In the middle of my corporate ladder climbing career (which lasted less than 3 years), I read the story of a young boy who single handedly sailed the world in a 16 foot boat.

The book he later wrote of the expedition, titled “Dove“, is full of excitement, adventure, and brushes with death. He talks about the storms, the lazy days of sailing through the clear blue waters of the South Pacific, diving for his dinner, and sheltering on empty island retreats. And to top it off–he even gets the girl.

As I read this book of freedom, a spark caught inside me. Something about traveling on the power of the wind, outside the geo-political control of any country. I had to sail.

Why Sailboats?

And in the time since, I’ve often thought about sailing in a different light too–bug out situations. The more I think about them, the more I like them. If you live near a body of water, sailboats make an awesome bug out strategy for a number of reasons. Here are a few:

  • Shelter and vehicle all rolled into one (basically the ocean equivalent of a Winnebago).
  • Powered by the wind
  • Proximity to nearest water source…uh less than 2 feet
  • Proximity to nearest food source–depends on how good your bait is
  • Great way to evacuate a fire
  • No traffic jams trying to get out of town (pending you can get to the boat)
  • No infrastructure to crash down on you
  • Fewer people to deal with period.

Of course there are downsides too:

  • Obviously, you’re screwed in a tsunami
  • Cost–sailboat, monthly slip, maintenance, insurance, incidentals, etc.
  • Accessibility to your sailboat (stuck across town, problems at the dock, etc)
  • Piracy

All in all though, I feel like a sailboat is still a pretty good option for a potential bug out vehicle–especially if you live less than a 15 minute bike ride from a harbor (like me).

School’s In Session

Accordingly, I took my first step this last week and took the ASA Keelboat 101 certification. The class itself is a 2 day, 6 hour-per-day commitment, with both classroom instruction and on-the-water training with an instructor. At the end of the two days, each student is given a 100 question written test, and must receive an 80% or better to receive the certification.

I showed up Wednesday morning at 9:00 am, with sack lunch and sunscreen. Although thrilled, I was quickly overwhelmed by all the new terminology. EVERYTHING on or related to a sailboat has a name! Wind directions, directions of travel, directions on the boat, sail names, port, starboard, tack, jib, windward, leeward, broad reach, beam reach, close reach, tiller, rudder, the list goes on.

Up for a challenge? Check out the diagram and see how many parts you can identify…

Needless to say, it was an earful.

New verbage notwithstanding, the course “sailed” along, and pretty soon we were on the water, taking turns at the helm, calling out commands and trimming the mainsail.

We learned that if the wind is blowing down from 12 noon, then 11 to 1 is the “no-sail” zone. We also learned that when the boat is tipping or “heeling” too much, the main sail needs to be let out a little more. And, like Tommy Boy, we learned that if you don’t duck as the sail comes across, it can definitely leave a mark.

At the close of my 2 day class, I could dock under sail, tack, work both main and jib sails, and even knew the right of way rules for 5 different situations. We even sailed in the rain and 12 knot winds! Took the test and somehow managed to pull down a perfect score–100 out of a 100.

Well on my way to becoming a salty veteran.

Do Sailboats Really Make Sense?

While I was able to get my ASA certification, I am still yet to completely decide if and how a sailboat will factor into my bugout plan. After doing a little more research, I found a few articles on talking about some more of the pros and cons.

One good observation that a reader brings up is the issue of maintenance while bugging out. Modern sailboats rely on many fairly specialized parts and tools to function properly. Winches, buckles, pulleys, radios, and navigation equipment all play a substantial role in the navigation of a keelboat. If these were to break, it could require some difficult and creative improvisation.

Another thing that he touches on more in depth is the issue of piracy. Depending on what country/area you are in and where you are bugging out to, piracy could easily become a factor–particularly if you are relying on the sailboat as a long term bug out strategy.

Still though, it’s hard to ignore the positives.

If money were no object, I would definitely do it. Because money is an object however, my “definitely” is downgraded to a “probably.” Yes there are some definite drawbacks. But while I’m holed up in an urban environment, it just so happens that the nearest open frontier happens to be water.

My strategy for sail bug out is mostly one of avoiding natural disasters, and their affects. It could play a part in avoiding riots and urban breakdown too, but as pointed out, I’m not convinced that sailing is the most sound long term bug out strategy.

Additional Resources:

If you’re interested in dipping a toe in the world of sailing, check out the following resources:

The American Sailing Association–If you feel like getting legit and taking some sailing lessons, this is where it all begins.
BoatTrader–Boats of all kinds for sale
Dove by Robin Lee Graham (catch the spirit of true freedom like I did).
Bug Out by Boat by Scott Williams

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