How a Magnet made me the happiest girl in the world

Before you start wondering if I have completely lost the plot, STOP!

Those who follow the Astrolabe Sailing Facebook or Instagram pages may have noticed the odd photo of my beautiful boat Wildy absolutely covered in bird poo.

Now for someone who is very ‘boat proud’ and who thinks her boat is the most beautiful boat in the world, this has been extremely distressing.

I’ve had Wildwood for 14 years this year, and she has been on the same mooring that whole time. Apart from the odd seagull attempting to make a nest on her a few years ago, I have never really had any problems with birds. The seagull was a big issue at the time, but was easily managed with a few fish n chips – you can read all about that here

Then a couple of years ago, a few little birds started to come and roost on board. Not too much of a drama. I bought an owl and a magpie and that seemed to do the trick. They went away.

Life was good again.

IMG_7959.jpgSophie with Owlie & Maggie

But it turns out swallows aren’t silly…

They came back – with a vengeance. My poor boat soon became the favourite place to roost at night. I am not sure what it was that these damn birds eat – vindaloo or something because their poo was super sticky, baked on in the summer sun, and clearly there were hundreds of them as even after a week of being away I’d come back to a boat absolutely COVERED in bird shit – including all over the heads of the owl and magpie – they had been sitting on them too!

IMG_0018IMG_0019And this is after just one week!

In fact, the photos above aren’t even the worst of it. It got to the stage where I could smell the boat before I even got there.

I tried everything…

Plastic bags or CD’s tied on the lifelines. These actually worked really well and I made sure they were well secured so that they didn’t blow off and in to the water. But the boat looked like a Chinese laundry, and eventually the birds got used to them too and would roost in between the bags on the lifelines.

Safety flags strung up all around the boat. The birds seemed to really enjoy roosting on the strings and these had no effect whatsoever

IMG_1624Look at the state of my sail cover!!!

I also had a net – like what you would put over your strawberries. When strung tightly across the boat (kind of like the boat in the background of the pic above) the birds just roosted on that and made even more of a mess.

If you didn’t string the net up tightly and bunched it loosely, it was quite a bit more effective, but it did mean that you ended up catching the birds – like fish in the net. Which I admit I did feel guilty about (for aprox 1 second). I really don’t like killing things, but these birds have completely destroyed my deck paint job which took us weeks to do just a couple of years ago.

I even tried poisoning them with rat bait – they didn’t touch it.

Some people suggested plastic snakes on the deck, but we don’t have snakes in New Zealand, so I don’t know that our birds would be afraid, and I expect they would figure that out eventually as well like they did with the birds.

Another person suggested shooting them. I haven’t got a gun, and I expect you’d have to be a pretty good shot to be able to kill the hundreds of swallows that would descend on my boat at twilight. Plus I couldn’t guarantee I’d miss and put a hole in a neighbour’s boat instead.

You can also get spinning wing things – but we get some pretty decent storms rolling through here at 43°S and I wasn’t convinced it wouldn’t blow itself apart in the first big blow. Then there is the problem of where to mount it as the birds seemed to really love the lifelines and cockpit the most.

Picture this…

Every week I would go out, quietly hoping that the plastic bags/owls/magpies/net/poison/flags had somehow miraculously worked this time, getting to within 20 metres of the boat and seeing the brown shit stains seeping down the topsides, getting that awful smell catch in your throat, wanting to cry, spending at least two hours scrubbing the boat before getting it even semi-presentable while occasionally sobbing, going out sailing for a couple of hours, coming back to the mooring, packing up the boat, re-rigging all the anti-bird devices, kidding myself in to thinking that “this time it would work” jumping in the dinghy and thinking that the boat looked terrible with all the things hanging off her – just as the hundreds of pesky little swallows started swooping and diving and perching on the boat, crying a bit again, going to the club, smelling like bird shit, going home for showers and detoxification of clothing.

And then doing all that again a week later.

My friend Craig recommended going and picking up a cat from the SPCA and leaving that out there. Good suggestion, but I thought that I would then be dealing with cat fur and cat poo instead…

It was driving me mad. Andrew (let’s just say he is a Virgo and let’s leave it at that) came out on one particularly bad day and got very snippy about the whole issue… drastic action needed to be taken otherwise he was threatening to not come out on my boat any more!

I did some googling and picked up the phone to Maintrac Group on Monday morning tears welling up in my eyes, a kind sounding man answered the phone “Please” – I said, “Please you have to help me…”

If you google “anti-bird” devices then you get all sorts of things come up – some goo or powder stuff you can put down that they don’t like to stand in – neither of which are particularly useful on an boat. Perhaps spikes all over the life lines? Then you get noise things, but its difficult to install that somewhere, where it won’t get wet and still project the noise out over the boat, and then how do you power that without it running your batteries flat and not annoying everyone around you.

I wasn’t sure that he was going to be able to assist me.

He sounded sympathetic, listened to the hysteria in my tone of voice and then made some recommendations. By this stage I was ready to spend just about any sum of money to get this issue dealt to.

Then he recommended magnets.

My friend Don from a neighbouring boat had already mentioned that they were using some magnets, but I had brushed that off as being a bit of jiggery-pokery. Anyway I parted with a vast quantity of money and two days later a small box arrived on my doorstep.

I eagerly unwrapped it, inside were two sparkly magnets and some instructions. I called Andrew to give him the good news. “Hmmmmmmm…” he said skeptically.  In his own words he muttered: “I’d be very surprised that the swallows were ‘New Age’ swallows – into magnets and god knows what else….”

Anyway… we strung them up according to the instructions, and crossed our fingers.

And today… I came back – to a boat almost completely free of bird poo for the first time in  what must be two years.


IMG_2028Clean deck after one week of magnet use!

How does it work? No idea… but apparently birds have their own internal magnets that get a bit upset by these powerful ones. You can read more about that here. You have one at the bow and one on the stern and WOW it has absolutely worked for me (so far).

I was so excited and the happiest girl in the world. I also had an extra couple of hours on my hands as I now didn’t need to scrub poo off the boat. So I decided to have a beer to celebrate with my owl. He was just as surprised as I was that these magnets worked. Just look at the expression on his face!


  • Easy to install.
  • Doesn’t require any ongoing power or maintenance.
  • Won’t annoy everyone around you like a sound scaring device does.
  • Don’t blow away in first big storm (unless you don’t tie them on properly…)
  • Works on lots of different bird types (swallows in my case)
  • If you’ve got a pacemaker they can interact with the function of that, so beware! They are also dangerous to magnetically coded credit cards and computers.
  • The magnets affect the geomagnetic field that birds use, and their sense of direction, so they avoid going near them. They won’t get used to them either (unlike my plastic owls and magpies)
  • They are safe and do not scare or harm the birds or any other animals or the environment.
  • Install them away from magnetic objects (like your compass!)
  • Hang them high up, away from things that they can bang in to on a non-magnetic line


And then we went out and had an awesome mid-winter sail, and life was good again.

I just hope they keep working!

Here is what I bought here:

*** UPDATE *** – one week later and I can definitely say that the magnets do work and that the birds haven’t just migrated north for the winter. Unfortunately I had to learn the hard way…

When I got to the boat on Sunday there was no sign of the back magnet. There was quite a big storm during the week, so I expect the knot must have come undone on the line it was hanging on. Shame it didn’t drop in to the boat! Either that or someone pinched it. Anyway it was gone and guess what…?

The poo was back 😦

I have centered the one that is left and hope that it will work in the mean time (the bow was certainly cleaner than the cockpit where the other one went missing from.)

Looks like I am giving Maintrac Group another call…!

*** UPDATE***

Two months on now, new replacement magnets installed, and I am sooooo pleased with how they have performed. The two magnets are now attached by a cable tie so I don’t lose another one.

Just to give you another comparison pic:

BEFORE Magnets – by the way this was only one week since last 2 hour scrub down… 😦


And AFTER Magnets – photo taken just the other day.


I’ve still got the completely useless net on as I haven’t got round to taking it off yet. It was a perfect perch for the birds to sit on while they shat all over the boat.

Some people have found cheaper magnets online and are going to give them a try and let me know how they get on. I am well beyond any more experimenting – so if you are desperate like I was, and need a solution now – then I can highly recommend the Main Trac ones linked in the post above.

Happy to answer any questions – comment below. I will be sure to let you know if they stop working!


53 thoughts on “How a Magnet made me the happiest girl in the world

  1. I remember coming to ‘Good Point’ once and it was so covered I has to shovel it off, it wrecked the paintwork! Not any more, Don sussed it out – so excellent, Got to hang them high, there is one above the boom and one on the stern of Good Point, plus a wind vain,, problem it it makes them go to another yacht… Sorry!


    • Yes absolutely. When they are hanging up they are quite a long way from the compass, but we would have to be very careful where we stow them when we are using the compass for navigating!


  2. Ummmm, what a great post. I’ve done flags, owls, spiky things and other stuff to keep the seagulls off the rigging, but they roost so high on the mast, stuff goes everywhere. Now I have a solution. Totally have to reblog this one!


    • Hope it works well for you too! I am still a bit skeptical, but it has definitely made a massive difference to me so far. I will of course update again if there is any change. So far so good!


  3. Hey Viki

    Nice to see that this worked. I’ve got a mate who strings a funnel above the boom and for some reason this seems to work – better than netting, owls & plastic snakes combined – it’s a puzzle! His boat is always clean whereas the one nearby looks like Nauru.

    A couple of questions:
    1. What do you do with the magnets when you go sailing?
    2. How come you decided to buy the bigger (& presumably stronger) 2-magnet model, instead of the smaller 3-pronged BBB model?
    3. Have you tested it to make sure they don’t affect you compass?


    • A funnel!? Wow that’s another good one. When I was googling around I did see a few people suggest using plastic snakes, but as we don’t have snakes in NZ I wonder if birds would be afraid of them?

      In answer to your questions:
      1. We take them down when we are sailing and I have just stowed them in the aft locker.
      2. I just went with what the man on the phone suggested. I didn’t check on the smaller one. I will look it up.
      3. I imagine it would affect the compass. When they are strung up I’ve got one on the bow and one right under the backstay so it isn’t close to the compass when they are strung up, but I’d have to be really careful when I stow them to make sure they are a long way from the compass when we go sailing up the coast, as that is when we rely on the compass most.



  4. Pingback: Easy solution to a vexing problem- How a Magnet made me the happiest girl in the world — Astrolabe Sailing | Live Free 2 Sail Fast

  5. Brilliant! Like you (initially) it hasn’t been a problem but you never know when it will be, so filing this away for future use. Or – for someone else who experiences this. Thanks, Viki!


  6. Hello Viki,

    I currently have my boat in a marina in St. Petersburg, FL. Crows and blackbirds here are fond of the purple palm berries and come literally by the hundreds in season and bestow their gifts on our boats each day that resemble the photos of your boat (pre-magnets). I wonder if you would give those following this a current update on performance of this product. The folks at MainTrac use your post as a testimonial.

    You stated some skepticism in June, so what can you add at present? Still working? Has your season there changed bird behavior in general? Did you replace the magnet that was lost? Did it seem to work at all with one?
    I like your blog btw. I certainly appreciate your time and anything further you may add.

    Bill Hajek
    s/v Winterlude
    1985 Passport 37


    • Hi Bill,
      Thanks for your message. Gosh that does sound messy!
      The magnets have made an incredible difference to me. I was out on my boat last weekend. Haven’t been out for a few weeks and I was worried about what I’d find.
      I needn’t have worried though! There wasn’t a single poo on the boat!
      The magnets made a huge difference to me. My boat would be absolutely covered in poo every week and it would take at least a couple of hours of scrubbing to clean it before I could go out.
      Despite my original skepticism they worked as soon as I put them up. I was amazed but still found myself questioning if it was the magnets, especially when someone suggested maybe the birds had just migrated. But then when I lost one they immediately came back and once again covered the boat in poo until I bought another set!
      I’ve got one strung up between the forestay and the mast and another strung up between the mast and the backstay – they have to be able to swing freely without hitting anything. I’ve cabletied them to my long line now to hopefully avoid losing another one.
      Anyway hope that helps. Main Trac were offering a 15% discount on the magnets if you mentioned ASTROLABE when you bought them on their website, but I think that might have ended now, but if you give them a call/email they might still do it for you!
      Good luck and let me know how they go for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. $240 sounds like a lot for a couple of magnets. You might like to look at somewhere like:

    – for something a little cheaper. You can easily package them in something waterproof and hangable.

    I’d be a bit careful about stowing them anywhere near the compass, though. How about right up for’ard, rather than in the aft locker?


    • Hi Jon, yes they are expensive but I was just about prepared to pay anything to get rid of them!
      Other magnets might work too. It could be worth a shot.
      I’ll stow them well away from the compass when we sail up the coast at Xmas. Maybe even off the boat. 🙂


  8. Viki, great tip! When we first bought our boat in western FL, we had the same experience with the D#%M birds. I would go screaming out on deck, and if I could have gotten away with bringing a bb gun to the marina to scare them, I would have. LOL So I understand your emotions! So glad you found something that finally worked!


  9. I have a 50′ yawl in Northeast Harbor, Maine. I tried just about every anti-seagull gimmick out there – Downeast seagulls are wiley, persistent buggers! They sit on the masthead or spreaders which gives them an ideal vantage point to see and catch fish swimming around the boat. They return to said masthead or spreaders, devour their catch that seems to take little time to traverse the gulls’ alimentary canal and PLOP all over your nice clean deck, cockpit, sail covers, cockpit covers etc. etc.

    My ultimate solution was a Daisy pump action BB gun aimed directly at the offending anatomical orifice of Johnathan Livingston Seagull as soon as the bastard alights on masthead, spreader, etc and treat him/her with an uncomfortable proctological insult. I found that the Seagull telegraph spreads quickly and the bastards find some other target-for a while. However, a few days of absence from the boat and they’re back. Therefore, constant vigilance is required.


    • Annoying! I did consider trying to shoot mine too but there were hundreds of the little devils (swallows) and they only arrived at dusk. I’m so thankful that the magnets worked!


  10. Magnets. How totally unexpected a solution is that!? I’m going to put some in my house gutter to see if I can stop them from nesting there. For sure will try them on the boat if I need to as well. I’m going to try simple magnets in the gutter first. (next spring. they had two hatches this year. ugh)
    Nice writing and great, painfully clear photos.


  11. I think I know where the swallows went… they found my boat in Opua. Oh god the smell!!! 😩😩😩 Did you ever hear back from anyone who has tried (cheaper) alternative magnets?

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have a 32 foot Catalina 320 sailboat in Southern California at Dana Point Harbor. Over here, we have the “darling Starlings”. They are anything but “darling”. While our problem was not nearly as bad as yours, every Friday when we got to the boat, droppings were everywhere during the Starling season when they migrate to our location. This meant I was constantly cleaning up the droppings and my grumpyness increased. I grew determined to fight back. I chose to add spikes to the top of our two spreaders, on top of our radar and finally atop the masthead. The starling poops on our foredeck have subsided to almost nothing. However, we still received their “gifts” (or perhaps from another type of bird) in our cockpit. I found this product, and bought FOUR of them. They just arrived today!

      I plan to place them as follows: two, each about 14 feet up on either side of our mast attached on both the port and starboard burgee lines. The other two, each attached at similar points, aft on our rear two backstay rigging cables (probably just eight feet up. When we sail, we will check to see if their presence disturbes our compass. If so, we will take them down during those times. Thank you Vicki, and also to everyone else for sharing your thoughts and experiences here. I look forward to having a boat free of droppings from now on!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Viki
    I was just referred to your blog about bird poo by the nice man at Burnsco. After 3 months of storing our Farr 7500 trailer sailer Snow Goose on a mooring at French Farm we arrived there last Sunday and were horror struck to find we had been party central for the local seagull population in the last fortnight. All I had on board was an ‘eco’ spray’n’wipe, a green scouring pad, a scrubbing brush and elbow grease. 3 hours later we were a bit more presentable, but can you recommend a product to get off the real baked on poo from the ‘bobbly’ non-slip bits of deck? Vinegar, baking soda, jif??? Burnsco guy could only recommend CT18 Superwash – but I was reluctant to spend $50 before checking in with you! Any advice gratefully received……
    We rigged up lengths of fishing line (it was all we had to hand on board) over the decks and boom and will be back on board next Sunday. Very keen on the magnet idea if that hasn’t worked. Quite pricey though – have you had feedback yet in cheaper brands?
    Yours hopefully
    Lisa and Martin Bennett
    Tai Tapu
    021 767 919


    • Oh no! You poor things! It’s terrible isn’t it and baked on in the sun is even worse.
      I ended up using some ‘spray and walk away’ stuff which worked really well. but beware – it bleaches your clothes!
      My paintwork on deck is pretty much ruined, I’m in the marina now and the horrid sparrows haven’t followed me thank goodness. The magnets and a combination of flappy plastic bags strung up everywhere was my best combination of deterrents.
      I haven’t had any feedback re the cheaper magnet options. But if you call the Maintrac place they may still give you a discount if you mention my post. It really did make a difference to me – but they do need to be birds that use the earths magnetic field to navigate. So for example I don’t think it would work on kiwis – but then I’ve never heard of anyone having an issue with kiwis pooping on a boat! 😉
      Good luck!


  13. Hi Viki

    It seems you’ve become the go-to-girl for birdsh*t advice—bet you didn’t see that coming. My boat has recently been discovered by the local bird population and become the best hangout in town. I’m pleased for them, but don’t like cleaning up after them so much. Just wondering, now a year on, did the magnetic solution prove to be an durable solution in the long-term?

    You mentioned you’re on a marina now, does that mean the magnets didn’t totally solve the problem?



    • Hi James, Yes I am the fountain of knowledge relating to all things bird sh1t… definitely not by choice!! What kind of birds have you got? The magnets work really well on birds who use the earth’s magnetic field for navigation. It definitely immediately worked on the little swallows that I had – like night and day improvement. But after a few months I had a couple of persistent ones that came back and tuck in under the main and sit (and sh1t) on the halyards. Definitely nothing like the amount I’d had previously though. Perhaps that part of the boat was sheltered from the effects of the magnets or they weren’t very magnetised swallows… not sure… The main flock of birds were still definitely there too – just now choosing to sit on the boats nearby. Yes I have recently moved in to a marina (amazing – just been built its only taken 18 years since the last one got destroyed in a storm.) Thankfully the little buggers haven’t discovered the marina yet – it’s just around the corner from where I was moored!
      I’d still highly recommend them, and I have got them stowed safely on board just in case a stray seagull or swallow even dares LOOK at my boat – then I’ll be putting them back up. It was the only thing I tried that actually worked and continued being effective long term.
      Good luck!!


  14. well … guys I believe the birds from hell have upgraded from the young 88 design (three bedroom ) to a young 11 ( four bedroom) namely our boat!! to invite their kindy parties and social events etc! After three hours of spring cleaning their new house, we have signed up for URGENT DELIVERY OF MAGNETS HOW EVER MANY IT TAKES To evict these unwanted squatters!!! Bird shit guru Viki you will be our bestest friendforever more if these magnets work!! We had already purchased balloons , and ultrasonic radars – dont care what it costs we needed urgent help.
    thankyou in advance… so sorry to the next owner of 1000 plus shitters from hell!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. We had problems on our boat in Opua a couple of seasons ago. Netting the boat fixed it for the big birds but then the swifts started rousing along the edges. After a winter up to the islands the birds seemed to have forgotten about our boat last summer. All good through the winter until these last 2 weeks. We netted the boat again after the first birds visit and spending 2 1/2 hours cleaning it all off. We came out to the boat again yesterday afternoon ready for a weekend away and the bastards had actually gonit inser the netting and continued they evil messy ways, giant poos, feathers and bones every where. I’ve just ordered the magnets from maintrac. I’m not interested in saving a few bucks and getting ones that might or might not work. Will keep you posted. Thanks Vicki for your blog and info on the women who sail Facebook page.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi thanks for spending so much time letting people know about the magnets on your boat.
    I am desperate as well for a solution, my concerns are can they wipe out phone and computer data? Or chartplotters?
    Appreciate your thoughts
    Cheers Lyndell

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lyndell,
      I had mine suspended between the forestay and the mast and the other between the mast and the backstay so they weren’t close to the compass or any other sensitive things, but they are really strong magnets so I definitely wouldn’t put them near hard drives or your phone or chart plotter if you can avoid it. When I went sailing I took them down and put them out of the way of all that stuff in the V berth.
      Hope they work for you! What kind of birds do you have the problem with?
      Good luck!!
      Viki 🙂


  17. Greetings! Thank you for your article and photos- very helpful! Any updates in 2021? Comparables? I will be moving my Catalina 350 to a harbor in WI that the current boaters all mention the “darling Starling” skat makes boats unrecognizable in less than a week – think similar to your photos. There is a cleaning service at the harbor for just this issue but is $70-$80 per week (our season here is May 1- Oct 1) and a bit pricey. Any and all updates are appreciated. Thanks Teri

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh no poor you! They worked really well for me on Swallows but apparently the only work on birds that use the earths magnetic field to navigate. So maybe do some research on your birds before you buy them. I’m in a marina now so don’t have the same problems as I did but I’d still highly recommend the magnets as a good thing to try!


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