I interrupt my regularly scheduled programming of old-school tactics and tacti-cool bashing for the following:
I am writing tonight to comment on Matt Bracken’ s recent essay about getting on a sail boat and sailing away. H/T to WRSA, HERE.
Grrrr. Bracken! You know how to hit low! This comes for me just as I am reading Matt’s ‘Enemies Foreign and Domestic’ and the main character has just raised the mast on his sailboat, in preparation to flee the States, which I am sure is not actually going to be allowed to happen as part of the plot….
….I have also sailed throughout my life. When I left the British Army, it was to work as a professional sailboat captain. I am a qualified RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Offshore. I ended up in Dubai and then Iraq, which led to here, so that’s what happened with that plan. Also, when I was first settling in the States, in California, I found work as both a sailing instructor and sailboat salesman. That was before I found my way back to Tactics, and started writing, which led to where I am today.
It is certainly appealing. I owned a 34′ sailboat in California. As a family, we loved it. I had to sell it when I joined the U.S. Army Reserves and we moved to the East Coast.
There is something amazing about the concept of sailing, of having your own world in that boat. That is what leads to so many taking up the LAB (live-aboard) lifestyle.
There are a few aspects to this that I would like to point out as discussion points:
1) To a naturalized citizen, such as myself, sold on the America that should be, that shining city on a hill, rather than what we actually find beneath the grime, it is awful that we must consider this as a means of ‘getting out’. I mean in a sense other than just doing it for the adventure. America is supposed to be the place you run to, rather than from. Which leads me to wonder, unless you plan to spend your sailing days in hidden pirate coves, how much of a free ocean will there be left to sail in once the hammer finally falls on America for good?
2) The other side of that is that anyone who takes this option should not be criticized for ‘cutting and running’. At the end of the day, we are about liberty, and that is the exercise of such. Much as it would be great if there was a battle line of freedom to join, there isn’t. There is a mass of overweight selfish entitled citizenry, the statists/tyrannists, some selfish preppers, and small groups of actual liberty minded warriors. So it’s not as if you are deserting something (other than the ideal of America), because there is no network or army, or group, to actually desert. It’s just a bunch of bickering people on the internet. I wish it were otherwise.
3) Which leads me on to this uncomfortable point. Most people in the country are unworthy. Most people in other countries are unworthy also. You get the tyranny you deserve, and in America, the land of the fat and lazy, we oh so deserve it. I wouldn’t fight for these people. I would fight for tribe, and for small bands of liberty minded people who are prepared to get off their asses and make a difference. At the end of the day, soldiers don’t fight in combat for the ‘government’ or ‘the monarch’, they fight for their buddies. It has ever been so. If you are for liberty and you take off for oceans and shores other than America, then you are living your life free. Freedom is not a uniquely American thing, or right. It may have been, when people fled here to seek it, but now they are fleeing from it. The modern immigrant flees here for the welfare state and to claim entitlements. Americans have no more right to freedom than anyone else in the world. Just because you were born here does not give you a right to it, or more of a right than any other person. Try me, I’ll fight you – I was born in the UK and I believe very strongly that I have every right to freedom, as a natural right. All humans have a right to freedom, but it has to be fought for and guarded jealously. Previous generations, greater than ours, did that fighting. Recent and current generations have given it up, and most don’t deserve it – they don’t even know what has been lost.
So, don’t tell me that anyone getting in a boat to sail away is neglecting their duty, because who would they fight with? The unworthy already gave it up.
I feel particularly aggrieved by this as one who came here sold on what America advertised on the label. When I opened the can, what was inside was not what was advertised. Yet now I raise my family here, and when it comes to it, I will fight for rightful liberty.
So yes, the sailboat prepper is a version of the selfish log cabin retreat prepper. But given a lack of community or network, do you blame them? It’s each to his own, to survive in any way that can best be devised. What other choice is there? Tyranny on the one hand, lack of a liberty organization on the other.
4) Considering the sailboat lifestyle, there is actually a lot more to it than the romance would lead you to believe. Maintaining a sailboat is very expensive. The liveaboards who do it are able to give a lot of time themselves to maintenance. However, they usually have a skill that they can sell in foreign ports, whether they be writers, skilled tradesmen, mechanics; they can work on other people’s boats, or otherwise they are independently wealthy. So you either need money or skills to trade. So it depends whether we are talking about sailing away come SHTF, or now during the phase of soft tyranny. Some skills will work as barter in both. But for example, a boat needs bottom paint, to keep the barnacles off. Granted, in SHTF who cares, it won’t sink without it, it’ll just lose a knot or two of speed. But bottom paint in a yard is expensive. You may be able to do it yourself. You can do it in a yard, or careen your boat on a beach and scrape the barnacles off. But that needs skill and physical effort.
5) Sailing in itself takes skills and knowledge, and also courage in bad whether. You will get seasick and get over it in 72 hours, but during it you will be very debilitated and need to keep performing. Sailing is not for the faint-hearted. You will also have to seriously consider knowing the ‘old ways” (Yes, here goes Max, ‘old school’ again!) Learn to pilot and navigate without GPS, for when it blinks off if the military turns back on the widget that makes it less accurate. I recommend what I consider the seminal text on old-school sailing: ‘The Complete Yachtmaster” by Tom Cunliffe. If you can actually master the skills in that, you are doing good. I lived by it.
6) You need to consider that although you can fit enough stores on a boat for an ocean crossing, you will run out and you are ultimately limited with what you can store. You can fish, trolling lines as you sail along. But sometime you will have to replen your supplies. Depending on your environment that could be a bit of friendly barter, or it could be a serious risk.
7) You may also have problems with keeping your firearms, which is also a problem when facing piracy or simple common crime while out in foreign harbors. Yes, you can hide them. Firearms will be less of a problem if you plan to ‘bug-out’ by sailboat once the SHTF. But than you will of course need them more in SHTF. I can only say that there will probably be less entitlement zombies at sea than there will be in your local neighborhood.
8) If you plan to liveaboard, both now or SHTF, you have to understand that it is hard graft and a serious undertaking. The boat will not look after itself. You have to be a leader, a handyman, a mechanic, a navigator, a spouse, a parent, a conflict negotiator and a team member. Just like you would in your prepper cabin. But you are stuck on a boat together. You have to work hard to maintain the boat. You need to plan to have a stock of supplies to maintain both the boat and the crew. It needs careful planning, and plenty of money and dedication.
A little example is steering. On a short crewed boat, a voyage is made bearable by the use of an autopilot. This is electric and tied in to your boat batteries (you have an engine starter and then a bank of ‘house batteries’, all on a 12v system). The autopilot is tied into the instruments, such as the wind-vane and the GPS. That is all well and good. Unless you have solar panels, you have to run the engine (or generator if you are richer!) for so many hours per day even on a sail voyage, in order to charge the batteries and keep the instruments going. This also includes your refrigerator and freezer, water-maker and hot water etc….. so if the GPS goes down, and the diesel is running out, all of a sudden you can’t navigate and you have to sit and steer the boat. No single handed voyaging then!
So, you have to go back to the old ways (I love it so!). If you want electric, fit solar. If you want to reduce the load, reduce the amount of modern high tech gear you have. Consider an old fashioned wind vane autopilot, for example. Learn to store more food without needing to refrigerate. How will you cook when you can’t refill those propane tanks in that backwater port? Maybe the stove will then be out. BBQ on the back rail? Is it a propane BBQ! A backup, and used with the fresh fish you caught.
So, to conclude, there are several aspects to this:
a) The whole ‘stay or go’ moral question concerning the fight for liberty in this country.
b) The practical skills, and investment needed to purchase, maintain, and safely and skillfully run, a sail vessel. That is a lifestyle judgment and choice and will depend on you.
c) The need to technology/SHTF proof your vessel with backup systems that do not require all the assistance that modern ones do, including when GPS fails.
There is a real danger of Matt giving me the sailing bug again. but I don’t think so. I have my feet firmly on the ground in the mountains.