Considering the “bug out boat” for escape and survival

This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest by Dave M

As a sixty-three year old retired firefighter, I have recently begun perusing survival blogs, books, and YouTube entries, and to my surprise, I found I’ve been something of a prepper all my life. Beginning as a ten-year old boy fantasizing about running off to Alaska with a 30/30, belt axe and sheath knife, to a chubby, old guy backpacking in Yellowstone, hunting Osceola Turkeys in the Everglades, and kayaking and diving in the Florida Keys, interests derived from a sense that our modern way of life is vulnerable in many ways.

Many outdoorsmen ascribe to the mantra “Go light, Go small” so I am amazed at the list of gear some “bugout’ers” believe to be mandatory, and in turn, ANCHOR them to their caches. At sixty- three I’m not at all interested in strapping a couple hundred pounds on my back. I prefer to be mobile, and create a buffer to the alleged chaos.

Allow me to suggest an acronym to the survival blogs…….BB…..BUGOUT BOAT……The boat I’m suggesting is a TRAILERABLE, SHALLOW DRAFT, COASTAL CRUISER SAILBOAT in the 20 to 25 foot range, (The suggested maximum size for trailering, see ‘TRAILOR-SAILOR ” on the internet) Yes, I hear the red flags popping up, “I can’t afford that, My wife will never, I don’t know how, etc.) but consider the following:

  1. It’s a mobile, recreational weekend getaway, a “cabin” on the water, and a vacation adventure, something like 70% of the U.S. population lives within a few hours of navigable waterways.
  2. It’s propelled by wind, and “living small,” a solar system can provide adequate electricity, plus, a small outboard kicker that sips gas, thSt with a little planning, is rarely utilized.
  3. It can follow the Sun, instead of feeding a wood stove, even the birds fly South.
  4. It’s a minimal investment compared to property and construction, and at a point sailboats begin to keep up with inflation.
  5. It can be stored on the trailer in your backyard, convenient for personalizing, stowing your survival gear and food (freeing up the spare bedroom), and it’s a man cave!
  6. It facilitates evasive tactics, allowing distancing the chaos, pollution, and zombies, sailing to offshore skinny water keys and islets, where the water and environment is cleaner, and the risks of intrusion are reduced.
  7. A SHALLOW DRAFT COASTAL CRUISER IN THE 20-25′ range is easier to conceal, easily soloed, and usually is outfitted with 2 quasi-private areas, 4 bunks, table, and mini-kitchen in various configurations. The load of all that gear and ammo is carried by the WATER, not on your back, or in a grocery cart; WATER, you can treat and drink (see “The Watercone” on the net), WATER, incredible edibles abound in and around, and millions spend beau coup bucks to recreate by it.
  8. The early Florida pioneers would ferry hogs, chickens, and seeds to a local key and have a remote, self-sustaining “larder”. You could be prepping your hiding place now, plant several “Guerrilla Gardens”, small, and remote, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, some small isles also have fresh water, resident deer, volunteer fruit trees, and coconuts. Prepping now could be conceived as recreation, and put your family ahead of the learning curve.
  9. Many solid SEAWORTHY trailerable boats can be purchased (sometimes well fitted out) for under Five Grand, check out E-bay and local classifieds. In this economy it’s an especially good time to shop, remember the adage ” what are the two best days of a sailors life?”
  10. Have aboard a good radio, capable of receiving underground broadcasts, short wave and “Ham” stations, for any news of conditions, as well as entertainment. Obviously a VHF and GPS system goes without saying, newer marine GPS have fish finders integrated at a modest expense, and VHF radios have designated weather channels.
  11. Pick up a kayak, and a foldable bicycle to enhance and extend foraging, bartering, and clandestine trips to the mainland.
  12. Create a “going ashore bag”, with axe, folding saw, small telescoping rake, shovel, and hoe, parachute cord, machete, seeds, and a couple of tarps, think Disneys “Swiss Family Robinson” the boat secured just off the beach, serving as house and storage, with a concealed patio/summer kitchen (tree house?) hidden just off the beach for daily routines.

Lastly, it’s not all paradise and Jimmy Buffett, there are mosquitos, No-see-ums, alligators and sharks( both edible), stingrays, snakes, heat, rain, and humidity, hurricanes, and did I mention No-see-ums, bring screens! There may be pirates, marauders, and opportunists! A watch program and constant vigilance would be prudent (tree house?), however your remote location should limit intrusion!

Spend a little time familiarizing yourself with fiberglass repair, and stock some repair items, a good friend who owned a fiberglass shop, once told me “fiberglass could last forever and a repair, done right, only makes it stronger”. Some of the less expensive boats you look at may be neglected, but don’t be discouraged, with a little elbow grease fiberglass can recover much of its original luster.

So, “what did I do to prep this week”………………. I bid on a speargun on E-Bay.

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:

First Prize) Winner will receive a Stealth Body Armor Level II vest courtesy of SafeGuard ARMOR™ LLC and a $150 gift certificate for Wolf Ammo courtesy of   A total prize value of over $600.

Second Prize) Winner will receive a Wise Essentials Kit courtesy of LPC Survival and an EcoZoom’s Versa Stove courtesy of EcoZoom stoves.. A value of over $300.

Third Prize) Winner will receive copies of both of my books “31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness” and “Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man’s Solution”  and a Katadyn Siphon Water Filter courtesy of Mayflower Trading Company.  A total prize value of $107.

Contest ends on June 5 2012.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Dave, Thanks for rekindling some old memories. I personally wanted a catamaran, but after taking the wife on a off shore cruise with one found that she get VERY seasick, VERY easily. Damn!
    But i figured that I could put up with all the “minuses” that people talk about, most of which have been overcome by technology now. Now I live in the mountains, which is the next best thing.

  2. Tinfoil Hat says:

    Dave, first let me apologize for going off topic here.

    MD – I went on Amazon this morning to order 31 days to survival )late, I know, I’m sorry, but soon to be DW has me on a serious “save money” kick), and Amazon has it listed as “currently unavailable”. 🙁 please don’t tell me I waited too long to order it… 🙁

    Dave, again, I apologize. I thought your article was actually pretty cool. The oven holds no great appeal for me (sharks, jellyfish, drowning), but it certainly presents an interesting BOL if boating is your thing. Just don’t know that fighting off a pirate boarding party is worth it…

  3. Hey

    Sounds like good advice. BUT, I am absolutely clueless when it comes to boats. Would you be able to link to some examples of this boat you’re talking about?

    • charlie (NC) says:

      Mike, While I whole heartedly agree with and believe in the concept of a Bug out boat it is not something for someone who knows nothing about sailboats to attempt. Sailing can go to boring to panic stricken, life threatening danger in a matter of seconds if the sea conditions change on you and you don’t know how to handle it. Even if you do know how it can get real dangerous really fast.

      If you really want to learn about sailing with an eye to a bug out boat in your future, you better start now by finding a lake, bay or river where there are some blow boats, finding some folks who own one and begging to go along on an outing. If you like it or can tollerate it then look into getting some lessons. After a year or so of that you’ll be ready to think about buying a sail boat.

      I don’t really agree with the idea of a trailerable sail boat for a bug out boat unless you intend to just put down the intercoastal waterway, staying in the rivers and bays. If you have ideas of going offshore and venturing into the blue water those trailerable sail boats will not get the job done and you might not survive the ordeal.

      I haven’t been on a sailboat in years but 30 years ago I was part of the crew on 3 or 4 different racing sailboats. I’ve spent a few hundred hours on a sailboat while racing and a lot more hours moving the boat from place to place (by water) to get to a race location. Even with my level of experience I would think long and hard before sailing out the inlet with the intent of making it to an off shore island and outside of the protective umbrella of the US Coast Guard.

      The comparison between sailing around a lake on a trailerable sail boat and going into the bluewater for a 500 mile trip is like getting out of an amusement park bumper car and getting into a NASCAR Sprint Cup car. It goes beyond the ability of the sailor. The boat it’s self has to be capable of handling the stress of blue water sailing. You’re not likely to get caught in a 80 mph wind and 30′ seas sailing around in the lake or river.

      As far as finding a sail boat. There are always lots of sailboats for sale. If you are in a coastal area or near a large lake do an internet search for “sailboats for sale North Carolina” or Maryland or where ever. You’ll find plenty to look at.

      • Well, I do own a canoe and am near a river. So I’ll start from there. Closest lake to me is Lake Erie so I’ll go check out some marinas and talk to some people. Thanks!

        • Mike,
          I grew up on Lake Ontario and motor boated for years. One thing to know about those lakes is they can turn in an instant just like the oceans. Some experienced ship captains say the lakes are actually more dangerous than the seas. We were caught several times in very serious, scary situations with no warnings and had my husband not been a very experienced boater we would have been in trouble. I never wanted to go far from the shoreline after that. I couldn’t have imagined being out there in those situations in a 20 – 25 foot sailboat. There are many very large ships on the bottom of those lakes as proof of the dangers. You can Google Lake Ontario or Lake Erie shipwrecks and find some really interesting history. Just wanted to let you know that just because they are called lakes, in this case, it doesn’t mean they are always serene.

          • the key to your response is, you had a competent attentive sailor, prudence, keep a weatr her eye

          • Conmaze that is why you have VHF radio and monitor NOAA channels, keep a weather eye

            • oleplug,
              We did have the radios. As I said, there was no warning. Here is an excerpt from an article found on about monitoring the great lakes:

              “Despite all that modern technology can offer, surviving a Great Lakes storm is still a challenge. The storms of the Great Lakes have been compared with a witches brew,” and a devil’s harvest. Storms can explode across hundreds of miles of open water with little or no warning. Storms on the Great Lakes often can be more difficult to navigate than ocean storms. Waves on the Great Lakes jump and strike quickly compared to the lethargic rolling and swelling of ocean waves.”

              Mine is just a cautionary tale….

        • Charlie (NC) says:

          Mike, let me expand on what I said just a bit. I don’t mean to disagree with Dave M. on the trailerable boats. There are lots of trailerable sail boats and some of them are big, capable boats. They are, however, trailered on big trailers behind big trucks and have to be partially taken apart to trailer. The ones I think Dave M. is talking about are comparable to a pop up camper in that it is real easy to fold down the mast and make them ready to trailer. While those boats certainly have a purpose and a market they are generally not a good fit for blue water or even big water sailing or sailing in adverse conditions. There are always trade offs in everything. There may very well be a good, heavy sea worthy, traileable boat on the market. I just haven’t seen one I believe is up to that task.

          There should be some good boats up on Lake Erie also if you ever get over around Newport RI you’ll find plenty.

          One thing you guys up on the lakes have going for you is the ability to quickly get over into Canadian waters if necessary.

      • I want to second what Charlie said. I grew up in a family that loves boating and fishing. (I preferred to work on my tan and read books.) It takes a lot of know how to go out to sea and even more know how to survive at sea. There are just too many things that can go wrong.

      • sailing isn’t for everyone, but it’s my way, don’t be afraid to give it a go, I’ve been sailing many years, ocean, Lake Erie! Sailing requires keeping a “weather eye” and prudence, but mostly it’s ideal, I’m not suggesting crossing the Gulf stream in a coastal cruiser, however, there’s the Keys. 10,000 islands, Apostle islands, Catalina islands, take a look at your local waters, I’m betting there are oppurtunities nearby!

    • try”trailor-sailor” on the internetr

    • try “Trailor-sailor” on the net, many, many options abvailable

    • Mike, jump in the waters fine, try “Trailor-Sailor” and “Great Lakes Sailor” on the net, check out e-bay and Texas Sailboat for sale examples, YMCA offers Basic Sailing classes fo 25.00, sailing is a lifelong learning experience, but not complicated, give it a go,keep a weather eye

    • sailing is a good survival resource to have, YMCA has basic sailing courses for 25.00, check out ebay sailboats, some real bargains with many photos, my boat is a 24 Seaward, check out it’s reviews and photos on the net, feel free to contact me,

  4. Yadkin Girl says:


    Interesting! You will give many people something to think about.

    If I lived near the coast I wonder if I would consider a boat as a bug out vehicle (BOV).

    Having been a boater in the past (24′ Boston Whaler, twin 115 HP engines, two batteries, radar, and excellent navigation and chart reading skills, etc – which I needed as I lived on an island) and where I would, what I called, island hop…and there are many islands out there that would be great to ‘escape’ to… I don’t know if I would choose my boat as a BOV. I definately liked the speed, capabilities and safety of the Whaler – it floats no matter what!

    As a side note, when I first got the boat the Coast Gaurd said, we “hope you aren’t running drugs because we don’t have a boat that could catch you”…this was years ago, I bet they do now!!!

    Sailing is a different creature as it is dependent on the wind. You could definately be stealth. Of course, with a motor boat, there is the gas problem, but then, there is the speed at which you can travel and get away from other boats.

    In many ways, I would feel very volnerable on a sailboat. And, I would think (I am not a sailor), you would have to have spare sails. I love the water and really enjoy boating but I don’t know if I would choose this option unless I had a specific destination. Where I use to live there were WW2 forts built on many islands and on the mainland that would have been okay to live in and they are made of concrete and many are covered with dirt and, therefore, well hidden.

    Anyway, I ramble, you bring up something for folks to think about.

    • charlie (NC) says:

      Yadkin Girl,

      A 24′ Whaler with twin 115’s would be considered a slow boat down here on the coast these days. We see lots of boats in the 25 to 30′ range with tripple 250’s. I’ve seen outboard boats with over 1000 hp hanging on the stern. Many boats down here will make 80+ mph. Some of them will do nearly that in the open ocean against the waves. Does the Coast Guard have anything to catch them? Yes a lot of things. If all else fails they call out something called a helicopter and it has some machine guns on it.

      • charlie (NC) says:

        a couple of videos for you if you have a broadband connection.

        This second video is shot (at least the opening scenes) about 15 miles from where I grew up and about 40 miles from where I live now. Note the fact that US Coast Guard is written in English and Arabic on the side of the boat. That tells me they were sent to patrol around our fleets in the middle east. If you keep watching you’ll see a rear shot showing that there are triple 300 HP Mercury engines on them.

      • Yadkin Girl says:


        I just thought it was funny the CG approached me (a very young woman, at the time) when I bought the boat. I wasn’t bragging and I am not competing with anyone – I was just telling a story and sharing my experinces. At that time the local CG did not have a boat fast enough to catch me…but that was years ago and not in Florida. Now, there are lots of boats that go much faster than mine did, way too fast as far as I am concerned. At the time, my boat was considered fast but it was needed when you live on an island.

        Boating is a skill and one must take care as there are many dangers in the open ocean. I still visit the island and see all the nuts with their cigarette boats, making alot of noise and going too fast. They take away from the beauty of the water and boating experience. I’ll take a trusty 24′ Boston Whaler with 230 HP over any boat any day.

        Anyway, all this nonsense doesn’t matter – I was just sharing my story.

        • charlie (NC) says:

          Yadkin Girl, I didn’t think you were bragging and I wasn’t trying to one up you. I was just commenting on how things have changed in the last decade or so. I agree a Whaler is a fine boat and I’d be proud to have a 24′ Whaler with twin 115’s. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear in what I was saying.
          I posted the video’s just because I thought you might enjoy seeing them.

          • Yadkin Girl says:


            Sorry for the misunderstanding – I guess I was being a little too sensitive. Communicating via the internet has a lot of downsides as we can’t see body language and look someone in the eyes.

            Yes, times have changed!

            • charlie (NC) says:

              No Yadkin Girl, it’s my fault. I used to have some software that analysed grammar and style. Every time I ever ran the program on something I wrote it showed my “style” as Terse. No matter how I tried to soften up what I wrote it showed up the same. I think I’m just a matter of fact kind of guy.

              Let me say this to you and to anyone else who might be reading this. My intent on this list or any other I post to is to be helpful so if you aren’t sure if I’m being positive or negative take it as positive. If I seem to be putting down some idea you had it’s probably because I am afraid you or someone reading will get in a jam. I’m here to learn from the ideas of others and to help. I’m not a troll.

            • Yadkin Girl says:


              This is in response to your comment below.

              I can relate and no problem. As I said, it is more difficult communicating via the internet.

              I was once told that I appeared to be “aloof” and “snobby”. Well, I knew I was not those things so I had to figure out why some people thought that. After taking a good look at myself I realized it was the way I speak (I tend to use words that others may not know), the way I hold myself (confidently) and the fact I wear some old family jewelry that some may interpret as being “flashy” (I wear them because they were my mothers and grandmothers and they make me think of them and… if you have it, why not enjoy it!). I also used to be a little shy back then. So, anyway, after taking a close look at how (some) others interpretted me I realized I had to purposely “soften up” (even though I knew I was a soft person). And that is what I did. I now make sure my soft skills come out as soon as possible and don’t let my shyness take over – the rest of the stuff is me and if they misinterpret that – so be it – I can’t please all the people! I think I’ve done pretty well and this “enlightenment” of how others perceive me really helped me be a better person.

              However, writing styles are probably harder to change. So, in the future I will remeber you are just a factual and to the point guy.

            • charlie (NC) says:

              Thanks Yadkin Girl, I am who I am and I can live with the consequences. I just don’t want someone
              walking around with ruffled feathers or hurt feelings because they mis-interpreted something I said.

        • well said Yadkin Girl, different strokes, always detractors, the island is a hugh part of the scenario, everyone seems to scared to death of Zombies, do they swim, boat? your evading many of the problems of SHTF simply by being remote on an island, thanks for the comments

          • Charlie, being advised of being “Terse” might be perceived as a cause for change, I have a healthy respect for the Sea, and have acted prudently to adverse weather as most “seasoned” sailors do, I have sailed for thirty years in all wakes of weather, and prudently wouldn’t get caught in a gale(i.e. small craft warnings), as a retired firefighter who acheived the rank of District Chief I had the responsibility of selecting officers to preform life threatning tasks, and would instruct said officers to be aware of puffed up bravado guys who expressed “I ain’t afraid of heights” to keep them safe and prudently utilize them, there is a significant difference to being scared silly and a healthy respect, and no fear at all

            • charlie (NC) says:

              Oleplug if you go back and carefully read what I said, I said my writting style was terse and that I had tried to soften it up to no avail. I’m not the best writter in the world. My work is technical in nature and direct, no nonsense communication is necessary. I never learned the skills of flowery word smithing. That does not mean I’m a jerk or need to change anything. I am who I am and I don’t complain or make excuses.

              I have no doubt you are a good sailor. I take your word for it and I’m not talking to you about your sailing skills. I am trying to let folks know that you can’t get on a sail boat with no training and sail away. It just doesn’t work that way. I’ve seen too many folks try it.

              Finally if you are acusing me of being a “puffed up bravado guy” you’re pissing on the wrong bush. I know my strengths and I can back them up. I also know my limitations and stay clear of situations I can’t handle.

        • perhaps they approached you for the eye candy

          • Yadkin Girl says:


            LOL. Perhaps – I was a looker back then – now, I am a “mature woman”. Perhaps, they just wanted to check out my boat. I had to beg Boston Whaler put a hard top on it (the 24′ ft didn’t have one at the time) so, it was a one-of-a-kind.

    • sails have a considerable lifetime, I feel more vulnerable on a power boat dependant on carbon fuels and mechanics, whenever a smoke pot(sailor talk for power boats) goes by, my 1st thought is “I know where he’s going, to get more gas!!!!!!!!!!

      • Yadkin Girl says:


        I guess, in many ways, it is all what you are use to. I went sailing once with a couple in a rather large boat and we hit a storm – I was terrified! Water coming over the sides, the boat rolling in the waves! Although I would try and never put myself in a situation where I knew storms were coming in, sometimes I could not avoid it as my boat was my transportation to the island (to and from work). But, when I did have to navigate back to the island in a storm, I never felt quite as scared as when I was in that sailboat.

        But, perhaps, it was also due to the fact it was my boat and my skills I was dependent on and I knew my boat upside down.

        • charlie (NC) says:

          Well here is the story of my very first time sailing.
          I was in my mid 20’s and working for a guy in his late 20’s.
          He had just bought his first sail boat. He had done some sailing but was not a pro by any means. He took me and another co-worker about my age with him to take delivery of the boat and move it to the marina where he planed to keep it. Neither the co-worker or I had ever sailed but we were both experienced on the water in small power boats.

          The boat was brand new and not fully rigged out yet. One thing missing was winch handles. No bother, it was a beautiful summer day. The boat owner had even gone so far as to call a Marine Corps friend of his at the base and get a weather report direct from the flight tower at the Marine Air Base. The forcast was clear weather and light breezes.

          We started out down the river under sail, easing along and chatting, having a grand time. Wellout about the time we got to a bend in the river (nearly 3 miles wide at that point) the skies darkened and the wind picked up. The wind direction was such that in order to go where we needed to go we had to harden up and go to weather. Without winch handles we could not do so. The wind got too high and there was just too much strain on the sheets to do it. Ok, no problem, we took the sails down, lowered the outrigger bracket with the attached 9,9 hp long shaft aux. engine, fired it up and away we went. Well the wind kept getting stronger and the seas rougher and the rain harder until it got to the point that we could not keep the motor in the water (due to the pitching of the 28′ boat and the frequency of the 4′ or better swells). We couldn’t keep steerage to get around the point. We tried again and again but the engine would pop up out of the water and the boat would spin on her keel. Finally about 5 hours into what should have been a 3 hour trip we had to give up, turn around and go back toward where we came from. We were never in danger but this was way before the days of cell phones and we also did not have a VHF radio on board (it was one of the items to be rigged at the marina we were headed to). The ending of the story is that had a date with a beautiful young lady who I was very fond of and had just started to date. In fact it might have been our first date. If not it was the 2nd or 3rd. I showed up on her door step 3 hours late and soaked from head to toe. I went straight to her house to apoligize but I don’t think she took it too well.
          That is neither here or there but the story makes my point about novice sailors and poorly rigged boats and the old saying that “what can go wrong will go wrong”. That was what I was trying to get across in my cautions about acquiring a boat and thinking you could sail away to freedom with no training or experience or without the proper rigging.

  5. SurvivorDan says:

    Indeed. Interesting article.The romantic adventurer within me (deep within) likes the idea. The landlubber within is dubious.
    still…different bug out vehicle concept. Food for thought.

    • Thanks, it’s this old mans plan

    • I just got off my 33′ sailboat last year, after having lived aboard and cruised the east coast for 4 yrs. Can you say “minimalist”? I’m in the process of selling it now to purchase land on an ozark stream in south central Missouri. It’s a great dream, I hope you have deep pockets. You’ve heard the acronym…BOAT(break out another thousand). Good luck to any of you who wish to pursue the Buffet dream. I’ll take terra firma any day.

      • 2slim, I have no intention of living aboard long term, reaching skinny water keys and residing “anchored island style”, boat as a cabin is the plan, have spent weeks aboard charter boats in the caribbean, they all get small over time, but utilized as a “cabin transport” to an island is an entirely different concept, keep a weather eye

      • 2slim, I own a 24 Seaward, sail it all over Florida to out Islands, have done the 30day Okechobbee -keys- ft myers trips, plenty of places to skinny water-isle wait out shtf,

      • charlie (NC) says:

        good advice 2slim. A bug out boat is a last resort for me and I would do it only as a last chance escape. I’d be trying to get off shore to some safe haven island and would put my odds at less than 50-50.

  6. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    I’m a Son of the Soil myself, but admit some of those advantages mentioned above sounds really good. Especially the ‘how do I take it with me?’ questions if you have to travel for whatever reason.

    About that speargun – if ABOVE WATER shooting is permissible, take a look at the Dave Canterbury Slingbow, I think it may have some possibilities for bowfishing, especially if on a boat.

    Thank you for the article.

  7. Hmmm… this article raises interesting possibilities. Many people in my region have small watercraft to fish and enjoy the large number of navigable waterways in my region of the northeast US, but the majority are motor-driven. The DH has made some noise about wanting a new toy, and a boat is on his wish list. What if I gave in, on the terms that it be a sailboat? Muahahahaha…
    On the practical side, I have absolutely no idea how to sail! I may come from a long line of Aegean fisherman (and even one a verified pirate! Aargh.), but that doesn’t make me any more likely to know how to take advantage of this ancient and effective form of transportation.
    I suspect this may become just another dream to add to my prepper wish list… that may happen someday, but probably not any time soon.
    Thank you for a very thought-provoking post, Dave M.

    • charlie (NC) says:

      Cat, the alternative to sail boats, and a good one I might add, for those that can aford it is what is called a long range cruiser. They come in many sizes and forms and in a wide range of cost from relatively old and small fix er up ers to multi million dollar new ones. Essentially they are live aboard, displacement hull (non plaining an slow) engine powered boats. They usually have relatively small diesel engines and relatively large fuel tanks. If I could aford one that would probably be my choice at this point in my life. You can actually live fairly comfortably on them if you can stand moving at a range from maybe 6 mpg all the way to gallons per mile. I have a friend that has a 53 foot Hatteras aft cabin cruiser. It’s an old boat but he keeps it in good shape.
      I think he has about 1000 gal. of fuel capacity which means he could get 3 or 4 thousand miles before he runs out. If you search around the marina’s in the N/E you have a fair chance of finding one cheap because the “snow birds” can no longer afford to motor to florida and back every year.

      • Hi CharlieNC-
        Cool idea… but in actuality, we are in no way ready to buy something as pricey as a cabin cruiser. I can see how something with a 1000 gal tank might be up for grabs on the cheap right now…. it is for the same reason that I think learning to sail might be a better investment of time and energy. Elbow grease is much cheaper than diesel fuel, and likely to remain so for a very long time! (at least I hope). I have no desire to be beholden to fossil fuels much beyond the next decade. Any plans that I make that extend beyond a 10-year time frame invariably take alternative energies into account. In this case, wind and human power are my choice. I do have very dear family members who live a few hours away who have gone to a great deal of time and expense to earn their Captain’s licenses through the US Coast Guard. I’m not entirely sure of the process, but they are the real deal, and regularly take all of their vacations on sailing vessels of all different sizes from NE ports to very exotic locations. Not for the faint of heart! Some of their stories and close calls have me more than a bit fearful of even the current state of the high seas (I’m sure those conditions will deteriorate significantly if SHTF). They plan on selling their home and retiring to a vessel as yet unchosen in a few years, so if my DH and I do decide to pursue sailing, we will have a good set of mentors.
        It takes an unusual post like this one by Dave M to make us think about some of these roads less traveled… or even considered.
        Thank you for helping me start to frame this particular alternative path in my mind.

        • also remember you can get a seaworthy sailboat w/functional sails for under 5 grand, w/no carbon fuel dependency as you understand, keeping a weather eye becomes habitual and you’ll know when to go

    • Thanks Cat, basic sailing is like riding a bike, look into it, I highly recommend it

    • Cat, contact your local YMCA, great beginning sail classes 25.00, you can’t rent the boat that cheap

  8. SurvivorDan says:

    Just ‘clicked’ on the retired firefighter. I have been a soldier and a reserve deputy but fire scares the hell out of me! My cousins were career firefighters and I always admired their incredible courage. Thank you for your years of service to your community.

  9. The hell with a coastal cruiser, cast-off for Tahiti! It’s all downhill once you hit the 40’s. Hilo is twenty-odd days out of SanFrandisco and Papeete is just another week or two! As a dinghy-sailor that’s my dream-state…

    • No blue water for a cosatal cruiser though! however in extreme conditions folks have crossed the Atlantic in very small boats, read “Tinkerbelle”

    • try it first, I’ve elected to stay coastal cruiser style, chartered on many “blue water” boats, they need crew

  10. Rob Crawford says:

    This gets to something I’ve been considering writing up — I recently read “A Journal of the Plague Year” by Daniel DeFoe (better known for “Robinson Crusoe”). It’s a cleaned up/slightly fictionalized version of his uncle’s journal from the London outbreak of the Black Death in 1665. Since London is a port, there were many ships around, and they couldn’t leave until the plague broke (other cities wouldn’t let them in). Some people even took to the boats for safety early in the outbreak.

    DeFoe seemed to think it was quite effective. There were some ships that weren’t perfect on their quarantine, but generally they did well. They even managed to buy supplies — boatmen would take money, buy the goods, then deliver them. ISTR mention that the money would be passed back and forth in pots of vinegar, and the goods by block and tackle.

    • S.E.R.E. Survive/EVADE/Resist/Escape, can’t even imagine how bad it could get, minimize exposure

  11. dannyb278 says:

    GREAT article. It suprised me that more dont mention boats as a bugout vehicle. Location mabey? Low on funds, can find a sail boat, what about a canoe? thousands of years of proven track record. i keep one that i can on my truck if i need to get gone. It might be slower than a car, but i can put my family of three in a canoe with supplies and get from my home near the mississippi in minnestoa, all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico in 90 days or so. through on a small trolling moter and i can connect with the Missouri River and head west. Drive a few hours north and i can put in in lake suppirior and head east (doubtfull i would do that.), or north.

  12. concrete termite says:

    This would be a really good idea except I can’t swim. If i go overboard or get capsized I am hosed. And with where I live it would take me a while to get to the ocean. Granted it sounds great and would be better than trying to survive and deal with all the non preped. And the whole pirate thing would be awesome! I am captain Concrete Termite!

    • charlie (NC) says:

      termite, you can’t swim the ocean anyway. Once you are a couple of hundred yards from the beach even the best swimmers are in just as bad shape as you are. Wear a life jacket all the time while you’re in the boat. The coast guard says you are supposed to anyway. Or at least they highly recommend it.

    • Capt Concrete, as you learn aboout sailing, you’ll discover open water suggests safety line forward to aft, keeps you with the boat, calm seas Matey

    • swimming and sailing are both skills to learn and store in your shtf knowledge options

  13. DiverGal (So. Fla) says:

    Hey Wolfpack,

    Finally had time to start catching up on my reading and I HAD to comment on this one.

    This is a great post and gives a lot of food for thought, but as someone who works on the water and has taken the boat to the islands multiple times, there are many drawbacks that must be considered….

    1. Sailboats only move if there is wind and there are no guarantees that you are going to have any. Mother Nature is Fickle. Boats with engines require gas and there is no way to store the amount you would need to stay on the water for any great length of time UNLESS you can afford a sea going yacht type ship that is made to spend long stretches at sea.

    2. As I can attest to, there is always a lack of storage space on boats. In my attempts to stock up on all the boats, this is the biggest problem. There are so many considerations…. salt water/air causes cans to corrode… If you are counting on fishing for your meals prepare to be disappointed. There is never any guarantee that you are going to catch something. In blue water we have gone days without a single bite. If you are planning on spearing fish, know that this takes practice. It isnt just point and shoot when you are underwater.

    3. Mother Nature is fickle. I had another choice word but I’m trying to curb my sailors mouth… Storms can come up on you at sea with not enough warning to always get into safe harbor. I have seen people who have worked on boats that have completely freaked out when weather hits. (Having divers in the water when you cant see 2 feet in front of you is no fun).

    4. Planning on pulling up to an island for food/water replenishment requires some skill. Depending on currents, tides, zombies pirates, etc, you could end up cut off from getting back to your boat.

    5. Water needs are going to be difficult to meet in a salt water environment unless you have a desalinization plant on your boat. Lack of storage makes storing water for long term more difficult too, especially on a smaller boat where you have weight considerations.

    I think that bugging out by boat has a lot of merit, but it does have it’s own set of problems. If you are considering this then I would recommend getting all the experience you can before TSHTF because like with any prep, all the stuff in the world doesnt help you if you arent able to use it.

    That said, being on a boat does give you some great advantages as far as security, you are sequestered in a pandemic situation, you dont have to worry about traveling on blocked off roads, can see marauders coming at you from a distance, you are most likely not going to be caged in unless the zombies have multiple boats.

    Dave M, Im not disparaging your article. It gives a lot of good ideas but bugging out by water without being informed and prepared can be a more difficult road than on land. Ive worked at sea pretty much my whole life and even I worry about the drawbacks of taking this road.


    • all true, didn’t promise a rose garden, I also served as Docent, deck-hand, and bartender, on a small cruise line as a post retirement job here in ft myers, well aware of the concerns, however, I’m commited it will be my bug out and in, plan

      • oldguy52 says:

        Ha ha, Looks like it won’t be crowded in the anchorage. That’s OK, I like it quiet.

        Folks seem to think one would be out sailing around out in the open all the time. Think about it folks, You’re gonna find a quiet hidey hole someplace and pretty much throw out the hook and stay there, just like you would a cabin in the woods.


        • at last, somebody who gets it!!!

        • “you can lead a horse”, I like queit also, plus less competition for foraging, I was hesitant about writing the blog, but, my fears were unnecessary, it didn’t release the onslaught I anticipated, Que Sera, see ya on the briny

          • it surprises me how often I read blogs, hoping to augment survival by hunting, does extinction ring a bell landlubbers???????????????????

    • as stated in the article, take a look at the” watercone” on the net, I’ve been sailing for many years crossing the gulf Stream secveral times on chartered boats
      to the Bahamas…………sailing requires prudence…keep a weather eye, matey

  14. arkieready says:

    Ive got a little ole flat bottom & 5 hp motor. Ha, even a trolling motor. Ds has crewed on a coastal yacht. We are set. Haha. Eventualities are why i still have a boat i do not use. ‘cuz i can. i can go upriver away from people. I can put in teeny coves. No open water, but one more resource. No trailer needed. (now i wanna go to the lake)

  15. recoveringidiot says:

    I’ll be on dirt. I would love to have a small flat john boat to set nets and jugs with but nothing burning gas or depending on wind even if I knew how to sail and I don’t. I have always looked at boats as a money pit on water. I love fishing with my buddies but boat ownership is beyond me.
    Not knocking the idea, it’s just not for me.

    • Sailing is not as complicated as eliteists would like you to think, if you can ride a bike you can sail

      • charlie (NC) says:

        Dave your comment makes me wonder if you’ve ever sailed in adverse conditions. If you are talking about me when you say eliteist then you are way off base. I don’t even consider myself to be a competent sailor at this point. I am a realist and I don’t want one of the good Wolf Packers going off half cocked thinking that sailing is like……..well……. riding a bicycle.

        Have you ever had your boat knocked down by a sudden wind shift in a gale with water running in the cockpit, mast laying on the water, main sail boom stuck in the bottom? Ever been “in irons”? Ever been washed over the side of the boat and had to pull yourself back in by one hand on the lifeline?

        I don’t disagree with you at all about bugging out by boat. It is something I have in my plans if necessary. I just don’t want my friends here going off half cocked thinking it’s always a pleasant day on the water. If it is an attractive option to anyone here, learn how to do it now. Don’t wait and try to figure it out on the fly.

        • Basic Sailing, YMCA 25.00, jump in the waters fine, there are concens, keep a weather eye

        • as you should know, keep a weather eye, reef or batten down, you are harnessed to a lifeline, both hands are free, irons is a great time to nap, knocked down? someone wasn’t paying attention!

          • as I have taught many people how to sail astutely, I learned that those most scared had been tramautized by poor sailors

          • charlie (NC) says:

            Oleplug, I don’t know why I’m wasting the use of my fingers but… in irons is when you are being pushed backwards by the sea or the current and have no control of the boat. At least that is time definition I was using.
            It is NOT a time to take a nap.

            Paying attention? Yes we were paying attention but when you race sail boats you take chances and if you are trimed on the edge in strong and fluky winds sooner or later you’ll get a sudden wind shift and get knocked down. I’m sure you think every time you hear about a boating accident that the guys in the accident were idiots not paying attention and it can’t happen to you. Your chance will come. Keep trying.

    • arkieready says:

      I cant tie a knot (at least not one that can be untied), but both young’uns have sailed. Ds alot more than dd. Id be doomed alone. Never drove my own boat. Lame!

  16. I love this article! While I’ve not made many comments, I have talked about our boat, oh so briefly. We’ve a Newport 30 and like Dave, I’ve thought of it as an option for a bug out, depending on the situation.

    We’re on the Columbia River and she’s capable of making the San Juan’s or Mexico and we’re learning all the time. She’s a small diesel engine and can go quite far on one tank. Then too we’ve a spinnaker so we can make use of little wind.

    While I don’t really think we’d head off for a coastal trip, we could hold up if something were going on at home. We’re in a capital city and of course that makes us an auto target for bad guys.

    If nothing else…being on the sailboat is a great stress killer. I don’t think I’d go with a trailer sailor but there are some very nice and affordable pocket cruisers out there.

    Never give up…Never surrender!

    • Amen

    • charlie (NC) says:

      Nice boat Debbie. That would make a fine bug out rig!
      It’s big enough to live aboard if necessary.

      • Charlie,

        It would be do-able as a live aboard…very cramped but do-able for our family. Sleeping for 6 (if you’re really chummy) full head, galley has two sinks, a fridge and a CNG stove/oven and we also have a wood stove. We’re still getting her set to be more self-sufficent but as we do all things ourselves it really takes time.

        We’ve spent 8 nights and 9 days on her in one wack. Hubby thought it’d be really long and awful. On day 7 he’s like…”wow, it’s been 7 days already?”

        I do know of one guy who took a Newport 30 from San Deigo to Rota, Marianas Trust Territory and I’ve know a couple of folk who’ve lived-aboard. They’re nice boats for coastal cruising but they vary greatly. Ours is a 1985 Mark III. While I’d rather bug in…I’d be ok bugging out on her.

        • Charlie (NC) says:

          Debbie, that boat is typical of the boats I used to race aboard.
          I crewed on a couple of 30 foot boats over the years, a J-30 and a San Juan 30 were the primary boats I crewed. I’ve spent several nights aboard and not with family but with folks I generally only saw on race weekends. Of course I was in my early 30’s and being comfortable and having privacy were secondary to being near the “party”. But as you said, it’s doable and better than being hidden in a bunker somewhere.

        • Debbie, My boat is a TRAILERABLE, 24 SEAWARD, has all the amenities you allude to, plus roller furling. 7 ft shorter, sleeps four, head, kitchenette, semi private staterooms, shoal draft, it does all I ascribe to it, have taught many to be competent sailors, our only intellectual difference is in the utilizing, I have no intention of blue water long term sailing, tried it, it’s okay, however sailing to a SKINNY WATER local keys and using the boat in combination with the keys is my style, best of both worlds seafood, landlubber food, garden, warm tropical breezes, limited accsess, unlimited water, stowage for large bug out gear choices, you’ve got a great boat, I don’t have dock charges

      • as you learn in progressing scholarship of sailing “small boats, designed well, are as seaworthy as big boats! big boats also are more visible to oppurtunists, require more crew (i.e. more stowage) and deeper draft keeping them in blue water, (where keys and islets are in skinny water) or in ports where “authorities” hang out

  17. This is a great article and my boat fantasy lasted about a good 5 minutes after I read it. Then I realized, you know who’s on boats? Squids, that’s who. I’ve been on a boat with the swabbies and although I don’t get sea sick, staying on a floating tin can out in the middle of all that blue is no place for me. Swamps, mountains, desert, I’ll stick with what I know.
    Besides Mrs. Mexneck would never allow any activity where there might be the slightest chance of cavorting with Sea Wenches. Arrrrggghhhh.

  18. In one summer your food stored in the boat would be no good.

    • don’t intend to stock for a lifetime,besides I’m 63, foraging, fishing, gardening, and distilling will have to due once the 6 mos supply is gone, if necessary

  19. Nice article, revived my sailboat fantasy for a little while. I live in well-watered area, and I think everyone should have a boat of some kind, be it a one-sheet jon boat or a 50 foot cabin cruiser. I have an inflatable, which is about all I can afford and have room to store it. Heading to an island sounds good, but here on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, the only islands of note are to the west of me, and even with a capable day sailer or small cabin sailer it’d be a trek, not counting the fact I’ve only sailed a boat when I was in Scout camp a few decades ago. I think a good pontoon or houseboat would be a viable solution, wide and stable, with a better carrying capacity.

  20. Skinny water as defined, is not blue water, it is coastal keys, cays, and islands with limited accsess due to it’s shallow approaches, coastal cruisers, aptly named, are just that, designed to SAIL shallow coastal waters, consult your local charts, there are many, I’ve sailed the Florida Keys, Bahamas, and know from experience of what can be found there,
    I’m also well versed in other areas around the country, and the Great Lakes, (former Lake Erie sailor), I’ll be vigilant of the weather, attempt to link with like minded in a coastal cruiser convoy, be under the U.S. umbrella, have accsess to seafood ( see Euell Gibbons “Stalking the Blue eyed Scallop”) and landlubber grub, unlimited water, gear and food storage capacity far exceeding any Bug Out vehiche and where Zombies can only accsess me by limited means

  21. Ahoy Dave,

    I have a Montgomery Wards 17′ bugout boat for inland fresh water lakes. I take camping gear and my dogs on remote shores, here in Land of Many Waters. I am making a collapseable canvas cover for it this summer which will be great to use in a downpour. I am tired of fishing and getting wet, and the dogs smell like dead chickens when drenched.

    Some may go your route, as it was one of my bugout plans. We have Carribean clear water and sandy shores here too.

    • love the “Montgomery” boats that’s another group who find “safety in numbers”, a Montgomery 15’s convoy sails annually from
      California to Hawaii and back, not my cup of tea, but an example of what’s possible, keep a weather eye

      • oldguy52 says:

        Oops, Catalina and back maybe.

        Hawaii, not so much.


        • are you part of the Montgomery crowd? I’ve always wanted to hear from someone about the trek, It seemed over the top to me

          • oldguy52 says:

            I have owned an M-15 for probably 10 years and I belong to the Montgomery Sailor’s Owners Group.

            A fellow names Mike Mann sailed an M-15 from around LA to Hawaii back in the ’80s. I used to have the full write up on it, but can’t find it now. Here’s a shorter blurb about it that’s posted on the MSOG site.


            If you’d like to know more about these boats, the folks on the MSOG list are very accommodating.I’m sure they’d be happy answer any questions you might have.

            In addition to the M-15, I also own a Pacific Seacraft Flicka we’ve had since ’02 and an Island Packet 27 we bought last year.

            • Man, what a great Inventory, classy boats, once looked a “Dana” over, and a”Nor’sea 27″, read the Nor’sea was a little tender, finally bought an O’day 27, and after 10 years downsized to the Seaward, she supplies me with all I need now, and am happy with her

            • down here they have an annual convoy for pocket cruisers, they convoy with a big “mother ship” and cross over the stream and then seperate to sail the Bahama banks, then rondevous again to sail back under “mothers” care”, last time I saw their brochure they were charging close to a Grand, I’m tempted to give that a go, but, alas age has caught up w/me, ever down this way look me up, thanks for the read!

    • sounds like a good plan, contact me if you wish

  22. Dave , always remember, they laughed and ridiculed Noah….and then it started raining…

    • lol, I’ll be swinging in my hammock, sipping my warm Corona light, augmented with a foraged Key Lime, spinning the Grouper on the spit, listening to the carnage on the radio, or poking about in the kayak for spiny lobster, trolling some cut bait, sleeping securely in my boat, attending to daily duties, building a tree house, Rose colored glasses????? you bet, however we all know about Murphy’s Law, ever hear of O’brien????? O’brien said “Murphy is an OPTIMIST!!!!!!!!!

  23. but so did the Tinkerbelle guy”

  24. Depending on where you live, on or near the water, a boat could be your best option. I read many people aren’t comfortable with the idea, which tells me, less of anybody I have to deal with! My house is my first defense, but if bugging in isn’t working, and the town is mayhem, the unrestricted waterways are my best way out. Pirates? What difference does that make? They could find my inland mountainside campsite too. At least in the water they HAVE to have a boat to board.

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