Category Archives: Becoming an Ex-Liveaboard

How to Install Bird Spikes

After living on a sailboat for 10 1/2 years, I thought I knew a lot about seagulls and their propensity to sh*t all over everything. So when gulls started arriving two-by-two on the roof of the neighbouring buildings last April, I wasn’t too worried. Holy Hannah – was I in for a shock.

The novelty of sharing our living space with nesting seagulls wore off after about a week of seagull shrieking which started at 4:30 am every morning and ended at nightfall. That loud, distinct sea gull call that carries so well across great distances of water is not so great when it is 30 feet away.

Custom-fitted ear plugs helped din the noise but when they started using our skylight as a latrine, we had had enough.  I would never doing anything to hurt an animal, but we needed a solution to claim back our sanity – not to mention our skylight.

Capital Iron is my favourite store in Victoria and if anyone could help us, it would be Capitol Iron. They had these great plastic owls with bobble heads that moved in the wind. We had tried a regular plastic owl on the boat before and the crows figured it out within a day that it was fake and started pecking its glass eyes out.

Despite this experience with plastic owls, we bought the bobble head owl and placed it on the skylight. It had an immediate effect on the pigeons who gave it a wide berth. About a week after buying the owl, we heard a loud crash and went dashing upstairs to look up into the skylight and see a seagull attacking the owl.

For the next two weeks, we took turns going up onto the roof to right the bobble head owl and clean the skylight. Placing the owl in the , middle of the skylight was a deterrent but the seagulls eventually would sit right beside the owl like he was an old buddy – preen themselves and sh*t.  Again and again.

Bobble head owl

I noticed these spiky things all over the buildings in downtown Victoria and went back to Capital Iron for help. We walked out of the store with our arms full of bird spikes. In our desperation to find a solution, we forgot to receive strata approval but it was swift in coming. In fact the strata council was so supportive that they applied for a “Gull Deterrent Grant” from the Downtown Victoria Business Association to help buy more spikes for the building.

This past week, our strata President decided to install the remaining bird spikes and asked for installation tips. The instructions on the box tell you to drill holes and screw them down but this is a bad idea to be drilling holes in your roof in a place like Victoria where it rains all winter . This is what I emailed our President:

  1. Call up a good friend and invite them over for tea.
  2. Pretend that you are boiling water for tea, but instead fill up a bucket of water.
  3. Invite your friend to see the view from the roof. Ask them to help you bring up a few supplies: bucket of warm, soapy water; scraper, rubber gloves; marine glue; caulking gun; rag; garbage bag.
  4. Your friend might get suspicious, so tell them that you forgot something in the condo and then return with the boxes of bird spikes.
  5. Put on your rubber gloves (very important).
  6. Scrape guano and other sh*t off the flashing and place in a bag.
  7. Clean de-sh*tted flashing with warm water and a wire scrubby careful not to disturb residents below while your friend enjoys the view. The stench will be like nothing you have ever smelled before.
  8. Fend off marauding seagulls who now suspect that you are up to no good.
  9. Let area dry completely which will usually only take a few minutes because the wind will whip up as soon as you decide to start this project.
  10. Remove spikes from box careful to not let the boxes blow away in the strong wind. This is the part where your friend comes in.
  11. Put the tube of marine glue in the caulking gun.
  12. Friend hands each section of spikes to you since your hands are now covered in glue.
  13. Friend stands ready with rag for spillage while you hold spikes in place for a few seconds to make sure it has a good hold. Remember,  it is windy.
  14. Repeat until all the spikes are used.
  15. Pack up all tools; pass them over the railing to your friend. Stand quietly for a few minutes to admire your work and make a bet to see how long it takes for seagulls to come to inspect the bird spikes. Two minutes – you win the bet.
  16. Head down the stairs and treat your friend to a cold beer or three. Tea is no longer sufficient.

These bird spikes are brilliant. They are easy to install and will not harm birds if they try to land on them. The spikes will deter them from sitting on the edge of the building and hanging their bottoms over the edge and sh*tting on you below.

The bobble head owl still remains on our skylight and can withstand winds up to 33 knots before falling over. The pigeons are very scared of him;  the seagulls – not so much.  I wonder if a Rob Ford bobble head would be more of a deterrent?

Bobble head owl with bird spikes

Becoming an Ex-Liveaboard Sailor

We will always need a place to live and at some point in your liveaboard experience, you will make the decision to move off the boat. This is not like deciding that you want to buy a new house – this is a lifestyle change, perhaps even more difficult than deciding to live on a boat.

The thought creeps in like a rising tide. You notice the dampness; the winters seem longer; and routine maintenance becomes a chore, not an assumed responsibility. And all of a sudden you start pining for a larger bed; a bathtub; being able to sleep through a windy night without worrying about your safety. A Christmas tree. Comfort.

“Maybe I am getting soft?” you wonder to yourself. Ten and a half years without running water, running hot water, a fridge, a bathtub. I was talking to a friend about this and she said, “You know Tara, most people would not consider these things a luxury.” And then, the decision slips off the peak of maybe yes or maybe no, to land firmly on the side of moving off the boat.

A couple we know have been living on their boat for over 25 years. A few years back, he had some heart problems quickly followed by an unexpected and near fatal complication for her after a routine surgery. The combination of these two events prompted them to make the decision to move back onto land. Their sailboat was well kept and would fetch a reasonable sum assuming that it would sell. However, when they looked at real estate prices, it became apparent that they could not afford to buy a condo let alone the house that they envisioned for themselves.

So here’s the thing: boats don’t appreciate. Well, at  least recreational boats of our size do not appreciate. Furthermore, they cost a lot of money to maintain. Many marinas require owners to carry insurance and this means that the boat has to be surveyed and be insurable. There is a reason why boat owners joke that B.O.A.T. = Bring On Another Thousand – they are expensive to repair.

Many people who decide to do extended cruising, will rent out their home so they don’t have to deal with real estate sticker shock when they return. If they have equity in their home the rental income might even provide a monthly cruising kitty. For other folks, they have to sell their real estate in order to buy the boat because financing a boat can be very expensive. Banks get nervous about financing things that can float away.

We have made the decision to buy a condo and not live aboard the boat in the winter time. This was not and is not an easy decision. Given that we have entered the winter season and our marina neighbours are hibernating in their boats anyway, the transition has not been too difficult. However, we both know that when spring weather arrives, we will be yearning for the freedom of the boat.  We are lucky that we are able to do both.

I am forever changed by the experience of living aboard a boat, but it has not always been easy. There is a price that you pay for the privilege of living on the water and at some point in time, you will decide that the price is too high. I am learning to be a landlubber again, but my heart is that of a liveaboard sailor.