Boats & Maintenance

3 Tricks to Keep Critters out of Your Boat

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With hunting seasons approaching and a lot of folks storing their boats for the next few months, I think it’s imperative to address the importance of keeping your boat free of pests while in storage. When boats sit for a while, they become a breeding ground for all kinds of nasty critters whether it’s spiders, roaches, mice or even chipmunks. I’m not an expert on any of those species but I definitely know they can screw up your boat in a hurry.

When I graduated college, I moved into a rundown townhouse in a less-than-desirable area because it was all I could afford. I parked my bass boat in the front yard and man, I had all kinds of animals get into that thing. It drove me nuts and I always swore that whenever I could afford a house with a detached garage, I’d be so glad to not deal with those issues again.

Well… my wife and I finally bought that house with a detached garage and I still have issues with critters getting into my boat. I don’t know if it’s the property we live on or what but at first, I could not keep spiders and bugs out of my boat. It’s stored in a finished shop with air conditioning but I swear, I can go fishing for an afternoon, back my boat back into the shop at dark and by the next morning, it’ll look like the boat has been sitting for six months. Spiderwebs cover everything and these tiny spiders will be all over my carpet, seats and sometimes even in my compartments. I keep my shop super clean at all times, so I never really understood why I was having these issues.

I still don’t really understand the cause of the issue but I have definitely come up with some tricks that have fixed the problem. They might sound a little weird but I will personally guarantee that they work and they’re also pretty affordable.

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Make a DIY peppermint spray

When I was sitting in college classes, I never really thought I’d write about essential oils as a grown man. I was telling Jason about this little hack earlier today and he started playfully busting my chops about it… but it works! Hang in there with me and don’t judge me quite yet. 

When my wife and I got married, we got all kinds of random wedding presents and one of those was a small box of essential oils; apparently that’s what you buy for newly married people. I did not know what they were and I figured they’d get shoved into a drawer somewhere to be found a decade or two later. Not to sound unappreciative but it kind of hit me out of left field. 

But a month or two ago, I got on Amazon and started searching “spider repellant” and oddly enough, all of the products with a billion 5-star reviews were all the same… peppermint oil spray. But these folks wanted upwards of $20 for a 20-ounce bottle. I didn’t just fall off of a turnip truck. I’m not paying that kind of money for a bottle of peppermint spray. 

So heck, I asked my wife where we put that essential oil stuff and I made my own. I put roughly 25 ounces of water into a clean spray bottle and dropped about 75 drops of peppermint essential oil into it. I closed the bottle and shook the heck out of it. It took me about three minutes and cost me almost zero dollars. 

I went out to my shop and started spraying it on my carpet, underneath my console, in my compartments and between my seats. It was insane to see how many tiny spiders started jumping ship and getting out of my boat. I was immediately sold. 

Spiders essentially walk on their tiptoes and they also don’t clean themselves, so the quarterly treatments from your pest control guy don’t always have much affect on them. From what I’ve read, the strong scent of peppermint screws up their ability to smell and hunt, which makes them immediately vacate an area where this scent has been sprayed. 

In addition to repelling spiders, I’ve also had a lot of luck using this spray to repel chipmunks which can absolutely wreak havoc on boat tow vehicles and boats; they’ll chew the heck out of wires if you let ’em. We have a pile of chipmunks and squirrels on our property, so I’ll also use this spray inside the fender wells of my truck. I used to see chipmunks hop on top of my tires and into my engine well but since I’ve used this spray on my tow vehicle, I haven’t seen a single critter within 15 feet of my truck. 

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Critters hate Irish Spring soap

When I was growing up, my buddy’s dad used to swear by bathing with Irish Spring soap before every deer hunt. I always thought that was weird because you’re supposed to be scentless whenever you’re in the deer woods. But that joker killed more deer than any of us combined. 

He didn’t use it for the scent, however. He used that Irish Spring because he said a bug wouldn’t come within 10 feet of him in the deer stand. This was long before Thermacells and what not; we had to use whatever we could think of to keep those mosquitos from carrying us off. 

During a conversation with my buddy and colleague Terry Brown, he mentioned putting an Irish Spring soap bar in the sump compartment (where your batteries and stuff are) of your boat. Not only will it almost ensure that mice, rats and other nasty furry things don’t get in there, but he mentioned that the bugs hate it as well. 

Adding that to my old hunting buddy’s dad’s beliefs, I had to try it. Honestly, I just tossed a bar somewhere down there and didn’t really think much about it. But sure enough, the bug issue has nearly disappeared. I never had a rodent problem in my shop (thankfully) but Terry swears it works perfectly. 

As an added benefit, I’ve noticed that the Irish Spring significantly reduces the amount of fuel smell coming from the back compartment. I don’t know if it’s because my boat is old or something, but it has a pretty strong fuel smell around the back-deck area. That silly soap bar, however, has really cut down the stink, though. 

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Dryer sheets for your compartments

I’ll admit that I don’t do much laundry. Not out of laziness necessarily but my dang wife has 100 different work tops that are all made out of different materials and need to be washed and dried in all kinds of crazy and specific ways. I guess my lack of laundry duties stem from some type of primal fear because if I screw up her nice clothes somehow, I might have to find another house to sleep in. 

But I digress. 

After a full night of research regarding spider tendencies in an attempt to eradicate my life of tiny spiders, however, I was able to scrounge up (steal) some dryer sheets from our laundry room. Using the same principle as the peppermint spray, these little sheets screw with the spiders’ ability to smell, they totally freak out and vacate the premises. And sure enough, it worked. 

I tend to stuff these in my compartments because I don’t want to spray stuff on my tackle. That peppermint spray hasn’t messed anything up yet but I’m not willing to spray it in areas where I have thousands of dollars of custom-made crankbaits. I also put them between my seats and underneath my console. I haven’t seen a bug anywhere since I started doing this in conjunction with my bootlegged peppermint spray. 

If you’re planning on taking a break from fishing this fall and winter to get out in the deer stand or the duck blind, I strongly urge you to try these little tricks to keep the nasty bugs and rodents out of your boat; especially if you keep your boat outside. You’ll notice an immediate improvement and you won’t have to buy a bunch of expensive and potentially harmful chemicals to keep your boat clean. 

Your boat will also smell like absolute Heaven, too… which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.