For those who are not familiar with the term "Bug Out," it is in reference to quickly getting out of harms way with a purpose. The primary purpose is survival of some type of cataclysm, be it man made or natural. The secondary purpose of bugging out, is to re-establish one's self in a new location, either temporarily or permanently, depending on the situation. As a long term live aboard cruiser, I have bugged out multiple times, sometimes by boat, and other times by other means, to avoid the wrath of hurricanes, weather systems, or inconsiderate locals. If you have ever been a long term live aboard and/or cruiser, you have probably bugged out once or twice as well, even though you may not have been familiar with the term.
I bring this up because in the survivalist/prepper community, bugging out is a consistent topic of conversation, like the topic of anchors are in the cruiser community. I happen to be both a cruiser and a survivalist, having been a die hard survivalist since the days when my age was in the single digits. You want to talk about anchoring techniques, bilge pump issue, or refrigerators that are not cooling, or ballistics of different calibers, waste disposal in austere environments, or how to make an emergency sand filter, I can carry a conversation on either side.
The topic of boats as a means to "bug out" came up again recently on the respected survivalist website SurvivalBlog.com, which I have read daily since mid-2007. This topic of boats comes up from time-to-time on SurvivalBlog, and in general always gets shot down as a viable means of escape. The topic of bug out boats was brought up again on Jan 24, and after a few people wrote in with comments in the following days, I responded with an article of my own, which was published on Jan 29. With more responses, I again followed up with another response that was published today.
Though some of the people who wrote in with comments, in favor or in opposition, appeared to have qualified marine backgrounds, most do not. Most boaters have very little actual ocean experience, storm experience, and/or building experience. It also appears that critical thinking gets pushed aside in order to create a situation whereby opinions are bent into facts to prove an erroneous or illogical point. I based my articles off of my personal experiences, which are vast. Not many people can say that they have survived a hurricane on a boat, much less 10 times (and two more on land.) I know a bit about survival, and boats, and boats as they pertain to survival.
One of the problems in the survivalist/prepper community is the belief in a catastrophic event so large, that society completely collapses, all rule of law is lost, and Mutant Zombie Ninja Marauders* inherit the earth, working diligently to enslave the remaining inhabitants, and generally creating more chaos than the collapse itself. The problem with that line of thinking is history gets in the way. I cannot find any historical evidence of a complete societal collapse whereby all rule of law is lost, and the MZNM's take over, destroying the lives of the common folk. Never the less, there are great examples of man made and natural occurrences that have upended people's lives significantly, and lead to looting, pillaging, and unnecessary deaths of innocents. But never was the rule of law completely shattered to the point that society collapsed into anarchy for any significant time period. Life went on.
All civil and world wars are great examples, yet life went on. People fled the hot zones. The monetary collapses of Rome, Weimar Republic, Rhodesia, USSR, Argentina, and recently Venezuela allowed for criminal (and in some cases political) elements to ascend to heights previously curtailed by laws and sanity, yet life went on. Hurricanes, super typhoons, volcanos, and tsunamis have wrecked havoc on societies, yet life went on. Even through dozens of crackpot dictatorial national leaders, who murdered millions of their own countrymen, life still went on.
In all of those cases that any survivalist might point out, the one thing that could save people was to RUN!! That is where "bugging out" comes into its own. Now I am not saying that some super significant event, such as an EMP - man made or natural - super volcano eruption, meteor impact, or super tsunami might create a longer term and significant collapse, because anyone with a brain should know that anything is possible.
Possible yes, probable is completely different. With probabilities in the tiny fractions of a percent of any of those events actually occurring, much less the fictionalized societal collapse following, especially considering there is no historical record that corroborates the Hollywood sensationalism, maybe we should focus on things that are more probable, likely, and will certainly happen in our lifetimes. Things we might need to run from: hurricanes, pollution, wild fires, rising oceans, despotic governments, war, famine, and general lack of opportunity. Those things are far more probable and likely than the current sensational theories, books, and movies swirling around in survivalists' circles right now.
Back to boats as methods of Bugging Out. Why? Why not? Most of what was written in the Survival Blog articles and letters covers the bulk of those questions. But from a rational and critical point of view, we must throw out the End of the World (EOTW) aspect of the argument because, realistically, the probability of things getting that far down the rabbit hole are tiny. And even if they did, as a sailor and survivalist, I would be long gone before it ever got that far, because NO EOTW type collapse of any kind has happened so quickly that there was not time to react. Weather has warnings (not so much for tornadoes, but those don't cause collapse of society), volcanoes have warnings, war has warnings, governments give warnings, banks and markets give warnings of economic collapse. (A tsunami is about the only thing that might occur in rapid fashion, relatively speaking. Both the tsunami in Japan in 2011 and the one in Indian Ocean in 2004, killed over 15,000 and more than 230,000 respectively. Yet society did not collapse. If you were at boater at sea, you would have been fine, but those boats in port were devastated. But there was a 30 minute window following the Japan earthquake and a 2 hour window following the Indian Ocean earthquake where a boat could put to sea to save itself. (In all fairness, there was no tsunami warning system in place for the Indian Ocean event.))
So with advanced warning, which is normal for natural events and man made events, one can bug out early. In order to see the signs, one must get beyond their normalcy bias. Normalcy bias rules the human mind, and that is evident when the discussion about boats comes up in survivalist circles. Well, normalcy bias as well as lack of understanding. Once you have decided to "bug out" the question is from what, and to where? If you are running from a wild fire, and you have a cruising boat at the coast, or an RV in storage, then you effectively have a home away from home. You simply left your house to avoid being burned to death. Having a boat turned out to be a good thing. Maybe the area you live in is being poisoned, as is happening right now in Japan (which is a significant threat to the entire Pacific eco system, minimum), or in Los Angeles, or in New York. Sure, you can drive to grandma's house in another state, or you could gather your most precious things, hop on your cruising boat and leave, having a safe and secure home from which to start in a new place. Maybe you are running from war, as is happening in Syria, among other places. Or, you are running from a refugee crisis that has come to your country. It could be that your home country has become more and more despotic, stealing your money, your freedoms, and effectively your lives. Wouldn't it be nice to move to a new place, while having a place to live while you did it? That is bugging out on a cruising boat.
People worry far too much about pirates. Yes they exist. Yes they are dangerous. But generally they do not target cruising boats. There are far more juicy targets plying the oceans blue. Sailing "in company" will generally thwart pirates if they decide that the stuff on your 40' sailboat is more valuable than a cargo ship. Dumb pirates! Pirates can be dissuaded if you are inventive. Personally, I don't give them much of a thought. Every theft I ever encountered was from a fellow cruiser, not a local. However, if you are receiving reports of high crime in a particular area, then avoid the area. Duh! I am personally of the belief that the cruisers with bad attitudes are the ones that get the most trouble from their hosts in foreign countries. If you are bugging out from your home country, and intend to immigrate to a new country, don't be an asshole. You don't like asshole immigrants in your (former) country, what makes you think anyone else likes them?
When it comes to multihull vs. monohull, in the cruising world, most of the poking is made in fun between cruisers. However, there are still those uneducated fools in the cruising community, similar to the survivalist community, who don't have a clue about that which they are speaking. Can a catmaran flip over? Yes. Can a monohull sink? Yes. Do catamarans often flip over, even to a point of it being newsworthy? No. Do monohulls often sink, even to a point of it being newsworthy? No. Can most modern, properly equipped, properly maintained, competently captained catamarans take you safely across oceans and weather storms? Yes. Can most modern, properly equipped, properly maintained, competently captained monohulls take you safely across oceans and weather storms? Yes. So why are we still discussing it? I wish I knew.
Some people fear the open ocean, which is one of the safest places for a vessel. Just like most auto accidents happen within a few miles of the owner's home, almost all boating accidents, sinkings, and drownings happen within site of shore. Why? Because that is where the danger lies: other boats, markers and buoys, reefs, and the land itself. There is very little in the open ocean for a boat to hit, and there is plenty of room to run off in the event of a storm. Sure the ocean has dangers, but they are tiny compared to the dangers that lurk near land.
In the end, if you know what you are doing, and you have the knowledge, tools, and experience to rebuild, a well designed cruising boat, power or sail, multihull or monohull, can offer an effective means of escape when required. Don't take my word for it. Ex Navy Seal and author, Mathew Bracken, who believes negative influences and totalitarian government may require relocation, lives and cruises on a sailboat, as does author Demitri Orlov, who has predicted the break up of the United States. There are others as well, including myself, who believe and have the experience to know that a boat is a viable way to escape.
* Mutant Zombie Ninja Marauders and other derogatory labels used in the survivalist/prepper community describe destitute and hungry people who have taken to thievery, murder, rape, and other bad forms of behavior in order to survive a societal collapse, which specifically deals with the loss of availability of food. I am a survivalist, and I have seen desperate people do bad things in order to eat. The Just In Time Delivery (JITD) system that exists in modern society throughout the world is relatively new in human history and quite dangerous, and under the right circumstances could lead to serious food and medical supply shortages. I have seen JITD systems fail first hand, and after about three days, things are desperate and no longer pretty. If you do not know about JITD, do some research. It is eye opening.