Thursday, 27 August 2015

An unwanted visitor

The prospect of having a rat aboard your boat is one that worries most cruisers. When anchored out this is not so much of a worry but when in a marina or port it certainly can be.    John recently went back to the UK to help one of his daughters move to Gibraltar and I stayed to look after our home armed with a list of jobs to do whilst he was away. No worries!
I slowly worked my way down the list, varnishing, cleaning the bilge, washing down all the interior covers ....all ticked off the list. I replaced the mosquito netting on the small hatches one day and felt pleased with myself only to find the next morning when I awoke that there was a large hole in the one above the cooker. I had foolishly left the hatch open feeling secure in the fact that it was covered with the netting. At first I thought it was the wind that had torn the netting but then sitting down sipping my morning cuppa a horrible thought occurred to me .....we had a rat onboard!! I was astounded that one had decided to jump on board as we are a good 200m down the pontoon with other yachts in the frame before ours but no ratty had obviously earmarked Orion as a yacht full of stuff to eat, chew and generally gnaw away at! Rats can be really difficult to get rid of on a boat and have been known to cause severe damage to wiring, hoses etc ..... In short they are bad news.
So what to do....I asked at the marina if they had any traps or poison but they would get some. I decided not to wait took a trip into Puerto Colombia and armed myself with snap traps and poison which I set that evening. I spent the rest of the day listening out for the blighter and convinced it was in the bow I dragged out everything that it could BCD, bedding, everything was taken out and put in the saloon. I then bolted the watertight door safe in the knowledge that he could not get into the rest of the boat.
But ....the next morning as I stepped into the saloon I was horrified to find evidence of the darn thing all around the saloon .....mistake number all the stuff I had dragged out of the bow then went back in along with anything else I thought it might enjoy as a snack! I set the traps again this time in the saloon with the bow blocked off and the stern cabin shut off at all times surely this time he would take the bait?! I set the traps with a little peanut butter everyone kept telling me how this could not fail....but it did for five days I decamped early each night to the stern and listened for the sound of the trap doing its worse to Ratty. John suggested leaving it a route to escape from the boat but this only made it worse as I could hear it padding about the decks at night and then had to clear up its mess the following day. I was worried that I would end with a whole colony aboard and just getting rid of this bugger was proving challenging enough! So every night the boat was shut up tight and the only thing for Roddy to eat was the peanut butter or the poison that I eventually decided to put down. After five days my eyes started to play tricks on me and I began to imagine I saw him down a hole in the Saloon where the chart table seat fits. I had removed the seat as the ruddy rat was enjoying dancing about on the chart table each night. I covered the hole with a saucepan lid held securely in place with a heavy winch on top! I'd got it...... Well no I hadn't!....there was nothing there. I was started to get mightily p****d off with this rat. Every morning the bleach would come out and I systematically washed down all the surfaces where there was evidence the rat had been or might have been and every morning I awoke to empty rat traps. It had started to eat the poison though...then this was a worry as it might actually die somewhere on the boat that was inaccessible. This was always a possibility as I had emptied and and cleared lockers that many times now and had still not managed to get a sighting of the illusive rodent! By now all the surfaces in the saloon were clear and every conceivable ventilation hole blocked with bungs, tape, heavy toolboxes you name it....this was war .....and the rat was winning!

Meanwhile John would ring every day for an update hoping for good news before he arrived back in Colombia.
No such luck eight days after the rat climbed aboard John arrived back, tired and exhausted from his journey he decided to rip out the fridge to see if it was behind there. I had been unable to do this by myself as it was screwed down and definitely a two man job. The fridge came out and yes Roddy had definitely been behind there but he was no longer there having chewed through the electrical wiring to the freezer. We cleared up the mess and once more set the traps and put out the poison. The next morning there was no visible sign of his presence (no droppings) but he had taken all the poison. The next morning, the same but this time he had not eaten any poison....could we be rid of him? John and I crossed our fingers that he had left as we left the boat open now in the hope he would exit the way he came. John was not so hopeful thinking that he was either very sick or dead somewhere on the boat. As anyone who knows John knows he has no sense of smell so I was the one who had to do the sniffer dog impersonation trying to determine if 'thing' was still on board. As the days passed I was becoming more hopeful he had got off the boat. As we prepared to dinner I asked John to get me something from under the boards in the saloon where we store some of our tins as it was dusk he got the torch lifted the lid and then turned to me asking exactly where this tin was......Arghh! There was the rat! It was deceased, a dead rat, it was no more and it had gone to that big rat colony in the sky! John and I had checked under there but it must have been sick but still on the move then. It was rubber gloves time again and the rodent was dispatched overboard along with all the tins it had used as its coffin!
Finally today has been the last day of cleaning the underfloor storage with bleach yet again and whilst the cursed thing has caused some damage I am glad to say we have managed to wrestle our boat free from the jaws of this rat pirate and there are just the two of us on board again!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Road trip to Santa Marta

We hired a car for a week to get about the area a bit more and one of the first spots we made for was Santa Marta. We could have sailed straight there from Aruba but elected to sail past and stop at Puerto Velero instead so a road trip there to see what we missed was in order. It's not the easiest of journeys as you have to find the ring road around Barranquilla which is very busy and driving in Colombia is interesting to say the least! The road to Santa Marta is littered with speed traps so we figured if we tucked ourself in behind one of the many mini buses going there, who obviously know the road and the cameras then we would be ok. This plan worked well. The road trip enabled us to experience the poverty in Colombia which is not evident when you come in by sea.

The road on the way was littered with large bins for the delivery of water and we saw many people transporting water from this in any receptacle they could find to move it to their homes which were often no more than very small wooden sheds. The overwhelming memory for me though was rubbish ...many of the homes were in what can only be described as a sea of plastic litter and assorted rubbish. We are very fortunate and the sight of how these people live and still smile was a very strong reminder for me.

Santa Marta on the other hand is a city that has developed around the port but also the mineral resources in the outlying area. It is an attractive city with quite a history. We visited the gold museum, a fascinating place setting out the history of the area very well and with an English translation.....and it was free. Some of the decorative gold pieces , earrings, nose rings, necklaces and breast plates were beautiful. Not unsurprisingly there were quite a lot of guards in the museum!

We decided to leave early enough so that we would not have to go around the dreaded Barranquilla ring road in the dark. The road for quite a long way is one lane and the large trucks that ply up and down the road along with the speed cameras can slow you down. We found ourselves dawdling behind one of the trucks unable to get around him for a good few miles....until John saw his chance and took it....ignoring the two unbroken yellow lines in the centre of the road. The joy of a clear road in front of us soon disappeared when two traffic policemen waved us down and asked John to get out of the car....! I stayed in the car scrambling around for our documents to show them. The two policemen started rattling off John's offence in Spanish to which John replied ' no hablo  Espanol' I'm not sure they actually believed him until we showed them his passport. John stuck with his favourite phrase all through the conversation and it clear that the policemen were getting a little frustrated as most of their conversation now was ' no hablo Ingles!' They kept smiling though as they indicated to John that he had committed a moving traffic offence by overtaking on an unbroken yellow line and one of them gestured that perhaps this could be solved by crossing their palms with a little denario.....but at times John can play dumb with the rest of them as he just kept repeating his favourite one liner ....' No hablo Espanol! ' after five minutes or so the traffic policemen smiled, laughed and left empty handed and we were on our way...Phew!!

We got to Barranquilla as the sun was setting and eased our way around the ring road....if it wasn't for the fact that I was navigating I would have had my eyes closed for most of that trip but just when I was relaxing a little more on the two lane highway to Puerto Velero I noticed in the darkness a shape up ahead .....we were sharing the road with a skateboarder! No lights but skating down the hill taking his life in his hands! The end to quite a journey home!