Sometimes things happen that are worth writing into a story………


OK, this one is not RV related but it could very well happen on one of our buses…… Years ago we had a boat. Think of it as a floating RV. Enjoy.

L’affaire Ratso…..

It was the third year that we were going to sail in Florida during Spring Break. The two previous years we trailered our Catalina 250 down from Pennsylvania, but last summer we acquired a 1989 Catalina 42. In November I had sailed her from the Chesapeake to Fort Lauderdale, and rented a slip from a nice lady. Now it was March, and time to enjoy the ten days of much anticipated relief from the frozen wastelands.

The last time I was on board was a month before, and I had left everything shipshape. However, as soon as I stepped into the cockpit I had the uneasy feeling that something was very wrong. There was a small pile of shavings at the foot of the hatch board: it looked just like grated cheese. I carefully slid the hatch back and stuck my head inside. To my horror there was copious evidence of a visitor of the rodent persuasion.

After telling the Admiral and crew, 6 and 12, to repose in the car and/or the pool, I set to work cleaning and investigating. What I found was that the visitor(s) had been everywhere, particularly in the cabinet with the organic nuts and granola. I know, it was stupid to leave food on board, even in ziplock bags. I had also accidentally left the forward hatch cracked under the dink. Fortunately there was almost no damage to the boat and its furnishings. After a few long hours of cleaning everything, she was shipshape again, and the crew came aboard. I explained we had had a little mouse “or something” on board, but that he had probably run away by now.

I took a sample of the “evidence” to the nearest hardware store. “That ain’t no mouse,” said the helpful clerk with a knowing smile, “that’s a rat.” After recovering from the shock I studied the available remedies, and from traps, sticky pads, various poisons and plug-in supersonic deterrents chose three of the latter, in the hope it would take care of the problem.

After returning from a provisioning run the next morning we found out that they did no such thing. The last remaining bag of organic cashews (this thing had expensive taste) had been assaulted. I returned to the hardware store and bought four traps, big ones, and baited them with peanut butter: two in the food cabinet, one in a drawer, and one in the bilge. That night was uneventful.

The next day we sailed to Miami, where we spent another pleasant night in a marina. Maybe the supersonic torture, or the six-year-old, had finally driven Ratso off the boat. Yes he had a name now, for I was trying to treat the whole affair as lightheartedly as possible. After it was all over the crew told me they still thought it was a little mouse. Had they known it was a rat they might indeed have taken the gold card and headed for the nearest resort, which, at this point, I was amazed they hadn’t done yet. Now, however, the affaire was slowly slipping into the background…..little did we know.

The following day we had a great time at the Miami Seaquarium, and afterwards motored over to Key Biscayne to tie up at the marina. Later that evening the youngest, the Admiral, and I were asleep, while my daughter was getting caught up on her e-mail in the salon. Suddenly we were awakened as she stood next to our bunk: ”There is someone in the cabinet!” I immediately recognized the sound of small chisels in action and went to the food cabinet. Just as I got there I heard Ratso exit stage left and down to the area behind the cooler and stove. I opened the cabinet and saw that he had been gnawing on the plastic wrapping of some water bottles, completely ignoring the delectable peanut butter in the two traps. This was WAR! After some thinking I changed the bait in the traps to Colby cheese. Then there was nothing else to do but go back to bed. Have you ever woken up knowing that there was a loud noise, and knowing what that loud noise was, even though you were sound asleep when it happened? At 3am one trap in the cabinet went off, flipped over, set off the other one, and I hit the ceiling, all within the space of a half-second. Remember that these are rat traps, they are loud, especially on a boat, five feet from your head, in the middle of the night. As I yelled “Got the bastard!” I ripped the cabinet open, only to find two empty traps, one with the cheese missing. This guy knew what he was doing, and that was a problem. I reset the traps and once again went back to bed.

The next morning we enjoyed a gorgeous sail down to Key Largo. But, as soon as we had tied up to the dock, I got out my folding scooter, and zipped over to the drugstore, where I bought four “sticky dance floors”, you guessed it, the BIG ones, five by ten inches. I placed one in the food cabinet, one in a drawer, and two in the bilge.

That night’s sleep was uninterrupted, and the next morning I eagerly went on an inspection tour of the minefield….four traps, untouched, sticky pad number one empty, same with two, three, but four, the one in the salon bilge, was gone. GONE? Where? And what monster had hauled it off? After breakfast I suggested that the crew go to the pool, and started ripping the boat apart. I had a mirror on a stick and the million candle power searchlight to look around corners, and checked everything. Ever see Caddyshack? When Bill Murray slides into desperation bordering on insanity? This, my friends, was the mental state I was rapidly approaching, because sticky pad number four, five by ten inches, was nowhere to be found. Some stern words from the Admiral snapped me out of it, and I agreed to ignore it for now, hard as that was. We wentout to the reef and the kids experienced their first time snorkeling over the coral and the hundreds of beautiful fish. The weather and sea state were just right, it was a perfect day.

During my search for the missing pad, and possibly the attached Ratso, I determined I could not access the area I heard him moving to a few nights earlier: the area between the lining and the hull, behind the stove and the cooler. I decided that the next morning, with the crew once again at the pool, I would get out the drill and Dremmel, and cut a hole behind the stove, later to be fitted with an inspection plate. With this plan in mind we turned in. On day six, at 7:15am, within a nanosecond of each other, there was once again “the loud noise”, and an elbow in my ribs, for the trap that had gone off was in the bilge directly below our bunk in the forward cabin. The elbow was the Admiral’s, who immediately took up a defensive position with junior in his starboard aft cabin, while our daughter was oblivious to it all in the port aft cabin. After the trap had gone off there was the distinct tinkling of the bar that holds the big spring-loaded bar down, and also a few slap-thud-thud-slap noises but now all was quiet. I carefully opened the access door to the bilge, and saw the upside down extreme corner of the wooden “floor” of the trap protruding from under the cabin floor. With a pair of needle nose pliers I carefully extracted the trap, and the attached ex-rodent, all ten inches including tail: RATSO!!! He had approached the bait from the side, and had gotten within less than an inch of getting away, again. Fortunately for him it was over quickly. I took the entire assembly, put it in a plastic shopping bag and deposited it in a trashcan next to a particularly ugly megastinkpot.

To say I was elated is an understatement. Ratso almost got to me. It was a battle for the ship, but in the end we persevered. For several weeks after returning home, a friend checked up on Lady Kay, but found no further evidence of intruders. Needless to say we no longer leave food on board. A few months later, while installing another battery bank I stuck my hand under the port aft cabin floor and felt something sticky…..