It started in Paradise Cove in Malibu California. "Snap, crackle,
pop". Sharon heard it first and the sound was barely audible.
She asked me to listen. I heard nothing. "You are hallucinating " I said.
"It is just your brain cell rattling around in your head".
Late that night the surf calmed down and the loud exuberant disco
party people on shore called it a night. A blanket of quiet lay
over the cove. It was the first night at a new anchorage. I
lay in bed, sleeping lightly, waking frequently. I was enjoying
the feeling of the gentle rocking motion of the boat, checking our
position often and confirming the anchor gently tugging against the current.
Then I heard it too. "Snap, crackle, pop". I gave my head a
shake and listened again. Am I dreaming? I roll over and try to sleep. Snap, crackle
pop sounds - just like Kellogg's Rice Krispies coming from down low in
My half dozing mind ticked off a list of possibilities: Cock
roaches? Water flowing into the boat? I'm dreaming? The boat
is disintegrating? Somebody eating Rice Krispies? Evil creatures
from the planet Zarrcon?
I always investigate evil Zarrconians. So I get up. It is
4:00 AM. The boat feels and floats normally. There is no water in the
bilges. The sound stops. Back to bed and worry about it
tomorrow. There it is again! "Snap crackle pop".
Next morning I wake up to snap crackle pops. Louder
now and more consistent. Sharon is awake too. We both listen
and wonder. What the heck can it be?
"Come on Sharon, we will check
under all the floorboards". I get the flashlight as Sharon
sleepily sits up, a wide eyed expression of wonder on her face.
What is that sound? Sharon
sits on the bed watching as I slowly and dramatically lift the first
floor board and cautiously shine the flashlight into the dark spaces
underneath. I loudly slam the board back down, jumping back
and shouting CRITTERS!
Sharon jumps a foot then shouts - "Quit goofing
off you idiot!" We both laugh nervously.
A search under
all the floor boards reveals nothing but the sound continues. We
remember a story a Betsy, George and Lucas told us about when they were
in Central America.
They heard strange sounds on the bottom of their boat and attributed it
to a fouled and dirty hull attracting some sort of parasite that made
Dive gear pulled out and put on. Over the side I go with a soft
brush. Our hull has a coat of brown and grey soft growth. It
easily brushes off. I've noticed that if the boat speed goes above
about 8 knots for an hour or two the motion of the water against the
cleans the crud off. So I had been a bit lazy about bottom cleaning,
waiting for a good breeze to do the job.
But the last few weeks have seen only light winds and
lower boat speeds allowing the crud to accumulate. An hour and a
half later the whole hull is shiny blue like a new bottom paint job.
In southern California's crystal clear waters it looks great! We
depart quickly as this unplanned work delays a rendezvous in Marina Del
Mustang Sally slides smartly over the water, the smooth, slippery
bottom making a noticeable speed improvement. We gain an extra 3/4 knot, the
bottom and flat seas allow us to easily motor at 6.0 knots with the twin
diesels spinning at 1900 RPM. A favorable breeze springs up and we
raise the sails and gain another knot and a half. The boat feels
unencumbered and it is a pleasant and quick sail to our
Into Marina Del Rey and Sharon grabs the hand cart and
heads for the grocery store to stock up for guests - Alice and Roger.
The marina is busy and noisy and I hear nothing from the bottom of the
boat. I clean up and prepare for our guests.
That very night the snap crackle and pop begins again. Roger
and Alice can hear it clearly. This is embarrassing. Boats
should not go snap crackle pop!
Frustrated, I fire up an
Internet web browser to do some research. Seems this is a known
problem, with a lot of talk in various nautical forums but little
fact. I locate a site maintained by a biologist. She
claims the sound is made by a species of snapping shrimp that have claws
like a crab. The shrimp snap their big claw, when hunting prey, to
communicate or when threatened. When this species of shrimp are in the
water near you boat, you hear them.
And so solved was the mystery of
the boat that goes "snap crackle pop".
These links describe the Snapping Shrimp: