an embarrassing problem...
It's dark , the worst days of winter and not very inspiring but I have a personal problem that needs addressing . I have Polleniardus – and its not the kind of complaint that you can get the one-off. It's cluster flies, masses of them.
Apparently, they are common throughout the United Kingdom, they certainly are on my boat!
OK first swat up on your enemy (I know good wasn’t it!). The first and most important point is it is nothing to do with hygiene, so not washing up the odd coffee mug isn’t the problem. Also, they are not attracted by rubbish or waste, only where there is an abundant supply of earthworms.
There are four types and my boat seems to be infected every autumn so I am going for the autumn cluster fly. The larvae live on the common earth worm and emerge as a cluster fly - a life cycle that can take 27 to 39 days. In the Autumn they try and find a place to hibernate. Fly screens etc are useless as they love finding a crevasse or similar to hide in for the winter. They also like light coloured areas. My Wheelhouse with its aluminium framework and smart white gloss work seems to be ideal, also facing south into the sun and warming up easily isn’t helping matters.
What does interest me is that I had the same problem a few years ago and it has steadily got worse year after year. According to some internet research it is possible that they leave a pheromone that attracts more of them each season though this has not been proven. It would make sense to me because the problem seems to have been increasing over the years. Also, next door's boat doesn’t get any – which would suggest they do have a homing instinct.
Each time I have gone to the boat recently I have had to hoover up piles of bodies. Mercifully as yet they seem to be restricted to the Wheelhouse and haven’t tried to get inside...
OK. What to do? There is no point in using a chemical killer as these are contact only and I don’t fancy being on board with a fumigant one would usually use in a loft space (which is where they are most common). Cultural control seems to be darkening the cockpit so black out blinds are probably my best option. If there is some form of pheromone then scrubbing down with disinfectant would mask this, though I tend to do this after hoovering them up. I may have to fill the hollow aluminium with foam to stop them from trying to crawl into crevasses. They don’t seem to be attracted to fly paper – and the fly control wick things work but they still pile up to die in same place.
On the plus side they only return in the Autumn, quite happy to be on earth worms for most of the year. It’s a case of watch this space but I would appreciate any tips on this. I have read somewhere that they may even be attracted to the chemical signature of things like foam and glass fibre, but the internet is good and bad for advice.
Feeling somewhat dirty which is what an infestation of flies tends to do to a man I have purchased a new toy a 12-volt pressure washer. OK, I don’t expect it to perform like a 240 volt one but it has been excellent and fits into the cigarette lighter sockets that I prefer to use on board (though I am presently on Electric so use a “camping Gaz” 12 volt transformer which saves the battery).
I have been using an environmental boat cleaner that leaves behind a waxy surface and this machine is ideal for applying it – just fill the bucket, put the suction hose in, point and shoot. Or rather weight the end of the suction hose so it sinks which is my only criticism of it. Then wait twenty minutes and rinse.
You still have to scrub but it is powerful enough to clean the little crevices especially around cleats etc. Sadly, DT was so green with algae that it took three rinses. It was ideal for blasting out the window tracks which grow an alarming array of moss and slime moulds. Oh yeah it was also brilliant on the coffee mug that I left. A sort of high-power dish washer!
I have found that spraying the canopy with WD 40 on the inside seems to stop the mould from growing especially in areas where condensation forms, this trick also works on the toilet and shower cubicle. One thing I am going to apply in the spring which may help, is a lacquer coat over the paint work which I have never done and may be why some of my paint work fails - as this helps provide not only a hard shell, but reduces the algae growth as they can't get a hold .
The pressure washer is addictive and required the heater on to dry the boat which meant a new gas bottle, and here is the rub £18 quid for 3kg, £28 for 6kg and £36 for 36 kilo - I need to clear one of the aft lockers and install a new gas locker capable of taking the bigger bottles. Remember installing the locker may be DIY but I would never play with the gas pipe. I can well get into enough muddles without blowing my self to bits...
I am not a live aboard so this is very much a hobby. If you are like me, take your time to visit the boat and write a check list of things to do: tighten the canopy straps (we have had strong gales and another one is forecast), and check the mooring lines - it's amazing how they can become slack, leaving the boat sawing against the jetty.
I try and start the engine at least once every two weeks and leave it running not only to charge the battery but to keep the fuel from going stale in the carb and keep the cooling system flushed through. Anything you can do now will save hours when the weather improves and the season starts again.