Sailing Blog SeaBiscuit Sea Biscuit Cruising Sailboat Getting rid of Roaches on boats (1 of 1)

The other day, as we made ready to leave St. Martin for St. Barts, I stuck my face down in the bilge (compartments under the floorboards, below the waterline) to inspect our water tank and noticed something moving just inches from my face.

Two Cockroaches. EWWWWWWWW. And, fuuuuuuck.

Two roaches on a boat is two too many. As I calmly pondered next steps (read: hysterically googled “kill roach on boat”) I remembered that a trusted friend of ours once suffered this issue (in spite of having the cleanest boat I’ve ever seen, see: When Cockroaches Happen to Clean People) and waged a prolonged war that she finally won by using this professional extermination product. Being from NYC, roach capital of the universe, we’ve seen enough roaches to avoid wasting time experimenting. We needed a pro who would nip this thing in the bud.

So, I took to the morning Net (daily cruiser forum via VHF radio) to inquire about exterminators in town. Nobody wanted to offer an exterminator rec, but lots of fellow cruisers stepped all over each other to offer unsolicited advice: “Place boric acid tablets in every cabinet!” “Get Frontline flea control from a vet and put it on all crevices!” “Make a paste of borax, flour, and condensed milk and smear it all over the boat!”

No closer to having any reliable leads, we walked into town under blazing sun to search for the roach-killing miracle gel. There was none to be found. On the way back to the dinghy dock, we stopped at Lagoonies and consoled ourselves with a cold beer. Being that we were in a food service establishment, it seemed logical to consult with the bartender “so, who do you guys use for pest control around here?”

I was hoping she’d hand me some some guy’s business card. Instead, she pointed at three salty guys sitting at the end of the bar.

Turns out, those resident salts all have cockroach infestations on their boats. “I’ve spent three grand trying everything under the sun to get rid of the bastards!” One of them told me. The guy next to him suggested that I go find the Chinese lady in the convenience store down the street. “Ask her for the gold packets for cockroaches – she’ll know what you mean.” he instructed in a thick Scottish brogue. Then he bought everyone a round of shots and the salts started one-upping each other with horrific stories of infestation aboard.

Suddenly, our new friend disappeared. Ten minutes later, he returned, and presented me with an exotic looking gold-colored packet. He was so sweet and eager to help, I did my best to mask my skepticism.

We placed the powdery substance from the packet in little piles around the bilge, figuring that it couldn’t possibly hurt. But the way I see it, there’s no point to taking advice from people who still have roaches, even if their numbers have diminished. And thanks to Amazon.com, my mom, and Fed-Ex, we’ll soon be applying professional roach gel to every nook and cranny of Nightingale Tune. In the meantime, there haven’t been any more roach sightings, but I know that (at least) two of them are off humping like rabbits in a dark crevice somewhere, and it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing their offspring sprinting across the countertop.

How did we get these roaches in the first place?
Looking back, we were asking for roaches. Every cruiser knows that cardboard is the devil – roaches lay their eggs in its glue and corrugated folds. Lately, we’d let the no cardboard rule slide a bit. It started when I ran out of appropriately sized ziplock bags for repackaging pasta. Soon after, we had empty electronics boxes in the v-berth that Brian was saving for posterity. These transgressions most likely caused our stowaway problem. The cardboard rule is not just another sailor superstition. Noted.