strategically in a few areas we knew our rat had been, placed a glob of peanut butter in the big snap trap and stuck it in the bottom of garbage locker, aka "ground zero". He showed me how to work it, reminded me that it could break my finger, and said he'd check back in a few days.

That was a few days ago.


We still have not caught our rat. I've now moved from peanut butter to hard salami, which he appears to enjoy because he's been GETTING IT OUT OF THE TRAP. So I know he's still here despite the fact that I have not heard him or seen any signs of him since the shoe incident. But knowing he's here, living underneath us, and being all-too-aware of the damage that he is no doubt causing horrifies me. What if he chews through a thru-hull hose? What if he gnaws a hole in our propane line? So much about this keeps me awake at night. All the disinfecting of our bilge that has to happen, the fear of actually seeing him during my nightly bathroom break, the fact that we will probably be discovering his destruction for weeks and months to is. awful. The mind reels, and it's no fun.

But we'll get him, of that I am sure. If we could deal with (and successfully eradicate) cockroaches, we can deal with this stowaway. There's simply no other option.

Any ideas, tips and tricks are welcome! Stay tuned....

EDITOR'S NOTE: We caught him the night this posted. Blog post to come. Long story short: He is no longer of this world.
The kids thoroughly enjoy checking the traps.
The grab a flashlight and demand, "Mouse! Mouse!" because they want see it. #parentsoftheyear


Matty said...

Good luck in getting rid of the rat, but I would advise against using glue traps. Very inhumane, animals stuck can chew their own limbs off. Not really something you want.

Anthyllide said...

Hey guys, Sorry to hear about your rat problem. Try a hunk of fresh coconut. It worked for us! Good Luck, Kim and Scott

TeamFortress said...

Hang in there. You'll get him. It took 3 days to get ours... each day I added a new type of trap, everything the hardware store had to offer. Including cockroach poison, our rat really seemed to have a taste for that. Eventually a standard wire snap trap took care of our visitor. 100% mouse/rat free ever since. It is amazing what they will chew, and how quickly they do it!

Anonymous said...

Glue traps have been my most reliable over the years, at least for mice roaches, and to an extent ants. They aren't very kind, and you might have to kill the critter by hand, but they are effective at immobilizing. Placement is probably stuff you've read: place it on its normal running routes, which sounds hard to do on a boat. I read something today (coincidentally) about using a 5 gallon bucket as a live trap, might be worth looking into.

Eliza said...

I had no fewer than 5 rats living in my house this year after I returned home from Christmas with my family. We set 3 giant traps, all of which had contained dead rats awaiting me when I arrived home, but I could still hear them scurrying around in the roof at night. The only thing that worked was poison, and lots of it. I'm sure you're reluctant to use poison with toddlers around, but if it can eradicate my rat problem, I'm sure it can help yours!

Jared Pechan said...

We have had luck with TomCat rat traps. Killing stuck critters is not fun but it does work. Make sue they have no way to walk around them if you can.

Anonymous said...

Hey there,

Have been following for a while but felt I had to comment on this one. Have you tried or heard of the plug in style of rodent deterrents? We never needed them on our boat, but we have used them successfully at our homes for a while now...moved in to one years ago with a rodent issue...plugged these in and no more issue! They are a small module that you plug in (120 V outlet...shouldn't be an issue though in the marina) and they emit a high frequency sound that gives you a 1000 foot radius free of rodents. Safe for pets and people, and way better than having poison around...We keep them plugged in once the critters are gone and seem to be rodent free...good luck,


Anonymous said...

See the link above, I have always had good luck with this trap. They work much better than the all metal release. You said they are eating the food off your current trap, they won't do that with this one. You can set the level of pressure it takes to release the spring. Happy hunting!

Peter in Nanny Cay said...

Brittany. Do not use poison. Have you ever smelled a dead, rotting, rat in an area you cannot get to? You do not want to. Chewing gum does work as bait. It is sticky enough that they have to work at it. Anything they can lick away, or delicately remove, often does not set off the trap.

Colleen said...

Hi Brit and Scott...this is your loving Aunt Colleen. As you well know, I have a huge love of all creatures great and small. I heard through the grapevine that you have a rat who is desperately trying to become "part of the family". Rats are intelligent and awesome critters but they do prefer to remodel their surroundings so they are more suitable to a Rat's style and as you know in any remodeling project the first stage is demolition. So yes, you are correct, the cute critter can do a significant amount of damage in a very short time. Anyway, I have a fool proof very humane way to catch your visitor. It would also make me happy to know no harm will come to him in the process. I will tell you my secret if you promise to set him free in a more suitable habitat like a wooded grassy enchanted forest. :-) I will have to trust that you will follow my request. Take a very tall plastic bucket...tall enough so he can't climb or jump out. Put peanut butter on bread at the bottom. Put the bucket up against a seat or shelf that is slightly higher than the bucket so he can easily jump in. He will smell the peanut butter and he will climb in but he won't be able to climb out because the plastic sides of the bucket are slippery. Also, please put a little container of water in the bucket along with the peanut butter so he doesn't sit in a thirsty state all night. In the morning just carry the bucket to the destination where you will set him free. Turn the bucket on its side and let him scurry away. Trust will work as long as the bucket is a tall one like a painters bucket. I think they're about 3 feet tall. Kisses to you and the kids, Colleen

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Joseph said...

You should remember that cockroaches love the water. They can live up to a month without food, but not longer than a week without water. Use roach baits right way

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