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AOSA Tip 3 - DEALING with MICE, SQUIRRELS
& CATS DURING WINTER BOAT STORAGE.
Mice can be a problem for cars or boats during winter storage. Whether the
boat is stored inside or out it shouldn't be too difficult
to see how a mouse can find its way inside, even if the cabin and lockers are
buttoned down tight. Imagine the mouse climbing up the trailer frame or tarp
rope, into the scuppers or the exhaust pipe, chewing through
a rubber hose (on a C&C 27, there is a rubber hose connecting the floor drains and the
opening in the transom and also a rubber section of the exhaust pipe after the water inlet) and getting into the locker and/or
engine compartment. After that I suspect, as most others, that a mouse could crawl from the
engine compartment, through the bilge and out through the access hole in the floor
boards, or wherever. Once inside the cabin they would have access to a whole winters supply of cushions, life jackets, curtains,
wood trim and food. Food is probably the number item that attracts mice. The
second one is wood matches, especially the strike anywhere type. I've heard that
it's the sulphur that attracts but I have no idea why.
Squirrels can sometimes be a worse problem than mice if you store your boat at your
lake lot. They are simply looking for a warm secure home and will make a huge mess by chewing up
cushions. Many older boats in my neighborhood have major cushion damage from squirrels. I am very reluctant to leave my hatch open during the
winter for this reason. They can't get in anywhere else. Around my cabin squirrels are relentless at getting underneath
the cabin and pulling down
floor insulation. Regrettably, the only solution I've found is to shoot them as poison
is a risk to pets and I don't want the squirrels dying and rotting under the cabin.
Cats have a unique way of occupying a boat stored on an acreage. They
can get into places that will surprise you. I don't blame them for curling
up in a warm spot out of the wind but do they have to claw at the lines when
they wake up? To put an end to their playing I removed all lines and
slipped a heavy duty nylon bag around the mainsheet which I can't remove.
Nylon bags are quite inexpensive at Ikea and can be used for a myriad of storage
items during the summer. Then I placed a small cushion in the cockpit to
encourage it to sleep there. It worked. One time the cat climbed
inside the boat and it was some hungry when I opened the boat. Better than
dying inside I guess. After this experience I now leave the forward hatch
cracked open only a 1/4" with a heavy weight on top to prevent lifting and
a bug screen to keep the leaves out. Never had any critter inside
- Remove all food, vacuum the floor and plug all through hull holes with a
bronze wool pad. Mice can't chew through it. Remember to remove them in the
- Take a tip from the folks in the car clubs who say, "NOT to use moth balls as
you will never get the smell out." Some of them use a bar of Irish Spring soap. You
grate a bar of soap, spreading the shavings
around on the seats, floor, etc. It must be the original Irish Spring with the green stripes.
The shavings are effective for about a year or until the colour changes. Then you have to do
repeat the treatment. It also makes the place smell like a fresh Irish morning,
sorry! Just couldn't resist.
- If your boat is stored outside for the winter you should cut the grass
where the trailer is parked. Cut under and to about a 6' radius all around the trailer.
This goes a long way to keeping the mice away from your trailer. I credit this
technique with the fact that I haven't had any mice in my boat in the 25 years I
have stored it outside. The rational
behind this idea is that mice are reluctant to expose themselves to a predator by running
across an open area. Consider this for instance, ever wonder why mice have eyes on top of their
head? They can look almost straight up. My theory is that they're on the lookout for hawks ALL the time.
snow is settled in they dig tunnels to access fresh grass for
food and insulation. There should be very little of that around the trailer.
Besides, without grass the wind and ground heat will keep the snow clear under
the trailer similar to under spruce trees. By eliminating the long grass you also
eliminate a source of rust for the trailer frame. No dew to contact the steel.
- If you have access to electricity, purchase an electronic mouse repellant
device. These plug into 110VAC and emit a high frequency sound that people I can't
hear but drives mice nuts. These really work!!! ...but apparently only line of sight. You can buy
them at Canadian Tire but they are cheaper at Costco where they come in
- If you already have mice, use glue boards to catch them. You will have to check the boards frequently as
a rotting mouse carcass is very smelly.
- One final note, a whole generation of mice are born and die under the snow
each year without ever seeing the sun. It's warm and bright down there.
Just thought you should know.
Here are some other good ideas concerning winter boat storage:
|Remove as much weight from the boat as possible, especially in the
|Open all cupboards and lockers to thoroughly dry and clean them before freeze
up. Remove all contents and especially food.|
|Wipe up any water in the bilge.|
|Drain the water from the water tank.|
|Drain your Porta-Potty. Its OK to store it on board the boat if it is bone dry.
|Hang lines out to dry. Wash them in a pail with mild soap if
required. Makes them nice and soft again.|
|Remove sails from the boat, fold them properly and hang them in their
|Cover the hull with a tarp, leaving the ends open for ventilation.|
|I leave the hatch cracked open for some ventilation, but small enough to keep
a cat out. One of the problems of storing a boat on an acreage. I also
remove the knot meter impeller for more ventilation. You have to think long
term slow air movement here. The impeller is stored inside a plastic
bag with grease on the O-ring to keep it from drying out.|
|If you have a hole in the bottom of your mast, stuff a rag in it to prevent
the birds or bees from starting a nest in the spring. A nest or hive
can really jam an internal halyard. |
|If haven't yet figured out how to prevent bees from starting a hive inside
the trailer frame. They are just too small to plug all the hole sin
|Remove the battery and connect a "smart charger" to it.
Leave it on ALL winter long.|
|Just before haul out, disconnect the fuel line and to the outboard and run the engine till it
dies of fuel starvation. This ensures
that no varnish accumulates in the carburetor bowl. Do this at the
|Take a note of how solid and strong the stream of cooling water is flowing
out of the engine. A sputtering stream is an excellent indication to
replace the impellor. The seals are weak. You could also have debris in the
water jacket. Never leave an impellor in so long that it starts to break
apart, leaving bits of rubber to flow into the cooling jacket. This is sure
way to overheat an engine. |
|Drain the old gear case oil and replace it with new each Fall. This eliminates
the possibility of splitting the gear case due to freezing water over
|Spray fogging oil into the cylinders to prevent corrosion.|
|Clean the spark plugs, including the ceramic insulator.|
|Drain the water from your engine cooling system. It should drip dry
if the engine is stored vertical on a stand. I also like to apply compressed air at about 30 psi to
blow all passages dry.|
|Place the shifter in forward to prevent turning the engine over with the
starter cord. This will prevent tearing the seals off a dry impellor,
rendering it useless after ONE pull.|
|Add some fuel stabilizer to the gas tank to prevent varnish buildup which can
plug the carburetor jets, etc. |
Ideas contributed by Jim Spalding, Doug Murray and Bob Schimmel.