With all of the 12 crew members sprawled out in the hot afternoon sun and with heaps of fresh food, sleeping bags and clothes piled across the rest of the deck, I turned to Philip and asked, “is that the carbon monoxide alarm I can hear?”
“Ah yes, it is.” He replied “Let’s give it another hour”.
Less than 12 hours before, at about 3:30 am, we had our first sighting of the mouse. Whilst on lookout duty, Max spotted it at the bow of the ship running along one of the railings. He called over to Philip, Aziz and me who all tried to corner it, but it darted off and completely vanished. We speculated that it may have jumped in the sea, but soon decided that was a bit optimistic.
It turned out that only Max caught sight of it. We asked him where it went, what colour it was and how big it was. He held his hands an alarming distance apart: "about this big". We asked him if this was with or without tail and his hands got slightly closer together as he showed us the size of its body.
It didn’t take long for us to decide, it was too big to be a mouse. We had picked up some mouse traps in Tenerife, but nothing that would catch… a rat. After talking tactics for a few minutes, we sat in silence for the rest of the hour, slightly alarmed at the prospect of a rat, trying to think of ways we could outsmart it.
Philip reemerged from the sleeping quarters. He too had been thinking tactics and clearly hadn’t slept much in the hour since the sighting. “I’ve got a plan.” He announced, still half asleep. “Tomorrow lunch time, we’re going to fumigate it.”
Over breakfast, not everyone was convinced that the plan would work but after discovering a hole which had been chewed through a barrel of nuts, by midday everyone agreed we should give it a go. By 3pm, we were ready to suffocate the rat.
Of course, this was a make-shift fumigation. Philip’s plan involved evacuating all people from the hull of the ship and rigging the exhaust pipes of two diesel engines – the bilge pump and the generator – back in to the boat. We aimed the fumes in the area where we thought the rat was living and let the whole ship fill up with carbon monoxide fumes so that it would have no air left to breathe.
As the diesel bilge pump to sucked in water from the sea and fired it straight back out again, whilst firing exhaust fumes in to the ship, we waited on the deck hoping this would be enough to put an end to the rat. We thought that if it it didn’t kill the rat, he’d certainly wake up with a serious headache.