Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Types of BugOut Boats: Power or Sail?

I started writing this morning about whether the ideal bugout boat should be power or sail and quickly realized that the choice of propulsion system really comes down to a question of fuel: both its cost and availability. In my novel, Boca Chita: Prepare. Escape. Survive., my character discovers that “fuel is power,” as he learns to energize the fuel pumps at abandoned marinas with his “pump jumper” wiring harness and a portable Honda suitcase generator. This, of course, impacts his survival strategy.

If your primary concern is getting away to your bugout location as quickly as possible, power is really the only option. If your plans call for continuous cruising from one safe location to another, sail is obviously the answer. My own bugout plan involves moving my boat and my loved ones to a remote island retreat and then living there on my floating survival platform for as long as necessary. Since I’ve positioned my liveaboard trawler within a few hours of my bugout location, speed is less important to me than the comfort of living aboard once I’ve arrived.

Since everyone’s tastes and needs vary, this topic is very subjective; what floats your boat may be very different from someone else’s requirement. The process of bugging-out involves escaping, while surviving means sustaining comfortable living arrangements once you’ve reached your safe haven. With both these considerations in mind, I’ve decided to devote this installment to discussing the ideal type of hull, and to examine propulsion systems in a future entry.

Your first decision is whether the boat should be a monohull or multihull vessel. The second decision is how the boat will be powered: sail, inboard engine, outboard engine or human-powered. Let’s talk about multihulls first.

1. Multihull:
When we hear “multihull,” most of us think only of sail-powered vessels such as catamarans and trimarans, but this type of boat can easily be driven by one or more engines, inboard or outboard, or even be human-powered with oars for short distances or poled through shallow water. I like multihulls for the following reasons:

            The most boat for your money
            • Shallow draft allows a multihull to be beached easily
            • Can be easily pulled ashore with rollers and an anchor winch
            • Can be navigated through shoal waters
            • Provides a very stable platform with lots of deck space
            • Offers lots of storage
            • Can be concealed in mangroves and hammocks
            • Can utilize multiple and redundant propulsion systems
            • Can be powered by sail or engine(s): inboard or outboard
            • Can be rowed or poled in standing position
            • Offers a low profile with mast/rigging dropped for bridges
            • Very fast, lightweight, and easy to manage short-handed
            • Can be made unsinkable with expandable injection foam

            • Not a rough water boat
            • They will not self-right if capsized
            • They lack the structural integrity of a monohull
            • Potential to breakup in rough seas
            • Hold value less than a monohull

My Recommendations:
If your bugout location does not require crossing expanses of open ocean, a multihull will probably suit your needs. In coastal waters, they can be used to rapidly escape and then provide a comfortable liveaboard survival platform. Whether you choose to anchor in the lee of a deserted island, beach the boat on a sandy shore, or haul it ashore on rollers as an amphibious home, a multihull will give you the best value for your money. These boats are suitable for coastal retreats, rivers, and even the Everglades. I like the redundancy of propulsion options: sailing, motoring, rowing, or poling. I suggest that you buy and renovate a wooden or fiberglass multihull, as large as you can afford. For an individual or couple I’d suggest a 30' or larger boat, though anything over 40' will be too large to handle. Many homebuilt boats can be found online, in marinas, or boatyards. Try to find some old Piver designs that were popular in the 60s and 70s. Numerous companies offer construction plans online, but I’m not sure we have that much time. 

In my next installment I’ll talk about monohulls and how to find a decently equipped liveaboard for the cost of a used mobile home.



  1. I have put some thought into the option of a boat bugout. A powerboat's primary advantage is getaway speed and the ability to "gunk-hole" with its shallow draft. Their main disadvantage is dependancy on a limited resource. On the otherhand, a sailboat mirrors a powerboat's advantagesx/ disadvantages. Wind, while fickle is unlimited but almost any powerboat can run down most any sail on a short run (a problem when considering pirates). I, also am leaning toward a sail escape (monohaul). But please consider how pro-active you will have to be to retain ownership of a berthed sailboat. My plan is limited to a trailerable escape boat.

  2. The best Bug Out Boat is a ......wait for it......submarine. You can hide easily. Invading pirates, just slip under the water and ram them like Capt. Nemo did. Find yourself an extinct volcano and stock pile your secret base with beans, bandages and bullets. Pay for all of this with treasure you pick up off old sunken Spanish Treasure Ships. This is the best way to survive what is coming...what ever it is?