The Ventilator

Incorporating The Ranger's Blog

Isle of Wight

The trouble with gribbles…

Matthew Chatfield

This week The Ranger made a hurried visit to one of the more obscure outposts of his mighty empire to look at a slipway. During repairs to what seemed to be a few broken planks, contractors had found an unexpected problem:

Gribble-eaten planks

That doesn’t look very good

The whole thing had been nibbled away from the inside. What appeared to be sound wood turned out to have the texture and strength of cheese. Once the planks were off worse was to follow:

Broken slipway

Looks like the bearers are gone too.

Oh dear – seems to be like a bigger job than The Ranger bargained for. Much scratching of heads and tugging at beards ensued. Finally a plan was hatched. All the rotten timber was removed, new bearers fitted, and plastic wood planks ordered to go on the top. Looks like the rangers at the council will be having to economise for a bit while they pay for all that! But what caused this unexpected damage? The canny contractor who had the job of ripping the stuff up was quick to explain, with one word: gribbles! Gribbles are marine isopods (related to woodlice) which have the ability to eat timber – and certainly enjoyed this slipway. They favour the softer wood, not surprisingly, and so they had a good go at the larch planks, slightly less on the hardwood bearers, and luckily couldn’t make an impression on the old greenheart piles which won’t need replacing this time. A characteristic of gribble attack is that the crustaceans don’t care for the sunlight and dry timber that is found on the exposed surfaces, so the wood they prefer to eat is hidden away. Hence the nasty surprise when the broken boards were lifted.


They may be cute-looking little things but they’ve caused The Ranger a lot of trouble this week!

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

2 thoughts on “The trouble with gribbles…

  • Mick Rennie

    25 years ago I had a beautiful solid oak rudder on my 11 ton gaff ketch. Now all I have is the remnants of a gribble banquet. I don’t like gribbles and any info on how to kill them or even just hurt then a lot will be appreciated. I used to use hot bleach and petrol, leave to soak and then set fire. But they come back. Will covering the rudder in copper keep the little buggers at bay? I’m not that green so info on any ethyl-methyl-death-chemicals that would destroy gribbles before destroying the planet would be welcome.

  • The Virtual Ranger

    Wasn’t the policeman in ‘Top Cat’ called Officer Gribble?
    He was boring.

    The Ranger responds: boring? Oh, yes, boring! Ha! I see what you did there. Anyway, he was Dibble, not Gribble, I think.

    And in answer to your email question: yes, all received, I’m separated from my PC right now but will get on the job tonight or tomorrow.

    TWG: It’s just identification really – there are hundreds of the things in the door crack!


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