Thursday, March 21, 2013

Damn/spit! A rat on board ...

Penelope and I got to the boat a week ago (Friday, 1 March) with plans sail up to Tampa to meet some friends in the Dolphins Sailing Club for the weekend and then head off on our own for three more days.  Alas, when we arrived we discovered our fresh water system had a broken line.  We looked first under the galley sink at the fresh water distribution lines.  No leak.  Still heard heard water gushing, and it sounded like it was coming from aft of the refrigerator.  I went out to the cockpit locker, opened it up, and found it.

Damn/spit!  We discovered we have a rat on board, and the little bugger had eaten up the fresh water lines to the cockpit shower, as well as lines to the water maker.  Moreover, it had chewed through a soft bag and two floatation cushions at the bottom of the cockpit locker -- a mess, for which I emptied the locker, turned myself into a pretzel and climbed in to clean up.  Since the day was not yet over, I went to a local chandlery, got plugs (and mouse/rat traps), cut the lines to the shower, plugged them, set the traps, through out the ruined stuff and put what we had to get out of the elements back into the locker.

We thought we were free, but when we tried the water again, galley water pressure was weak.  More water seemed to be gushing.  Where or where?  I uncovered the hot water heater -- no leaking.  I uncovered the holding tank, but the fresh water lines are routed outside and around it.  Then, when I looked in the engine compartment (midship, under the settee and galley storage area), I finally found the leak in one of the water lines leading between the galley and the sink in the head (forward of the salon).  Completely out of reach and under the sole, the only way to get to it will be to run an entirely new line (or maybe lines, since there are three lines there) from the head to the galley.

So much for the weekend trip.  Instead we stayed aboard, listened to hear a trap go off and considered our options.  We both had brought some writing work to do, so Saturday and Sunday we hunkered down to it.  By Monday morning, I was pretty convinced that the leak under the sole was from the hose leading from the forward water tank to the main fresh water distribution system (under the galley).  The bilge pump was cycling every 30 minutes or so, and the water level in the tank was steadily declining.  Time for action: I went up to the marina manager's office and reported our stowaway.  She immediately said she'd get an exterminator out: "We want no rats in our marina!"  That afternoon, Robert appeared with some more traps and some high-powered bait.  Meanwhile, I arranged to take Alizee into Sailor's Wharf Yacht Yard the following week.  Assuming we get the rat off, I planned to have the water lines replaced, do a thorough check of wiring and do some other needed jobs (re-bed a couple of leaking port lights, paint the bottom and re-bed a rub rail on the starboard side).

We spent one more night, by which time the forward water tank was about empty, and left for home early Tuesday.  Saturday we were back in the car and off to the marina.  Robert told us he found one rat in a trap on Thursday, but he saw another skitter away, so he re-baited the traps.  We didn't arrive at the boat until late Saturday, but, alas, the other rat hadn't been trapped.  On Sunday, we hunkered down again to await Monday, when Robert came over and set about flushing out the final rat with his own special smokey-chemical concoction.  We stayed off the boat, visiting a friend and later going out to dinner.  Then on Tuesday morning, Robert said he didn't see the rat jump off but was sure he'd gotten it.  Two days later (14 March), our friend Jeff Grant delivered Alizee to Sailor's Wharf for us. 

The damage was much greater than expected!  Virtually all the fresh water lines needed replacing.  The little bastards were just starting on the wiring: radar, miscellaneous electrical, etc.  Since my boat insurance has "pests"  as an exclusion, I'll get no financial help from them. 

Did I say "damn/spit" already?  Well, after a week in the yard, the bottom done, port lights fixed, all the water lines replaced, water tanks filled and the boat splashed, the yard discovered one of the new lines chewed through.  Robert's smokey-chemical concoction apparently didn't work, and the second rat is still aboard.  The yard set traps, called the exterminator and promised they'd get the bugger, but what a nightmare!  Another week went by, and still no luck trapping the rat.  Into the third week, with traps set everywhere, the little bastard is still loose, and the exterminator and the yard people are as frustrated as we are.  We're moving ahead with some other work we want done on the boat, but the rat has to be eliminated. 

Well, if I didn't say it: DAMN/SPIT! 


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