Letter: Feedback on Mobile Retreating

Jim, great blog!
Another issue you might mention with regard to sailboats – piracy is currently an issue on the seas, particularly off the coasts (in the Americas) of Nicaragua and El Salvador. It’s a huge issue in the Indian Ocean.

Also, most foreign governments have very close to a zero-tolerance policy on weapons of ANY sort. A bluewater sailor who put into Mexico after suffering storm damage a few years ago was thrown into jail for having an AR-15 onboard. His original plans were to sail to the Canal Zone and then to Florida. It took more than a year to get him out of jail, the boat is now a trophy for the corrupt local authorities.

However, it’s quite possible to blend in on a sailboat. Just equip the boat for long-distance bluewater cruising. Solar panels don’t have to be very large, a small wind generator can be hung from the backstay to provide sufficient electricity to keep the batteries topped off from daily use of lights, radios, etc. Water makers (reverse osmosis units) can make water, but require running the engine at a least a bit. Storing sufficient food and spares can be accomplished, but you’ll get quite tired of freeze dried foods.

However, the main reason to stay away from a boat is simple: Where do you go? In case of any serious emergency, you’re on your own. If the boat catches on fire, hits a shipping container (and they’re out there, floating just below the surface of the ocean), hits a whale or log, or whatever, you’re in a raft. And the Coast Guard probably isn’t going to even look for you, in an emergency. At least with a properly designed retreat you have a hope of Escape and Evasion (E&E) in an emergency, and if you’ve cached supplies and weapons, you might be able to return to your retreat and evict the aggressors. At least it’s a hope. Dying in a raft isn’t much of a survival option.

As far as retreating or E&Eing with large vehicles, you’ll be out of fuel in a day or two. Not terribly practical. A 5-ton towing a fuel pod is an option but it’s a big, slow, relatively fragile target. The best (theoretical) option I can think of is something like a 1-ton long bed pickup with a turbodiesel engine, and a 100 gal aux tank in the bed. Combined with the standard tank this will provide on the order of 1500-2000 miles range at highway speeds with a load, less if negotiating poor roads and a lot less if going off road. Not great. Biodiesel is an option once you’re at your retreat but options like burning scavenged cooking oils strike me as being both uncertain, and risky to the hardware.

Again, good work on the blog. Good luck! -“Foxtrot”

JWR’s Reply:

Mr. Foxtrot’s points are well taken. He obviously speaks from experience. OBTW, anyone that is seriously considering living abroad (or living aboard and living abroad–pardon the pun) should sign up for a free subscription to The Sovereign Society’s Offshore A-Letter.