By Alex A. Kecskes
You just got a new sailboat for the summer. And you plan on taking it out with friends and family, maybe even the boss. The boat’s all shiny and new. The sails are spotless. Every inch of your new boat says: I care about this vessel. But then you look at the boats on either side of your dock. They’ve been around for awhile. And they’ve endured the ravages of pest birds—the seagull nests, feathers and droppings, the dead fish scraps. You ask yourself: Will my boat be next?
If your boat’s moored in the Cape Cod area, you can expect an invasion of cormorants from the end of August till sometime in October. These annoying birds will sit on any thin, horizontal wires or structures. They don't sit on decks but on your spreaders and create a huge, smelly mess. The mix of fish fat and calcium from fish bones is worse than any glue. The only way to get it off is to sand it off.
If your boat’s moored on the other coast--in San Diego--you can expect major problems with Sea Gulls, Pelicans and Blue Herons landing on your fore deck, dodger and bimini. You may also have occasional problems with Pelicans landing on the masthead.
The solution is to implement an effective bird proofing strategy for your boat. Do this and while you may have an occasional dropping from a fly-over, pest birds will no longer just sit and poop on your boat. Here are a few simple time-honored pest bird deterrents that you can use to keep your boat clean and sanitary:
Bird Netting. Often sold to growers to protect trees and plants, lightweight bird netting can be highly effective in excluding pest birds from your boat. The netting is typically black and hard to see from a distance. Some sailors drape a section of netting over the boom and clip it to the side rails with clothespins. You can cut off a section for the fore deck and attach at several key points—leaving just a bit of slack. You’ll find that most birds simply won't land on the unstable netting. Best of all, netting is easy to put and take down in minutes. Good bird netting will last you for several seasons.
Bird Spiders. Gulls, especially, hate these devices because the flagellating stainless steel “arms” whip around in the breeze and that makes them extremely nervous. Spiders are available in 2-, 4- and 8-foot diameter arm lengths to offer ever-expanding areas of protection. They are easy to install and have no moving parts to wear out. Choose bird spiders that have a U.V.-protected polycarbonate base—they will last longer. One manufacturer offers a bird spider that comes pre-assembled. Some spiders come with a glue-on base, so they can be glued down permanently to most flat surfaces. You can also get railing mounts for easy attachment to boat rails. Other attachments include a bag base that gives you the freedom to place the spider practically anywhere, including on your canvas covers and biminis.
Visual Bird Deterrents. These include reflective foil banners and strips as well as blow-up balloons. The strips and banners tend to crackle in the breeze and sparkle in the sunlight, which makes pest birds think twice about landing on your boat. Balloons covered with large predator eyes are no less intimidating. These devices are inexpensive and simple to install. One tip: string banners every few feet from your fore and aft halyards.
Solar Bird Repeller. This is for all you boat owners who like hi-tech gadgets. Yet unlike many high tech gadgets, this one really works to sweep pest birds off your boat. Best of all, it does the job on solar power! The continuously rotating 5-foot diameter arms keep even the largest pest birds at bay—including gulls, pigeons, and crows, cormorants and vultures. The two adjustable “arms” turn continuously at 30 RPMs. Solar Bird Repellers can be placed wherever they're needed to deter pest birds. They can even store the sun's energy to keep turning all night.