Sailboats, Survival, and SHTF
by Scott Kelley
I’ve always been a fan of being self-sufficient and learning skills. Sailing is one of the skills that I always wanted to acquire but until my sister married her husband, I never knew anyone who sailed. I love it so much now that I’m considering selling everything and living on a sailboat. As you’ll see below, learning how to sail will give you the opportunity to learn all sorts of self-sufficiency skills, emergency preparedness skills, and off-grid capabilities. As far as I’m concerned, the skills and knowledge required to sail a boat to a distant shore and live on the boat require almost exactly the same skills that preppers pursue.
Lemme throw some context at you for a sec and then tell you why you might want to consider learning how to leave dry land if you need to. I went out to Kalifornia in September to visit some friends and family and along the way, I spent a week in Monterey, where a good friend is learning Russian at the Defense Language Institute (DLI). Since I didn’t want to sit around his house all day while he was in school, I decided to take this opportunity and take sailing lessons. I’m glad I did.
I spent a week and got my ASA101, Basic Keelboat Sailing and ASA103, Basic Coastal Cruising certifications (those links are to the exact books they gave me for the courses but I’ll list the other books I’ve recently read at the end of this post. I then stopped in at Oxnard on the way back to Phoenix, and instead of getting a hotel, I decided to just rent a 32-foot sailboat for the day since it was almost the same and I’d have the boat for daytime (they let you sleep on the boat). I ended up staying all week on the boat and had a great time sailing and meeting people – and even sailed in a race that weekend. I still need to take one more class – ASA104, Bareboat Cruising, before I would feel comfortable heading out to an island for the weekend.
Why sailing is great for emergency preparedness
If you’re really into self-sufficiency as I am, you’ll love sailing. I’m not saying you should sell your stuff, get out of debt, and move onto a sailboat like I’m in the process of doing but just getting out there with friends and learning how to do it is really fun and very eye-opening. When you look at the awesome videos out there from people like La Vagabonde and S/V Delos, you can see that being out on a sailboat can be a great adventure that would be an awesome way to learn survival skills (check out these two videos, for example).
See what I mean? The more I’ve gotten into sailing (and watching hundreds of hours of these videos), the more I’ve seen that sailing provides the perfect opportunity to practice self-sufficiency as well as learning to become truly off-grid. You may have seen the nautical prepper guy on Doomsday Preppers. I tried to find a video of it for you but the only ones I found were pirated (see what I did there), but he did write this book, The Nautical Prepper: How to Equip and Survive on Your Bug Out Boat (Preppers).
If you’ve ever sailed a boat for any length of time, you know that there are constant reminders that shit happens, and if you’re out at sea or anchored at a deserted island, you have no one to rely on except yourself to deal with them. People who’ve logged any length of time on a sailboat are people who know how to deal with what life throws at them and fix things themselves with duct tape and rope. Sailing teaches you to deal with adversity and fix things yourself.
In order to live on a boat, you have to not only learn how to operate a sailboat and navigate, you have to be very particular about what you can take with you. This requires you to take a good look at what you need to survive (as comfortably as possible) and learn medical skills (and have the proper supplies), know how to fix your engine and other systems (and have the right tools), know how to gather food (usually by fishing but not always), have alternative sources of power, know how to process your food so it lasts (not all boats have refrigerators), be able to gather fresh water, know how to communicate through radio and other means, and so on. It takes a lot of prepping to be able to live on a boat.
Considering a bug out boat as part of your plans
So let’s look at this from a prepping/bug-out viewpoint. Obviously, you can see that in absolute worst-case scenarios where society collapses, getting away on a boat could be a great option, but I don’t really like looking at things from a TEOTWAWKI perspective – but let’s play with that thought for a moment. What happens if we get a big blast of sun gunk thrown at us from space that wipes out all our electronics for hundreds or even thousands of miles? (Read these three posts by my friend Frank if you want to know about EMP/CME). The nice thing about sailboats is they don’t need fuel or electricity to work. It is more convenient to use the motor to park the boat in a marina or to get moving when the wind dies (called being becalmed), but it’s not necessary.
Now keep in mind that sailing isn’t a skill you can ‘usually’ just pick up and do. You may be able to after a while but much like using a ham radio, it’s MUCH better if you learn how before you really need to do it.
So what that gives you is the ability to head out into the water when everyone else is scrambling around, not able to use their vehicles because they died or because of the ensuing traffic jams (provided your plans can get you to your boat. With enough training and practice, you could head out to the sea to get away from the mayhem and maybe find an island to stay (or other country) to get away. You can also now more easily fish for food, etc than you can from shore.
“How would I be able to find my way?” – Yeah, I hear ya. You can’t just hop in a boat and head out into the ocean and luck into an island. You’d have to know where you’re at and where you’re going. It is possible, however. You do it the way people did it for hundreds of years before GPS was invented – by sextant. Now, using a sextant isn’t something you can just pick up and start doing. This book can show you how to find your way using the stars, or you can take classes such as ASA107: Celestial Navigation. That’s one of those things you’ll understand once you start actually getting out there.
Now I’m not saying that you should be focusing a lot of your time and effort into bugging out in a sailboat, but if you’ve gotten your plans developed so you’re covered for the 99.99% of things that are much more likely to happen (losing your job, car breaking down, house fire, personal security, etc) then it doesn’t hurt to think bigger. Just don’t get the cart before the horse. Work on things like what to do if your power goes out for a few days or what you should put in a bag in case you have to leave home or get home. What I am saying though is that if you really want to practice what it would be like to have bugged out, with truly no one to rely on and nothing you can use but what you’ve packed in small area, sailing is a great way to do that – and have a fantastic time doing it.
Heck, you might even be able to get your significant other onboard with being prepared if they’re not already.
Books I’m reading about sailing
Ok, so as you may have guess from the average length of my posts, I’m kind of anal about research. As promised above, here are the books I’ve personally ordered and have read or am currently reading that pertain to sailing (like I said, I read a lot):
- Self Sufficient Sailor
- Sailing Made Easy
- Coastal Cruising Made Easy
- Bareboat Cruising Made Easy
- The Annapolis Book of Seamanship, 3rd Completely Revised, Expanded and Updated Edition
- How to Read a Nautical Chart, 2nd Edition (Includes ALL of Chart #1): A Complete Guide to Using and Understanding Electronic and Paper Charts
- The Essentials of Living Aboard a Boat, Revised & Updated
- Singlehanded Sailing: Thoughts, Tips, Techniques & Tactics
- Storm Tactics Handbook: Modern Methods of Heaving-to for Survival in Extreme Conditions, 3rd Edition
- Sail before sunset
- A Cruising Guide to the Caribbean and the Bahamas
- Kawabunga’s South Seas Adventure: Blue Water Cruising in a Twenty Foot Boat (Microexplorer)
- Get Real, Get Gone: How to Become a Modern Sea Gypsy and Sail Away Forever
I haven’t read this series yet but Scott Williams has a four-book series called The Pulse that relates to sailboats and an EMP causing a SHTF/apocalypse scenario with the main character on a sailboat. It looks really good.
So, you don’t have to go all out and buy yourself a sailboat but if you know anyone who has one and goes out for at least overnight trips (and better yet, someone who has cruised to distant shores), I’d suggest getting out there and start talking to them about how they plan their trips. I think you’ll be surprised just how ‘prepperish’ they are. As far as I’m concerned, sailors are preppers.