Sunday, August 8, 2010

You dirty rat you, you're going to meet old sparky.

This isn't a glamorous story, but someone has to broach this elephant in the boat. In the wide world of boating, there is hardly a location where you couldn't have a rodentia problem, and boats in Florida, are certainly no exception. Rodents are one of nature's sturdiest mammals, are ardent adherents of Darwin, and can do huge damage to boats. They can fit through tiny places, breed at a prodigious rates, and can gnaw through both wiring, and fiberglass. They use your vessel as a public restroom, leaving behind less than lovely odorous wafts of uric acid. You want your guests to have an experience that will be the talk of the yacht club for years to come? Just have a 14" black fruit rat make an appearance in your cockpit during happy hour. What fun all will have with the screams, spilled drinks, and upset appetizer trays.

Kate and I own a hysterical (it's not a typo) house built in 1956 and designed by Jack West. It is a Sarasota School of Architecture home, and we love it, except for its seemingly endless 5000 sq foot flat roof. One of the nice things about the home, is the line between inside, and outside can be fuzzy, and as a result we sometime get unwanted guests, including "Whipped Tailed Squirrels" (Kate's code word for rats), and other occasional unwanted visitors. Through the years I have become adroit at critter removal, although I'm glad there are no You Tube videos of some of my gyrations during the removal process, and yes, under the right circumstances, I can make some less than manly, high pitched squealing noises whilst under extreme critter duress.

Noah's Ark stopped first in Florida, and got rid of some of his annoyances, and the rat below is an example. This is a Gambian Pouch rat, and can be found in the Florida Keys.

Before you rush to cancel your Florida vacation, most of us don't encounter rodents of this size, but like all places I have ever lived, there are rodents everywhere. Mice, or chipmunks who moved in the ski boat at the cottage over the winter, Norway rats, squirrels and many other local variants. 

So we will start the discussion on how to remove the offending critters from your boat, with what you shouldn't do, and that is to poison them. It does them in for sure, but the typical result is they crawl into some inaccessible crevasse in the boat, and then die. Not good, period. The smell of an overly ripe, bloating member of the rodentia family is not what you want on your vessel. Do you remember the urban legend about the new Corvette that was on sale for $500? The catch was the owner died in it, and you couldn't get the god awful smell out of it. After watching "Myth Busters" test this legend with a Corvette, that had a couple of dead pigs inside it, and from my own personal experience, I find this to be excruciatingly true. It is almost impossible to get the smell out.

So the second option is traps. They come in many flavors, and designs, ranging from the very basic finger mashing, spring loaded medieval traps we all know, to high tech devices.

Since I can profess to some experience in this field of endeavor, I am going to introduce you to with a drum roll to the Rat Zapper 2000, or as we affectionately call it, the "RZ2000, Harbinger of Death".

This is a technological marvel, and it sends shudders throughout the rodent world. It is about the size of a loaf of silver colored bread. The front has a grill that looks like a Buck Rodgers version of a modern locomotive. It would be a stylish accoutrement to any modern home's decor.

The top of this messenger of rodentia death holds four D cell batteries. There is a power switch and two associated LED's. The green one indicates it is armed, and the red one blinks, if there has been an execution. There is an 1/8 inch mini jack that allows you to plug in a remote LED light, in the shape of a mouse. On a boat you can place it on the dash, or in a window. This allows you to see from afar whether the RZ2000 hath smote a critter, or not.

The front of the RZ2000 is hollow, and open to the back, or front grill depending on your perspective. You take some cheap dog food, and drop five or six pieces inside, and tip it up so the dog food rolls all the way back to the grill. You then put a couple of pieces of dog food at the opening. Place it against a wall, or bulkhead, and turn on the power switch. The green LED flashes, and lets you know it is charged and ready to go. Mr. Rodent doesn't like open spaces, and prefers to move along walls.

What happens is, the vermin smells the food at the entrance, and dines on it. Smelling more food at the end of the trap, it walks in, on a metal floor, with a second insulated metal floor near the front. As the rodent moves towards the front its back legs are on the ground plate, and when its front legs touch the insulated plate electrical carnage occurs. A fully charged capacitor discharges a huge load of electricity through the critter. and it expires on the spot. No mess, no noise, no fuss, and one blinking red LED alerts you to the carnage. When the red LED blinks, you get your red medical waste bag, or in my case, it is a couple of plastic grocery bags, dump the critter into the two bags, tie the bags up tightly, and drop the bag into the trash. You never have to touch the critter, or boil your hands in bleach afterwards.

You can buy the RZ2000 at lots of locations online, and no, I am not being compensated by the Victor Trap company for the article, but I did find a small pile of acorns outside my back door, with a tiny note saying "There is a lot more, where these came from, if you don't publish this story".

Sorry  Mr. Kapoor, I really meant to spell it Rodant. You can find out more about Rodant Kapoor and other characters in the Ruby, Galactic Gumshoe stories from ZBS Foundation. I have been a fan for decades.

Thanks to Ranveig Thattai of Norway for the use of the "Mouse in the mouse trap photograph" via