Although I’ve spent time on numerous multihulls, both power and sail, the only one I’ve ever owned was Hobie Cat that I kept in the dunes in front of my oceanfront house in Crescent Beach, Florida, and sailed in the surf when the break was unsuitable for surfing. Every other boat I’ve owned was a monohull.
Most sailboats and powerboats are monohulls. Unlike multihulls, which skim the surface, a monohull is a displacement boat that achieves its stability from the weight of the water it takes to float it. Archimedes learned that any object displaces its own weight when submerged in water. This displacement of water establishes the boat’s stability. It’s the monohull boat’s foundation.
I like monohulls for the following reasons:
• Most common type of boat and readily available
• Most seaworthy boat for ocean crossings
• Keel sailboats are self-righting
• Like multihulls, there are multiple propulsion options: sail, engine, oars, poling
• Monohulls, powered by large engines, are faster, for quick bugout escapes
There are several disadvantages to monohulls:
• Usually, but not always, more expensive than multihulls
• Less storage space for supplies and equipment
• Less deck space
• Slower than multihulls, unless powered by large engines
• Deeper draft, require more water
• More difficult to conceal or beach
• Less adaptable to alternate propulsion options
Some Things to Consider
If your bugout location requires an ocean crossing, even the 100-mile trip to the Bahama Bank, a monohull would be my choice; however once in the shallow waters of the Bahamas, a multihull would be more liveable. A shallow draft monohull power boat would be suitable for the rivers and Everglades, but a monohull sailboat would be less than ideal because most will require four feet or more or water. Flat bottom fishing boats, canoes or kayaks are too small and slow to quickly escape, but they might be suitable for slipping into the Everglades. A go-fast boat will get you to your bugout location quickly, but you better have a life support platform when you arrive. I don’t believe that a sports-fisherman, with two huge engines is a wise choice for anything except a high-speed escape; they simply burn too much fuel. (One of the sports-fisherman on my dock has twin 12-cylinder engines that burn 60 gallons an hour!)
Trawlers: I like trawlers, both commercial and yacht versions. These seaworthy monohulls are usually designed for long-distance, low-cost voyaging. Most are powered by reliable diesel engines which, with reasonable maintenance, will run for 10,000 hours. Although twin engines are nice for redundancy, a single engine will suffice, although maneuvering in tight quarters (docking) can be a challenge for a novice. Speed is typically limited to ten knots or less, but fuel economy is often .5 gallons per mile. I suggest a trawler of at least 34' for a couple but I wouldn’t recommend going over 44'. Remember boat volume grows geometrically, as length increases arithmetically. This size trawler typically has two cabins, two heads (bathrooms) and steering stations both on the bridge and inside in the salon. Almost all have a generator, and can be fitted with a water-maker. In a later installment I’ll discuss how to utilize wind, solar, and human power to keep your house battery bank charged. Trawlers can be very affordable; Marine Trader trawlers built in the 1970s can often be found for less than $25,000 and that includes a dependable diesel engine.
Houseboats: As the name implies, this type of boat is a small floating house; actually most are closer to a mobile home mounted on a barge or pontoons. I like the space and home-like conveniences, but believe they are best suited for lakes and rivers. Although they might be ideal to live aboard in your bugout location, I believe it’s the wrong kind of boat to escape in.
Hull Material: Unless you’re buying a larger workboat, I suggest that you look only at low maintenance fiberglass hulls. Most trawlers are manufactured in Asia and the older ones tended to have thicker fiberglass hulls, before the builders found out they could skimp on materials. Even the wooden decks are usually laid over fiberglass mat, assuring a watertight seal. Fiberglass is easy to repair and a coat of paint will keep it looking fresh.
Oars vs a Small Motor: I grew up on the Maine coast where kids learned how to row before they could ride a bike. I found out it was frequently quicker to just row down the coast, rather than trying to walk or bike. Early on, I learned how to sail, which made it even quicker. Not only is rowing good exercise, no fossil fuels are needed and you can approach almost any shoreline without worrying about danger to your prop. You can easily expand your rowing options by learning to scull (twisting a single oar over the stern) or simply by using your oar to pole ashore through shallows, rocks, or coral. Remember, in an emergency, oars will always get you there. Lots of people have rowed across the Atlantic in lifeboats and dories. Becalmed ships were often towed by ship’s boats propelled by oar.
Engines: In a later installment I’ll discuss marine engines: inboard & outboard, gasoline & diesel as well as the ideal sail plan for liveaboard cruising. And, yes…every sailboat should have an engine…even if it’s an outboard. If you’re bugging out, you don’t want to have to wait for a favorable tide or wind! I’ll even discuss the versatile Lister-type diesel, which can burn any type of oil, including cooking oil.