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Ever Found a Stowaway on Board?

In modern times it’s extremely rare for human travelers to stow away aboard sailboats. But over the years we’ve reported on all sorts of freeloading creatures found aboard cruising boats. Among them was a giant albatross that laid claim to a sizable area of deck space for days and a water snake that took up residency in a boat’s only toilet.

The most unwelcome offender we’ve encountered on our own boat, Little Wing, was a nasty old rat who snuck aboard at a work dock. Our initial shock at finding telltale scraps of packaging turned to white-hot rage when we discovered he’d nibbled through half of our stash of Mint Milano cookies. Seriously, the nerve of that ugly varmint!

Among possible stowaways, probably none are more detested than rats. Yuck!
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Andy

Another challenge was trying to convince a swarm of honey bees that our varnished teak handrail was a lousy place to build a hive — especially since we were about to cross an ocean.

swarm of bees
This swarm of defiant bees took up residence on our handrail, just days before we set sail for the Marquesas.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Andy

Birds? As with most sailors who venture offshore, plenty of them hitch rides with us. Although it can be fascinating to observe them up close, the deal-breaker is usually when your decks become peppered with piles of guano. There was that one blue-footed booby, though, who kept to his promise during two days of mid-ocean sailing, never to poop on deck.

Boobie on the pulpit
Before letting him stay aboard, we made this booby promise not to poop on deck.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Andy

If you’ve got an unusual stowaway story to tell — regarding human or animal travelers — we’d love to hear it (write to us at [email protected]). Be sure to include your full name, boat name and model and homeport.


  1. Catherine Callahan 3 years ago

    Love the critter stowaway pics.

  2. wayne stevens 3 years ago

    The most unusual stowaways I remember in over 25 years of living aboard and cruising was a possum and her stillborn litter found in the cockpit of a friends boat. The kicker was that the boat was anchored about 40 yards from shore and there was no obvious way for the critter to have gotten aboard.

    I rowed the possum ashore and she wandered off into some nearby woods apparently no worse off after her yachting adventure.

    I coaxed her into a sailbag, rowed her ashore to wildlife

    • wayne stevens 3 years ago

      Missed editing out that last sentence.

  3. barry spanier 3 years ago

    cockroaches, termites, ants, spiders, and best of all, RATS! it’s amazing how much wire covering, food containers, even thinner bulkheads get chewed. and the RATS are wiley and tough to catch sometimes. we use one of those 50000 volt electrocuters for the best solution so far. if your boat is tied to a dock, watch out for rats.
    not a fun stowaway.

  4. Dennis Bailey 3 years ago

    Just returned from the Baja Jaja. We had two stowaways: a swallow that came and went three or four times to various perches in the cockpit for idle chat, and a flying fish that slapped me in the back of the head while I had night watch.

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