Letter Re: Sailboats as Alternative Bugout Vehicles

Dear James:
I found the question on using a sailboat as a bug out vehicle interesting, because I have been considering the same thing.

However, there are some major things to consider.

• There are a few spots known for piracy today, but in reality there are many others where fishermen are not above piracy of opportunity, i.e. they are like my Viking ancestors: trade where the target is strong, raid where the target is weak.
• Western style sailboats are magnets for pirates. They reek of wealth and comfort that the locals don’t have. Plus, they stand out from the local boats, being very noticeable. • On the other hand, any major emergency that will collapse our economy will most likely be worldwide, hence after a few months, the locals will have to ditch their motor boats for sail, as they most likely won’t have fuel either.

Design and Maintenance:
• Modern western style sailboats usually are fairly high tech. Even the mechanical systems such as winches and rigging require special tools for proper maintenance. If parts go bad, one often needs access to parts and materials that most likely won’t be available. Failure of one part can lead to a whole system being rendered unusable.
• Most modern western sailboats are built with deep fin keels because such make for faster boats. However, that limits sailing to deep waters. Many times places to anchor out and/or hiding holes along a coast will be shallow, where deep keels prevent access.
• Most modern western sailboats have deep, heavy, fin keels, which means that any maintenance or repairs that require access to underwater parts of the boat, will require specialized places to haul out as such repairs can not be done on a beach by beaching the boat.
• Despite what the fancy brochures state, most modern western sailboats are not designed as all weather, world-voyaging "blue water" boats: they are designed as fair weather, coastal boats. They are designed with the expectation that the owner/sailors on them will have access to weather faxes and other warnings to avoid storms, rather than designed to sail through them. Further, it is expected that most of the people who sail them do so during the summer, when the weather tends to be the best, when ocean crossing voyages can be made without encountering storms.
• Most modern western sailboats are poorly designed for anything other than personal comfort with some storage. One is often lucky to find one with room for a dinghy on its deck, let alone any other activity. Below decks has no room for storage of any trade goods, should an emergency last long enough that long term living on a boat would be considered.

When would a boat be useful?
• If you already have one, they could go up the coast when roads are impassible, or blocked by martial law.
• As an escape from the country to go to a nearby, friendly country
• As a temporary hideout, anchored out having a natural moat, best done where one can anchor away from cities and out of sight.

Final comments: I, too, have thought about using a sailboat as a bug-out vehicle, and taking all the above into consideration, have concluded that none of the boats I have seen on the market would suffice. So I have made a design that I think I could get in the water within two weeks from start of construction, assuming electricity is around to run power tools and I have access to parts. I cannot start building yet, because I will be transferred in a few months, and I am taking the gamble that the situation won’t deteriorate that badly before that time.

Reasons for designing and building my own boat:
• Seaworthiness. Needs to be able to go out in all but the worst conditions as weather warning systems cannot be counted on. • Shallow draft. So can go into out of the way places and/or be beached for maintenance and/or repair.
• Light weight. No deep heavy keel that limits what can be done.
• Nondescript in appearance. It will look like the work boat that it is, not like a luxury yacht. As such, local bad guys are less likely to target it.
• Even where the design is sophisticated (I’ve had to write computer programs for parts of the design), construction can be done with hand tools and most repairs can be done while sailing. There are no parts on it that I cannot build myself.
• Sufficient storage space for tools, supplies and even some trade goods. There will be more space available for such storage than living space, even on a fairly small boat.

Final comments in my favor—I have the (dis)advantage of being single, I have lived overseas and speak a few languages so I can usually melt into the local populations. I have a variety of tools, including a lightweight lathe/milling machine, sail makers sewing machine (better than most for almost all other sewing as well) and the skills to use them. I have done construction, from the laying the foundation to roofing, and almost everything between including furniture. So even if I lose everything, I still have something to trade. And with a boat I have a floating factory, cargo carrier, house and hide away.

Would a sailboat be a good bug out vehicle? Think it carefully through, it may or may not fill the bill. – Richard O.