Critter-Proofing Your Boat

Tips for keeping the critters off of your boat during winter storage.

Critter-Proofing Your Boat

Dryer sheets and Fresh Cab are but two fragrant foils to over-wintering critters.

“It smells like grandma’s house” my tween-age son commented as we walked among the pontoon boats that were placed on blocks or atop their trailers for storage in the off season in the parking lot at our local boat club.

I noted the same distinct scent on the late autumn breeze as I prepared to rake leaves from the deck of our family’s Flote-Bote, and it wasn’t roast turkey. The odor reminded me that I needed to weigh down the seat bases and batten down the steering console as well as establishing my own scent barrier to keep critters from finding a comfortable compartment in which to set up housekeeping and spend the winter months aboard.

It seems the owners of some of our neighboring boats had recently prepped their craft for the threat, salting their boats’ decks and storage lockers with mothballs in hopes their pungent odor would keep critters at bay. Following a sunny Indian summer day that had been perfect for the final ‘messing-about’ in their boats for the season, the air over the boat yard fairly reeked of attics and sweater chests.

I’ve used moth balls – crystals, actually, which we put in aluminum pie pans in a couple places under the boat cover – and they worked. But a few years back, based on advice from a fellow boater I met on a trip, I switched to scented laundry fabric softener sheets. I put a sheet in the bottom of each locker and a few more pinned down under furniture legs to keep them from blowing around. I replace them in mid-winter and the boat has remained mouse-, ‘coon-, cat- and, ‘possum-free ever since. And smells a heck of a lot better come spring.

Better-smelling alternatives to moth balls that I have heard of boaters using include Irish Spring bar soap and Fresh Cab (, the latter an all-natural rodent repellent popular with farmers to keep rats and mice out of their tractor cabs. But until I find a nest built of shredded Bounce, I'll keep using dryer sheets to keep my local meeces off the deck.