Thursday, August 29, 2013


by Ray Jason

          My Sea Gypsy Tribe essays, which outline my unusual strategy for dealing with the possibility of a major societal Collapse, have now been orbiting the Blogosphere long enough to generate considerable discussion.  These articles have been republished by at least four influential websites.  The debate in the “comments” sections has been undeniably “lively.”  In this article, I will address the two main objections that were raised. But before doing so, I can happily report that nobody exposed a flaw significant enough to lessen my belief in the merit and achievability of my concept.


     It was quite amusing to observe that almost all of the comments about the threat of piracy were from landsmen.  Those of us out here in the cruising fleet do not even lose nanoseconds of sleep worrying about this supposed danger.  This is not because we are devil-may-care adventurers who laugh at fear, but because we understand how TINY this threat actually is.  You have a much greater chance of being killed by a golf ball while walking your dog near a country club, than by getting fed to the sharks by buccaneers.     
Almost all of modern piracy is directed towards BIG SHIPS!  It is RANSOM piracy that relies on insurance companies paying up rather than hiring commandoes to guard or recapture the vessels.  There is very little piracy directed towards small, recreational sailboats.  And if there IS an incident somewhere, the sailors’ radio nets light up and everyone avoids that area.  Yes, there are semi-regular dinghy and outboard thefts (it is practically a sport in Cartagena!) but when one takes proper safety precautions, even this is very unlikely.  But in terms of boarding the yacht, killing the crew, chucking them overboard and stealing the boat, I have been out here for over 20 years and I know of exactly ZERO incidents of this nature.
          And for those who say that although it might not be a threat today, it will become a problem if there is a societal meltdown, I have a simple and short answer – FUEL.  All contemporary piracy is done in motor vessels with strong engines that require lots of gasoline.  Show me a single news article in the last 10 years where a SAILING SHIP full of brigands approached a container ship, blasted them with a broadside from their cannons, and took control of the vessel.  Piracy will be LESS OF A DANGER should things get ugly.
          Another advantage that the sea gypsy tribe has over pirates is RANGE.  Most of the vessels used by modern buccaneers are small, open boats powered by big outboards.  These are the types that provide them sufficient speed.  But if they try to go 50 miles away from shore they need enough fuel to return 50 miles as well.  This will require large tanks full of extremely expensive fuel which will be very difficult to even find. 
Contrast this with my ability to raise my anchor and sail away.  In 24 hours I can be 100 miles from where I started while using absolutely NO FUEL.  My strategic advantage is further increased because of the various directions that I could sail.  From AVENTURA’S current geographical position I can sail on a course anywhere from northwest to due east.  Anyone attempting to intercept me would have to cover thousands of square miles of open water in order to locate me.  The odds of them doing so before they ran out of fuel are exceedingly small.
But for the sake of this discussion, let’s assume a gang of three pirates in a 25 foot open boat are approaching me.  They want my “stuff.”  This means that they cannot blow me out of the water because if they sink me, my stuff goes to the bottom also.  So they have to come alongside and board me.  This places them in point blank range in an open boat.  Any well-armed sailboat firing from portholes should have a significant tactical advantage in this encounter.  Compare that to a typical land-based prepper situation where marauders can destroy the house and the people inside, and then avail themselves of the gardens, orchards, livestock, etc.

Long Term Survival 

     Several critics of my sea gypsy tribe concept argued that you can’t stay out at sea forever.  I would not dispute that, and that is not my tribe’s intention.  Our approach is to always have our fuel, water and propane supplies topped off.  Then while enjoying our daily lives we would stay alert to world events with possible “sail out of Dodge” consequences.  Should things start unraveling swiftly, my tribal members would only have to spend a few hours buying perishable foods and then we would cast off and head out to the open sea. 
We would sail out to a pre-arranged lat/long rendezvous point about 50 miles offshore.  There we would gather within sight of each other and monitor our long-range HAM and Single-sideband radios to see how the emergency is playing out.  We would converse with each other on our short-range VHF radios which could not be monitored from more than a few miles away.  Depending on the wind and sea conditions we would either drift or sail back and forth or heave to.  Mostly, we would stay aboard our own vessels, but in calm conditions some inter-boat socializing could also be enjoyed by rafting our boats together.  We would wait it out far offshore, safely removed from marauders, contagious diseases, martial law, food riots and grid-down chaos.           
Our solar panels and wind generators would supply most of our electrical power.  Because we would not be using our diesel engines for much propulsion, that fuel could be used to run the engines for battery charging on cloudy days with no wind.  The most vital need for power is for the radios, which don’t draw a lot of current.  Some tribal members might continue to run their refrigerators, which are big energy users, but most will probably go into deep survival mode and shut them down.  The main function of refrigeration is to keep the perishable items like veggies, meats and dairy products fresh.  Once these items have been eaten, fridges are essentially no more than glorified beer coolers.
By monitoring our long-range radios, our tribe would be able to determine when conditions have improved enough to return to the land.  This would be done cautiously.  It seems reasonable to assume that there would be less people there.  Some would have abandoned the area voluntarily, and some would have been victims of starvation, disease or human predators. 
Our tribe would then commence homesteading on the best available land, while our boats remain anchored directly offshore, in case conditions dictate that we have to swiftly escape again.  We all carry many varieties of vegetable seeds in foil-wrapped long-life packets.  As these crops are planted and are growing, we would survive from our remaining onboard food, combined with our communal skills as hunter/foragers.  Near shore fishing and spear-fishing are obvious nutritional sources, along with easily recognizable edibles like bananas, mangoes and papayas.  With the help of our guidebooks we would become skillful at gathering clams, oysters and scallops and other edible plants growing in the wild on the land.  Using solar food dryers we would be able to preserve much of this bounty.
Along with the emphasis on survival food cultivation and gathering, the next most important pursuit would probably be salvage operations.  There would be lots of vacant buildings and abandoned boats to provide valuable tools and spare parts.  In times of real desperation, the difference between true value and illusory worth will become sadly but comically obvious – a nice machete versus a folder full of stock certificates.