Good morning! I had an extra-early morning when I was awoken at 2:20AM by the pitter patter of little feet on the cockpit floor just above my head – it sounded like a bird was walking around the cockpit. That happens sometimes, so I looked up at the clear perspex hatch just in time to watch a shape go by overhead followed by a tail trailing along. That’s not a bird!
I get up, find the flashlight, slide open the companionway hatch, poke my head out and peer down – there’s a mid-size brown rat looking up at me with big huge ears and a fine-looking tail. I decide it is time for the rat to exit ship. The rat had other ideas. Rats are small, wiley, and can squeeze into small spaces. Chasing them is not for the faint of heart.
Each time I lost sight of the Rat I wondered if it could have hidden in one of the sheet bags. Over the next several hours, in the dark, me armed with my headlamp, all the sheet bags were emptied, lines carefully examined and then slung over the boom, on top of the dodger, tied to upper life lines… everything on deck was elevated in order to provide clear view of rat habitat. Didn’t work. Could not corner the rat in any particular place. The rat never ran, merely moved with relative rapidity to the next spot. Several times I caught glimpses of a tail snaking around a corner…
I spent the next three hours following the rat around the cockpit until it decided to hide in the starboard cockpit drain tube. I could see it’s little nose sticking forth as it peered out from within the drain tube. This was the first time I had located the rat as it remained still… how to deal with rat in the cockpit drain? The drain is a large 4″ diameter pipe that runs straight aft and out the transom. There was a handy Pepper bottle within reach and I poked the end in to block the drain, figuring it now couldn’t move forward, buying me a few moments. I grabbed a nearby bucket and filled it with sea water, then sent the bucket of water down the drain – I was hoping ti would wash the rat out and overboard. No such luck, the rat must have run across the transom as it reappeared from the port side drain tube and shot forward through the cockpit only to pause at the in-place companionway board. Fortunately I had put the board in and closed the hatch when I first came on deck – no way for the rat to get below. A rat below-decks is completely evil, whereas one on-deck is a chase!
Finding the way blocked the rat moved off along the port side deck and I lost sight of it.
I spent another half-hour lifting sheet bags, checking inside drains, closely examining jib sheets and halyards and reefing lines. No rat to be seen. As it was now 6AM I knew that Lowes would be open. I walked up to the parking lot, drove to the store, and returned armed with four rat traps in preparation for this evening’s continuation of battle.
Now that there was some sun up and I could actually see things, I inspected the deck again, and found no rat in all his hidey places. This meant the rat had either hid in one of the three sail bags on deck (I had them on deck to make room to work on the holding tank), in the anchor locker where he would be stuck, or had jumped ship. I pulled the 0.7 spinnaker from the bag and winched it up to the masthead, pulled up the sock, no rat fell out. I opened up the dinghy bag, unrolled the rubber boat, flipped the bag in the air – no rat found. The spare mainsail bag was too tightly tied for the rat to get in plus no rat-chew-holes found in the bag, so rat not in there. I inspected the anchor locker, no scritchy noises or scampering feet noises heard. Rat’s probably not in there.
I now have a headache, am tired, have four rat traps, and believe the rat is back on the dock. There was no food anywhere on deck so the rat must have just been exploring and climbed up one of the dock lines or fenders to get on deck. Tonight two traps are going in the cockpit, and two traps are going on the dock. We’ll see if the rat is still around, and possibly if there are any others in the vicinity.
Also – Rigworks just telephoned, the NavTec backstay hydraulic ram is rebuilt and good to go. I’m going to pick it up in the morning!
We will also find out if there are rats on the dock that like peanut butter set in Victor snap-traps. Rats are super-interesting characters, inquisitive, smart… but do not make good boat pals. They seem to insist upon chewing the wiring insulation and hoses. I would prefer that Beetle’s rat return to the breakwater rocks along the shore.