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Bugs That Bugger Boaters

It was a great day to be out at the Bacardi wreck with Dave, Pete, and Jerry.  We were chunking away and had a good slick going but nothing was happening. The fishing Gods were not blessing us that day. But why do I remember that day so well? Simple, here we are 65 miles offshore and around noon, in a blazing hot sun and we get blitzed by a squadron of small, nasty, biting black flies that enjoyed sucking blood out of our ankles and arms. We had encountered them on other trips closer to shore but this far out? It became so intolerable we pulled the hook and headed for port. If anyone has an idea how they found us 65 miles out, please drop me a line!!!!

 

 My list of boating traumas includes bad weather, bad fuel, spun props, lightning strikes and haphazardly positioned buoys. Any one of these can cause a poor boating experience. But the plague that buggers me the most are BUGS and any of their annoying relatives. Mind you, I use my boat three seasons a year so colder weather absolves me of running into “creepy crawlers” for a good portion of the season but as the weather warms, in comes the swarms and that kinda pisses me off, especially if I want to take the grand kids to a beach or just cruise with my first mate. I don’t need flying wise guys spoiling my day.
The one I have it in the most for is Mrs. Green Fly, alias Mrs. Green Head or Horsefly. Mr. Green Fly gets a pass because he doesn’t bite. But Mrs. Green???? I wouldn’t want to be in divorce court with this predator. She arrives in the late spring bursting from eggs and first feeding on sweet nectar. You would think she would be sweet as pie on that diet but once she lays her first set of 200 eggs she becomes ravenous. Her palette changes and now she’s out for blood - your blood! You swat. You dance on the deck. You spray yourself with so much Deet that you fear you will glow in the dark. You speed up your RPMs to get some relief and hunker down under your canvas or hardtop. When you see a no wake zone coming up you begin to sweat because you know their coming after you again, and again, and again. The ones you thought we dead on the deck rise up again like Lazarus.
What to do? Sadly, not much. Insect sprays barely work on these ladies. Wear light color clothing and carry a swatter.
Move away if the area you are anchored in is infested. Often that’s the best alternative. Down the beach, a couple of hundred yards, may make all the difference. One other thing - get out in early morning, later afternoons, or days with less sun as their primary time is mid-day. However, if you go out in the evening avoid anchoring near a salt marsh near sunset or you will run into another accursed enemy of mine, the saltwater mosquito.
The saltwater mosquito inhabits all the salt marshes along our coastal waters. Before I start badmouthing them I must clarify that all insects that lay and breed their larva in the creeks and bay channels do have a noble purpose. These larvae and their infant fry are a choice food for small fish like killies and other small fish that are the feast for larger fish. That’s how the bay system works. It’s natures’ capitalist system. When it’s in balance, it works. The more small fish, the less pestilence.
Saltwater mosquito’s are the B-52s of the bay and our boating environment. When it rains steady for a couple of days from mid-spring, then summer into autumn, you can expect giant hordes of them to look for and find you. Sometimes it seems it’s only you they’re after.  It could be. Some folks emit certain scents they find more attractive. It could also be your cologne or perfume that attracts them while you are serving canapés on your aft deck.  Again, it’s the female that causes all the itchy, swollen bites for the same reason as the green fly. An hour before and after sundown is their feasting time when they drill in your arm and remove your precious blood. Once, we stayed a little late watching Oster crackers and skimmers make their last run of the day. We were short anchored in Haunts Creek just south of Bellmore. The sun was setting in a magnificent red ball. Suddenly the wind went to zero and the hordes rose up and attacked like “Good Ole Boys” rushing for ribs at the church barbeque. We hauled our butts outta there fast, but not fast enough to avoid heavy itching damage.  We now keep a dozen bottles of bug spray in the cabin. Just in case.
So you make it back to the dock as the sunset mosquito raid ebbs and everyone goes into the house scratching and complaining about their bites. Frankly both you and I would rather have some solitary peace. You put on your arc lights, grab the hose, boat soap, and brush and begin washing the decks down. What a nice, therapeutic way, to end a day on the water. It’s low tide. Next thing you know you’re breathing hordes of gnats into your nostrils. Gnats are officially called “Biting Midges”. Colloquially we call them “No see ums”. These little ba------ds are no larger than 1/32 of an inch.
They get in your ears, hair, eyes, and on any exposed skin and these tiny monsters pack a walloping bite. If you are allergic - you will SUFFER! Nothing stops them. Better to just drop the hose and run for the house. Sleep over at watch hill under the right conditions and they come right through your screened portholes and hatches.
Think maybe you can get away from insect havoc by anchoring the boat on a sandy bottom and retreating to a nice sandy beach where you can sit on the sand, enjoy the breeze and stare out at the pounding waves? You leisurely lean back on your elbows and drink up some rays that might make it through your sunscreen 3000 XL Hyper Blocker. Think again! You suddenly feel pinching on your butt and legs? What the??? You’ve just sat on a convention of tiny, biting sand fleas! You jump in the surf for relief, quickly dry yourself off and head past the sign that reads “Keep Off The Dunes” and into the waving salt grass beyond. Finally you’ve had enough. You climb on your boat, and while making your way home you notice small brown crawlies on your legs. Bingo!! You picked up dog fleas in the dunes. Who knew seagulls host all sorts of ticks and transport them onto docks, foliage and even wood benches. Fortunately as you remove them there was no evidence of any deer ticks, which could mean big trouble like Lyme’s disease but this is your day, no sign of them!
Of course, all of these flying, crawling, biting devils are not technically insects, but you get the idea. I’ve added some drama, spun in a bit of humor, appealed to some folks sense of horror, and painted an altogether prejudiced view of the boundless beauty and pleasure to be found boating and exploring the waters around us. It’s just a sorry attempt to keep some finicky boaters at home and have more of the wide-open water for myself!

Article and Illustrations by Mark C. Nuccio
All rights reserved.
You can contact Mark –mark@ designedge.net.



 

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