Two Letters Re: Bug Out Boats

Hugh,

Anyone considering a bug out boat should take a look at steel hulled sailboats in the 30 to 40 foot range. They offer excellent ballistic protection as well as the structural strength to resist all manner of collision or grounding incidents. Additionally, steel will not burn or be damaged if frozen in place by thick ice. Most of the modern steel boats sail well, are insulated for warmth, and are often equipped with a wood stove. A quick search on sailboatlistings.com will yield some affordable options. Stay safe! – Fixer

o o o

Hugh,

I’m sorry, but I have to say something about the armchair sailors thinking of taking to the water when they bug out. I was a professional sailor (Merchant Marine with Coast Guard Docs) until the late 80’s. I don’t think many things have changed, but sailing back then was dangerous, and I’m sure it’s even more so now.

Fact: Most Merchant Mariners don’t and won’t own a boat. A boat is one of the most fickle of living environments and the hardest to guard against from bad guys who might want to take your home. You will always be limited on water, food storage, and personal belongings. With more people, you have even less room.

Remember the people on shore can watch you in the bay setting up your anchor and have all the time in the world to overcome you later at night or when you come to shore. All it takes is a quiet row or swim around your boat when you are sleeping and then quietly climb aboard and overcome you.

Fact: There are pirates everywhere, especially in the Caribbean, tropics, and along Mexico down to South America. You just never hear about them. Pirates can be a couple who look like nice friendly folks who might be great friends until they overtake you and take your boat away. Many of these people have hopped on many boats over the years and dump the old one when they need a new vessel and they have usually killed the old owners or left them to die. When I was sailing on the bigger boats (tugboats, et cetera) we had a lot of strange things happen. You have a large boat and small crews, so it’s hard to watch every inch of the boat or to hear anything unusual over the engines. We had other vessels come close with their lights out, and when you tried to hail them they would keep radio silence. We had other vessels warn us that we had a stow-away on our barge, but the stow-away would be gone by the time we got out the skiff and went back to the barge.

Boats need a lot of maintenance and are very easy to get hurt; also, when you are working it’s easy to fall overboard. You should have a lot of skills such as navigation, sailing and boat handling skills, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, hydraulic, and woodworking skills. Also, welding, wire working, rope, and splicing skills are needed too. I have been on boats that have broken down, and it was up to us– the crew– to fix all of the above. Many times we’d find we were out of fresh water or that the refrigerator/freezer system had gone down. Boats and the equipment on them take a hard beating.

Fact: There are “deadheads” everywhere and will probably be more if shipping companies go broke. Deadheads are items floating in the water just below the waves; these include shipping containers that have fallen off of freighters in a storm and other items, like floating logs. It’s very hard to see these. One time our tug hit one; it completely destroyed our huge propeller. There are also numerous fishing gear traps, along with large rope lines floating, that can get wrapped around your propeller and foul it up. (It’s very hard to get these unwrapped.)

Anyway, these are just a few things to think about and prepare for. There is nothing better than a great sailing voyage, and there is nothing worse than a horrible one. If you do this, please know as much as you can. The ocean and weather can be very unforgiving. – R.R.

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