The first step to bugging-out by boat is getting a suitable boat. You don’t have to be a millionaire to afford a 30' to 50' boat that could be converted into a survival platform. Take a look at these sources, some of which you may never have considered:
1. Boat Junk Yards: Florida is the boat junkyard capital of America. As a result of numerous hurricanes, and poor seamanship in preparing boats for a storm, there are hundreds of boats that have been totaled by the insurance companies. Some of these boats are very salvageable and were totaled because the cost of replacing the engines and equipment exceeded fair market value. Many of these boats have sound hulls, and lots of expensive equipment, like winches, masts, anchors, windlasses, compasses, etc., and can be picked up for just pennies on the dollar. Most diesel engines can quickly and easily be made operable. Some boats have damaged hulls, like cracks or holes in the fiberglass that can be structurally repaired but will never be cosmetically perfect again. If you don’t mind owning a boat that’s not yacht-quality, a totaled boat might be an option. Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, that struck Florida’s east coast in 2004, just 22 days apart, caused extensive damage and took out most of the city marina in Fort Pierce, where there is still a huge boat junk yard within two miles of downtown.
2. Brokers: Banks, insurance companies, bankruptcy courts and even law enforcement agencies frequently list boats with a yacht broker for immediate liquidation. Many of these boats are in operating condition, but need cosmetic help. We can put you in touch with Florida brokers that offer very affordable live-aboard boats.
3. Bank Repos: More boats are repossessed by the banks in Florida than in any other state; in many South Florida marinas, one in four boats is a repo. These boats are often liquidated by auction houses who offer them at public sale.
4. Seizures and Forfeitures: Federal and State law enforcement agencies routinely seize boats belonging to smugglers and other criminals. South Florida remains the major port of entry for illegal drugs. These boats often sit as evidence, for years unattended, while the judicial system slowly moves forward. They are usually sold at very poorly advertised auctions.
5. Bankruptcy: In our weak economy, boat owners often opt for bankruptcy protection to free themselves from creditors. In a liquidation bankruptcy, the court trustee frequently sells the debtor’s assets for pennies on the dollar. Profit and fair market value are seldom considerations.
6. Abandonment: Increasingly, boat owners who are upside down on their payments because they owe more than the boat is worth, will simply abandon the boat. Others have lost their homes to foreclosure and simply can’t afford the expense. While the lenders will usually try to repo the boat and resell it, so many banks are failing that it sometimes isn’t worth the expense of liquidation. We often see ads for “free boats” which can be had simply by towing them away. With some cosmetic work, a smaller boat could be resold and the proceeds invested in a larger, more suitable boat.
7. Estates: When a boat owner dies, often the family will attempt to sell a boat they no longer want or need; sometimes they don’t use a broker. Often the heirs to the estate would rather have cash than a boat.
8. Military Surplus: If you’re on a tight budget you might consider buying a surplus Coast Guard, Navy, or cruise ship lifeboat. Although they are suitable for just an individual or a couple, they usually have a single diesel engine and fiberglass hulls. I’ve seen some very nice conversions into “pocket cruisers”.
In my next installment, I will address the issue: power or sail?