A Mariners Story

September 23, 2011

Bugging Out

Using a sailboat as a bug out vehicle

The following article has been contributed by a fellow prepper named Mike. It has been published with permission of the author.

For over a year now, my wife and I have been actively prepping for the collapse of the system that we all have grown to believe was never going to fail. We often see others afflicted with the normalcy bias; something so terrible it could never happen to us here. Wrong, it can and will.

Both my wife and I are entrepreneurs, and make our living from the sea. Boats and yachts are our life; we sleep aboard a boat and work aboard one almost every day. So when the process of prepping began, it was no question that the sea would provide our getaway plan; it’s what we know best.

We own a 44 foot motor yacht and keep it docked on the southern US coastline in a small fishing village. (I’ll not divulge any location specifics as I must maintain my confidentiality.) We are about ½ mile from the open waters of the sea.

When beginning our prepping process, we prepared a list of priority items. A year’s supply of freeze dried foods, instant foods, boat maintenance equipment, survival gear like guns and ammo and normal household supplies were placed on the list, most things any prepper would do. We even have items like sprouting seeds, instant orange juice, and a year’s supply of coffee to provide some semblance or normalcy. We carry 500 gallons of diesel fuel and have a 400 gallon fresh water storage capacity. All of these are stored aboard.

Using a yacht as a getaway vessel gave us some advantages. Using freeze dried foods takes waterBugging out with a sailboat and we carry a finite supply, or we did. We have now installed a reverse osmosis watermaker aboard our boat too. We can now turn salt water into drinking water at the flip of a switch.

But a water maker takes power to run and we have a limited power supply, or we did. Recognizing that we must conserve diesel fuel by not operating the generator any more than necessary, we have installed both solar panels and a wind turbine. These can keep the boats 12 volt power supply at 100%.

We have selected a getaway anchorage on the leeward side of an island not too far from us. The anchorage offer good protection from possible storms, and allows us good visibility to observe other boats approaching. The island is only accessible by water and has only several part-time inhabitants. The mainland is over a mile away. It’s not likely too many boats will be out when the SHTF.

The island is abundant in deer and wild turkeys and my shooting skills are right on target. Fish, crabs and shellfish are also abundant too. I was raised on the coast so fishing and hunting is a natural. Fresh game or trout for dinner anyone?

So when the SHTF, you may be retreating to a cabin in the hills; we will be living off the sea.

Fair winds.


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18 Comments on “A Mariners Story”

  1. Arsenius the Hermit Says:

    I gave a bit of thought to living on a sailboat in 1986. I had a sailing license and had done some off shore sailing with the base marina at Camp Lejeune. I knew a Warrant Officer who lived on a sailboat tied up in the camp boat basin and he seemed content. However, I was not a “blue water” sailor and stayed right in sight of land when I went out, so that was a weakness. My wife vetoed the idea anyway, but I envy the freedom of action these folks have, even if their storage capacity is very limited.


    • Joe Says:

      Good point, Arsenius. There are a lot of trade-offs. Great mobility but limited storage capacity. I would think that op sec could be a challenge as well.


    • Bill Simpson Says:


      My name is Bill. There are many doomsday scenarios that are being floated. Regardless of which one that you may feel presents the greatest immediate threat, the end result is the same; you must be able to survive the initial chaos that will surely ensue once any catastrophic takes place. If you draw a circle around any major population center, where the radius equals 500 miles (one tank of gas for many vehicles), the area inside that circle is the danger zone. There will be thousands (or millions near the largest cities) of aggressive well armed survivors who have already killed to have survived the initial ‘event’. They will be after any and all resources that weaker entities may possess (your stores is what they want). Finding and maintaining a defensible position is harder than it sounds and requires disciplined manpower 24/7 as well as the supplies to support such an infrastructure for many months, even years. The best defense in the old days was a castle with a moat around it. Today, the best defensible position is a heavily build boat that can escape the chaos, and which happens to be also surrounded by water. Peronnel onboard can easily survive and relocate to areas offshore that have low (or no) population densities, and as such, there is no fighting for resources. For example, in the Pacific Ocean there are thousands of uninhabited islands where you could survive with a boat (natives use catchment water and fishing, etc.). Sailing a modern boat is easier than it use to be, and the systems oboard make survival as easy as living in your home. There are a few boats that are well suited to such an enterprise, which are on the market now. One such boat is listed online ( Why prepare only to be overcome by the zombie warriors from the cities and others? Getting yourself and your loved ones out of harm’s way is the optimal solution. Any comments and questions are welcome. Capt. Bill Simpson – USMM


      • Joe Says:

        You make great points, Captain.

        The only issue that I see is one of logistics. Many people in the US don’t live within 500 miles of the coastline. So adopting a bug out strategy that includes setting sail to an uninhabited island isn’t very practical for them. Of course, life is about choices and those of us who live farther inland could move to the coast.

        In the case of an EMP, having the proper equipment onboard will be crucial. For example, a sextant to navigate by, a means of desalinating seawater, etc.

        I’d love to hear more about how you’ve prepared. Considered writing a guest post?

        Thanks for the comments!



      • Brooklyn Bagwell Says:


        I am the casting director for Doomsday Preppers and we are looking for boat preppers. The show is the highest rated show on National Geographic and our number one goal is to help educate others about being prepared. I would love to speak with someone prepping on a yacht/boat! Please give me a call at 212 784 7740 EXT 233 OR email me at

        I look forward to speaking to you!

        My best,


        • Joe Says:

          Hi Brooklyn –

          Thanks for reaching out to us. I’m glad that you found Mike’s guest post interesting and informative. We did as well.

          I’ve forwarded your email to Mike so that he can contact you if this is something he’s interested in discussing.

          Thanks again!



  2. Mermaid Says:

    We, too, have thought about that plan. When our kids are grown, we may make that call. But for now, we only dream about that. Does Mike have a blog? I’d love to read more details (not location specifics but power and prep specifics)!


    • Joe Says:

      Thanks Mermaid. I enjoyed Mike’s article as well. I asked for a link to his blog, however he preferred to remain completely anonymous. I can definitely understand that.



  3. Mike Says:

    Mike here,

    We do maintain a very active blog but it is used primarily for yacht sales; I am a yacht broker.

    But I rather not mix my business and private life with prepping as I think working under the radar is critical.

    We recently did a long weekend trial run aboard and all of our prep systems work.

    As far as storage aboard, we have a full years supply of food


    • Capt. Bill Simpson Says:


      Bill here again…. I noticed Mike’s post about testing his prep systems, where he wrote:

      “We recently did a long weekend trial run aboard and all of our prep systems work.”

      For the sake of those who may be new or recently interested in prepping, I felt a need to comment on Mike’s ‘trial run’.

      With all due respect to Mike (and my hat’s off to him for working on his preparedness plan) a “long weekend trial run” is in my opinion not even the beginning of ‘trial run’ for an ocean-going BOV-boat, which I will hereinafter refer to as a ‘BOB’ or bug-out-boat.

      Again, my intention with this comment is to hopefully help Mike and others to truly be prepared. And that means picking the right boat and equipping and testing it all properly.

      Another poster said that he thought you would need to be near the sea to properly use a ship or a boat as a BOB. That’s a valid point, and a strategy that works for one person, may not be the best for another. For instance some folks hate being on the water or can‘t swim, and I understand that too….building or acquiring a properly set-up BOB is not going to be cheap as some folks may infer. And if your setting up the ‘right boat’, the less you know about commercial-level marine equipment and the installations of the same, the more it will cost, since that work may require that you hire a consultant with the experience that is relevant.

      We had owned and operated many boats even before we tested our first BOB during a sea-trial that lasted 3 years (1991-1994) aboard a 52-foot (LOD) custom Morgan sailboat with my wife, two children and two dogs onboard. We had all kinds of gadgetry and equipment, much of which was the ‘latest and greatest’ commercial gear, plus a complement of custom gear that I had engineered and built myself. In addition to all of the personal and professional experience that we had from prior decades, we also read dozens of books during the process. We spent nearly 3 years in the Sea of Cortez, most of the time anchored at some of the remote uninhabited islands that dot the middle of the Sea there. During that 3-year trial run, being at anchor and not in any marinas, we learned a lot about ourselves, our boat and our equipment. Short of having done a test-run like this, I would have never known what was really needed or how to properly prepare a boat or ship for the kind of genuine endurance that might ultimately be required.

      One thing for sure is that when you think your boat is big enough to handle the amount of people, supplies and equipment that are really required, I suggest that you think again. It’s one thing if you are alone, use to being alone and don’t eat or drink too much (as in H20). Forget what you think you learned from ’Water-world’, it’s not like that at all. And I am not talking about boat deigns when I say that.

      If you are a student of catastrophic events that last for a whole week and then are over with everything returning to normal, then a ‘long weekend’ test might suffice.

      However, most scenarios that I have read about or can imagine would require having an endurance profile that meets your survival parameters for at least 6 months and as long as 2-years or more.

      On our first voyage in 1991-1994, I thought we were extremely well prepared to live in the wilderness and be totally self contained. After-all, I had all kinds of training, and had been sailing for the prior 10 years as a professional mariner on all kinds of boats all over the Pacific Ocean in all kinds of weather. Boy was I wrong! I failed to fully contemplate the actual long-term demands on the crew (that’s you and your family), the equipment, supplies and the boat.

      When we returned from that cruise, totaling about 10,000 miles, I had a list of things as long as my arm that we had learned the hard way. Way too many things weren’t even considered in the dozens of books that we had read on the relevant subjects. And keep in mind; we were able to come back, so I could go back to the drawing-board for a second bite at the apple.

      First and foremost: The crew’s morale is absolutely critical to any long-term survival operation, whether it’s on land or at sea. If morale breaks down, it’s usually ‘game-over’. Morale is affected by many factors and if there’s one thing that will keep morale up, it’s an abundance of creature comforts. I have a saying: ‘Happy wife, happy life’. It couldn’t be more true when you’re in a survival mode and under the stresses of living out in the wilderness, or away from society as we all know it. Keep in mind that if you head out, you and your crew will be leaving everything you know and love behind. You can get a glimpse of that feeling when you are heading out on a trip like we made in the nineties.

      The first things that come to mind for many readers will be good food, clean water and comfortable living quarters. And that’s true, but when you’re talking about months and years out-there; trust me, you’ll need much more! It’s always amazing to me to see the affect that just a hot shower will have on the morale of a seasoned sailor when he/she comes off a long cold night watch! Sometimes, it’s the cup of coffee or cigarette after the hot shower that is the icing on the cake, and makes life just dandy, even at sea in the middle of an empty ocean.

      Those are just a few very simplified, yet true examples of the kinds of things that matter. But again, over months and years as sea, or anchored off an uninhabited island, new needs surface that on shorter outings (a week a Catalina Island, etc.) remained veiled and unknown.

      My wife and I have just returned (August 2011) from a second, this time 4-year run at sea, with 2-years living anchored at the remote uninhabited desert islands in the Sea of Cortez (yep, we did it twice!). We had taken what we had learned from the 1991-94 sea-trial and expedition and applied what we had learned to a new boat; an all steel 70-foot motor-sailboat. We acquired this boat as an unfinished steel hull, and then painstakingly built her with all of the systems and comforts that we had learned were necessary (in our opinions). The paradigm we used was simple: We would build the boat (other than the steel hull) using only the tools and equipment we could utilize on the main deck of the boat or onboard the boat, just as if we were anchored off an island. And we would carry all of those same tools and equipment that we used to build the boat onboard. That way, we would be 100% certain we could properly fix anything that might break and have the peace of mind that if anything needed repair, we could get it done.

      In order to create a boat with proper endurance, the systems onboard must be extremely robust.

      The problem with buying a recreational yacht and trying to make it into a survival platform is that; recreational boats are not built for industrial duty, and trust me when I say, that’s what it takes. …. It’s one thing when your boating off the California or Florida coast and something goes wrong… you call the U.S. Coast Guard or your friendly towing service and they come get you and tow you to the nearest marina where your problems are solved as long as you have money. Can’t do that when things have gone all wrong.

      There’s an old saying; you can’t make a Sow’s ear into a silk purse. That maxim holds true with regard to BOBs.

      Manufacturers of recreational sail and power boats must make a profit in order to stay in business. They are not in the business of building boats for the kind of duty-cycle and intensity that is required when you are in ‘survival mode‘. In order to make a profit in the boat business, many boat builders use materials that are ‘suitable for the intended purpose’ (the magic legal words). So if were talking about a recreational sailboat, that would be for recreational or non-commercial use. Sure, many of these boats are in fact nonetheless used for what is known as ‘6-pack charters‘, etc. Just keep in mind that most recreational boats spend 90% of their time tied up in a slip, and the manufacturers know that fact. If you can put a sledge hammer through the side of a boat’s hull in a single swing, then it’s nothing more than a lake-boat in my opinion.

      There are hundreds of new and used recreational boats for sale on the market for use in the ocean that are so easily holed, I can kick a hole through the hulls with a steel-toed boot! I won’t name the manufacturers, so please don’t ask. Just use the heel of your hand to pound on the hull and you’ll see what I mean; even a .22 caliber bullet will pass through easily, striking anything inside. Why would any logical person want to load a couple tons of critical equipment and supplies into a fragile boat like this?

      Boats build for intended use in the commercial fleets are far more robust, and many of these are steel boats.

      Added to the cost of the materials for the hull, are the costs of the all the systems and equipment onboard a boat. Most recreational manufacturers will contract for systems and equipment that are again, designed for the intended purpose. Most recreational vessels have equipment and systems designed and intended for that purpose only.

      Tank capacity for fuel and water on recreational vessels is very limited, and therefore will surely be inadequate for survival situations where fuel and water stops may be very few and far between. It doesn’t matter if you’re a sailboat or a powerboat, or if you have a water maker. Big tanks are good, bigger tanks are better!

      In order to support the creature comforts you’ll need to keep your crew happy, you need to consider carrying enough fuel to travel at least 2,000 miles under power alone, if you’re a sailboat (they can become dismasted), and 3,000 miles for a power boat. Personally, I think a motor-sailboat is the way to go…. In an emergency, you can turn the key and hit the throttle and you’re off…. No ‘heave-ho’ needed… And when there’s no rush, you can sail to conserve fuel for other uses, like the generator. .

      We like to carry enough food in the way of emergency rations to last our entire crew for at least one full year. In addition to that, 200-300 pounds of dry beans, and the same weight in rice as main staples. There’s a long list of other food items that we carry that seem to work well and allow the preparation of a versatile menu to suit almost any tastes. This translates into the requirement for a lot of storage space. Here again, this is where the ‘right boat’ will shine. Larger boats have the abundance of storage that is a necessity for a BOB

      Of course all of the food that we carry is significantly augmented by all the fish we catch, and fishing skills are equipment key, if you want to eat well. Here again, the right equipment makes all the difference, and will last many years of providing delicious food on the table.

      Communications gear is also vital… a quality SSB (high frequency or ‘HF‘) radio that is installed properly (most are not) will last at least a decade or more of daily use and can easily reach stations 2,000 miles away or more. During our cruises, we used our SSB radio at least twice a day to communicate with other vessels near and far. They will work when most other forms of communications are dead. The same goes for depth sounders, radars, autopilots, and more…. There are just a couple companies in my opinion that make the best commercial Nav-Com gear. Getting repairs on ‘bargain’ Nav-Com equipment is a real bummer under the best circumstances. And you can forget your warranty if the worst happens. Having the top commercial grade Nav-Com equipment is really the only consideration.

      One reader mentioned EMP issues…. There are so many scenarios I won’t even start on that subject, except to say that many electronics would be damaged in the event of a localized EMP of sufficient energy, solar event or similar. That said, many of the industrial diesel engines (such are that on our boat) are not affected by EMP or any solar event. Furthermore, a steel boat sitting in salt water is a pretty effective Faraday cage, and as such, the risk of any effect on electronics inside a steel boat is minimized, if they are installed properly.

      I could literally write a large book on this subject and it’s not my intention that these few example are any form of treatise or response on the subject of a properly equipped BOB.

      My goal with this post was to outline some general considerations as initial food for thought.

      My best advice to anyone considering a BOB is to ‘do it right‘, and do it before it‘s too late. And if you have the money to do it right, but don’t know how, get someone to help you who has the knowledge and real-world experience to help you. If you cannot afford to do it right, you might be better off trying to survive with most folks out in the hills and mountains…. Not an option from my chair. Of course some folks may be able to co-op the costs of acquiring a BOB and getting it set-up properly with family or friends who will be part of the crew. And if the boat was of suitable size, that would be a logical alternative.

      If you have the resources to do it right, you will have more than just a BOB. You will have a highly mobile, defensible, remote and secure BOB. And in addition to being a great waterfront home on its own, it will take you and your family or friends to any of the thousands of habitable islands where the competition for resources will be minimal, if there is any at all.

      In end, if nothing ever happens, you’ll still own a great platform to see the world and have a lot of fun!

      Capt. Bill Simpson – USMM


      • paul Says:

        to cap bill
        my plans are similar to yours, and i would like to know your (or anybody’s) opinion of the 1983 Morgan 416OI. i already own this boat and have been living aboard at anchor for several years. granted this includes almost daily trips into the real world for work, but i believe that i can store 2 years of food aboard along with the 90 gal of diesel and 200 gal of fresh water (that’s just whats in the tanks, we all know that jugs on deck dont count). the old Perkins diesel is all mechanical (except the starter) and therefor immune to the emp attacks.

        in paticular i am wondering about the bullet resistance of the legendary robust Morgan hull?


        • William Simpson Says:

          Hi Paul (

          I am not sure about the hull specifications on the 83 year-model Morgan sailboats in that class…however, in order to provide you with a basic answer to your question, let’s assume that your hull is as robust as the early hulls (pre-Catalina-Morgan).

          It’s my belief that your hull will stop some lower-energy rounds (less than 350 ft/lb of energy) at point-blank range (I.E. .22 caliber pistol and rifle rounds, .25 auto, .32 auto and .380 auto). Anything with more than 350 ft/lbs of energy, such as a 9mm round or better will likely pass through one-side of the hull. Generally speaking, most .30 caliber rifle rounds average over 2,500 ft/lbs of energy or more, and will certainly pass through the entire boat, assuming they don’t strike a heavy bulkhead or some other metal object inside.

          I don’t consider wood or fiberglass boats as ’hard-cover’ unless they are reinforced for that purpose. It can be done, however from my chair I don’t see the point, unless you’re using a boat on a large lake or in some other area of operations where you expect to encounter some hostile force. The whole idea of using a boat is to relocate to a remote uninhabited or sparsely populated area and to avoid conflict at all costs, and by doing so, you survive.

          If you ask me, stockpiling guns and ammo is not a solution. It may make some people ‘feel’ prepared, but if and when the SHTF, in the reality of nearly continuous asymmetrical warfare conditions that could evolve, you will more than likely be overcome sooner or later, for one reason or another.

          As far as your question about provisioning: the answer to that requires a lot of due-diligence in regard to many things; type of boat used, number of people onboard, equipment on the boat, areas of operation, duration of the cruise, and more, which considering it’s importance, goes well beyond the scope of posting a reply on a Blog.

          You already own a fiberglass boat, so you may have to make-do with what you own. If you were starting from scratch, generally I would advise against fiberglass or wood, and there is a long list of reasons why, especially when it comes to long-range expedition endurance and survival operations, topics which are also covered by chapters in my book, which will be released this fall.

          Fair Winds! Capt. William Simpson – USMM


  4. Mike Says:

    Mermaid, if you post your email, I’ll be glad to correspond with you


  5. Warren Says:

    Excellent post. But it raises more than a few questions regarding bug out ethics. Please understand, I am NOT slamming you or your plans to find a safer, farther from harms way location to live after everything collapses. I am seriously wanting to address and stir the thoughts of those who think that bugging out will be as easy as knowing where you want to go. Your post stated that “We have selected a getaway anchorage on the leeward side of an island not too far from us. The anchorage offer good protection from possible storms, and allows us good visibility to observe other boats approaching. The island is only accessible by water and has only several part-time inhabitants. The mainland is over a mile away. It’s not likely too many boats will be out when the SHTF.” ……..OK, I assume that you actually own the land to which you plan to bug out. If so, then I see few, if any, ethical questions. If it is your realm, then administer as you see fit. However, if it is not already legally owned by you or someone who will allow you to stay then there are some serious questions to consider. First, if you get there after SHTF, and find that someone else has already occupied it, where do you go/what do you do? If you dont own it, then you have no more right to occupy it than the ones who got there first, am I correct? I would assume you would have less of a moral claim to it if they got there first, no matter how long you’ve been planning it. Please explain if you feel otherwise. If neither party owns it, do you move on, negotiate, or fight it out? Second, (again assuming you do not own it) you get there, set up, and eventually others start finding their way to the island. Maybe they dont raid your camp, but they start harvesting resources in the area and/or otherwise compete or make it difficult to apply your plans. What do you do? Does one have the right to exclude others from the area and if so, by what measure? Do you already have an idea where to draw moral/ethical/practical lines in the sand on matters such as these? Again, I am not being a smart***. Thank you for your thoughts.



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