Birds, Bird Droppings, Sun Fading, Vinyl Interiors and Boats! How Do I Protect My Boating Investment?

Geese, Seagulls, Blackbirds or Kites take your choice and poison!  Birds and boats both fiberglass bowriders and aluminum pontoon boats do not get along at all.  Birds are cute…right….  Well those birds are destroying your boat tops, staining fiberglass and upholstery,  marking wakeboard towers and just generally being a large pain in the wallet. Plus can cause considerable stress.  There is a medical term for this…PTBD…Post Traumatic Bird Disorder!  Leaf staining particularly Maple Leaves as well as Pine pitch and Pine needles are a pain and stain (PTLD)!

Fortunately here at Huntsville Marine the biggest problem is goose droppings on the docks.  Over the years I have had customers in tears over geese problems particularly with swimming areas and docks at their cottage locations.  Canada Geese and Sea Gulls are protected species.   Any nesting birds near water are a big problem.  Momma bird has to clean up after the kids and take the droppings out of the nest and where does this nasty stuff seam to go?  Well, they seam to prefer black or navy blue boat tops as a bombing target.  When mom and dad are not running strategic bombing missions they seem to like sitting on wake board towers and Biminis to survey the surroundings and well….they have to drop here as well.  What goes in as a gourmet bug or worm dinner comes out as a ugly white lumpy sticky mess.

The stately Maple tree come fall drops thousands of leaves.  Watch out as they frequently stain fiberglass and canvas.  Pine pitch is essentially impossible to remove and pine needles seem to be associated with mold.  Leaves are definitely associated with increases in mold.

What can be done?  The birds are not going away.  Some of these good looking entertaining pests are protected by law and they have the right to be where they want and unfortunately poop wherever and whenever Mother Nature says its time!  With that in mind we need a plan to make them move somewhere else (Plan A) and a second plan to deal with the mess when Plan A does not work or Plan B.

Plan A….Defence in Depth

  • Owls seem to scare the heck out of birds!  Couple of tricks to this….first get one with wings sticking out or partially out and secondly move it around.  Birds are not stupid and will ignore a fake Owl in the same place for endless periods.  Leave it in the same place too long and they figure it out!
  • Do not moor your boat around bridges or trees for long periods as bridges are definitely a problem for pigeons and trees in addition to sap droppings and are a favourite place for birds to chill out or nest.
  • Do not leave your boat uncovered when birds are around.  They are most active when nesting and seem to generate the most waste by-products at that time.  Bird poop and vinyl upholstery just do not get along period!
  • Bimini Tops and Wakeboard towers are a problem as birds love to sit on them…great place for a bird selfie!  Birds like firm places to land and gaze out into their territory… so simple netting on these areas works.  I was in the Galapagos Islands and the Sea Lions are a bigger problem that birds for boats.  They use netting to stop the Sea Lions from climbing up onto the decks for a snooze and poop.
  • Birds tend to return to the same nesting area each year!  If you do not move them out….they and their kids will be back!  I have tried all kinds of music and it does not seem to work on Pigeons.  Pigeon removal by trapping is very expensive.  Do not leave any food around as this just makes them want to stay…do not feed any birds around your cottage especially Seagulls, Ducks, Cormorants, Blackbirds or Kites to name a few.
  • Where you can, trim back or remove any trees near the boat.  Careful here as many municipalities have restrictions on plant life at or near the water line and in fact you may not even own or have rights to that shoreline . Your property line is the high water mark.  That means that the area at the shoreline is most likely Crown land.  For those that do not know…many towns are using Google maps to determine property status for changes to shoreline habitat and or buildings or new building additions including docks or changes to beaches.  New building restrictions in Muskoka require a 30 meter setback and no shadow can be cast on the water.
  • Vantage System for protection is a wise investment.

Plan B….Cleaning Up the Mess

The birds got past our defenses…now what?  Time is of the essence here as the longer those bird droppings are sitting on the boat as well as the leaves or needles…the harder it becomes to make it go away!  Remember not to touch with your hands any bird droppings as they can cause infections as they tend to be loaded with bacteria.  Do not use any chlorinated products.

Boat Canvas:  The harder you scrub…the more damage you are doing to the fabric.  You should not use any harsh cleaners at all….water is best and soft brushing.  If that does not work it is possible to machine wash canvas but it does remove or reduce any water repellency.  You most likely will have to respray your canvas after machine washing.

Vinyl’s and Interiors:  I have had people tell me that they used Mr., Clean magic erasers with some effect.  Spray Nine is a product that can be used…careful with this product as you do not want this in your eyes.  When using Spray Nine after cleaning no protective film is left on the vinyl.  Pink mold or black mold generally if left is not coming off or out particularly pink mold on seams and stitching.  Treatment of vinyl’s for protection with a 303 product or Aurora product does help before the problem to lessen implications.  The best that I have seen is the Vantage system described below for both interiors and exteriors.

Fiberglass Exteriors:  Again time is very important here.  Problem is when leaves are dropping we tend to be at the cottage less and the last trip to the cottage may be to put the boat and dock away as well as clean up the leaves. Those using services for docks and leaves…they are not responsible for leaves on your boat or expensive docks finishes.  Yearly waxing of exterior surfaces is an inexpensive means of reducing problems with sun damage as well as bird dropping and leaf damage.  The better means is the Vantage System or a boat house.  Fiberglass cleaners will have some success…read the label to know what it designed to do before applying.

What About Sun Damage:  Leaving the birds alone for a moment….that sun that we all want to see on the weekends at the cottage can cause significant exterior hull surface damage.  Fading, white chalky film particularly on red and yellow gel coat colours can be disheartening!  You can with the right equipment and materials get back close to original….but you can only buff polish so many times as it actually removes part of the gel coat each time you apply it.  A boats gel coat finish is not as hard and resistant to sun damage as are automotive finishes.  Pontoon fencing is less prone to sun damage than fiberglass gelcoats.  Exposed carpets on pontoons is very venerable as is dark vinyl flooring.

Vantage System: