Thursday, February 18, 2016


by Ray Jason           

            A wise ocean sailor “hopes for the best but prepares for the worst.”  When far offshore - in what we call the Blue Water - there is no swift assistance readily available.  You have to be able to solve your own problems.  Spare parts, proper tools and practical skills will either save the day or sink the ship. 
            Weather awareness is also a critical component of success or failure when out on the Wide Waters.  In the olden days, a master mariner could predict storms long before they arrived, by watching the fall of the barometer and observing the sea and the sky.  Even hurricanes could be detected from hundreds of miles away by studying the size and intervals of the ocean swells.
            Several years ago, my sailor’s combination of self-reliance and situational awareness led me to formulate an unusual concept for dealing with the possibility of severe societal disruptions.  I call my plan The Sea Gypsy Tribe.  Through the years, I have refined this idea in both the “why to” aspects and in the “how to” details.  As I now observe the dangerous flux of economic and geopolitical disasters looming on the event horizon, it seems like an appropriate time to restate my plan for surviving potential catastrophes. 


            As I begin this discussion, I wish to once again emphasize that I hope that my assessment of future difficulties is wrong, and that humanity continues muddling along without any cataclysmic meltdowns.  But here is a short list of economic and geopolitical situations that we might describe as brushfires.  With just a bit more fuel or a shift in the wind, these might swiftly turn into a nightmare inferno:
 Economic volatility that looks a lot like a worldwide loss in confidence.  Many people believe that central bank intervention and deceitful economic statistics are the only things that have kept the financial house of cards from collapsing.  All of the numbers that cannot be distorted via “seasonal adjustments” and “birth/death modeling” indicate a global economy that has slowed down perilously.  And with constant growth being mandatory, such a contraction bodes very badly.  Once enough people realize that the financial mandarins are not wizards - but are instead clueless bumpkins, economic catastrophe will be unleashed.   

To further aggravate the situation there has been an enormous increase in debt all around the world.  A default from either a large bank or an individual country could let the derivatives genie out of the bottle.  The smoke from that release could suffocate a huge swath of the global financial system. 

Plus, the world is weary of the United States having the reserve currency advantage which essentially allows it to buy valuable real goods using counterfeit money.  When enough countries finally rebel against this ludicrous power, the world will probably descend into monetary chaos before a new system is implemented.

These are just some of the hazards darkening the economic horizon that are steadily lurching towards us.
 Military insanity is increasing amongst the Western Powers led by the U.S.  They are deliberately re-igniting the Cold War in an attempt to prop up the dying U.S. Empire and enrich the military-industrial complex.  Leading State Department and Pentagon officials bellow that Russia is the greatest threat to world peace, when it is the United States that has bombed a huge swath of the Middle East and left it in ruins.  While claiming to be fighting against terrorism, the U.S. Neocons have systematically devastated every government that was actually opposed to terrorism.  The mistake these regimes made was that they were unwilling to be American puppet states.

Now the U.S. is demonizing Russia and also continuing to expand NATO military operations closer to their border.  How much longer can they poke the Russian Bear before it retaliates?

And in the Far East the U.S. is engaging in more sabre-rattling with the Chinese because of some puny islands located over 10,000 miles from America.

·        The overwhelming direction of international relations is away from increased harmony and towards greater belligerence.  I cannot detect a single vector that is encouraging.  The decade of wars in the Middle East has now spawned the refugee crisis in Europe.  This strains the social safety net systems of those countries.  Plus, it aggravates the clash of religions and cultures and thus heightens xenophobia. 

It all just seems like a downward spiral towards chaos and war.  It is so reminiscent of the years just before World War I.  At that time many people recognized that things were deteriorating dangerously, but they tragically assumed that nobody would do anything REALLY STUPID.  But, in fact, they went beyond Stupid and entered the land of Horrific.


            So with the economic and geopolitical future looking so bleak, it is natural for people to prepare for the worst even while they hope for the best.  Several years ago I proposed a very different approach to “preparing for the worst.”  I call my concept The Sea Gypsy Tribe. 
I believe that a great way to deal with any crisis is for small bands of ocean-capable boats to sail away from the disaster.  Properly-equipped sailing boats are excellent self-reliant survival pods.  Here is my hierarchy of human emergency needs in descending order.  I will enumerate them and describe how a blue water boat can fulfill them all.
 WATER – Reverse-osmosis water-makers that convert salt-water into fresh water have been commonplace aboard sailboats for decades now.  There are both manual and electric versions.  Plus water catchment systems that steer rainwater into the ship’s tanks are also very prevalent.
·        FOOD – Ocean crossing sailboats normally have to carry 30-60 days worth of food provisions since there are no supermarkets in the middle of the sea.  It is easy to keep a supply of non-perishable foods that can last for many months onboard.  Canned meats and vegetables and rice and pasta are normal staples. 
·        SHELTER – A floating home is by nature more durable than a land-based building, since it has to withstand the rigors of being tossed around by a sometimes moody Mother Ocean.  And more importantly - it is moveable.  One can just up anchor and sail to a safer location – even if it is mid-ocean away from the mayhem that might be destroying land-based society.
·        SECURITY – Aside from being able to slip away from hazardous conditions, a sailboat is also a small target that is very difficult to locate on the vast ocean.  Plus, it is possible to have a more than sufficient arsenal onboard for extra protection.
·        COMMUNICATION – Short-wave long distance radios that are common onboard sailboats are much more resilient than shore based communication systems.  When the grid goes down the TV, phone and internet options will vanish, but the radios on sailboats both short distance (VHF) and long distance (SSB) will most likely still be functioning.  
·        COMMUNITY – In any major emergency it is extremely helpful to have kindred spirits nearby.  Since the Sea Gypsy Tribe is a voluntary, intentional floating community, this need will be met.  All the members will want to be near each other to share in the problem-solving and to toast the small victories.

        In my next essay I will discuss what I consider the “ideals” of the Sea Gypsy Tribe.  But in concluding this one, I will list some of the main catastrophes that could threaten the fabric of modern society; and explain how the sea gypsies would have an excellent chance of surviving such disasters.  Here is a sampling listed in alphabetical order:
 FAMINE – It is easy to store many months of non-perishable foods aboard a sailboat.  Plus, this can be augmented with the bounty of the sea – fish, and seaweed and shellfish.
·        GRID DOWN – Sea gypsies travel in a moveable home that is a miracle of self-reliance.  This includes wind and solar energy systems, water-makers and long distance radios.
·        NUCLEAR ATTACK – The missiles are aimed at the land and not at the sea.  Because ¾ of a boat’s surface area is underwater it is much better prepared to deal with fallout.
·        NUCLEAR PLANT MELTDOWN – If the grid goes down so does the power to cool the radioactive fuel rods.  The backup generators only have enough fuel for a month or so.  Plus the overwhelming majority of nuclear power plants are in the Northern Hemisphere. Thus, the sea gypsies in Oceania will be free from this danger.
·        PANDEMIC – The danger arises when large groups of people are crammed together as is the case in cities and suburbs.
·        SUBMERGED COASTAL CITIES – This is not a problem for a sailboat which rises as the sea does.


            Hopefully, none of these dire events will ever occur.  But if they do, The Sea Gypsy Tribe is an excellent way to withstand them.  My belief is that these small sea-going bands will not just survive any Armageddon scenario, but that they will eventually emerge from the societal ashes and thrive.