Is a boat the perfect bug-out location (BOL)? Prepper retreats come in all shapes, sizes and venues. Turning a boat into a survival bunker has a plethora of pros and cons, and each should be weighed heavily before buying a boat and packing all of your preps onboard.
Several years ago my prepper husband Bobby became intrigued about living on a house boat and turning it into a mobile prepper retreat. We spent a decent amount of time pondering the issue and researching the idea to access how such water-based self-reliance would impact our chances of surviving a SHTF scenario. We quickly abandoned the houseboat idea, although it can effectively be used as a bug-out location. Bobby instead decided that if we became water dwellers, we would be living on a barge. At first I laughed, but as his idea unfolded, it made a lot of sense.
We live in an area with multiple rivers and waterside campgrounds with docks (and darn little regulation). Bobby’s idea was to build a concrete block home on one end of the barge after filling the entire basin of the vessel with rich soil. The barge home would be equipped with solar panels and solar generators. We could grow crops in the soil and fence off an area for use by small livestock and a couple of horses. Bridle trails exist at the campgrounds, so my Ruby and her herd would get plenty of exercise until the SHTF.
After the power grid goes down or another TEOTWAWKI disaster hits, horses would likely once again be a primary mode of transportation. Bobby’s plans were in depth and the barge bug-out retreat became a viable option — until we found our dream land, which was both the ultimate survival property and extremely inexpensive.
Bugging out on a boat is an intriguing idea for many preppers. Although you would be vulnerable to weather fluctuations when out on the open water, you could be constantly on the move, have a constant and renewable source of food, and plenty of drinking water to filter for consumption.
Tips For Bugging Out On A Boat
1. Practice your preps whether you are bugging in, bugging out on land, or bugging out on a boat. Spend multiple weekends and at least one weeklong trip on the boat with your family and mutual assistance group members in a mock survival situation. Cross-training is key; if the captain takes ill or is killed, someone else will need to step up and take control of boat operations.
2. When using a boat as a bug-out location, it is advisable to practice your boating skills on routine outings in addition to survival practice. Know the low and high tide times for all routes you could potentially travel, and learn where the water markers and buoys are and what all the markings on the devices mean.
3. Thoroughly investigate and learn how to circumvent the fuel sustainability issues that will occur when bugging out on a vessel that is not a sailboat. Stockpiling enough fuel to keep the boat mobile will be very difficult unless you buy a yacht or a barge. Hiding caches or stabilized fuel will be absolutely necessary. Solar generators can be used to power engine items on the boat to save fuel only for movement. A host of sailing vessels come equipped, or can have added, wind turbines and solar power systems. Storing a bank of batteries is not uncommon on boats and is definitely worth the space it would take. Some boats are now manufactured with electric drives and come complete with a generator. Setting up a bug-out boat to be a mobile off-the-grid prepper retreat is entirely feasible, but planning and expense is required to accomplish such a task.
4. Ideally, moor the boat near a remote island or wooded cove on a lake. Anchoring the boat in such a location does not decrease operational security and offers the chance to forage, trap, and hunt for food. You could also plant a guerilla garden and employ the method from Rick Austin’s “Secret Garden of Survival” of creating a camouflage food forest in multiple land locations along the travel route.
5. Have a shore kit containing fire starters, quick shelter materials, an ax, knife, folding shovel, folding saw, machete, portable water filtering device, barter items, and cordage stored inside.
6. Invest in several good HAM radios and a backup VHF and GPS system, if possible.
7. Salt water is harsh on firearms and ammo. Make sure the weapons, ammo, and reloading materials are stored properly, protected from the elements, and thoroughly cleaned after each use.
8. Learn fiberglass repair and stock up on tools and supplies needed to patch holes or damage to the boat.
9. Mutual assistance groups do exist for nautical preppers. Pirates will likely become a real and very dangerous concern for boat dwellers after the SHTF. You could join or form a group of like-minded individuals in your area and create a “prepper flotilla” to enhanced security and to network with other self-reliant individuals who may be skilled in an area where you are not. Medicine, mechanics, and weapons repair are just a few examples of important skills that will be worth their weight in gold during a survival situation.
10. Growing your own groceries would be difficult on a boat (unless you opted for the barge option) but not entirely impossible. Growing some of your own groceries and growing medicinal herbs can be done using hanging baskets and planters mounted to the rails of the boat — unless you are on salt water. When you can’t call 911, you will have to rely on yourself to take care of health problems and injuries. Stockpiling essential oils with medicinal properties will not take up much space, but when they’re gone, they’re gone, and you can’t drive over to Walmart and buy more.
11. Rainwater collection barrels can help supplement fresh drinking water when space permits. Most boats in the 20- to 28-foot range have a 20-gallon fresh water holding tank. Drain decks can be closed and used to collect at least a little extra water when it rains. Reverse-osmosis system water makers were once very expensive and complicated to use. Today, boaters can economically purchase either an enclosed or stand-alone water maker system that can run on 12-volt or 24-volt power systems of solar power.
Remember, one is none and two is one; buy a backup water maker, replacement parts, and know how to repair the system if it will be used as you primary source for garnering potable water.
[Image via Pezi/Wikimedia Commons]