Ratty, Roland, Ben, Basil. Whichever cosy name we gave our furry stowaway it didn’t make the rat any less unwelcome.
We were very lax when we tied our lines ashore at Port Leone on Kalamos. Not once did it cross our minds to put anything on the lines to stop a rat coming aboard. We had the boat all opened up overnight to let engine heat out after our trip here, even the cockpit seat over the tunnel was left open. Ripe fruit was in the bowl sending out tantalizing smells. All that was missing was the ‘Rats Welcome Aboard’ sign.
The next day, after a walk ashore I went to the fruit bowl, which had a net cover resting over it, for a nectarine. What I found was a nectarine with a large area gnawed out of it as well as holes in all the others and an apple as if it had decided to have a taste of everything. Only the lime was untouched. Argh! We tried to convince ourselves it was fruit flies or even maybe a tiger but the presence of small torpedo shaped droppings pointed out the truth.
We had a rat on board.
Staying positive we hoped it had been and gone so decided to stay another day at the anchorage. Another hot day turned into a warm evening and to keep cool we watched a TV show on the laptop out in the cockpit. Part way through I decided on having a nectarine (one that had been stored in the fridge at the time of Roland’s attack). Once again Roland had beat me to it and had had a good chow on my last bit of fruit. More alarming was the thought it was down below having dinner whilst we were just above in the cockpit.
We spent that night sealed into the aft cabin hoping it would leave by itself. Next morning there were droppings on deck as well as inside. So it was probably still on board. We hunted around a bit to see if we could find where it was bedding down but no joy. As we had no traps with us it was time to head back to the shops at Nidri. I hoped it felt seasick on our journey back.
In the supermarket near the Athos hotel we filled our basket with glue traps and the standard spring loaded traps. The spring traps were metal and bigger than the wooden ones so we felt pretty positive they’d be good for rat trapping rather than mice. Back on the boat and after a bit of research about bait we decided to go with nectarine as we knew how ‘our’ rat liked it; we didn’t have any peanut butter which many websites advised. With traps laid in various places inside and out where we knew it had been, with some trepidation we went to bed.
Not that I could get to sleep with my ears on high alert for any noise from ratty and just around midnight I heard scuffling noises from the saloon. Waking Colin up we tried to decide what to do. We hadn’t really thought through this stage having hoped a quick kill trap would get it but the noises we could hear were of a frantic animal trying to free itself from something. Colin climbed out of the hatch above the bed and armed himself with the marmaliser (a long iron crowbar my dad gave us that he used to use for servicing heavy vehicles). We normally use it for freeing a jammed anchor chain and sometimes for braining fish we catch (OK once we did this as we have only caught one fish). Now it was being called in to action for bringing death to a rat.
Anyway, from the cockpit Colin could look down into the galley to see the rat on the floor with a glue trap stuck to it scrabbling to free itself. And unfortunately ratty won. As Colin began to climb inside it ripped itself free leaving a few lumps of fur behind and scurried away. Bugger! It had also managed to eat some of the peach bait on the spring traps without triggering them so we needed to think again about our plan.
Rat – 1 : Emeraldians – 0
By now we were getting jumpy and edgy after lost sleep worrying about the damage the rat could do. I kept listening out for the automatic bilge pump going off (the boat would fill with water if it chewed through a pipe) or being convinced I could smell smoke, the result of chewed wires sparking together (we do have a smoke alarm but paranoia brought on by lack of sleep leads to very creative senses). When I finally fell asleep I had a very realistic and detailed dream that one of the spring traps had caught it. On waking I even said to Colin, phew glad we finally got it – he just looked at me like I was mad!
That day, every time I opened a cupboard I expected to find either a scene of chewed desolation or a whiskery face looking at me Fawlty Towers rat in a biscuit tin style. But we had had some luck – we’d managed to isolate the forepeak so we knew there and the aft cabin were rodent free. Plus our main food stores under the saloon seats had no evidence of visitors, we’d also hung food from lines strung across the ceiling to keep them away from nibbling teeth.
Our next plan was to close the whole boat up, windows, hatches, everything shut in case it was hiding somewhere outside. The boat got hotter and hotter as the day went on. We laid out traps inside and out in a formation that meant it had to cross several traps to get to the prized nectarine. We baited with much smaller pieces of fruit so they couldn’t be snagged off by long, rodenty nashers. Then we went out in the hope it would visit.
Over a beer ashore we speculated whether it had visited yet. We waited for darkness and headed back, creeping aboard. The outside traps were untouched. Opening up the companionway hatch we shone the torch inside. Galley trap untouched. Passing the torch beam over the traps under the saloon table something reflected the light. It looked like something was laying there. Had we got it? Cautiously down the steps, getting a better view of the traps….. yes there was a rat caught, well and truly dead (tested with a poke from the marmaliser).
Huge relief washed over us but there could still be more. Given there were no droppings we didn’t think so but best not to be too hasty so we left the remaining traps out overnight. Proper full relief was felt the next morning when we found no further evidence of rats. We still don’t know where it hid out and might never find its hidey hole but we got away without any damage that is obvious. No water leakage, no faulty electronics. Phew!
Oh and now we have been out and bought some rat stoppers for the lines. Stable door, horse bolted we can hear you all say!