Line trouble caused by bird nests


Jun 5, 2012
Oday 31 Bayville, NJ
Ever since I bought our ODay 31 five years ago, The halyards, outhaul and reef lines have been difficult to pull. I assumed that someone had carelessly put them in the spars and they were tangled around each other causing friction.

So last winter I had the mast pulled and I took the boom home to disassemble it in my garage. What I found was a incredible amount of bird nest materials ( marsh grass, plastic, string, rag strips and mud). You couldn’t see from one end to the other. I removed the outhaul and reef lines and washed the crud out of them. Then I washed out the inside of the boom. Upon reassembly, I made and installed an aluminum plate to cover the hole in the end of the boom to stop birds from entering again. I just drilled a few holes and used the same rivets that I needed to reassemble the boom ends.

At the boatyard, I removed the halyards and wiring the pressure blasted the mast clean. This took about ten passes with a high pressure washer to blow out all the bird nest stuff. To do this, I first forced an electrician’s ”fish tape” through the mast which wasn’t easy. Then I used electrician’s pull string(very strong) by attaching it to the fish tape and pulling it through the mast. Finally, I tied used the string to pull a pressure washer nozzle on a high pressure hose through the 40’ mast. Then I’d pull the hose back through and repeat. Again, an incredible amount of debris was washed out. I washed one halyard, replaced another and pulled them along with new wire for the lights, antenna and wind instrument transducer.

The sails were easy to handle this summer so it was well worth the effort!

I was careful to keep the open ends of the mast covered until it was reassembled and re-stepped. I can only imagine that before I owned this boat, the mast and boom were left open leaving a popular hotel space for birds. If you are in your boatyard this winter, observe the birds flying in and out of open spars and do your fellow boaters a favor by blocking the openings.
Oct 19, 2017
O'Day 19 Littleton, NH
Birds can be a real problem on unattended boats.
Nice post. Thanks

-Will (Dragonfly)
May 17, 2004
Beneteau Oceanis 37 LE Havre de Grace
They certainly can be problems. We used to plug the end of the boom with a rag in the spring time. Otherwise birds would nest inside and lay eggs. The eggs would subsequently come out when raising or tacking the main, which is not ideal.
Jan 1, 2006
Slickcraft 26 Greenport, NY
They are industrious little critters. I used to get nests under the sail cover, and sometimes in the folds of the sail in the three days I didn't visit the boat in the spring. The amount of material I pulled out of my 356 boom one fall was staggering. Major yuck!
Mar 26, 2011
Corsair F-24 MK I Deale, MD
^^ I've removed more nest strains from furled sails than every other type of sail cleaning combined.
Jun 14, 2010
TBD Looking for my next boat CT
I use a wide tape on the aft end of the boom. 3M Preservation Tape -- very strong, it doesn't leave residue and holds up well in the weather.


Jan 26, 2005
C&C 110 Bay Shore, Long Island, NY
Timely! I'm also in the process of making fiberglass cover plates for the ends of my boom. I don't like disturbing the nests once they're built so prevention is the best option. I used to stuff a sponge in the end of the boom until the birds started using it as their preferred building material.
May 1, 2011
Pearson 37 Lusby MD
I folded over a sheet of oilsorb and stuck it in the aft end of the boom. Momma bird gave me the stink eye when she couldn't come back for more mayhem the following spring!


Jun 5, 2012
Oday 31 Bayville, NJ
I had my new main made with a “stack pack” bag that zippers over the sail keeping birds out. However, the main reason I changed was ease of dropping the mainsail without having to jump around the cabin top with sail ties to secure it.