A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Bugs and other wildlife.

There are a lot of bugs in the USA. The most annoying so far (although technically not a bug) are the spiders. They are just everywhere and re-inhabit your boat within minutes of you cleaning the previous tenants off. As someone told me, cleaning your boat is like putting out the VACANCY sign on a motel for spiders. At first I thought they were kind of cute and used to watch them in the evening dutifully spinning their webs, which I thoiught would be good for catching the flying biting insects. It reminded me of the story on Robert the Bruce, hiding from the English in his cave in Scotland and watching a spider persistent in spinning its web, and deciding that he needed to be just as persistent to wrestle the Scottish throne back from the English. They were cute until I found out that the insects they devoured got pooped out the other end and that poop was brown, sticky and really hard to get off...and there was gallons of it!!!!!! By the time we got to Green Turtle Bay, the whole boat was covered in it and it took 3 hours to clean it all off - only to have them move in again almost immediately.  It is now war on spiders   -   I have bought a can of "spider and scorpion (?!?)" spray and they regularly get a dose. Squashing them just makes a bigger mess to clean up. Although we have found them all over the USA - even floating on their silken parachutes halfway across Lake Michigan - we have found that there is less infestation when you anchor out, which is another good reason to do so.

Then there are the Mozzies. We encountered them the first time when we anchored at Quiver Island in the Illinois river. I was cleaning down the landing board (swim platform) and they were thick around me. The strange thing was that, unlike what happens in New Zealand, I didn't get a single bite. Even more peculiar and again totally contrary to what happens at home, Carolyn got savaged by them and came up in itchy welts for days afterwards. This has been the way it has been ever since - fine for me but she gets regularly bitten. Even Dennis, our Kiwi friend who visited us in Green Turtle and is a mozzie magnet at home, didn't get bitten in the whole week he stayed with us. It appears that here they like women and not men - the opposite of New Zealand.....but we are in the Northern Hemisphere after all. Even the moon is upside down (and water goes down the plughole the wrong way....yada yada yada)

So far I am unaware of the dreaded "noseeums" - a type of blood sucking sandfly that sounds similar to the ones famous on New Zealands West Coast (where they don't bite, they pick you up and carry you off to their lair to eat you later). If they have been around I haven't seen them (but you wouldn't expect to with a name like  that, would you?) and there has been no evidence of their biting prowess so far - or maybe I am also immune to them as well. I hope so. My only run-in with the insects so far has been when I picked up the outboard to put it on the dinghy and found a small wasp had decided to take up residency on the handle. It got me on the fleshy bit of the palm between my thumb and forefinger and (funnily enough) stung like hell for 2 days, and still itches after 4. The wasp perished, courtesy, of around 155 kilonewtons of downward pressure from my foot.
The one thing that I find surprising is that they don't have "Robocan" type automatic insect spray systems here. They have plenty that dispense scented deodorants, but non that I can find that dispense insecticides and nobody we have spoken to has ever heard of it in the USA. I would consider bringing some from NZ as it would be the best thing for keeping insects at bay in the boat, but you wouldn't be able to ship the replacement aerosols as they are classed as "dangerous goods" and can't be shipped on planes.

While we were at Green Turtle, we also saw our first wild snake. It was a non venemous water snake (according to the internet) and Carolyn got a pic of it. It is not a good pic so I have put a ring around its position - but it is there - really!
So far we have seen the wildlife previously reported, but we have also seen a coyote, a Muskrat, minks, chipmunks, lots and lots of squirrels and 1 (dead) beaver in one of the locks. But we didn't get pix of any of them. Lots of birds - Geese, Pelicans, Storks and even Bald eagles and there are nests in all sorts of places that must drive the owners of the structures nuts. Like on top of the solar panels that provide power for the lights on navigational markers. The most common wildlife we have encountered are the local fishos (fishermen) and they are a species of their own that deserve a separate posting.
Our last posting was from Pebble Isle Marina and we stayed there for two nights. The owners, Tammy and Randy, couldn't have been more hospitable and they made us feel like we were staying in their home. They arranged some spare parts for our engines that were there the next day, they provided sattelite connection and decoders instead of cable, they had a great courtesy car and reasonable priced diesel @ $4 a gallon. The restaurant right at the dock had such good food we ate there both nights. They also provided a complimetary cinnamon bun breakfast for Loopers, and because I don't do cinnamon, they cooked me sausage and biscuits (scones), and then even delivered a bun to Carolyn on the boat. When we left, we felt like we had known them for years and casting off was very difficult. Apparently they have had people that have come to stay for a night and finish up there for several years - I can understand why.

About 10 miles further upstream, Kentucky Lake effectively ends and we were back in the rivers again. The current picks up, and anchorages are up side creeks or behind islands. We anchored out with JADE for the next 2 nights, even though there are plenty of marinas in this stretch of the river. There are also lots and lots of houses along the banks of the river, and some of them are veritable mansions. They are also built high up the banks and the ones by the riverside and on the built up levies, are built on stilts, or block basements that have floor levels way above the land - which indicates how high the river can run in flood conditions. The further upriver we went the higher they seemed to build and by the time we reached Savannah, just downstream of Pickwick Lock and Dam, there were 2 stories below floor level.

The current continued to pick up as we went upstream and by the time we neared the lock we were struggling to get 6 knots of forward speed at 8.5 knots of hull speed. Pickwick Lock was our first lock through in over a month and was the most turbulent one we have been through so far. I had to restart the engines and use them to keep the stern against the wall during the 55ft lift. Now we are in Pickwick Lake at Aqua Yacht harbor where we plan on staying and getting a rental car to drive to Chattanooga and see some other sights while we are here.


  1. Not sure why, but several people I know in various areas of the country have complained about the spiders this year. There must be a reason for it,but they have been horrible this year. They aren't normally so bad. In fact, until this year we've never even had spiders in our boat in 15 yrs. Hopefully it is just a spike and not a building trend.

  2. I've been following your blog for a while now. Y'all going to the AGLCA meeting in Alabama? Make sure you stop in @ Midway Marina down the Tenn-Tom and say Hi !! Thanks, Jolly Time