I read with interest the inquiry about, what I term a “Bug out Boat”. I made this recommendation several years ago, in numerous survival forums. Most readers seemed unable to process the potential for this kind of plan or it seemed to be impractical to them compared to hunkering down or egress by vehicle. I would advocate that the more eclectic methods of egress from chaos may hold greater potential for success than some mainstream ones. Traditional modes of travel in the modern age are easily controlled by the powers that be, accidents, infrastructure break down, computer problems, electricity (can you say “grid down”?), etc. How many have actually considered (much less planned?) on using the following practical means of getting from Point A to B (whether a short or long distance).
1. Walking- hard work but very quiet and stealthy. Drawback- slow.
2. Bicycle. As long as you can keep your tires inflated, you can travel [at least] three times as fast than as on foot. Drawback- awkward to carry equipment unless you buy a trailer or stroller for the back.
3. Boat/canoe- Who is going to blockading the river or watching it? The river does the work for you if your are going down steam. The preferred method of
choice for hundreds of years by Native Americans, trappers, traders, frontiersmen, market hunters, settlers and soldiers.
4. Snowmobile- Don’t worry about the roads being open. Just try to follow me in/on anything else. Drawback-seasonal.
5. Skis- No trail, no problem. Drawback-seasonal.
6. Motorcycle- Easy to get around that road block isn’t it? Just try to follow me through the woods in your squad car.
7. Ice skates- many frontiersmen/trappers traveled this way up river systems. Drawback-Seasonal.
8. Roller blades-the modernized society equivalent of ice skates. Drawback-Seasonal and depends upon roads and sidewalks being in place.
9. Horse/Horse and wagon/Horse and sleigh – has both advantages/disadvantages, accessibility issues, and disadvantages, but you won’t need electricity to keep them going. Drawback-you have to pay to feed/house them.
10. Dog sled- For those in the far North. Drawback-Seasonal.
11. Para-planes –fuel efficient, no license needed, can land in small areas.
12. Light aircraft- expensive but they are what they are.
13. Freight trains/barges/cargo ships- It seems no matter how much chaos a country descends into, occasionally a train, barge, cargo ship goes somewhere. Drawback-Can be Seasonal depending on low water levels, ice, snow.An undependable mode of transport to plan on using.
The reason you haven’t considered these methods is because we as Americans are too d–n lazy and we carry around too much stuff. If your supplies are pre-positioned, you will need very little physically on you.
We as Americans are pre-conditioned to think first and foremost of the family vehicle almost exclusively. Unless you have a full tank of gas when the grid goes down or an EMP-resistant vehicle, you’re screwed for any number of reasons. Your going to be thrust down a channelized highway of horrors (just ask anyone who has fled a hurricane inland). This highway can easily be barricaded by law enforcement, the military, gangs, or a group of local idiots. Accidents, traffic jams and lack of fuel will prevent you from getting out of the area at the speed which you anticipated.
Not only may you be stripped of your dignity, you may be stripped of all your supplies, valuables, clothes and chastity. If you are counting on the herd to protect you from harm, I have news for you, they will readily look on while you are assaulted (and hope it doesn’t happen to them) and/or they will participate in plundering your belongings (see Katrina stories). If psychologically less than 5% of the population is prepared to act as a warrior or protectors of the flock, which leaves potentially 95% of the population as someone who will not come to your aid or will prey upon you given the situation. I prefer to believe that there is a percentage of 20% of Christians, rural or generally good people, that may not physically risk their life for you, but are none the less, good people who might assist you in other ways. Your car may be a false hope that ends up getting you into a more dire situation or delaying critical choices that need to be made before you start out.
For our purposes I am going to concentrate on canoes and Jon boats. Those heavy ski boats, yachts and sailboats will only work for limited distances or in limited places. If you live near the ocean or the Great Lakes , they will work just fine. If your only using you ski boat to go across the lake or 20 miles down the river, it may work out for you. Do not, however, plan on using them to navigate the Missouri , Mississippi , Ohio River ‘s drainage basins. Those rivers have locks and dams aplenty that you may not be able to portage or pass through in a worst case scenario. Many of the rivers in the Northwest and Southwest are in a similar state except the dams are bigger and often not designed to accommodate navigation (Think of the Bonneville Dam at the Columbia River Gorge, Grand Coulee Dam and over 225 others in the Columbia River Basin . Hoover/Boulder Dam. Upper Mississippi has 38. The Ohio River has around 30, but the Lower Mississippi has none. Missouri River has none from St. Louis to Sioux City Iowa, but the headwaters have numerous Dams and Reservoirs). If the locks have no electricity or they have been told by the military or police not to let anyone through, you’re a sitting duck and it may be game over.
In many parts of the country the boat may be a preferred method because it is stealthy, uses little fuel, can be suitable entirely without fuel, will never be subject to the same amount of usage demands as the highways, will be noticed less by the public/looters/law enforcement/military. The majority of motors out there should be 2 cycle. These are more EMP-resistant and easy to work on.. Most boats will still remain functional even while leaking or having holes shot in them. You would have to be taking on a lot of water from holes below the waterline to make it untenable to remain afloat.Many boats will contain buoyant materials designed to keep the boat afloat. A Marina may be more likely to have fuel available than any gas station. (Note: Kevlar was sometimes used as a hull material for some larger and more expensive ski boats, since it stronger than fiberglass.)
Most of the major river systems are about a half mile across. If you stick to the middle of the channel, anyone trying to shoot at you will have make a shot of an average of a quarter mile. Call me optimistic, but most of the people shooting at you from that distance are more likely to hit you by accident than on purpose. An old USGI Kevlar vest will provide some ballistic protection for your motor or fuel supply. Most bridges will not be suitable for either looters/military/police to set up on, and fire directly down upon you, unless the entire bridge is shut down to traffic. In most cases, anyone trying to get at you will not have any guarantee of actually boarding your vessel. Even if they managed to kill you, your supplies would continue to float down stream and out of their reach. This may discourage any but the most criminally motivated elements of society. I happen to believe that I have a better chance to survive in the water as on any interstate or major highway. If you should happen to run into a motivated criminal element in speed boats, either flee, beach your craft and run, or turn and fight with everything you have. Chances are they won’t want to mess with heavily armed elements on a flat surface with virtually no cover. A bow-mounted belt-fed Browning [Model 1919A4 machinegun or semi-auto equivalent, mounted on a larger boat] would chop any attackers watercraft into matchsticks in no time at all. (I am not endorsing it. I’m just saying it’s a nice idea to consider.)
In the first two weeks of a catastrophe, a miniscule number of people are going to be watching the rivers or lakes. They will be down looting televisions and liquor. The cops will be at roadblocks and chasing looters and arsonists. Your main antagonists are likely to be; federal employees manning the locks/dams, Conservation Officers (since they already have lots of boats, the military (probably a naval reserve unit) or in certain instances, the US Coast Guard. None of this group is usually looking for trouble on the water and Conservation Officers are notoriously cautious when working alone. It’s too easy for them to just “disappear”.
The larger the body of water (in square miles or distance from shore), the more distance or greater buffer you can put between you and anyone who may wish you harm. Night travel by water with no running lights and your motor off, will make you nearly invisible to 99% of the population. Watch out for logs, snags and sand bars and keep a watch out for other boats or you might well be sunk. Night vision might be handy if traveling at night. Many duck and goose hunters have metal supports for blind materials that could come in handy for camouflaging your boat if you choose to lay up during the day at some creek or island.
Your average inner city gang member doesn’t know how to operate a boat and cant swim anyway, but don’t count on it. Even criminals near a resort/sailing/boating area are sometimes familiar with boats. Ever heard of pirates and drug runners?
You could potentially carry much more equipment or personnel with you by means of a boat. Several Jon boats/canoes can be lashed together or roped in parallel (with the front boat pulling all the others in line). In this way you save fuel and have spares engines at hand in case a motor conks out. A boat can theoretically carry quite a load (much more than a car or small truck). However, remember anything you put into a boat may have to be portaged across any barrier. If you don’t like the idea of lugging it in and out of the boat many times, then don’t take it along. If you read a book about fur traders or Lewis and Clark, they often spent an entire day (or days) at a portage site.
Say you come to an inoperable lock/dam, you find an area to unload, carry the boat across land to a suitable location, carry the supplies to the boat, and resume your journey. This will be fraught with peril and hard work. You will need a crew. A minimum of one individual is needed to watch both locations (point A to B) and you will need the individuals necessary to carry everything between those points. The only way to avoid that is to do it so fast nobody notices or take a canoe and only what’s in your pack. If you try to navigate smaller rivers, you will find yourself having to portage across every log jam. It’s no fun, it’s frustrating and it’s slow. You might be better off walking at that point unless you will break through to a larger body of water that will make the endeavor worthwhile.
In a freshwater area, you will have a supply of drinkable water (albeit full of herbicide, fertilizer, and pesticide or toxic waste depending on the area). This is why you have a water filter, right? Food can be supplemented by fishing or trolling (dragging a line behind the boat as you go). A small island might be a good place to stop and cook lunch or dinner. Waste can be dumped over the side or [better yet] buried p[when you go ashore.]