When you’re cooped up on a boat with someone 24/7 and there’s scarcely any other company, sometimes the conversation takes a bizarre turn. Any flies on the wall would assume we’ve gone barking mad (and they could be right). A recent topic of conversation on board Toucan started with the question “Do geckos like potato chips”? Before you run screaming for the hills, let me explain….
For the last few months (maybe longer?), we’ve been hosting several geckos on board. We don’t mind – we rarely see them, and they keep the insects at bay. In fact, they’re kind of cute (unless you tread on one during a midnight trip to the loo, as I did recently. The poor little guy lost his tail in the process, and I had a near heart attack). It turns out that gecko shit looks remarkably like mouse or rat droppings. Yes, I’ve done my research. So, when I find the occasional dropping on deck in the mornings I’m not too concerned.
But in the last couple of weeks the ‘deposits’ have started showing up in more unusual places. Either the geckos are feasting particularly well, or we have a passenger of a different type. And then I find a packet of potato chips with a corner nibbled off…. hence my question, which is quickly followed up by: ‘Do geckos even have teeth?’ I’m sure you’ll be fascinated to know that geckos do indeed have teeth, hundreds of tiny ones, but probably not large enough to nibble through aluminium foil packets.
In the 11 years of living on boats, we’ve been lucky (and mostly careful enough) to have never had to deal with a rodent onboard. Whenever we tie up to shore, we protect our lines by using aluminium cans, foil trays, or more lately, funnels. Unfortunately, Tampa Garam in Sorong is well-known for its rat population, and we’re usually super cautious there. BUT, there was that one time recently when we forgot to put the funnels on straight away…..
So now the hunt is on.
Unfortunately, we have no spring traps on board and we’re back in Raja Ampat with no shops nearby. I reluctantly put out rat poison (I really don’t want him crawling off and dying in some dark recess of the boat) but it seems I shouldn’t worry as our cluey visitor won’t go near the bait. But he does like apples, so after doing more research, I lace a piece of apple with borax powder. The next morning, it’s all gone. I’m hopeful of success, but my research failed to mention that you most likely need a truckload of Borax powder to kill a rat. He probably just enjoyed the extra flavouring. So, his feasting spree continues. I discover he’s been nibbling on the seaweed nori sheets and tortilla wraps stowed under the saloon seat. (We’ve got a bit complacent, and not everything has been stowed in plastic tubs). We remove and restow everything that could be a possible food source. Even the potatoes have been nibbled and are now in the fridge.
And then we present him with a veritable smorgasbord of poisoned delights – for entree, sweet tomato stuffed with rat bait, followed up by peanut-butter delicacies laced with rat bait, strawberry jam poisoned treats, you name it, we try it. The tomato is definitely a favourite. Every night he’s chomping through the stuffed tomatoes but it doesn’t slow him down. Little bastard. We discover he’s also chewed through a ceiling panel to get into one of the food storage cupboards, our saloon cushions, the foam mattress in one of the cabins, and horror of horrors – the lacquer on Bruce’s ukelele. OK, thats it – now it’s full-on war!
We try glue traps with cheese bait but he’s far too clever for those – or the glue isn’t strong enough. I’m starting to have visions of a giant, genetically-modified, ratbait-resistant Super-rat. We keep putting the stuffed tomatoes out and he keeps eating them. Now he’s also chewed one of our dive regulator hoses, and the foam flooring in the cockpit. We try the bucket of water trick with peanut butter smeared half-way down the inside, but he doesn’t fall for that one either.
By now, it’s time to go back to Sorong for our next visa extension. Our first stop is the supermarket to buy a spring trap and stronger glue traps. We set them and wait for the sound of a rat’s demise. Nothing. Two nights go by. Nothing. Not even the tasty stuffed tomato has been touched. Maybe we’ve finally won the war?
There’s no nasty smell on board, so we can only assume he left the way he came once we got back to Tampa Garam. I can picture him now, sitting around with the family: “Well, the cruise to Raja Ampat started out very nicely – great food, nice scenery. But then they changed the chef – all the good stuff disappeared and all I got was weird-tasting tomatoes and some sticky icky peanut stuff. And the geckos were no fun at all. Definitely won’t do that one again” (we hope!).
So, finally, it’s just us and the geckos. Oh, and maybe a legacy from our unwanted guest – there’s a slight ‘blip’ from the freshwater pump every now and again, indicating a water leak somewhere. Is it coincidence or has a hose been nibbled? And how the hell are we going to track it down? That’s next on the list for the Toucan detectives….