How To Get Rid Of Spiders On A Sailboat

How To Get Rid Of Spiders On A Sailboat | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Beth York

June 15, 2022

Getting rid of spiders and keeping them away is essential to feeling comfortable aboard your sailboat. No matter how they’re getting aboard, there are ways of getting rid of them and keeping them away.

There are a number of options for dealing with pests onboard. Both chemical pesticides and natural options kill spiders already aboard and deter new critters from becoming stowaways. Also, maintaining a clean, clutter free space is always helpful in keeping the spider countdown.

Since there are so many methods available for ridding your boat of it’s 8-legged liveaboards, it can be difficult to know which is best for your situation. Is your sailboat at the dock or at anchor? Do you have insects living aboard that the spiders are feasting on? Do you have pets or children that may be harmed by certain pesticides? These are the questions you need to consider when choosing a plan of attack.

Growing up sailing in the Great Lakes, my family definitely had the occasional spider onboard. This caused a lot of screeching as well as mashing at the spider with the fly swatter until it was no longer recognizable.

I’m a lot braver now and as a mom myself, I’m careful to keep my boat as clean and clutter free as possible. I keep roach/ant poison in the non-consumable compartments and keep the boat at anchor full time which really decreases the number of bugs onboard.

Before we talk about how to get rid of your spiders, let's talk about why they may be there in the first place.


Table of contents

Why Are There Spiders On My Boat?

Spiders like dark places. They like places where there are things to eat and water to drink and places to hide. Unfortunately that often describes the inside of a boat. Before you run to the store to pick up the perfect spider repellent, consider deep cleaning your boat's interior and exterior.

The goal with deep cleaning is to make your sailboat less inviting to the insects that spiders are feeding on. Remove clutter wherever possible, vacuum and wipe down the floors, dust, wipe down galley surfaces. This act of thoroughly cleaning will help decrease the number of insects that the spiders may be hunting. You close the buffet and they’ll find a new place to hang out.

I know from experience how difficult it can be to maintain a clutter-free boat. I live aboard with my husband, our 6 year-old son and our two dogs on our 30ft sailboat. Clutter feels like a way of life for us sometimes. But not only does cleanliness and organization help keep our boat fairly free of bugs, it also helps keep our sanity. It’s a necessity of boat life, am I right?

Where are the spiders coming from?

If your boat is kept at a marina, it is likely that spiders are treating your dock lines and power cable as a bug highway. Not only spiders, but roaches and ants as well. Eek! After cleaning and decluttering your deck space, be sure to treat your deck lines and power cable with a pesticide spray. If you’re uncomfortable using a pesticide spray, keep reading to find out about my all-natural spider repellent that may be a great option for you!

If your boat is on the hard, then your boat stands or cradle will likely be how spiders and other creepy-crawlies are coming onboard. Through-hulls and vents are perfect entry points for spiders as well, so be sure to stuff a bit of fabric or screen material into those spaces while your boat is out of the water. Just be sure to remove them prior to splashing your boat.

Spiders are incredible creatures and they didn’t amass their incredible numbers by being daft. Did you know that there are 2.1 million spiders to every human? If that doesn’t give you the heebee jeebees then you’re made of tougher stuff than the average joe. It’s no wonder that we find them on our sailboats because they live practically everywhere on this planet.

Even though they can’t fly, they are able to float on a thread of web through the air and that’s practically flying, right? Boats that are at anchor or on mooring buoys likely get their spider crew in this way. I’m afraid there isn’t much that we can do to stop spiders from ‘flying’ onto our boats, so just be sure to make your boat as unwelcoming as possible and maybe they’ll choose to land your neighbors boat. You know, the one with all the junk on deck that hasn’t been scrubbed in a millennia. Kidding. Sort of...

How To Eliminate Spiders On Your Sailboat     

No one can tell you which method is best for you when it comes to eliminating pests onboard. The foundation of any method is keeping a clean boat, but beyond that it’s up to you and your circumstances. If you have children, pets, or perhaps a person sensitive to chemicals onboard, you may decide to shy away from chemical based solutions. I have used pesticide sprays in storage spaces and bilge areas on my boat and found them to be very effective for eliminating spiders and insects.

When selecting a pesticide to use onboard, it’s a good idea to consider how it's applied. I have found that products that come with a wand applicator are much easier to use and can give you more precision than an aerosol can. There are also bait options that allow you to place the bait in target areas. Traps may be an option for you as well if you have concerns about the safety of chemical based products on board. Traps and bait also eliminate the risk of accidentally spreading the pesticide throughout the living areas of your boat.

If chemical based solutions aren’t for you, then stay tuned because I believe I have found a solution that not only kills spiders and keeps them away, it also has many other useful qualities on any sailboat.

Simple, Effective, Natural Pest Control

There is one key element to the deep cleaning that can really send those arachnids running. It’s a product that has benefits beyond ridding your boat of spiders.

So, Spiders hate it. Teak loves it. It's antimicrobial, antiviral, and it kills mold. What is this miracle product, you might ask? It’s called Tea Tree oil. It’s an essential oil that, when used properly, can be extremely useful aboard your boat.

Tea Tree oil can be found in most grocery stores in the pharmacy area. It’s also available through many online retailers and local health food stores.

It’s important to know that undiluted Tea Tree oil is very potent and can be harmful if consumed or applied undiluted to the skin. Make sure to keep your bottle of Tea Tree oil out of the reach of children and pets, and be sure to dilute Tea Tree oil before using.

My favorite cleaning mixture works wonders for cleaning floors, counter tops, walls, all surfaces in the head. It can even be used above decks to clean and prevent spider issues. Spray it inside lazarettes, anchor wells, and deck boxes! Besides being a phenomenal cleaner, it freshens the smell of my boat and keeps the spiders away. Here’s my recipe…

Spiders-B-Gone Cleaning Solution

Fill a 16 oz. spray bottle with the following ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cup warm water
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 7-10 drops Tea Tree oil

Shake the bottle and spray it on the surfaces to be cleaned. Use a soft cloth towel to wipe the surface dry.

This solution is a great tool to use against mildew growth as well due to it’s antifungal qualities. Spray on mildew affected areas and wipe clean. This also helps prevent mildew growth in the future.

If the scent of Tea Tree oil isn’t for you, there are other options such as Orange oil or Lemon oil. Both will have the same spider fighting effects as Tea Tree oil. Orange oil is also effective in the elimination of mildew.

Benefits Of Having a Few Spiders Onboard

When I was a kid cruising around the Great Lakes with my family, we would have spiders onboard from time to time and as I said earlier, spiders usually brought about a lot of shrieking and swatting. There was one summer, however, when we adopted one particular spider and graciously allowed it to live within our fully enclosed cockpit. We named it Annie and would watch it feed on mosquitoes in the evening. The odd mosquito would always manage to find it’s way into our cockpit and Annie would gladly consume the intruder. Annie may have been the catalyst which helped me get over my arachnophobia.

My point is that having a spider or two above decks can be a welcome thing, given the right mind set. They do eat insects such as roaches, mosquitos, and flies. Plus, of the roughly 3,000 species of spiders living in the U.S. only 3 are dangerous to humans. The Black Widow, the Brown Recluse, and the Hobo spiders are the only types that pose a serious threat to the average American. Those 3 species are easily recognizable and avoidable.

So, while no one wants an infestation of any kind onboard their sailboat, having one or two regular spiders cruising with you might be something you can learn to live with, as long as they pull their weight with the whole mosquito eating thing.

How To Get Rid Of Spiders On A Sailboat
Beth York

Beth York

Beth lives on board her 1983 30ft S2 sailboat with her husband, 6 year-old son, and her two fur babies. She has been sailing and boating for most of her life. Beth has been blessed to experience cruising in the Great Lakes, the Bahamas, and in Alaska. She loves to travel and adores living on her tiny boat with her family.

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