This is more of a tirade than a documentary of war. Perhaps it is a plea for help, although, in light of my experience, I despair of that. I am very embarrassed to admit that I have roaches on Mabrouka and I have totally failed at ridding her of them. At the outset, I request that you refrain from adding to the litany of home remedies of which I am already aware. Nothing short of armageddon has worked so far. Globe-rending solutions are next.
I spent the Mexican summer of 2015 in Mazatlan Marina. Whether through fortitude, anemic finances, or folly, I was one of the few cruisers who planned on wading through the thick humidity of the season aboard my boat while nearly every other human not “from there” either made for more comfortable parts of the world or retained local options on air-conditioned accommodations. When word of my daring assault on the battlements of the tropical condition got around the marina, several of the wiser crews showed up outside my companionway with offerings of food stuffs they loathed to leave aboard their own boats where, surely, they would fall prey to humidity and rot. Driven to graciousnous by my miserly ways, I accepted these donations with gratitude.
Much to my regret.
It wasn’t long after that that roach sightings commenced. Little brown guys known as German cockroaches, as I have since learned. They’re not more than about three-quarters of an inch long and numerous as, well, as cockroaches. I have seen the occasional mother ship, but I can count those on less than the fingers of one hand and they’ve always been dead, …tits up I’d say if they had them. I don’t think they do. I also don’t think the big ones are related to the German roaches and have assumed that their occasional mortal appearance aboard Mabrouka is some sort of horrible sign planted by the forces of evil, like the appearance of the odd gratuitous corpse in a Stephen King novel.
That’s about the extent of the drama in this story, so it’s time to expand upon the rules of engagement for this conflict. Of course, the official ROE authorize the immediate application of deadly force, …shoot to kill. Some have warned me against that, saying that a dying cockroach carries a fuselage full of eggs with it at all times and it’s rigged with a deadman switch that opens the bomb bay doors upon expiration of the pilot. Common wisdom (ie standard tactics) say to counter this by dealing a round of general mass destruction in three weeks time, the gestation period of the enemy’s progeny.
In addition to immediate death dealing (smacking, stomping, short bursts of lethal gasses followed upon failure by rabid cursing), I have employed more indiscriminate weaponry. Mabrouka has accordingly been subjected to professional fumigation four times and amateur fumigation by bug-bomb about the same. My maniacal pursuit has even led to the insidious use of poisonous baits of various kinds including pellets, gels, and powders sourced of both commercial and folk origin. Yes, fellow cruisers, that includes the much-touted mixture of flour, cocoa, and boric acid. It doesn’t work, folks, at least not for me, and the tropical humidity transmogrifies the stuff into an ugly brown scab in the bottom of my cupboards after not so very long.
The most satisfying, if ultimately less ultimate weapon in my arsenal is the sticky trap. At one point I had a revelation that duct tape, the sailor’s ever-reliable best friend, arranged sticky side up on the counter would catch a few of the little buggers. Ah, yes! Success! What’s more, my Improvised Counter-top Devices allowed me the morbid pleasure of watching the enemy wriggle pathetically under my gaze while I selected among various means of actual death. Then I discovered that several weapons manufacturers had perfected this method of capture and smuggled them in boxes of four or five right onto grocery store shelves. They now enjoy a position of prominence on my shopping lists. Once deployed, I often find myself making the rounds of the five or six traps I have set around the boat just to open them up and gloat at the mindless suffering I see inside. Assuming cock roaches don’t have actual minds I deem that to be an acceptable and accurate description.
That’s about it on my war story. Ongoing hostilities are about as described above. I try to keep the boat clean, but the little brown pests still mount assaults upon my countertops in the early evenings with the occasional daylight scout caught out on patrol, only to be met with whatever mechanical or chemical methods of death I have immediately to hand. They don’t seem to learn about the sticky traps, so I continue to catch quite a few of them that way. I’m disheartened about the effectiveness of bug bombs and other forms of chemical fumigation and I don’t like the ecological impact. Besides, Mabrouka’s bilges and integral cabinetry, not to mention her hull and overhead linings provide too many hiding places that lethal gasses just haven’t seemed to reach.
A battalion of geckos would seem to be an eco-friendly solution. I don’t think just a couple would do or they’d get too fat to pursue the foe into the nooks and crannies. Still, I’m tempted, but would have to lay off the chemical warfare for good.
One other method was suggested to me, but I’m loathe to try it as there are warnings against it posted in operating manuals and pasted upon the cases of said equipment in no less than two, sometimes a score of languages, but one fellow cruiser said she started up her generator down below and sealed up the boat to flood it with carbon monoxide. It’s tempting, …truly tempting. Anyone else heard of this?
Although a little commiseration may also be appreciated, if you have a unique, hopefully sure fire method of killing off an entire population of cock roaches, I’d like to hear it.
UPDATE: Let’s see, when did I publish this post? December last year, so I was in Tahiti and the damn little brown bugs had been with me constantly for well over a year, resistant to all attempts at eradication. It must have been this past January when the final solution presented itself. On a whim, I had dropped in to a Fenua Insectes office on my walk back from a local marine hardware store. “Oui,” they replied after I managed to convey my question. They DID do roach treatments and “Oui,” they DID guarantee them. With dubious anticipation after a history of so many failures, I went ahead and set a date for them to visit Mabrouka at Marina de Papeete.
Their visit turned out to be the penultimate battle in my war with these pests. Between me and the two technicians who led the attack, we pulled stuff out of cupboards and drawers and sprayed poison, applied long-acting goo in corners, and set off bombs. Needless to say I slept elsewhere that night.
I didn’t see any of the pestilential critters for a couple of days, but then, yup, there they were. ARRRRRGH! I was on the phone to Fenua the next day and they promised to come do another application. At last, one more round of emptying cupboards and spreading noxious substances around the boat finally did it. I haven’t had a sighting since. Ahh what a relief it is!