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Cures for What’s Bugging You – Sailing


Hello Sailors,

It’s right in the thick of that time of year in the USA where the bugs are in full force. So I thought I’d check to see what might be some Cures for What’s Bugging You that others have recommended.

Now I just moved to Texas and compared to Illinois, these bugs look like small pets in comparison. Plus there seems to be a vast variety of other creepy crawly varmints lurking about as well. Lizards in particular.  There are quite a variety of them.


The good news is that they don’t seem to bite anyone and are actually quite cute. Guess that’s why one is used for selling insurance on TV.

Texas Lizard

My 12-year-old nephew would be chastising me right now for calling the lizards just lizards as he knows every variety of varmint and its correct name. Sorry Elias.

Here’s a frog that was in the pool today too before I rescued him.



I digress. Back to bugs and what to do about them.


I’m guessing the number one pest we all worry about whether you’re a sailor or not, is mosquitoes. Not only do they bite, but they are also infamous for carrying some pretty nasty diseases.

There are all kinds of anti-mosquito sprays, creams and devices and probably an equal number of advocates for and against each and every product.

If you are planning a sail to somewhere with a reputation for mosquitoes that spread disease, then most experts will tell you to use a product with DEET. I’m not fond of spreading a poison on my skin, but if you read about some of the symptoms of the diseases that you can contract from a mosquito, then DEET may suddenly seem like a necessary evil.

If however, you’re sailing somewhere where the mosquitoes are just a nuisance, then you have some alternatives. In fact, Consumer’s Report conducted testing and the most effective were:

  1. Sawyers Fisherman’s Formulawith 20% picaridin
  2. Repel Lemon Eucalyptus1 with 30% oil of lemon eucalyptus

Of note; according to the CDC, insect repellents containing picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus “typically provide reasonably long-lasting protection.”

Many folks make their own bug repellents using lemon oil1, eucalyptus oil1, lavender oil1 and/or citronella1. The recipes I’ve seen place 10 drops each of two or more of the essential oils in distilled water in a spray bottle.

The only caveat is not to use a formula that includes the eucalyptus oil if you plan on spraying it on children under 10 years old as it can cause some respiratory problems.

Just so you know, Consumers Report tests found that formulas containing natural oils may not actually work at repelling bugs, but I guess you will smell good.

There also mosquito repellent patches that you place on your clothing rather than your skin. The SkeeterGuard1 brand claims to repel mosquitoes up to 12 hours.

People also claim that Skin-So-Soft from Avon works against mosquitoes. My only concern with using this in the past, was my worry that I’d get a severe sunburn since Skin-So-Soft has oils in it. Lo and behold, Avon came out with 2 versions of the product with sunscreen. SKIN-SO-SOFT Bug Guard PLUS IR3535®1 and SKIN-SO-SOFT Bug Guard Plus Expedition1 the latter being the stronger bug repellent.

I’ve actually used the Expedition version and found it actually does work with the nasty black flies we had on Lake Michigan. Since I did not get any mosquito bites either I guess it worked for that as well.

Spider Web


Spiders is another pest we sailors encounter and in some places in the world they can be of frightening size. Sailboats seem to attract spiders in droves and they can set up camp in just a few short hours.

Now some folks are superstitious about killing spiders and will just gently help them off the boat instead of killing them. Others have no problem squashing the living daylights out spiders. I personally prefer to find a way to keep them off the boat altogether.

Here are the top methods I’ve read about to keep spiders out of the interior of the boat:

  1. According to some, spiders don’t like cedar. So try placing some cedar chips in sachets and place them all around the interior of your boat.
  2. Others suggested using whole cloves as a spider-deterrent. Again, place a handful of cloves in sachets and place all over the boat.
  3. I’ve heard and seen dryer sheets placed all over the boat as well to keep spidey out. I’ve witnessed this in action and it does seem to work well, at least on Lake Michigan.
  4. They apparently do not like peppermint either. Place cotton balls that have been soaked in peppermint all over the boat to keep spiders at bay. Using peppermint was reportedly the advice a pest control specialist recommended to a sailor for controlling them in their home. As you will read further down, rats/mice apparently do not like peppermint either so you may be killing two pests with one peppermint ball.  😎

As for outdoor spider control, one sailor recommended a product called Suspend SC Insecticide1. This product has a pretty good review status on Amazon including one from a sailor that used this on their boat for spiders. The only problem is that this product is extremely toxic to fresh water fish and aquatic invertebrates. So maybe not.

I also found a better solution that was recommended by Boating Magazine in 2006 on a sailor’s forum. It’s called Spider-Not. It is supposed to keep spiders away for up to three months and is non-toxic. They only negative I saw was that it discolored someone’s siding on their home, so I’d spray this in an inconspicuous place first and see if stains. It’s also reported as expensive.

Dryer sheets are looking more and more favorable. Maybe I can hang them like little flags all over the boat.


Unfortunately rats seem to be very attracted to marinas and docks and are notorious for climbing aboard people’s sailboats via the dock lines.

Some tips for keeping these dirty rodents off your floating home include:

  1. Hang small net bags of moth balls on the dock lines. Apparently rodents don’t like moth balls. Quite frankly neither do I.
  2. As mentioned above, rodents are also reportedly adverse to mint so hang small net bags filled with peppermint soaked cotton balls from the dock lines.
  3. Placing inverted pie plates, a frisbee, or cardboard circles onto the dock lines to make it difficult for the rodents to come aboard. I found these clever rat guards on line. While they are pricey, they look to be long lasting and a non-chafing option. This is their video for their 15 inch model:

Hopefully at least one of these remedies will keep your sailboat free of varmints so you can enjoy sailing even more than you already do.

If you know of any other repellents to keep pests off your boat, please share them in the comments.

See you on the water,

Sail Away Girl

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  1. Funny, I thought of Elias the minute I saw that lizard!

    Thanks for all of the great links to mosquito repellents. We always have to be careful when traveling in Cambodia as not to get Malaria and Dengue Fever.

    • Hope you find a good repellent that works. I can only imagine what the mosquitoes in Cambodia might be like. Maybe like the ones we encountered at the ruins in Belize? I remember those well and not fondly. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!
      Sail Away Girl