N 0, we aren’t talking about the fun stuff today. When I say birds and bees, I’m talking about the goddang $!*# birds, and those *[email protected]! flying insects. They do a number on our boats.
Just this afternoon, I was getting ready to hitch up my 22 Glacier Bay when I watched a wasp fly into one of the bilge pump outlets. This isn’t the first time I’ve had wasps nest on my boat—they love all those little cracks and crevices.
Every other year or so I discover wasps living in the wash-down hose compartment, under a gunwale, or in a rodholder. But it was the first time this season, and seeing it go into the bilge pump outlet in particular is an extremely big deal.
Bear with me for a moment while I flash back to the summer of 2005. I took my twin boys, who were five at the time, through the inlet and into the open ocean for the first time. We ran to a wreck about eight miles from the beach, where I knew there were some spadefish hanging around.
We anchored up and fished for a few hours, before I noticed that the boat seemed to be leaning over to port. I opened up a deck hatch, and saw a foot of water in the bilge. Yikes! Even scarier, I could hear the bilge pump pumping furiously away. Yet when I hung my head over the side, I could see that no water was coming out. The hoses looked good, the pump looked good, and yet we were filling up with water.
With my young boys onboard, the boat listing, and the pump failing to evacuate any water, obviously, I was more than a little concerned. We pulled anchor and ran in without anything else going wrong, thanks goodness.
Back at the ramp when I pulled the drain plug, it took a solid five minutes for the bilge to drain. Safely back at home I went through the bilge pump system with a fine-tooth comb, but couldn’t find anything wrong; the hoses were all in place, and the pump seemed to be pumping.
When I removed the hose and the pump shot water across the bilge I figured the hose had to have a clog in it somewhere. I dragged the air compressor out of the shed, took the hose off the pump and yes, you guessed it—when I let loose with a blast of air, a waterlogged wasp’s nest came shooting out.
Although,I may be overemphasizing a bit, it’s not entirely crazy to say that those #*&! wasps could have killed my sons and me.
So yeah, when I saw that wasp fly into the bilge pump outlet I got a bit irate.
Wasps aren’t the only insidious insects we boaters have to deal with. I’ve had carpenter bees move into through-hull fittings, ants decide to set up house in my outboard’s tell-tale, and flies decide to reside in my bait cooler. (Okay, that last one was my fault. I left a bag of mullet in there by accident, and two weeks later, it was pretty ugly).
Unfortunately, the only way to successfully battle insect invasions is to keep a sharp eye out and take action the moment you see something that indicates they’ve moved aboard. These days when I see a wasp flying around my boat, for example, I take a minute or two to watch it, and see where it goes. If it doesn’t disappear into the distance, I’ll usually be able to track down the nest and take appropriate measures.
What about the birds? They can do a number on a boat, too. Their droppings are acidic and eats away at the waterproofing properties of your canvas covers, Bimini tops, and T-tops. It also can speed the demise of marine vinyls, which have UV-protective coatings that can similarly be melted away.
On rare occasions they may even nest in a T-top, but if this happens to you, I’d respectfully submit that you really need to get the boat out more often. In any case, the best way to deal with bird droppings is to wash them away as soon as possible. Let them sit for a couple of weeks, and the damage is already done. It’s also a good idea to keep your boat stored away from trees or power lines if at all possible, so it gets bombarded from above less often.
Another issue you’ll surely want to avoid is a federally protected bird deciding to nest on your boat. Yes this sounds nutty and in truth it doesn’t happen very often, but every now and again something like an osprey or an eagle decides to build its nest in or on a boat. Usually this occurs on boats that are lift-kept, at the end of a pier.
If the nest becomes established and the feds notice, you may be told that using your boat amounts to harassing wildlife. Some people would probably remove each and every twig at the first chance, and another might sigh and accept the notion. I’m not going to tell you which is the right move, just remember that once a nesting protected bird gets noticed, your hassle-factor goes through the roof.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grab a can of wasp killer and take care of business.
Email Lenny Rudow at
Email Lenny Rudow at [email protected]