Keeping Those Nasty Gulls Off Your Boat

Gulls have a stubborn habit of frequently perching on masts, boat rigging, antennas and many other areas of a vessel. And when they perch, they often feed on their most recent catches, tearing apart fish and other meals, leaving bones and fish innards to drop on you and your guests.

Of course, this pales in comparison to the problem of gull droppings, which is even worse when you’re serving meals on board. The bacteria, fungal agents and ectoparasites found in gull droppings can carry serious diseases, including histoplasmosis, encephalitis and salmonella.

Gull droppings also eat into various parts of your boat, marring paint, cracking sails and jamming up riggings. The can quickly damage a boat’s finish, canvas and Biminis.  For boat owners who failed to adequately bird proof their boats, gull droppings mean constant cleanups and frequent repairs.

In many cases, gulls will have gotten used to your presence and will aggressively challenge you if you try to remove them or their nests. Keep in mind that some species of gulls, such as the Heerman’s gull are protected by law. You may suffer legal penalties if you destroy or remove these nests. In this case, keeping gulls off your boat is the best remedy.

If you’re away from your boat for any length of time, you can expect to come back to a vessel that’s been littered with fish bones and pounds of smelly droppings. You’ll easily spend days cleaning up the mess.

Many sailors who own small boats without masts or major projections have resorted to boat covers. While these keep droppings and other debris off a boat, they still must be cleaned, as gulls will often nest on them.

To deter gulls from roosting on an anchored boat, there are a variety of wind powered vane-arm sweeping devices on the market. They work by sweeping the area most often visited by gulls, thus discouraging them from landing and roosting on various parts of your vessel. These vane-arm devices are most often mounted on the canopy forward deck or stern deck. They are most effective on the stern deck, since gulls usually land into the wind. These devices should also be removed and stored below deck when winds exceed 35 mph. Birds normally won’t roost in such high winds, and the rapid rotation of the arms my damage the device.

Another popular bird proofing device is the Bird Spider. These devices feature stainless steel “arms” that flail in the breeze to keep gulls from landing. Spiders are available in 2-, 4- and 8-foot diameter arm lengths to cover increasingly larger areas. Bird spiders are easy to install and have no moving parts to wear out or maintain. Look for bird spiders that have a U.V.-protected polycarbonate base. One manufacturer offers a bird spider that comes pre-assembled.

Most bird spiders come standard with a glue-on base, so they can be glued down permanently to most flat surfaces. Spiders are also available with railing mounts for easy attachment to boat rails. Other…

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