Cockroaches are pretty much a fact of life down here. You can try as hard as humanly possible to keep them off of your boat, but if you’re sailing anywhere south of the border…they will likely be a foregone conclusion. I tell you this because we have cockroaches again. BUT (silver lining) they are remarkably respectful cockroaches. They are rarely in our living space and they tend to prefer the areas immediately around the cockpit (get it?). Nonetheless, I am pretty anti-cockroach. Despite my name, this boat simply isn’t big enough for us to live together harmoniously .
Fortunately, during my last dance with the cockroaches, I devised a pretty effective trifecta of deadly weapons. This was inspired partly by Gaby at Marina Palmira in Topolobampo, partly by Memo at Marina Chiapas in Puerto Chiapas, partly by a dude at Home Depot and partly by Brittany over at windtraveler.net.
Gaby swears by the fumigants and pointed me towards a spray that is apparently “safe for your pets and family.” Riiiiight. But I bought it and resolved to use it sparingly.
Memo swears by boric acid, a white powder that resembles baking soda, or cocaine…depending on who you ask. When a roach walks across it and then cleans it off their body, they are basically ingesting tiny shards of glass. It’s apparently okay to have around the house, though you probably shouldn’t consume it. I picked up a kilo at a chinese hardware store in Tapachula, Mexico where they sell it in bulk (awesome).
A young guy at Home Depot pointed to the top shelf roach poisons and handed me a giant syringe looking thing that he described as “caramel laced with poison.” Brittany used a different kind of poison that she swears by, but she inspired the how (ie use lots, in every.single.corner – no skimping), not the what (see Step #5).
So here’s the drill:
#1. Map. Identify all the places on your boat where roaches are likely to be hanging out. This is ANY place that is dark and moist, which is pretty much EVERY place on your boat. Figure out how best to systematically clean out these spaces. I like to do a few at a time. Think especially about your food areas.
#2. Clean. Clean out all the cubbies and nooks and crannies. Clean out your gear lockers and the bilge area. Wipe everything down so you’re starting with an essentially clean surface.
#3. Spray. Spray the fumigant. Even if there aren’t any roaches, I spray. Be cautious of areas where you have exposed food. I only spray the fumigant in food areas where things are very well sealed up (e.g., canned goods). I spray heavily in the gear locker, the lazarette and all around the engine.
#4. Sprinkle. Sprinkle boric acid on the ground (borax and diatomaceous earth work well too, I could only find boric acid down in Mexico). Sprinkle it everywhere you imagine cockroaches roaming around. It will get on the bottom of your things, but it’s easy to wipe off and harmless to you. We put it in all the little cubbies, but don’t put it anywhere where it will be underfoot. If you have a pet, be sensitive to the fact that they will likely lick it off of themselves. It won’t kill them, but I’m pretty sure it’s not good for them either. This is also a great preventative measure for most bugs.
#5. Goop. Put the poison goop in every corner, up high and down low, of every cubby. You might think you’re using too much goop…you’re not. The more goop the better. After gooping you can put all your stuff back where it was. All of this may seem like overkill to you, but overkill should be your battle cry. These buggers don’t mess around.
#6. Rejoice. Dicover dead roaches and throw them overboard. This is my favorite part – coming across roaches, legs crossed in a peaceful repose, already ready for a burial at sea.
If you want to go one step further you can get the little roach motels and put those around the boat as well, though I didn’t have much success when that’s all I used.
Depending on the extent of your roach problem you may have to go through these steps two or three times over a two to six month period.
I’m always collecting new tips and tricks! What do you do in your house or on your boat?
Update (12/12/14): No roach sightings in the last month, though that doesn’t mean they’re totally gone. Bought some roach motels just for kicks!