Sorry if you find this offensive, but really, why do birds love to poop on boats so much? There are plenty of other things for them to poop on.
Last year, I decided it was time to paint the non skid on my Cal 40, Mahalo. I took off 44 years worth of out dated deck fittings, scraped off old sealant, filled the holes, prepped for days, masked the waterways, mixed the two part paint, let it ‘cook’, mixed in the non skid material, wiped down the surfaces with solvent, assembled the pan, roller and brush, strapped on the knee pads, donned my big hat, got in the right Zen mood and went to work. Several hours later, it looked great! Better color, better texture, all I needed was a final coat the next day and we would be looking great and sailing again!
I carefully walked around the toe rail, stood on the cockpit combing, locked the companionway, reversed my steps and began the clean up painting mess. Yuck. Back tomorrow for the final – final. Yee- Haa!
The next morning, I was admiring my new decks as I walked along the dock. Nice job, self! Well done! What the ……?!?! A Great Blue Pooping Heron nailed the entire aft deck. I mean NAILED IT! They usually leave my boat alone but this was an epic job. Just stood there and let loose, and then walked around in it. Three toed foot prints everywhere. He could have even tap danced a bit from the look of it. Fricken Herons! I know, somebody out there just said something like “Oh, but they’re so beautiful!” Who cares? All I see is a 300 PSI Poop Machine.
Have you ever seen their nests? They glue then together with… POOP! Now and then, a nest falls out of a tree here in my marina if the wind is really blowing. They fall 40 feet and are still intact because of the quality of the poop. Too bad we can’t figure a way to use it as a roofing material or something. How about when they spew while flying overhead? At least that’s usually a thinner layer, although it may cover more deck area.
Back to my paint job. Thankfully, the paint had ‘gone off’ before my visitor arrived. After a sufficient amount of swearing, I began the clean up process. It didn’t take very long and the second coat of paint went on without a hitch.
Do those birds eat epoxy? No, mostly fish and frogs and things with lots of bones that turns to cement when it exits the other end. My chemistry brain Dad informs me that mild acid is the key to cleanup. Sounds just like white vinegar to me! There are all kinds of fancy concoctions you can buy that do the same thing and cost a lot more, but vinegar is cheap and you can use it for other boat chores too. Dump some on a rag and start scrubbing if the poop is recent. For older poop, it may need to soak and soften things a bit so just put the vinegar soaked rag right on the mess and give it a few minutes. This also works on canvas poop targets.
So, how do you keep them from coming back? Some folks hang plastic grocery bags all over their boats. Nice. Who wants to see/hear that all night and day? Or maybe hang CDs on strings. Nope. The more junk you have on the boat, the harder it is to go sailing and that’s the whole point of this boat stuff right? Giant plastic owls? Or even plastic herons? Where do you put them, I’m already sick of them and don’t want to look at any more birds plastic or not!
Ok, the first step is to determine what kind of bird is pooping on your boat. Sea bird, wetlands bird, dryland bird? Sea birds are not going to relate to plastic owls and snakes, so a thin strand of monofilament or fishing leader strung across places where they sit will keep them off. No noise, no flapping, no plastic bits fluttering off into the water.
Wetland birds know all about snakes and four leggeds who eat birds, so decoys work well. If you have a cat or dog onboard, you are probably wondering what this whole article is about to begin with. They work the best at keeping birds away. Plastic snakes work well, but so does a 4 or 5 foot length of ¾” to 1” line – preferably braid. Just lay it out in a snake like posture in the area when the birds tend to hang out (like my aft deck). It really works well!
Dryland birds seem to be on the move and are just in the neighborhood for a short time. Of course, they probably just finished a big meal of berries. The rope/snake trick seems to work for some of them. If not, a few flapping flags should annoy them enough to go find a tree. Or borrow a cat.
That should solve your bird poop problems. Try the piece of braid – it really works and you won’t have to buy and stow anything new. There is one other thing that’s almost worse than bird poop. Bird barf.
But that’s another article.