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Cruising the Med, Part I: The Stowaway…

Posted in: Cruising ♦ Sunday, August 1st, 2010, 5:21 PM ♦ Comments Off on Cruising the Med, Part I: The Stowaway…

Charles Fawcett
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Recently I was back in the Med, once more, cruising off the Croatian coast aboard the 44-foot Bavaria Avalon with David, the owner, and a friend, Chris. We were towards the end of our voyage and decided to spend the night at Sesula, a sheltered inlet at the western end of Solta island and some 12 miles off the port city of Split.

We entered the quiet inlet in which there were several mooring buoys owned by two competing konobas (tavernas) who cater entirely to visiting yachts. Soon both sent out their representatives in dinghies, complete with menus, to solicit our custom. We chose the konoba that is well known for serving a delicious peka (Dalmation stew), and were soon tied up to its mooring buoy, with a steadying line secured to the shore some 60 feet off our stern.

Following a great evening ashore enlivened by the peka and a film crew doing takes of the konobas, plus (of course) plenty of local wine we rowed back to Avalon for a nightcap and were soon asleep lulled by the lapping of water on the hull and a light hum in the rigging.

I woke suddenly to what I thought was a scraping sound and passed it off as either the mooring buoy or dinghy rubbing alongside. It stopped as I went on deck to investigate. I went back to sleep.

Again I awoke to more scraping, plus rustling sounds. Another tour of the deck proved fruitless. Both the mooring buoy and the dinghy were floating free. The sound stopped and I went back to my bunk but by this time couldn’t sleep. The noise started again and this time I felt sure that it was coming from the main saloon.

I grabbed a flashlight and gingerly made my way back to where I thought the noise had originated. Silence. Nothing seemed disturbed.

Every time I left my cabin the noise stopped, and in the end I thought that I was losing it …. but why wake the other guys for my possibly overactive imagination?

The hours to dawn went by slowly. The noise ebbed and flowed and at one stage I felt that it came from right under my bunk. I nodded off until I dreamt that some large furry beast had jumped through the port onto me! That was it. It was time to get up and spread my misery among the others onboard.

Total third party silence and much laughter when I informed David and Chris that I thought that we might have a four-legged visitor on board. How on earth would a mouse or rat come aboard they queried? Up a half submerged stern line?? Swim??

Morning light provided the answer………a nibbled apple on the saloon table and droppings scattered everywhere. Chris, an expert (he had recently been through the same stuff in a barn at home) declared that it was evidence of a rat. YUK!

Having cleaned up, and dumped any food that could have been tampered with, we searched all possible hiding places, including the bilges and under and in lockers etc. I opened a hatch under a seat in my cabin and guess who sat looking up at me? A large brown rat! We were both equally startled. It was just settling down for a quiet day in a nest of torn plastic. It quickly disappeared into the myriad of hiding spaces in a yacht. It simply followed the electric cable limber holes around the hull.

We set two large traps, one next to its nest and the other in a locker behind a settee. The bait was cheese.

Breakfast was not the normal jolly affair of burnt toast and coffee and sore heads, but rather loud thoughts of what if it dies in some inaccessible compartment, or what if it nibbles through the electric wiring or PVC water pipes?

Eventually we set sail for the marina at Trogir where two of us were to leave Avalon the next day.

The stowaway was obviously still hungry, as during the crossing we checked the traps to find that he had removed the cheese from the large trap – but without setting it off!! This despite David having nearly lost his fingers while setting it!

At Trogir we went straight ashore to look for additional traps, without success, but did end up with a tube of sticky stuff that David laid on cardboard with bait under the saloon table. We then retired ashore for an evening meal hoping that the rat would come out to forage. No such luck!

I rose at 4:00am the next morning after a great night’s sleep to go to the airport, only to meet both David and Chris complaining that they hadn’t slept a wink with the rat running around the boat from end to end.

Later that day while waiting at London’s Heathrow airport I got a text message from David. “Trap injured rat. Found half dead on the chart table. Dispatched over the side. Swam off happily”

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