Sailboats as Alternative Bugout Vehicles, by StudioMan

As we have all seen, the last few months has seen its share of really large natural disasters, on all of our major continents. Thru the Internet I was able to watch the hurricane that hit Australia via the numerous surf cameras available along the coast. It was amazing to see them drop out one at a time, while some of them that were on the edge of the storm never went down. A few of the web cams were attached to buildings overlooking breakwaters, or in marinas where you could see the sailboats and yachts being tossed around by the wind.    

That led me to the thought of a Sailboat as a bugout vehicle. A group of us gets together every couple of years and charters a couple of sailboats in the San Juan islands for a week at a time. You get all the joys of boat ownership and someone else gets to clean the boat when you are done.  Living on board a boat for any length of time gives you a great appreciation of the work sailboat designers have done to make living aboard easy. In addition, there is a group of people that are known as “cruisers” who have left the land for a life at sea. Some of them cruise around the world, following the summer around the globe, and some overwinter in nicer spots, either way they are not tied down to anything, and often will sail until they are broke, and then work in the port they stop in until they can get the larder restocked for their next journey.    

A good introduction to this lifestyle can be found by reading “Cruising in Seraffyn”, by Lin and Larry Pardey. Larry built his sailboat Seraffyn by himself and he and Lin set off for the world. no motor, no electricity, just some food, charts and compass, a sextant, chronometer, kerosene lamp and some supplies.    

A sailboat is basically a recreational vehicle (RV) for the water. It provides everything you need to live :shelter, transportation, power, safety, and security. Lets look at some of these a little closer:  

Shelter- by their very nature a sailboat is designed to keep you warm (or cool) and dry in any kind of weather, the cabins are designed, depending on the length of the vessel to sit 6 to 8 comfortably, and can provide 2 or 3 separate staterooms. Depending on where you are sailing you can pump your waste directly off the boat into the water, there is no need to pump it out, and if the Schumer hits, no one is going to worry about where you are dumping your holding tank. you can find coal or wood burning marine heaters, and also heaters that use diesel or kerosene. there are DC powered microwaves, and ammonia fridges that run on almost nothing, keeping your food cold and fresh.  

Power :  Most sailboats more than 30 feet long have a 3 or 4 cylinder diesel motor and either an auxiliary genset, or the ability to switch battery banks so different banks are charged by the engine’s alternator.  There are many boats set up with solar panels, and many boats use wind generators, or they will use a tow behind generator. I know of several cruisers who have not plugged into grid power for two years or more.

The small diesel engines in sailboats literally “sip ” fuel and so it lasts avery long time. depending on the operating curve I have used less than a quart an hour getting where I wanted to go. The sailboat’s systems are set up very efficiently and run completely on DC power. LED technology has brought about a great revolution in marine lighting, reducing power needs 60 to 80% for lighting.  Most boats have fairly sophisticated electrical monitoring systems so at the touch of a button you can see all the parameters the you need to know about on a continual basis. Most vessels also have Marine Band radios, GPS and electronic charts, and other forms of navigation and communication equipment. A chart, sextant, very accurate clock and compass are still necessary in case of a complete power down situation, and all sailors should be competent in their use.    

Transportation, safety and security: if you are a confident and proficient sailor and navigator, you can take your boat anywhere in the world. There have been times when sitting in the cockpit of our sailboat, anchored in some cove 200 miles from civilization, I realized that I had found safety. My biggest concern was whether or not I would get eaten by a bear if I went ashore. Depending upon where you are, you can find plenty of sea life to eat, a simple crab pot will in the right spot will net protein for a week, and a quick trip to shore will usually get you potable or semi potable water. On top of that there are many many top of the line reverse osmosis watermakers–both hand pump and electric–that can make gallons of water daily.  Excel Water Systems  makes excellent systems that can be adapted easily for use anywhere in the world. There are much smaller systems available than what they make but the are a world class operation and a lot of information can be found at their web site.    

There have been times when because of the wind and the weather, I have sailed and dropped anchor and not fired up the motor for days. And when I did use the diesel it was for convenience, not necessity. The Pardeys (mentioned above)  went around the world in their little boat without a motor or electricity. As far as security goes, I don’t think there will be a worry of zombies finding you when you are 50 miles offshore sailing to parts unknown, safe in your boat away from danger. I won’t discuss piracy here as most knowledgeable cruisers keep abreast of news that will allow them to skirt countries where piracy is rampant. (Somalia is an example. If you are worried about being seen, in a disaster situation sailing at night without lights could be done in relative safely, and with ease. All you need are a good set of charts, a compass and a tide table. it is easy to black out a vessel, and run on sail power alone.    

I am certain I have not exhausted all of the advantages of bugging out on a sailboat. Please chime in here if there is something I missed.