Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Bugout Boat

Captain Cathar attempts to make the case:
Because of these challenges along any crowded coastline, I'd like to suggest that your readers consider a small sailing vessel as your bug out retreat. The greatest advantage is that you could get away in short order and with a minimum of sophisticated technology. The power of the wind can take you anywhere in the world...
What precedes and follows is a good list of the threats that might make bugging out necessary and a good argument that bugging out by boat might make sense.  Bugging out by car makes sense as well in some circumstances.

But just as it does not make sense to plan to live in your car, it makes no sense to plan to live in your boat in SHTF.  Here are a few reasons why:
  • The worse the SHTF is onshore, the more isolated you will be.  While it's a pleasure to spend one's time sailing today, today's navigator has access to GPS, weather radio, the Coast Guard, and peaceful, stocked ports. None of which may be available in SHTF. The fun of sailing today cannot be projected into a SHTF scenario.
  • Pirates.  Yes, peg legs and funny hats and, AAAAARGH, Matey. With SHTF taking place in Somalia today, attacks by well-armed pirates have been reported along the shore from Tanzania to Oman and for hundreds of miles into the Arabian Sea.  Do you really want to face a half-dozen motorboats full of armed and hungry pirates in your 28' Pearson Triton
  • Storms. Pray that your flight not be in winter, because if you're sailing off New England, you're in a fix.* If you're in the Gulf Coast during hurricane season, you're in a fix.  In fact, anywhere in the world at any time, you'll have to face the elements with no one to call, no one to come get you if you misjudge or just have a run of bad luck.
  • The Second Law of thermodynamics.  Everything wears out, even your boat.  Your food runs out.  Your patience with that flat blue sea runs out.  There is a reason very few people just float around the ocean until they die.** It's neither a long nor enjoyable life in most cases. 
  • The sea turns significant problems into catastrophic ones. If your daughter's appendix bursts, how close are you to someone who can help her?
The idea of heading out to sea during an SHTF scenario sounds good on the surface, but like bugging out to Belize or Chile, its appeal is based on the experience of those for whom doing so today is a means of vacation and who unconsciously rely on technology and peace to move from place to place.  SHTF, especially in an international scenario, is different. Rather than those who wish to sell you overpriced T-shirts, every landfall in SHTF will be crawling with those intending to sell your stores to starving people on land.

Bug out by boat, sure.  But bug out to somewhere, get off the boat, and make a life where the wildflowers grow. 

* And if you're trying to get out of the Great Lakes, your boat had better be on ice skates.
** voluntarily, anyway.


  1. I know a couple who lived on a sailboat for a year and change. It's... not a fond memory. Anything goes wrong, your house sinks. Even now, there is a real chance that no one could save you, even if you could contact help. Lots of worries, tight quarters, weather, and even pirates, even in "good waters" pirates do exist. I'm with you on that.

    But, were I close to water, even a large lake, a paddle or sail boat would be a heck of a thing. More so if one knew how to repair it and keep it up. But, more, it will have to be using old tech. Hand planes and pitch or sap.

    I have to think that, beside surviving, or between surviving, whatever tools or gear we have, that is how we will boost our living standards. You can steal a boat, but how long would it last without knowledge of many things? And I don't think there will be as much trade as we imagine. Most people will have to cut their own wood, produce their own food, and such. Something about pride, something about the expense of getting help, and some other things. I just think that, while favors, might be lent out and called in, from time to time, it won't be anything like we know today? Blathering... Just, your post started an itch I can't quite... locate.

  2. It is important to note that piracy on the open ocean, though it occurs on water, is land-based. Modern pirates do not live their lives at sea. They have quarters ashore and use land-based facilities to provide stores, tools of the trade, and the information that makes them effective. To understand piracy, to combat pirates and maritime marauders, and to protect a vessel and crew from the ravages of piracy, requires a superior knowledge of the land as well as the water.

    Jim Gray, Mark Monday, and Gary Stubblefield, Maritime Terror: Protecting Yourself, Your Vessel, and Your Crew against Piracy (Boulder: Paladin Press 2011), 34.