Prepping: One if by Boat, Two if by RV

Lots of people talk prepping, but few actually do prepping, let alone in a methodical way. But there is a hierarchy to be considered and it does make sense to start early on your future plans for maximum personal survivability.

At the top of the hierarchy is maintaining your person freedom. This involves not being beholden to anyone whenever possible. This is where our advice on property ownership comes into play.

There are only two ways to own property: Outright (free, clear & fee simple with no HOA dues) or 100% leveraged in which case an HOA doesn’t matter because you don’t really own the property.

Trouble is that In the case of 100% leveraged, you are susceptible to the economics winds and you could be out on your ear if things don’t go well and you miss payments. It’s one of life’s big incentives not to miss work.

Many people are willing to take this risk (100%) because they have an alternative (and fully paid-up) lifestyle in their back pocket.

Take living in a motorhome/RV for example. A simple 10 acre patch of land, a few solar panels, some seeds, water source, and you might be able to make a go of things.

Unfortunately, to really “make it” in an RV the prepping strategy has to be more comprehensive.

To begin with, you need to ensure that land you plan to settle on is not covered by obnoxious zoning laws. These have cropped up all over the country in order to prevent people from “dropping out” from under the tax-yoke imposed by the Government for Money paradigm. Motor homes only pay property tax in some states.

Oh, sure, “Man’s Home is his Castle..” sounds fine, but stop paying property taxes, or cross a zoning trip-wire, and see how it works out. You will be mightily disappointed.

Assuming you have no zoning exclusions for RV occupancy, you will then need to figure out sewage facilities. Depending on state and locality, you might be forced to connect to a municipal system (for money, of course) or you may be required to put in an expensive system.

One reason we are still in Texas is that with more than 10 Acres of Land a person who owns property in here can still put in their own gravity (energy-free) system. Worse, though, is smaller land owners are often TOLD they must put in an aerobic system that requires power in order to operate. Might work several days, or a week or two, but needing power for basic sanitation falls right into the stupid column as we see it.

On closer inspection you will often find a collection of pseudo-environmentalists and installers who have put up an unholy alliance in order to stomp out low-maintenance gravity type septic systems. Again, don’t try to leave the Government for Money model unless you study carefully and in advance. There’s a huge cost difference between gravity and aerobic systems. Some places you don’t have a choice.

Now, let’s assume you have septic covered, and you can park your RV and live in it legally on your own land. Not so quick—don’t move in yet!

Your next problem is a water source. Some states require a permit to drill for water on your own land. Yes, Government for Money, again, eh? Creek or river water? Water rights loom large.

OK, let’s assume you figure that one out, too. What could go wrong?

Well, living in an RV sounds like a cool way to live EXCEPT it’s a little small. Trust me on this, having lived 11 years on a 40-foot sailboat, I know of what I speak.

The solution is simple: Put in a foundation pad, with the intention of putting in a small wood stove and a bigger shower and maybe another living room. Leave one side open to the coach and it starts to sound pretty good, doesn’t it?

Well, until the inspectors come.

I’ve heard that in some states (New Mexico) state concrete inspectors claim province over anything concrete, though I will defer to New Mexico Mike to see if this is an overblown report from a contractor we know who did commercial work.

After the pad, then there is the building permit. Yep, permit police.

And then, you might want to put in some wiring, but again, you need to see if there’s a state or locally required inspection even if you go completely off-grid. While you’re at it, put in a tractor shed on the other end, or somewhere you can lock up a rototiller and put up some food.

After that (almost home now) you have only plumbing, and in Oregon, you need to be worried about any obstructions that you put in that can change rainwater runoff, particularly small dams.

This landed one Oregon resident in jail some years ago and was widely cited as being a “jailing over rainwater” but it was really about putting in dams and not going through a permitting process.

Still, this circles around to the question of government’s proper role in telling property owners what they can, and cannot do on their own land – especially where there are downstream concerns or water users.

Boats are fraught with similar problems. And in the same way, the bloom has been taken off that by excessive law enforcement efforts. Homeland Security runs high-powered inflatable boats around Puget Sound, conducting “boardings” of small craft while the Mexico border leaks like a sieve.

Let me tell you an interesting sea story to put some of the risks of living on the high seas into perspective.

As a reporter I was on hand in April 1978 when a rusty small tramp freighter, the Helena Star was docked at Seattle after being seized 130 miles off the Washington coast with 37 tons of marijuana aboard. ($1000 a pound? Seems a little steep to me…This was 1978 remember and with inflation that would be $230 an ounce today…hmmm…sorry got distracted.)

Back to the story: The US claimed a 200 mile economic zone as the basis for the seizure in what were nominally international waters. The 1982 UN Law of the Seas Convention put territorial waters at 12 nautical miles. We note also that the “The United States invoked a contiguous zone out to 24 nmi on 24 September 1999.”

By the time all of the Helena Star cases were adjudicated, the US had extended its Exlusive Economic Zone out 200 miles, but again this was not formalized until i1982 and the Helena Star case involved a seizure four years earlier.

The basis of US jurisdiction beyond 12 NM. Territorial waters dates back to a presidential proclamation by President Truman in 1946. However, the 200 mile number did not arise until 1982.

Wikipedia notes that:

“The territorial sea is regarded as the sovereign territory of the state, although foreign ships (civilian) are allowed innocent passage through it, or transit passage for straits; this sovereignty also extends to the airspace over and seabed below. Adjustment of these boundaries is called, in international law, maritime delimitation.

I think about the Helena Star case, now and then, just as I’d thought through the event many times during the period when my main “long-term prepping” solution was an ocean-ready well-provisioned 40 foot sailboat.

The Helena Star case demonstrated to me that regardless of what laws may exist, the governments of the world have made it abundantly clear that there is no more “free space” left on Earth, including the high seas.

Still, it is possible to live aboard a boat, but again in terms of prepping, there are other major issues to solve in advance. Moorage is the main one. Starts around $10 bucks per foot of boat length per month, depending on which coast and how big the city and local demand. Lead time to live aboard in a city like Seattle was running a 3-year wait, last time I checked.

Some loc al governments have taken to harassing innocent liveaboards out of what would otherwise be a grand (not to mention very affordable) lifestyle. Living on a boat is dandy. Helps to like small spaces, the sound of rain on deck, and have a good heating system. Gives you an excused to buy high-end night vision gear, but then again, so does hunting.

“Back in the day” a couple in a small sailboat could literally get lost for a few years and hang out on the hook (at anchor) in one of the hundreds of the small bays and inlets of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska. They would simply live as free people. Subsistence fishing doesn’t seem like it should be seasonal or illegal, but welcome to the real world.

Nowadays, such efforts are surveiled from space, boardings are done by the Coast Guard or Homeland to check that a) fire extinguishers are in date for inspections and b) there is no overboard discharge of sewage. Anything out of line and here comes officialdom to save us from ourselves. Been one place too long? “Time to move on…” In Canadian waters your tourism entry permit will have expired just when you settle into the flow. That leaves Southeast (Alaska) which is cold, although how much colder than 8-inches of snow on deck that I’ve lived through isn’t clear. Haven’t wintered over in Alaska. Seattle and Puget Sound was cold enough.

Go ashore and a further cadre of officialdom is there to confront: Land management, private land owners, and state land agencies. Public lands, once free for the enjoyment of ALL are now leased-back to us through a system of permits imposed by fiat. No permit, no use.

Regardless, however, if the SHTF, there is nothing like having options. RVs and sailboats are good ones…with a huge qualifier.

Running away in a motorhome is risky depending on time needed for travel and distance to your landing zone. Same thing with boats. You need to anticipate and beat the crowd. Piracy can be anticipated, 200 miles from other people is hard to get, and being on a boat fleeing a big city is very much as risk from runaway law enforcement. The best piracy tool ever made is the 24 mile Furuno color radar up the mast a ways.

Eventually, you might decide, like we did, that far-out rural areas are a better choice, but once an economic meltdown gets rolling, sanity may return first to RV encampments (look up Quartzsite Arizona, sometime) and quiet backwater bays with a few closely cooperating families on them.

Definitely food for thought.

Write when you get rich,


Prepping: One if by Boat, Two if by RV — 24 Comments

  1. I have a friend that has been collecting pallets.Free pallets from a company near him. He must have over a hundred .So far he has been building fences with then. I was there the other day and we were talking about other uses for them. Yesterday I went on Youtube and searched “building with pallets” Bottom line is that people are building housing with “Free pallets”
    Another search that I would recommend is “Papercrete”

    • Actually I read years ago in a woodworking magazine that one can find exotic wood sometimes used to make the pallets, and that people were using them to make other things too like furniture and small goods . . . and I would imagine that pallets would be good practice material too!

  2. When you want to expand an RV or travel trailer, just park another one very close and connect the two with a common entry. Used they are very cheap. Boats are to. Plenty of functional 24-36 foot cabin cruisers in the sub $6k range.

  3. I’ve not heard of “concrete inspectors” as a new subclass of the majority government in NM. There was a new set of rules and new licenses a few years ago to install mobile homes, and depending on the locale, that’s often honored in the breach.

    Concrete often defines the boundary between “permanent” structures and “temporary ones, though. Just remember that WE are always temporary.

    When bureaucracy gets to the point that the inspectors can’t keep track of their own rules and create an oversupply of work, it’s best to just stay mellow with the local folks, pay your taxes on time, be kind to everyone, and just do your own thing. Never play with politics, unless you enjoy the drama. Have a good lawyer or two in reserve to play the power game if you must, but otherwise don’t lose too much sleep over it. Just always be prepared to walk away.

    NEVER put the majority of your assets into a fixed location or fixed assets. It’s best to own something small free and clear. If you play dangerous games, use legal structures and finance everything.

    The worst position is owing half the value of something. You always need to be able to walk away, or it will own you.

    Best deal: Buy something cheap and make it look nice outside. Then you can worry about the inside without as much hassle. Try not to build from scratch if possible. Avoid mortgages and loans of any kind associated with the property. The only exception MIGHT be seller financing.

      • Sounds like a plan! It might even be fun. Now where did I put that “spare time”?

    • Agreed, Mike. We are in the process of buying a small house on an acre, owner financed. The owner stated that owner financing works for them as they can space out their income that way. They are in their 70’s. So, it is a win/win. We get to stay away from banks, egregious background checks of all kinds (that illegals do not have to go through when our banks (and governments but I repeat myself) give them loans for housing AND businesses), closing costs and fees, and they get the monthly income and interest.

      I just have this sneaky feeling that destruction is on its way, we will be made to experience the destruction of our way of life – a punishment – enacted on us in retaliation for not doing something right during WW2. ALL our chickens will be made to come home to roost, we can see it already in Europe, especially Sweden, France, the UK, and now Germany. That same model, as evidenced by George Soros, is on the move. The WikiLeaks trove of emails are supporting what many millions of Americans have thought or at least wondered about for the last 30 years until now: WHY ARE OUR BORDERS WIDE OPEN, WHY ARE WE BEING INVADED AND NO ONE TALKS ABOUT IT ON THE MSM? WHY ARE WE IN CONTINUAL WARS? WHY HAVE THEY INDEBTED OUR COUNTRY TO OVER 20 TRILLION DOLLARS? WHAT IS THE PURPOSE AND REASON BEHIND THIS CARVING OUT OF AMERICAN AND TRANSFORMING IT INTO SOMETHING ELSE? WHY ARE WE BEING FLOODED WITH REFUGEES VIA THE UN RESETTLEMENT PROGRAM? WHY ARE THE WAGES STAGNANT, WHY ARE WE BEING SOLD OUT? WHY HAVE THEY DUMBED DOWN THE POPULATION? WHY DO THEY HATE AMERICANS? WHY HAVE THEY STRIPPED US OF OUR MEANS OF PRODUCTION? WHY DO WE HAVE AN UNLIMITED SUPPLY OF TRADE DEFICITS. WHY DOES IT NOT MATTER WHO WE VOTE FOR, WE GET THE SAME RESULT THAT WE TRIED TO ESCAPE BY VOTING? WHY IS RACE BAITING GOING ON CONTINUALLY? Add some of your own questions, they are many still left unasked but not unnoticed. When will the American people, the real citizens, the ones that care about this country, WAKE UP? This devastation will not discriminate!

  4. I attended the country’s largest RV show in Hershey, PA – this year and last. Lots of families just looking to have fun but I imagine that some would want to “full time” it in an RV. My in-laws did that for a while, though it all ended with the husband developed health problems and eventually had a stroke or two and died soon after.

    In terms of economic downfall, I say it has already happened. I used to live in a country of $30 hotel rooms, $1.00 gasoline and $3500 a semester college. That was the USA in the 1980s. They have slow-boiled us through general rampant inflation disguised as “price adjustment” via the more important things in life like rent and education. It can get worse, of course. The private elementary school I went to in the 1970s now costs more than many public universities. And yet the price was reasonable when I was a kid. We took a bus-trip to California for nearly 2 weeks and it was $300 per person. Catholic HS around here is up towards $7000 a year for someone not in an RC church.

    What we need is deflation. I don’t mind losing 10-20% of my real estate value. As long as everyone equally loses 10-20%. Make living more affordable and you then get a more vibrant economy.

    • The sad part is, when the adjustment really hits, not the small nicks down, the BIG adjustment, the bottom is going to fall out of real estate completely. The banks will fail, the stock market will crash, there will be no one to buy or sell your real estate and no customers either. Better to be where you want to be, soon, and ride it all out.

      In the meantime, how exactly it all goes down is constantly up for speculation, no one knows exactly as there are too many moving pieces and neither do we know how long this downward spiral will take.

      It is a giant chess game being played against America, and you can bet, the chess master is many steps ahead of us.

      It won’t be about ‘things’ when the time comes, but it will be about ‘things AND people’ – your group, whether it is family, neighbors, or friends, or all three. That is where the country will rebuild from.

  5. Why anyone would choose to live in a country where the government is allowed to place so many impediments to survival is beyond me. I guess Americans no longer understand the concept of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without government interference.

    The only realistic prepper is one who is part of a community. Most preppers hidey-ho is like a home depot/costco to anybody who chooses to snipe you off. With your radio antenna, it is very simple to identify your place on google satellite photos. If the SHTF, law enforcement is not coming to save your wife.

    And as gringos quickly learn in Ecuador, when the occupants leave their isolated house unattended, they become a target of opportunity.

    So unless you booby trap your place, don’t be surprised if you and your wife come home to a pillaged property one day. And don’t be surprised if someday the government declares possessing more than a weeks worth of food is a crime.

    You loners will not realize your risk until you see a demonstration of a weapon with a suppressor and night vision sight. Your place would make a wonderful headquarters for a roving gang pillaging the area.

  6. I watch these “tiny house” shows on Home & Garden and wonder why people don’t just buy a 28-foot Airstream trailer.

      • No but I price lumbe5r at lowes and anyone who want to pay more than $500/sf for new construction needs their head examined. Residential is under $150 s/f most places

        Fair price would be $300/SF with separate line items for appliances.

        $20,000 should buy material for a damn nice 500 sf – and if people can’t build a tiny house, that just argues the loss of American leadership and education

    • Tiny House is sort of a custom-built house. Airstream is owned by Thor Industries, a public company, and priced for profit. Perhaps one of the most expensive sq footage except for Newmar A-class and higher.

      Best price would be a manufactured home or existing trailer park unit on a per-sq. ft basis. Those trailers have a lower cost per sq ft than tiny-house. All my poor in-law relatives seem to live in them. If they can do it on low-income, anyone can. It is where one “falls to” if they fail in marriage or income-level or other factors.

      Land ain’t cheap except in unprepared areas. In my area, someone is selling a 1.5 acre neighborhood plot for $75k – had been on the market for $45k a few years ago. That’s just for land that you must install well water and septic before building and quite far away from the big city. Best price land is in states with low rural population – Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and of course, scrub desert in Nevada.

      • And just to amplify the point, here in E Tex land is going for $5000 per acre with septic OK and rural water district in. Phone and power at street. Low taxes and great sportsman country.
        A little sweat equity and $50 K will get you 5 acres and a home…used mobile double-wide, but we’ve been in one since 2003….And if I feel like taking a chain saw to a room, well, no permits…

    • NO, get the heck out of the BIG cities for sure. Move to a small town, open up a business, and start rebuilding NOW.

  7. George,

    Another thought. While it can be expensive, depending on the community’s design, and you have to find a way for work with your neighbors, there is cohousing. Sounds like a commune, but isn’t. I am working to develop one now around a theme of mental health caregiving. Thing is, No man is an island. Even though, it’s a nice thought.

    All the best,

  8. George:

    Your extensive -and accurate- examples of the permit process only reinforces my long-held contention that you do not really OWN anything, especially land. Every square inch of Terra Firma can be confiscated by TPTB through imminent domain, and that control isn’t just limited to land: a couple of years ago Obama claimed dominion over every single river, lake, pond and trickle with the sole purpose of limiting free access.

    Just like money, religion, truth in politics and a bright rosy future for one & all, ownership is largely an illusion.

  9. George, have a look at ‘Locusts on the Horizon’ by Plan B Writers Alliance. A very exhausting and complete look at bugging out due to economic factors. Very detailed coverage of various methods, including alternatives and equipment recommendations for various mehtods. Lots of food for thought. It’s a Amazon ebook. Their mantra is prepare before you’re out on the street.

    James Johnson, Ex-nuke