Infested.... but staying FREE!

 Back to Home Page

 More Great Stories here! Sundowners

 By Stewart Mears, SY, “Velella”

Working at maintaining a functioning relationship, I read somewhere once, is a fast track to spiritual growth. If this is true, then working at (read 'surviving') a relationship aboard a small cruising boat, must be a superhighway to Buddahood. Sure it is that the thin veneer of civilized normality, is apt to be stripped bare by the incidence of panic at sea. And ..ahem…who hasn't had one or two of those? But for Lily and I, sharing life aboard our 10m wooden yacht, the teeth grinding tests of relationship solidarity, seem to arise within the safe confines of the marina.

For example, a couple of months ago, I noticed, a cockroach on the boat. Aha I thought idly, Mephistopheles on six legs, harbinger of doom, are we about to be visited by the seven plagues of Egypt? It was as it turned out, a prescient thought. For not long after the one or two roaches had become a small tribe, and thereafter the laws of geometric progression kick in. Meanwhile, Lily and I are immobilized within one of our circular conversations. This one goes something like this…
(Me) My... there's another cockroach Whack!!...pretty soon they'll be carrying us away!

(Lily) God I can't live like this!
(Me...) I can't stand cockroaches; you can't stand cockroaches...we have to bomb the boat! (Lily) Can't bomb the boat...toxic residues. Can't handle sprays...same reason ...
(Me) Suggest then, we both start getting on friendly terms with roaches. Pretty soon you and me...why, we'll be asking permission to come aboard.
(Lily…) God I can't live like this! In the back of my mind I can hear my mother saying: “only dirty people have cockroaches!”

As usual where there is a clash of World views, logic decides nothing. Resolution comes not by persuasion on my part (what an absurd idea!) but by 'other' means. One fine morning Lily is busy preparing her daily cocktail of Himalayan goji juice, iron supplements for the blood, B12 for the stress of living with me (double dose!) … etc etc…and right before her eyes….two brazen roaches making out! Whack!! Down comes the bottle of Goji juice. “Bleeding Jesus… missed!”, she said. Did the Earth move? I enquire helpfully. Lily, teetering on the brink of emotional meltdown, quietly slips over the edge. Aaaaaaaah!!!!

When calm prevailed, we had, praise be to Allah the merciful, achieved consensus on the matter of bombing. Of course one must pay the price for having the arrogance to be right. Ergo Saturday is devoted to removing everything (EVERYTHING!!) from the boat ...down the finger arms, the trolly heavy as buggery... up the ramp ( a heart stopper at low tide). Sensing imminent cardiac arrest, I enquire ...."Obviously my education is lacking here...Lily darling, I wonder if you could furnish me with the scientific basis for why the electric steam iron which we never use...has to be removed from the boat, not just onto the deck mind you, but half a mile away & up the ramp to the car-park...along with all the rest of the stuff?." I remain as a matter of fact, still waiting for the answer. Like I say logic counts for nothing in relationships.


   But back at the battle front; one bomb we figure, is probably sufficient, given the cubic air volume of our boat. The hell it is …let's give it three cans! Twice!!

So with the boat now empty and sitting a couple of inches up on the usual water line, I open the empty cupboards, pull up the floorboards, remove emergency ground tackle from the bilge, empty a big aerosol can of surface spray in all of the hiding places and finally set up the bombs in position. Turning off the battery switch means that having set off the bombs in the best locations, one has to back out of the boat in the dark, taking care not to slip into the open bilge. (roaches we figure are active at night). Of course in the process of exiting the boat, I manage to lose my footing, stagger backwards, gasping a lungful of roach poison. The raging headache and minor brain damage, I tell myself, are a small price to pay for the pleasure of nuking the bastards.

Next morning we remove the towels blocking all ventilation into our floating roach tomb …and then we do it again. “If anything is alive after this”, I said, foot in mouth as usual. “I'll slash my wrists!”

Funny about that; two days later, Lily and I are sitting down to dinner, happy in the knowledge that our environs are rendered roach free, and what should we see but horror of horrors….a healthy roach promenading on a cupboard; then another and then a mother roach about to give birth! Lily and I quietly slip over the edge, into emotional meltdown…. Aaaaaaaaaah!!!!

When we had both calmed down, the momentary urge to slash the wrists having passed, we resolved to do it all again. In fact we had to do it, several times. I lost count. We eventually did manage to eradicate our roaches, but it required a far greater effort than either of us ever anticipated.

Our fundamental mistake was to prevaricate. When the first roach shows, we should have acted immediately. Roach fecundity is one mechanism whereby the species has endured from the Pleistocene. Secondly, I made a stupid mistake in hosing out the boat, before we re-packed all of our gear. In doing so, I managed to wash away residual toxins and make the boat livable once again for the surviving roach population, which quickly recovered.

Thirdly and having regard to products, there appears to be no magic bullet; or if there is we didn't find it. None of the product claims made by manufacturers of cockroach insecticide, matched our experience or even remotely lived up to their claims of efficacy and we tried quite a few. All of the products we tried were relatively ineffectual and baits were completely useless. We saw roaches promenading on surfaces we had recently drenched with surface spray with little evident effect. Bombs work to some extent but by no means are they a final solution. Possibly our boat simply has too many opportunities for roaches to hide. Roaches might also be adapting to deal with the current generation of insecticides, which is a scary thought.

Thirdly, while scrupulous cleanliness is obviously necessary, it is no guarantee against infestation. Roaches will eat just about anything, including cellulous and glue on book bindings. A bad boy though I might be, my mother was wrong.