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Beware the Rats: Protect Boating Gear from Rodents

Rodent damage to a raft frame seat. © David Wolf
© David Wolf

And mice and squirrels and pack rats and chipmunks, etc, etc. Critters love to chew into boating gear. Maybe they like the taste of Hypalon®, PVC, neoprene and Gore-Tex®, or maybe they just like to chew.

But chew they do. If you’ve ever seen what they’ve done to a rolled-up raft, or gear bag full of apparel, you know how it broke your heart and probably sent you into fiery-eyed rage. To keep your blood pressure down and your bank account up, you need to take action.

The little furry bastards are less likely to invade your domicile. So the best place to store your gear is a closet or room inside your home. However, if you’re like most of us, you A) already have enough crap stored in your house and don’t have the extra space or B) your significant other frowns on using the boat as a coffee table. This leaves you storing stuff in a garage, shed, barn, or under a tarp in the backyard. Places your gear is much more vulnerable to attack. There are two approaches to protecting your gear: the non-lethal approach and the lethal one.

Non-Lethal Protection (for the animal lover)

  1. Hang ’em High: Suspend gear from the rafters. A loosely inflated, or folded, boat can be hoisted up out of the way. If you have to hang drywear or wetsuits, put the clothes rod up high.
  2. Add Armor: Store gear in hard-sided plastic tubs with lids. I’d recommend tough ones; the little bastards can chew through flimsy ones. Old metal foot lockers work great. Metal trash cans are fine. A 55-gallon drum, with a lid, makes an excellent boat bin.
  3. Repellants: There are commercial products you can find online. Some folks swear by mothballs, peppermint oil, and dryer sheets. Some are fans of placing bars of Irish Spring soap in and around the gear; there are also reports of the rodents using the soap as an appetizer before tearing into the season’s entrée—your gear. There are electronic and ultrasonic repellers. Buy and try at your own risk. We don’t have much experience with these methods and can’t professionally recommend them.
  4. Exile: You can get live traps and transport the varmints away.
Holes in raft material from rodents. © Clark McCreedy
© Clark McCreedy

Lethal Protection (when you don’t mind killing them)

  1. Snap Traps: They come in various sizes and designs, look for them in hardware and farm stores. Forget using cheese, that’s in the cartoons. A mixture of peanut butter and oatmeal, with a bit of honey, makes great bait.
  2. Poisons: There are a number of them on the market. Remember, they’re toxic: protect pets, children and other likeable critters from them.
  3. Hire a Cat: Depending on how much denial you can muster, this option could be placed under the non-lethal choices as well. By hire, we recommend adopting a feline from your local animal shelter (karma points!) and letting it roam the aisles of your gear storage.

Trust us, this is indeed a serious issue. We reached out to several of our authorized boat repair facilities and all reported having received any number of these types of repair jobs. Fairly often the damage is too extensive to be practically or financially feasible. In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of money and heartache.