When a midnight moth party erupts aboard, a sailor joins the festivities and bails them out the best he can.

This summer’s two week cruise was scheduled to begin June 26 aboard our 34-foot Jeffcat catamaran, which happened to be in the midst of the unusual heat wave that we all remember. Media outlets were constantly warning everyone to stay somewhere cool, be hydrated and remember the signs of heat stroke with the temperatures forecast in the upper 80s or more for at least a few days. Having pre-planned our summer cruise, we decided to set off anyway, leaving the comfortable air conditioned house on Protection Island behind. Hopes of a cooler breeze off the Strait of Georgia led us towards the destination of Kendrick Bay at the top of Valdes Island with the thought that “a bit cooler“ would be good enough.

The author’s 34-foot Jeffcat catamaran.

It was a pleasant gennaker reach to Kendrick Bay, and we anchored at the north end to maximize the possibility of air movement. Towards evening, when the mosquito screen question always arises, we opted against them for the risk of stifling any further air flow. And besides, we hadn’t seen any “mozzies” up to that point anyway. We reasoned that a bite or two would be preferential to hyPERthermia, we also thought that a cooling dip before bed should help…and it did. So after a tequila nightcap, it was off to bed remembering to turn the anchor light on due to our exposed position.

A bit of background here before continuing…

Our spring project was to renew the headliner in the port forward berth and head, the end result of which exceeded our expectations. As part of the project I replaced the lights in the head and forward berth with some nifty LEDs that were on sale at The Harbour Chandler. The lights were each a long series of LEDs that I mounted vertically in each compartment. Interestingly, the bottom LED was illuminated blue, and acted as both a night light and off on switch when the main panel switch was on. It takes only the lightest touch to that bottom blue LED and “voila”, lights on!

Back to the story…

At about 0200 I awoke to the kind of chaos that a mildly tequila numbed brain just could not at all process. There were crazy flashing lights and a soft swishing sound that together were utterly alien to anything I’d ever experienced. The first thought in my half-awake state was “this boat is possessed!”. The second thought was that my fancy-schmancy lights were malfunctioning (wrong on both counts). Trying to process this insane scenario, I crawled out of my berth and stumbled naked into an unworldly scene of one or two hundred moths — yes really that many — flying around in the head and forward berth. Every time one would brush by either sensitive little blue switch it would turn that light on or off, and all of this was happening randomly at an extremely high rate. This was like some kind of “moth disco orgy”.

Of course, much after the fact, it became obvious that they were drawn down from the anchor light by the little blue light, and once brushed … well, the party was on and word really got out … I had just arrived late and uninvited, that’s all. Standing there in utter disbelief, my first thought was “fix this now because if Wendy see’s this she’s gonna swim home!”

Now, before reading this next part, remember… there I was, suddenly awakened, standing naked with mild tequila brain, looking at flashing disco lights and hundreds of moths.

Given the above situation, I did the only logical thing — grab the handy drinking cup by the sink and trap the moths, covering the top of the cup with my hand until I had a bunch in it then fling them out through the open hatch hoping they wouldn’t fly back in (which a few did). It was like bailing the boat of moths without first plugging the moth leak, not unlike the guy with the apparent empty bucket bailing his boat of propane. After an hour or so of valiant and slightly comedic moth wrangling (a sketch for Monty Python with Marty Feldman as the “Moth Man”, if there ever was one) it was down to only a few stragglers. Thinking I’d be able to take care of those in the morning, I closed the hatches shut off the lights at the panel and went back to bed with only the occasional soft flutter as a reminder.

The Aftermoth

In the morning I arose early and opened the hatches so the stragglers could make their escape. Many appeared to be sleeping it off on deck where they landed, and the few left inside were so tired from their night of debauchery that for them it was back to cup, trap, and fling, or at this later point in my frustration, just pinch them by the wing and launch them to freedom.

After this final effort, I felt a great sense of achievement having conquered the winged invasion. Wendy woke up none the wiser, and asked how I’d slept, upon which I related my heroic story much to her mirth. Later of course, that achievement was tempered, when I noticed the super bright headlamp lying on the chart table. I simply could have used it outside of the open hatch to invite them back to the outdoor party after turning the interior party lights off. I just hadn’t read that solution in 48° North before.

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in the August issue of the BC Multihull Society newsletter.