Letter from Matt Bracken Re: Blue Water Sailing as a Retreat Option?, by CMC

Hi Jim,
I read today’s offering with great interest. There is no point in trying to resolve the debate on boats vs. land retreats (“the army of maneuver vs. the army of the fortress”) as this is all a matter of personal conjecture and preferences. However, I would suggest that for those folks who live in a coastal area where if the balloon goes up their home location may be untenable, and their highway escape as well, a boat does provide at least a viable mid-term option.

Many areas of our Atlantic and Gulf coasts have most of the people concentrated into a relatively small percent of the land, and vast areas of bays, rivers and estuaries that are almost in virgin condition, and unreachable except by water. There are literally thousands of miles of such places where a person living on a sailboat or other craft could stay off of the radar for months or even longer, while the emergency situation ashore sorted itself out. At that point, the low-profile boat survivalist could decide to return home, stay put, move to another state, or even to cross an ocean.

A boat is not a panacea, and it’s not for everyone, but given a choice between “bugging in” in a potentially violent urban area, or heading out into gridlocked highways, I know what I would choose if I lived near the Atlantic or Gulf Coasts. (Most of the Pacific coast presents a very different picture, due to its geography.)

A low-profile shoal draft houseboat (is there any other kind?) would also work in many coastal and even inland areas, although of course the oceans are off limits and fuel will eventually run out. A diesel powered houseboat would work well with cached drums of fuel hidden in likely areas. The idea with a houseboat is that they would rarely move, (burn fuel), but that they have that option. Houseboats are also very easy to camouflage, and can be located where fish would be available and also small crop farming could be concealed, all while hiding well off of the highway and road systems. – Matt Bracken, Northeast Florida

JWR Replies: Many thanks for your input. Until you mentioned it, I hadn’t seriously considered the “brown water” option for boaters in delta or estuary regions. Perhaps painting a house boat in a flat earth tone color might work–along with some judicious use of camouflage nets and burlap to cover any windows or chrome that might reflect. Readers that do a little searching might find just the right place to tie up, deep in a delta. Many delta regions have extensive state and Federal park “wetlands” that are seldom traveled by anyone. And you are correct in your assertion that a lot of that country can only be accessed by water. That would make someone relatively safe from bands of looters.

BTW, there is one part of the Pacific coast that is intriguing: The Sacramento River delta region. This delta is said to have more shoreline than the entire California coastline. It is unfortunately downwind from several nuclear targets (most notably the Concord Naval Weapons Station), but in anything other than a nuke scenario, the Sacramento delta region might make a practical bug-out locale.