This essay has been written from my personal experience and that of others. This suggested course of preparedness and action in the event of TEOTWAWKI will not be for everyone. Instead, I address those who live on the coast due to reasons such as; nearness to family, proximity to work, tight finances , or it could simply apply to those who might be caught on or near the coast should the events we prepare for take place.
Quite a few years ago while I was working for a floatplane company in S.E. Alaska, two of our float planes returned from a State Trooper charter. The first floatplane contained numerous sporting goods; coolers, firearms, lanterns, small outboard motors, sleeping bags along with other items used for camping or boating. The second aircraft had a couple troopers along with a young man, cuffed, who apparently had been living at a U.S.F.S. trailhead. This trailhead though inaccessible by road, has a float right on the saltwater that weekend fisherman and those simply wishing to get away were able to tie up to with their boats and leave unattended while they hiked up the trail. The trail itself follows a saltwater lagoon leading to a small church summer camp and a nice sized river that drains several lakes. This watershed is a popular fishing area due to a high trout population and migrating salmon. Dense forests surround the trail and few venture away from it.
This young man, as we later learned, had been living quite some time in the vicinity of the trailhead, had left a “Lower 48” state due to apprehensions over an infraction with the law and had become a fugitive. After locating himself to this secluded site, he had begun raiding the trail user’s vessels. After a number of complaints regarding stolen gear the troopers began to suspect that someone was perhaps living in the heavily wooded and stealing to survive. Troopers were able to successfully catch the young man in the act of sneaking down to a boat and he was removed from the scene and charged for his crimes of theft. Apparently he had been out there many months and possibly, by being a just a little more discreet he could have remained quite a while longer before being discovered.
I use this story to illustrate that one can, with proper preparation and the right equipment, live indefinitely on the Pacific Coastal areas many of which are rich in food resources and due to inaccessibility these same areas offer some of the most remote locations in North America.
Coastal Indian tribes, from Washington going up through British Columbia and into S.E. Alaska were known for their totems and wonderful carvings in their clan houses. These tribes, as has been noted by anthropologists, were able to spend a generous portion of their time devoted to carving because of higher food concentrations on the coasts hence lessening the need for extended travel and migration such as the plains tribes or mountain tribes were compelled to do to stay alive, while they hunted or foraged. Some of the advantages for coastal living then are still practical today for the survivalist; mobility which also offers seclusion, a maritime climate, rich food sources and plenty of fresh water availability.
Before we examine these advantages, lets first look at some geographical facts. For purposes that are obvious due to population densities we will focus on Alaska and British Columbia although Oregon and Washington will receive honorable mention and we will discuss further reasons one would consider coastal survival here, or for that matter on any seacoast. Miles of tidal shoreline in each respective state or province are can be found here: Coastal mileages by state. [JWR Adds: Because of terrain fractalization, these are rough estimates.]
Oregon: 1,410 miles. A major disadvantage to this state is lack of “protected” waters, however, these waters are very rich in seafood. My family and I spent two winters in the Gold Beach area, during which we spent every spare moment exploring the logging roads and the beaches. The incredible amount of deer, elk, wild turkeys, quail, and waterfowl that crowd that also reside there simply amazed us. This area is known to have it’s own microclimate and is considered by many to be a “banana belt” on the Oregon Coast.
Washington: 3,026 miles. I was raised in western Washington. Puget Sound alone accounts for 2,500 of these.
British Columbia (B.C.): 16,900 miles. The famed “Inside Passage” leading up to the 1898 Gold Rush port of Skagway travels of course through British Columbia. I have navigated the Inside Passage by small vessel four times. Twice on a 46’ commercial fishing troller, once in a friend’s pleasure craft live a board, and once running my own vessel up. All trips originated in Washington State and ended in S.E. Alaska. Traveling through B.C. has always been a pleasant experience for me, whether by pick-up, van, motorcycle or boat. Travel through B.C. by vessel requires checking in with Canadian Customs. Traveling with firearms through Canada is strictly regulated, although with the proper registration one may travel with some rifles and shotguns. It is fair to say that in the event of TEOTWAWKI, survival of one’s family would trump certain written laws each would have to decide for himself which risks would be taken.
S.E. Alaska: 10,000 miles. South East Alaska is comprised of a narrow strip of mainland and over 2,000 islands. The southern boundary starts at a large body of water known as Dixon Entrance and runs up to Cross Sound, continuing again along mainland coast to the remote town of Yakutat. S.E. Alaska is also referred to as the “Panhandle”. To keep things a little simpler, I am not going to discuss that portion of coastal Alaska known as South Central due primarily to geographical isolation and weather patterns which are quite simply extreme. I acknowledge that South Central Alaska including Prince William Sound and the Aleutian Islands contain much of what we might seek for a coastal survival location however.
Mobility: Coastal Indians built dugout canoes for transportation using the inlets, bays, sounds and channels as a natural highway. Explorers and traders navigated the same waterways on sailing vessels. My brother, while between schooling, spent many days kayak camping on the outside of Vancouver Island, a large island (12,079 square miles) in British Columbia. During these extended trips he carried an incredible amount of camping gear in his sea kayak including a full size axe, sleeping bag, dive gear (minus SCUBA), grill, large cook pot, fishing pole and tackle, tent and foodstuffs! His report, outer coast B.C.; saw few travelers, lots of drift available for consumable use (This should be considered a great advantage to anyone on “outside” waters. Lumber, buckets, jugs, floats, nets, rope and line, tires, shoes, wax and much more can be found at the high water mark) all of which could be very valuable should one be in a survival situation. Shellfish populations were prolific.
Not to be ignored are many other forms of travel, some of which would be of more value or maybe considered long term travel solutions versus some of which might just simply get you to where you wanted to go and then of necessity, so as not to give away a permanent position, be scuttled. Canoe, skiff (with oars or small outboard), sailboat, yacht, fishing boat you name it, all of these may be used to get to where you could set up a long term survival retreat. Other thoughts; coastal Indians in S.E. Alaska used the canoe for food gathering, many tribes were able to make long voyages for trading purposes and in one documented case, a vindictive canoe load of Kake Indians traveled the Inside Passage to exact a revenge on a customs official in Washington State…. consider that, a 1,700 nautical mile roundtrip!
Perhaps the best Coastal Survival setup has been prepared by friends of mine, a retired couple. They have a custom-built sailboat they live on full time. They have traveled the Inside Passage numerous times in this vessel. It is 45’ long with a 12’ 6” beam and draws 9’. This vessel is powered by a 236 cubic inch Perkins diesel, and it remarkably efficient with the hull design they chose. Just a note on diesel engines, naturally aspirated engines (versus turbo charged engines) turn at lower RPMs, tend to last longer between major maintenance, are quieter, and for slow hull speed boats very efficient. On this vessel they have adequate storage for the two of them, foodstuffs, medical, firearms, et cetera. In the event of TEOTWAWKI, this couple could simply slip their lines and sail into a quiet, secluded cove. With their local knowledge of waterways, weather, edible indigenous plants and simple fishing tackle they could survive indefinitely with no disturbance from marauding bands of parasites.
One more possibility for those living in or near any of the seaports along the Pacific Coast (including California) is to look into a Federal “Buy-Back” commercial fishing vessel. These vessels, many of them capable of long range trips to Alaskan fishing grounds and used as such, were decommissioned when the owners took advantage of a Federal Program designed to reduce commercial fishing pressure on certain stocks. Typically, these vessels can be reasonably purchased and with minimal changes be converted into an excellent live aboard vessel, complete with huge diesel fuel storage, freshwater storage (or even fresh water makers). One recent example of this, a 71’ steel hulled vessel sold here in S.E. Alaska for just over $100.000. The owner had converted it into a sport fishing vessel, I toured the vessel and found the engine room and all equipment to be in excellent running condition. State rooms and bunks were plentiful, the design was spacious and it was apparent that this would be a worthy idea for one perhaps trapped from traveling inland (Southern California comes to mind) instead why not have a vessel equipped and ready to “slip the lines” sailing away from trouble? To sum this section up; a vessel can be used for permanent transportation, or for just getting to where one wants to be and then using as a live aboard or as alluded to earlier if necessary, scuttled for security purposes.
Maritime Climate: Coastal areas typically receive larger rainfalls due to the clouds dropping their moisture as they stack up against coastal mountain ranges. Although the summer is wetter, the pay-off is in the winter months when the weather is much milder. Example; right now, as I am writing this the current weather in coastal Prince Rupert B.C. is 39 F. Terrace, just over the coastal range and only 90 miles away, is 32 F. Smither, again a little farther inland is 23 F. This usually holds true with all mountain ranges on the west coast, the western side is wetter, more moderate, while the eastern side is drier and has hotter summers but colder winters. One advantage to this is winter heating, less energy is required. Prevailing winds are onshore or Westerly, this allows for clean air, and in the event of nuclear fallout one would find him exempt from concern (discounting major river and stream pollution, for instance the Columbia River). From a tactical standpoint, if one is concerned about aerial surveillance, the British Columbia and S.E. Alaska coasts usually have heavy cloud cover, preventing or making aerial photography more difficult.
Food Sources As previously mentioned, coastal Indians in many cases were able to build permanent homes in specific locations because of available food supplies. Let’s consider another example. Both Brown Bear and Grizzly Bear are recognized to be the same specie, with the only difference being the Brown Bear lives on the coast and the Grizzly Bear lives inland. Compare the size between the two; Brown Bear can reach 1,500 lbs while interior Grizzly Bear, while still very large are usually less than half the body weight. This is due strictly to environmental situation. (For those who have experienced the nuances of both subspecies, Grizzly Bear are known to be less predictable and more likely to charge, lack of more plentiful food perhaps?)
To increase food availability on coastal waters, some type of a watercraft is necessary. With a boat, crab and shrimp pots can be set, “long lines” can be set for bottom fish, seals and other mammals could potentially be harvested. Without a boat however, the available food supply is still generous; migrating salmon in the rivers, many varieties of shellfish are there for the taking including mussels, clams, scallops, abalone, moon snells, all of which are a protein source whose gathering requires little energy.
Coastal areas are also known for prolific wild berry concentrations. Perhaps the very best berry growing on the coast is the salmonberry, which is high in Laetrile. Wild strawberry, blueberry, huckleberry, blackberry and many others can also be found.
Another valuable food source is seaweed, which arguably contains many minerals the body needs but also is great compost for coastal gardeners (we successfully grow each year cabbage, broccoli, brussell sprouts, lettuce, spinach, potatoes, beans and peas. What does not leave grow well, without a green house anyway, are tomatoes, corn or anything requiring extended warmth and lots of sun). Many flats along the ocean tidal beaches have fertile soil, excellent exposure to sun and along large river delta’s gardening plots abound. I would recommend anybody who has not already done so to purchase some Non-Hybrid Seeds from Survival Blog Advertiser Everlasting Seeds.
Wild vegetables, such as Goose Tongue and Wild Asparagus can supplement diet. Another recommendation is to purchase a book describing wild edible plants in the area you live.
Migrating waterfowl, seagull eggs, marine mammals, migrating smelt runs, venison, bear, elk, and moose are all other sources of food should one find himself in a survival situation on the coast. One final note on food sources, outdoorsman will learn certain areas that “hold” game, fish, edible plants and the like, as in contrast to some areas which will seem lifeless and barren. I am not referring simply to one species, but rather an area which just seems blessed with life, vs. an area which never seems to produce.
Fresh Water: I have lived on the coast all my life. To me, the thought of dying of thirst is hard to comprehend. What helped me understand the challenge of finding water in certain areas was a recent motorcycle trip with some family members down into the American South West, after miles of desert and no visible water such as a stream or lake, I can see why the concern. Here where we live, we receive approximately 13’ of precipitation a year, most of it in the form of rain. In addition to our rainfall, there are many spring fed streams, creeks, rivers and lakes. These can be found all up and down the coast. If you are unsure of your water source boil or treat it. If one is trapped on a small island with no freshwater, and has access to certain equipment, a solar still can be fabricated, or by boiling the water one can collect the steam and thereby separate the moisture from the salt, a tedious process, but possible to do if necessary.
Summary: My family and I enjoy driving and seeing other parts of the country, we have considered moving from the isolated area we live in to a sunnier part of the country. Our current situation prevents us from relocating. Frankly, I am tired of the rain, but in recent years I have come to accept I am where God has placed my family, and me and I will trust Him, and take advantage of the wonderful attributes he has instilled into this country should we be cut off from civilization. There are other disadvantages too; for instance our salt air humidity causes rapid corrosion, wounds don’t heal as fast as they could in a drier climate, and in essence we are cut off from barter or trade with those on the “outside”. However, if one wants to find a quiet spot to spend recovery time, with little interference from the outside world, in a land that is rich and plentiful there are plenty of spots along the Pacific Northwest and up into Alaska.