Even Yachts Can Have Rats

Our intrepid columnist does battle with yacht destroying vermin.

Tell Tales
Yacht-damaging vermin have a taste for the high life.Steve Haefele

I was an early adopter of computers, but ever since they wandered off the desktop, they’ve taken charge of pretty much everything that a hammer and wrench used to manage. I’ve groused about this for some time while slowly coming around to the spoils of the printed circuit — until yesterday.

I was on all fours (wheels) when my diesel import lost power and wired me a troubling message. I shall not mention the vehicle brand, but suffice it to say that it hails from a country known for sausage and diesel technology. “Take To Shop,” the computer ordered, although it could’ve been “Take To Boatyard,” as it had been violated by a yachting enthusiast.

In Type-A fashion, I carry a diagnostic scanner aboard that translates the computer’s native tongue into English. Within minutes I was probing beneath the turbo, where I discovered that a portion of the computer network had been transformed into a comfortable apartment for a dock rat. After I made a field repair, the shop informed me that a proper repair would require replacing the wiring harness, which also meant removing the engine, at a cost of at least 4,000 bucks!

This was a first for me. Over the years, I have had ­run-ins with a variety of seagoing pests. I have seen termites quietly turn marine plywood bulkheads into neat piles of sawdust. I watched clumsy carpenter bees drill perfect holes into teak bulkheads, and I witnessed infestations of “­palmetto bugs” that were nothing short of apocalyptic. But rats on the marina docks? I’d always considered them a nuisance, never a financial threat.

Read more from: Jay Coyle

In one case, a family of dock rats turned my life-jacket locker into a condo. The incident did not take place in some seedy backwater; it occurred at a private club that charged more for a slip than a room at the Ritz. It would seem that dock rats have good taste, preferring tony clubs, expensive yachts and imported cars. But wires? Could the modern dock rat be tech savvy?

Dock-rat boarding parties can be kept at bay with rat preventers, which are basically plastic collars affixed to dock lines. As plastic collars send the wrong sort of message at more sophisticated yacht clubs and resorts, management often employs herds of cats to patrol the waterfront. I suppose a feline army is a comfort, but in my ­experience, dock rats scare the nine lives out of the average tabby. I believe our Burmese met this fate. While he was not keen on the waterfront, the pests found shoreside targets more convenient than the boats at the end of our 250-foot dock.

Going back to my vehicle, conventional traps have gone the way of the guillotine, so I ordered the state-of-the-art system in rodent control, in an extra-large size. This device has four batteries that charge a series of stout capacitors. The technology is virtually guaranteed to electrocute the rodents.

When the warden pulls the lever and the pest is dispatched, the unit transmits the good news — wirelessly, of course. I’m hopeful that the perpetrator will be an early adopter too.