13 to 14 September 2018
This blog post contains content that some readers might find distressing including
images of rodent murder for which we are sorry
(but not that sorry)
Waking up at about 1am Stefan heard on unusual clanking of cutlery in the direction of the undone washing up. This was not the kind of noise caused by movement on the boat. He suspected something was up. Getting up and opening the cabin door to the galley he saw something dart from the galley around the saloon – A RAT!
We were utterly horrified. Powerless to do anything in the middle of the night we holed ourselves up in our cabin and started looking up remedies on the internet. Although informative, sometimes trawling the internet does not help matters!
Hiding behind our door we were listening out for more signs of it. Where would it find its way to? What damage would it do? We started reading all sorts of stories of wiring chewed, upholstery destroyed, colonies established. Stefan heard another noise and went out again, armed with the rolling pin. Mutually startling each other the rat darted across the galley and appeared to be hidden behind the bananas in a bowl. In a bizarre stand off Stefan and rat waited for each other’s next move, Stefan with rolling pin at the ready. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that even his razor sharp reactions were unlikely to match this beast’s.
With no sign of movement Stefan gave up and we again shut ourselves up in bed and waited for dawn and the shops to open. At 9am we headed out for the hardware shop leaving Roland (1980’s UK children’s TV reference) with the run of the boat until we returned with implements of torture.
On the way we talked to the marineros for the marina. Clearly they have some experience of getting rid of rats as they were able to show us exactly what we needed to buy. We know that glue traps are the least humane traps. They are horribly cruel but given the damage Roland could do to the boat (not least our sanity) we needed something effective and fast! Poison would mean a dead rat hidden and decomposing in the boat somewhere. Snap traps and baited traps seemed like too much of a long game for our urgent need to get rid of Roland.
Returning from the hardware shop with glue, bait and boards we also were tempted to catnap a stray cat that crossed our path on the way. The marineros came and helped us set up the traps and soon we had three glue boards in strategic places around the saloon.
We felt like hostages in our own home, jumping at any noise, terrified to open cupboards and doors. We wanted to give Roland a chance to come out to find the traps so we headed out for breakfast and tucked into nutella pancakes to take our minds off what was happening back at Pintail. We visited a local hotel to find out its rates. We really didn’t want to go home and seriously considered checking in!
An extended walk around town later we had to return. No sign of Roland on any of the traps. We seriously hoped that Roland was a boy and not a pregnant Rolanda capable of having 12 baby rats 7 times a year and making a nest somewhere.
By evening we had convinced ourselves that maybe he had left of his own accord. We had found no further evidence of his presence, no droppings, no sightings, no ratty noises. With the traps laid we went to bed and slept…
…until Stefan got up at about 1am. He found droppings in the galley area. With renewed horror we looked around and saw evidence of the damage he was doing. He had nibbled at the plastic of the packet of bait which Stefan (in his rat catching wisdom) had left out on the table. Roland had nibbled at the wood surrounding the slide hole in one of the galley cupboard doors. He had not, however, been anywhere near the traps!
We decided that as there was evidence he liked hanging out in the galley we would move one of the traps up to the work surface. We locked ourselves in our cabin again and waited. At 2.30am we heard a commotion in the galley and Stefan bravely stepped out. “We’ve got him!” Roland was stuck to the glue and squealing. We couldn’t leave him there to die slowly so Stefan grabbed the rolling pin.
At this point I admit that I hid my head under the duvet whilst the three sharp thuds were delivered.
I thought I could not love Stefan more than when he emerged covered in pooh having unblocked the forward head last year. But in that moment, at 2.30am, armed with the rolling pin, putting the stuck rat (and us) out of its misery I loved him even more.
And then whilst making a celebratory cup of tea at 3am he also killed a mosquito. He is without doubt my all time favourite pest controller.
Sunday morning was dedicated to clearing up the damage. I scrubbed the galley and saloon with more bleach than is probably healthy. Stefan checked as much of the wiring as is visible and tested all the electronics. No obvious damage there. All in all we were very lucky the ordeal was so short.
We hoped, beyond hope, Roland was a lone invader but at least we now have the tools (if not the resilience) to deal with it. We are still freezing at any ratty type noises but thankfully we have found no evidence he had an accomplice.
This life comes with its highs and lows. This low goes straight to the top of the leader board of lows.
Things we have learnt
(1) Preventing rats getting on board is quite hard. They can jump great distances (up to 1m) so rat guards on mooring lines might not be that effective if you have a swim platform or they can jump on the passerelle or from a neighbouring boat to get onboard. Plus being at anchor is no protection, rats can swim and climb up your anchor chain!
(2) Closing washboards and all windows at all times to stop rats getting in is not really that practical, even in cooler weather, but, whilst our paranoia persists, we are currently suffering the stuffiness just in case!
(3) Once they get in, they get EVERYWHERE. We found droppings in improbable places. We read that they can squeeze through gaps only half an inch wide. We threw our toaster out afterwards as we could not guarantee that Roland had not found his way in the cupboard it was in.
(4) Glue traps are indeed horribly cruel. We were glad that Roland wasn’t stuck dying slowly and screaming on the trap for hours. However, desperate times and all that.
(5) The list of horrible diseases rats carry is long and we were extra careful when handling him and cleaning up his mess. We heeded warnings about disposing of the droppings. Hoovering them up is not a good idea as their germs can get spread from inside the vacuum cleaner.
(6) Naming your rat after a cuddly children’s TV character does not make it more endearing!