Letter Re: Bug-Out Boats

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Team,

Regarding Bug-Out Boats, I can answer a couple of questions and add a bit to the discussion. You would be buying the most exotic, expensive, fragile, and defenseless retreat ever. The only benefits you have going for you is utter isolation when out in blue water and the ability to go continent to continent. No sail boat or power boat is going to survive many small arms hits below the water line, even with high-end carbon fiber hulls. They are not designed like submarines or fighting ships, where water-tight bulkheads can stop the flooding. One small hole in the bow and the stern will eventually get that water. You are, in my opinion, way better off with a multi-hull catamaran than a lead keeled monohull in any situation, because the cat will continue to float on the other hull where the monohull keel will drag the boat to the bottom. The cat will probably flip over, but that other hull will float, making a great alternative to the dingy or the life boat. Good news is that most boats carry a number of wooden dowels as standard equipment, and they are used to plug through-hull holes, so just find one that fits the bullet hole and pound it in with some RTV to seal it. The dowels are not a long-term solution in any case, but you’ll still float if your bilge pumps can keep up. More good news is that the effectiveness of any bullet, even and up to a 50 cal, is severely diminished as soon as the bullet enters the water, so you are more likely to see penetration above the water line. Now if someone shoots a belt fed weapon at you, you’re probably going to Davy Jones’ locker no matter what.

I’ll admit that a modern sailing catamaran is one of my bug out dreams, but I just don’t think it’s practical in the long term. You can order new boats or retrofit old boats with water makers (desalinization), radar, carbon fiber masts (low probability of radar reflection), freezers, gas ovens, refrigerators, large battery banks, solar/wind/hydro power generators, autopilot, chart plotters, GPS, and everything else you could think of, but you are still floating in salt water, so all of that great stuff is going to break down, wear out, need overhaul, or fail within five years or so. You need mechanics and parts and support to keep any boat sailing, and in TEOTWAWKI they’ll all be in short supply. You’ll probably get scurvy, if you don’t have a ton of vitamin C aboard. You’ll eventually run out of fishing gear, and you can’t eat just seafood indefinitely. You could stretch your limits with freeze-dried fruit, but there’s limits to that, too. Someone is going to get sick or need medical attention. A storm is going to catch you if you can’t get marine weather reports and wreak havoc on your boat eventually. Keep in mind that the more supplies you pack on board, the slower you are going to sail too. I think that the best practical application of a boat in a TEOTWAWKI situation is to try to make a very long crossing to a continent where the root cause of the bug out isn’t present. Boats like Lagoon 52s, Gunboat 55s, Sunreef 58s, and Catana 582 can all do transatlantic or transpacific crossings with the right crew, but what then? You are now strangers in a strange land who may not be welcome. I think that for the cost of any modern sail boat, let’s say $500,000 for mid-range, you’d be much better off with a retreat in the Redoubt or a house somewhere in New Zealand or other Southern Hemisphere locale. Keep in mind that wherever you decide to go is not likely to be a-okay with you bringing four AR-15s and 5000 rounds of ammo into their port, so toss those overboard before you get there. Don’t even think about trying to hide them on board, because customs will find them and then they’ll seize your boat and toss your entire crew in jail.

You’ll also need a ton of training in order to operate one. The American Sailing Association (ASA) has courses specifically designed to teach sailors how to operate vessels in various arenas. ASA 101 Basic Keel Boat Sailing can be learned in a local lake or reservoir and takes three night classes and five days on the water to complete. ASA 103 Basic Coastal Cruising will probably take you a three-day weekend sleeping aboard the boat and learning from a captain. ASA 104 Bareboat Cruising is where you really start to learn your art and it’s another 3-day weekend. With those three classes you are still not ready to attempt a transatlantic crossing.

If you’d like to take a look at all the options you have out there, then visit yachtworld.com and search for used sailing catamarans. A used, 2009, Lagoon 420 can be had for as little as $253,000, but it will need to be re-fit before you go transatlantic with it. Older boats are even less expensive, but they’ll need new engines, sails, and hull maintenance to be done before bug out worthy. Perhaps the best advice I can give you is to talk to a yacht broker and tell them exactly what you are planning on doing. They’ll coordinate an inspection of the vessel, and that will locate any short-comings of the boat you are looking at. I can recommend the folks at catamarans.com for that. Even older models can be had for $151,200, and I’d sail any one of those from Fort Lauderdale to French Polynesia or New Zealand with the right crew and preps. Keep in mind that you’ll likely have to pass through threat zones, like the Panama Canal or the Southern tip of Africa, to get there. Also, think about what Iran did to our Navy sailors a few weeks back and that was an armed reconnaissance vessel. They’ll see your sail and go right after it.

Good luck and smooth sailing. – G.S.

P.S. Zombies can’t swim, but they can climb anchor chains!

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