Monday, May 31, 2010

Example of an Alternate Bug Out Route

Here's a photo I took yesterday of the creek mentioned in Chapter Four of my book as excerpted in the post I did a couple of days ago about unconventional bug routes for traveling on foot. This mostly hidden creek with concrete retaining walls built by the city flows through densely populated neighborhoods in Jackson, Mississippi, and leads directly to the swamps and woodlands bounding the Pearl River, just a few miles downstream from this point. 

Do you live in an urban or suburban area that may offer similar routes that most residents would never even consider?  If so, you should investigate them to see what they have to offer, because if you ever have to get out of Dodge in a hurry, a hidden path like this may be your best bet.  As the philosopher Lao Tzu said:
"Water flows in the places men reject." 

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bugging Out On Foot - Considering Alternate Routes

Okay, now that my book has been officially released, I'll be posting more related content here, including excerpts from the text and additional material to expand on some of those topics that I ran out of room for within the confines of a 302-page book. 

In Chapter Four, which covers Transportation To and Within the Bug Out Location, the last section deals with what could be a worst-case scenario - bugging out on foot, carrying everything you need on your back.  I say "could be" because in some cases the walking option may be the best option anyway.  But if you planned ahead and prepared, you'll more likely use some other method of getting out that will enable you to carry more gear and supplies.  Just as those of us who sail think that knowing how to swim is a good idea, having to swim is jokingly referred to as an ultimate failure as a navigator and sailor.  Having to resort to walking as a bug out method could be put in the same category, depending on where you are and the scenario.

If you do end up walking, however, it pays to think of the advantages this method of travel affords, rather than just dwell on the hardships and physical difficulties.  Among these advantages is the ability to use routes that no vehicle or even pack animal could negotiate.  Here are some thoughts from the book on this subject that will hopefully get you thinking about unconventional route options near your living and working locations:

The final transportation option for bugging out is simply walking. While walking may be slow, it is certainly sure and you won’t have to worry about fuel (other than food), mechanical breakdowns, or traffic jams. If you plan to walk, your packed bug-out bag, along with suitable boots and clothing as described in Chapter Two, will be all the gear you need. Walking gives you more route options than any other bugout method on land, as you can use bike paths and walking trails, cut through alleys in the city, and travel cross-country over parking lots and neighborhoods in the suburbs.

In most cities and towns there are many hidden routes you may not have thought of. Drainage culverts and ditches are among these. A good example is the small creek that runs right behind my fiancĂ©e’s house in the city of Jackson, Mississippi. Most residents of the area pay it little mind except when the creek gets out of its banks in heavy rain. When I first saw it, however, I immediately zeroed in on it as a great exit route. The creek bed has been paved and walled in by the city in an attempt to control flooding. As a result, it is mostly out of sight behind thick vegetation and the privacy fences of adjoining yards. Except in times of high water, the stream is only ankle-deep. The paved streambed leads out of the neighborhood, passes under busy streets in great culverts, and just a few miles down leaves the city to merge into the swamps of the nearby Pearl River. It would be a simple matter to walk out of town unobserved along this route. Such drainages can be found in most cities, either open and mostly above ground, or in underground storm drains that can be accessed by opening manhole covers in the streets. Like Jackson, many cities are built along the banks of rivers that periodically flood, and the buffer zone between the river and inhabited neighborhoods is often a no man’s land of levees, sewage lagoons, swamps, and woods.

In mountain country, many cites are likewise built in valleys along streams or rivers. The population situation may be reversed in these areas, with more habitable areas along the drainage and the wild areas on the steep slopes above. In this case, it may be faster to escape by simply hiking up the nearest slope and crossing the first ridge beyond the valley. 

If you’re going to have to walk out of town anyway, you might as well consider all these alternate routes that can get you to safety quicker than if you simply try to follow the roads that will be packed with cars and other vehicles. By doing so, you will be living in the bug-out mode immediately, with only the things in your backpack, as you slowly make your way to your pre-planned bug-out location.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Confusion on Availability Date

After all the confusion on when Bug Out would actually be available to ship from online retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I see that both sites are now listing the book as in stock.  Apparently some have shipped from Amazon already, as those that have been ordered through the links on this site are now showing up in my Amazon reports regarding the small commission I earn on each product sale through the links.  My guess is that it will be a few more days before you can find copies on the shelves in the brick and mortar stores, but who knows?  I'll check my local stores when I go to Jackson this weekend.

A Good Friend Comes Back Home

Last weekend my older brother brought back the Glock 21 I sold him a few months ago.  He needed the money for something else, so I bought it back from him for the same price he paid me for it then.  And at that time, I sold it to him for exactly what I had in it.  You just can't lose with buying and selling Glocks, and hey, you can never have too many.  I always liked the full-sized Glock 21 in .45ACP.  I seem to be able to hit with it better than with the compact Glock 19 that I always have close at hand.

You can see from the photo that this is the older "2nd. generation" version of the Glock 21, the grip lacking the finger grooves of the current generation.  This is the only .45 auto I've ever owned that has never had a single malfunction of any kind.  I have absolute faith in my Glocks going bang every time I pull the trigger.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oil Clean-Up Contractors Not Talking

My friend and canoeing partner, Ernest Herndon, who's a reporter for the Enterprise-Journal newspaper in southwest Mississippi sent me this story from the AP about a gathering of BP-contracted personnel from all over the country converging on the Mississippi Gulf coast.  Interesting that these folks are so tight-lipped and locked down with all that security. 

 3,700 ready to respond to BP oil spill
 BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — They'll tell you where they're from, but otherwise they won't comment — the hundreds of men and women who've been brought in to the Mississippi Coast to work on the BP oil spill. Almost 3,700 are here now, although as time passes workers who had been brought in from all over the U.S. are being replaced by Mississippians. More than 40 percent are local now, a BP spokeswoman said.

The major deployment areas the company has set up along the coast from Pascagoula to Waveland are like hives, with workers moving in and out near rows and rows of equipment for vacuuming, hauling, bagging and moving about the roads, bayous and open water. BP's Marti Powers said the company has contracted with more than 160 companies — some as far away as Norway and some as close as Ocean Springs. Those companies, in turn, hire work forces set to hit the ground running. They're well-schooled on not talking, and each of the major deployment sites has a makeshift security-guard stand.

At BP's "north staging" area, one of two near the industrial area in Pascagoula on Tuesday, the Sun Herald was greeted by an armed security guard wearing a Taser and a local police department shirt who said, "Nobody comes by here who's not authorized. That's all I can tell you."

That's the norm at each site, Powers said. Why all the rock-hard security and secrecy? After all, it's an oil spill, not a matter of national security. But Powers said it's important. She said BP doesn't want anyone wandering onto the property, and it doesn't want its supervisors interrupted. And as for workers talking, "They don't have the big picture," she said.

It may not be handling national security but the operations are equipment-intensive. A DMR worker said, "It's like a war zone over there," talking about in Pascagoula , where two BP staging sites and the Marine Spill Response Corp. are located. Frank Wescovich with DMR said there was so much going on he couldn't find a place to park. He walked a mile to get to one site amid all the people, boats, overhead helicopters and trucks.
A NOAA spokesman called BP's network of staging areas in this state "significant operations."

One local contractor told reporters it was serving workers 70,000 meals a week. Employees Tuesday confirmed the company has had to ramp up operations and rent extra space to handle the load. Yet BP's Powers said many of the workers are on hold, waiting to be called up.

Those who coast residents see walking the beaches in groups of five to 15 are responding to calls of something washed up or are picking up debris of some type. Although some at the Joint Incident Command in Mobile say Mississippi preparedness is moving into a new phase, Powers said Tuesday, "There's a lot of waiting going on.
"We've had people in Mississippi for several weeks," she said. "We have a lot of people ready to work if something were to happen on our shores."

Available at Amazon May 30

I've been checking Amazon each day in anticipation that  Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late would at any time be listed as "in stock" and available to ship.  As I posted here earlier this week, I received my shipment of author's copies from the publisher's warehouse on Monday.  Maybe I was being too impatient, but I thought Amazon would be shipping books sometime this week.  Today the Amazon page for the book was just updated to state that it will be in stock May 30, which is Sunday.  I know a lot my readers here have pre-ordered the book and I hate to see you kept waiting to receive it, but at least I know it won't be much longer.

And those of you who have been promised review copies will be getting those soon too, but it will likely be sometime next week before they are shipped.

In the meantime, the book is available in electronic format right now in Amazon's Kindle store.  If you don't have a Kindle reading device, you can download the free Kindle for PC (or Mac) application.  I've been using this for awhile on my laptop, as a friend sent me a wealth of out-of-print sailing and adventure books that were scanned to PDF files.  I intend to buy the smaller, Kindle 2 reader at some point as well.  While I don't think it will ever replace paper books, it will be a useful way to carry an extensive library of references and cruising guides in a compact and lightweight space when I start sailing again.  One of these smaller units could even fit in a bug-out bag, and used sparingly, the battery would last a long time without a recharge.  The Kindle version of Bug Out is here:

Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What's the Truth About the BP Oil Spill?

Here in south Mississippi and other areas along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, this on-going nightmare of gushing oil spewing unchecked into the waters of our very backyard is on nearly everyone's mind.  It's especially hard-hitting to me, as a person who has kayaked and camped along hundreds of miles of this coast from Louisiana to Key West and sailed thousands of coastal and offshore miles upon these waters.

For awhile, I tried to keep hoping that the problem would be quickly resolved and fears of a worst-case scenario would prove unfounded.  Now it's becoming more evident every day that this is a disaster of far greater magnitude than BP, the government and most of the media would have us believe.   So just how bad is it, and how bad can it possibly get?  What will the long-term effects be?

I've been asked by a couple of magazine editors that I write for to report on the impacts in my local area - along the Mississippi coast - and I wrote one early piece for SAIL magazine a couple of weeks ago when oil slicks were expected to wash ashore on Mississippi's pristine barrier islands.  At that time the oil remained offshore though, and was pushed west by strong winds to where it is now inundating the fragile marshlands of south Louisiana.  Here in the Mississippi area, it's too early to tell what's going to happen, but one thing's for sure, if the new efforts being made tonight and tomorrow fail to plug up the leaks, and some other successful solution doesn't come through soon after, life as we know it along the Gulf of Mexico could be changed forever.

A massive die-off of marine life is almost certain, what is uncertain is how far-reaching that die-off will be and how it will affect every other thing both natural and man-made along the shores of the Gulf.  Some of the scenarios presented by the scientists that study such things are grim indeed.  Survival Acres blog has been providing thoughts on these predictions and warnings and posting links to a variety of articles detailing them.  Some of these may seem far-fetched, but then again, we are in unknown territory here with such an unprecedented event.   Could something as unexpected as a massive oil well blowout like this precipitate a massive exodus from an entire region of the United States?  To ponder some of these possibilities, check out this post and some of the embedded links:  The Dead Zone

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bug Out Has Arrived!

The big brown truck just pulled up about an hour ago and delivered two cases of my new book - my official "author's copies" of  Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late

What a rush - seeing an idea I had just over a year ago now transformed into a finished product!  Writing a book is a lot like another passion of mine - building boats.  In many ways it's similar to transforming a pile of wood and jugs of epoxy into an almost living, floating vessel.  With the boat, if I did my job, I'll have a useful vehicle to take me out on the water in safety and style.  As for the book - well, I can only hope that it will prove useful to you, the reader.  Time will tell as it makes it's way to you via the bookstores and places like Amazon.  My reason for writing it in the first place was to share the knowledge I've gained during all the time I've "wasted" messing around outdoors on trails, backroads, rivers, lakes and coastlines.  This is not my first book, but certainly one of the most exciting writing projects I've embarked on.

Those of you who have been promised review copies will be getting them as soon as books arrive at my publicist's office in California, and she gets them labeled and shipped out.  I spoke with her today and they have not made it there yet, as the printer's warehouse is closer to Mississippi than the West Coast.

You can still pre-order the book at Amazon (above link) and get the low price guarantee of $10.17 (compared to the retail of $14.95), now with the assurance that the book has actually been printed (see photo above!) and that you won't have to wait long to get one. 

Survival Myths Regarding Living Off the Land

The first chapter in my new book, Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late, is entitled THE FANTASY & THE REALITY OF LIVING OFF THE LAND.  I started the book off with this chapter because I see a huge amount of debate and misinformation about the subject posted all around the Internet in various discussion forums, blogs and websites.  Here's an excerpt from that chapter:

It took a long time for modern humans to progress from Stone Age hunter-gatherers to the creators of an artificial environment almost completely insulated and protected from the uncertainties of nature.
As a result, you cannot expect the transition in the other direction to be much easier. Knowledge has been lost, skills that are necessary to thrive in the wild are difficult to learn, and senses and instincts are dulled by lack of daily use in a world where survival of the fittest is no longer the rule.

Although many people today engage in outdoor pursuits like hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and canoeing, they often do so with the help of expensive high-tech gear like satellite communication and navigation equipment, sophisticated ultra-lightweight stoves, freeze-dried foods, and clothing and shelter systems made of synthetic fabrics. Unfortunately, much of this equipment will eventually fail and may not be replaceable. This is not a problem in times of normalcy when resupplying or returning to civilization are viable options, but in a SHTF situation, you will far better served by cultivating skills and knowledge.

Our ancestors would be amused, to say the least, at the sight of a modern backpacker struggling along under the weight of a bulky pack almost as large as the bearer. They, like the few remaining bands of
aboriginal people still living in isolated groups today in places like the Amazon Basin and New Guinea, could get by with practically nothing but what could be found in their environment.

To approach the prospect of bugging out into the wilderness from a realistic perspective, you have to strike a balance somewhere between the naked native adept and the overburdened recreational outdoorsman when it comes to equipping yourself for survival. It’s also important to have realistic expectations about what life in the wild will be like, whether it is just for a few days or for a period of weeks or months.

I wrote this for the book because I did not want to mislead total newbies to the idea of outdoor survival that bugging out to the wild to live off the land after SHTF would be a picnic.  It seems that people fall into two categories when discussing this topic - those with Rambo fantasies and no experience who think all they need is a knife and a pocket survival kit, and those who think the only way humans can survive is to have a stockpile of every meal they intend to eat for the next five years or beyond.

The truth, of course, is that humans are incredibly adaptable, which is how we got to where we are now in the first place.  We can adapt to changing conditions, and while many individuals are unable or unwilling to do so, those who have the desire and the right attitude can and will be able to adjust to any living conditions ranging from modern comfort all the way back to primeval hand-to-mouth survival.  Don't ever forget that in the span of human existence, the time of the modern Industrial Age is but a few moments compared to the millennia that our ancestors lived a wild or semi-wild existence adjusted to as needed by changing circumstances.   If you think of this time-span in terms of the hours of a single day - our modern separation from nature began probably in the last hour before midnight - and during the previous 23 hours people lived as hunters and gatherers, subsistence farmers and nomadic herders before the invention of internal combustion engines and long-distance communication.

To suggest that it would be impossible for a modern human to survive in the wild or live off the land is absurd.  Sure, it might be hard, as generations of easy living have dulled our senses and awareness and knowledge that was once taken for granted has been lost.  But we have other advantages to make up for it, at least as long as they last - such as better cutting tools and hunting weapons, easy and portable ways to make fire, stay warm and dry, etc.  And even stripped of these modern implements and materials to make them, we can certainly re-learn the time-tested skills of making our tools from what is found in our environment as our ancestors did,  as many modern hobbyists and primitive skills enthusiasts do today.  For all our sophistication, who knows if we are more intelligent than the "savages" we descended from, but there's certainly no reason to think we are any less so.  If they could live on this planet using only simple resources easily obtained in nature - then at least a few of us can too.  

This is a subject I've been interested in my entire life, going all the way back to when I was seven or so, setting out in the woods behind my parent's house to hunt squirrels with an old Benjamin pellet gun.  I constantly thought about what it would be like to have to hunt to eat and how difficult or easy it would be.  I've experimented with it extensively since those days, in all sorts of environments ranging from the woods and swamps where I grew up hunting in Mississippi to places like tropical seashores and reefs, the North Woods, desert, mountain and jungle habitats.  Each environment has it's unique challenges, of course, and each environment also offers unique resources.  Will there be enough of these resources to feed and shelter everyone pouring out of the cities in an attempt to bug out after a SHTF situation?  Of course not.  But how many of these people do you really think are going to try to bug out and take care of themselves in the first place?  The answer is not very many.  Modern civilized people have been conditioned NOT to think in terms of self-sufficiency.  Instead, they will wait for someone else to come to their rescue, leaving the truly remote and difficult-to-reach uninhabited areas available to those of us who are willing to take our chances there.

If you have any doubts about your wilderness survival skills, now is the time to practice.  Even if you didn't grow up hunting, fishing or foraging for wild edibles, it's never too late to start learning how.  Do this long enough, and your confidence will greatly improve that you can take care of yourself and those dependent upon you if  you are ever put to the test.  Don't be like those who spend their days surfing the Internet for their survival information, echoing what others say by posting on forums about how it would be impossible to survive by bugging out because they personally couldn't do it.  Find out for yourself and prove it by doing.  And all this isn't to say you shouldn't have other preps and perhaps a "bug-in" survival retreat.  There's nothing at all wrong with having more than one plan and back-ups as well - just try to be as ready as possible by being willing to adapt - and willing to stay or go as circumstances dictate.

I'll be posting a lot more on this topic, and I look forward to your comments and questions, and accounts of your own experiences in wilderness survival or living off the land if you have them.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Amazon Review Copy Receipients

Thanks to all who wrote in today requesting review copies. I was away from the computer for awhile, and of course, more than five wrote in.  I'll make sure everyone who responded before this post with a mailing address gets a copy anyway, and I've responded directly to all of  you who have written.

The "official" first responders who are on the list to get the 5 free review copies are:

Richard in California
John in Florida
Bernie in Texas
Mike in Oregon
John in New York

These will be shipping as soon as my publicist at Ulysses Press gets her shipment of review copies, which should be next week sometime. 

Look for more book giveaways here soon, especially after the book is actually available and I have some on hand to give away personally through contests and drawings and such.

Amazon Review Copies

The first copies of Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late should be arriving at outlets like Amazon and the larger bookstore chains in a matter of days.  Some readers here who have their own blogs or other sites have already been put on the list to receive official review copies, and those will ship as soon as they are available.

For those of you who do not have your own site, there are still opportunities to get a free copy of Bug Out if you are willing to post a short review of the book on Amazon at the book's page here:

Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late

In the coming weeks, I'll be giving away free copies of the book for various reasons, including contests such as best guest posts or best bug-out-related photos submitted to be published here on Bug Out Survival.  But today, there's no contest.  All I'm asking for is five objective readers who will be willing to go to Amazon and write a review shortly after receiving a copy.

So, the first 5 readers who send me a mailing address via email will be put on today's list to get a free book.

Those first five who respond will get a confirmation reply from me that they are on the list.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sub-tropical South Florida

I had a great, but too-short getaway to south Florida last weekend, where as I mentioned in my last post, I was headed to attend a get together of Wharram catamaran enthusiasts in Islamorada, way down in the Keys. I've posted some photos from the rendezvous and more about the boats over on my Element II blog, where I'm documenting the construction of my own Wharram Tiki 26 - which will be my ultimate go-anywhere bug-out boat. On that page you will also find a link to a slideshow with many more photos from this rendezvous.

In this post, I just wanted to share a few photos from the unique environment that is sub-tropical south Florida.  I never get tired of exploring this area, despite the hassle of driving down the peninsula in high-speed, nearly bumper-to-bumper traffic on the interstate.  Although I describe several good bug-out locations in the state in my new bug-out book, I pity the millions who would be trapped in bottleneck of congestion trying to get out of south Florida in a true SHTF scenario.  Hurricane evacuations are bad enough.

But if one had a seaworthy small boat, such as the one I took with me on this trip, there are vast expanses of shallow, remote backwaters to bug-out to, many of them fringed by great mangrove forests, where it would be easy to hide out and easy to forage for fish, crabs, oysters and other seafood:

Many of these waters in the Florida Keys are so shallow that you often run aground even in a kayak, but if there is any sunlight at all, you can pick your way through because it's easy to see the bottom in the crystal clear waters there:

Most of the smaller mangrove-covered islands in the Keys and Florida Bay are nearly impenetrable, like this one in the photo below, but among these tangles of roots, you can find small pocket beaches, often completely hidden from view of anyone passing by on the open water.  I have spent weeks at a time camped in such places during my longer kayak trips that took me through the area. 

Inland from the mangrove-fringed coastal areas, the Everglades is  full of hidden, freshwater creeks like this one.  Some of these appear impassable, even in a canoe, but you can often push or cut your way through the thicker areas, and go for days, like my friend Ernest Herndon and I did when we spent some ten days canoeing the 'glades on my first trip there. 

Nowhere else in North America will you find the exotic plant species that are common in the Everglades and much of south Florida.  An example is the strangler fig, shown below - a tree that is common in the jungles of Latin America, where it is known as the "mata-palo" (tree-killer).  It grows around and eventually strangles the host tree. 

Of course, my favorite south Florida exotic is the coconut palm, which is not native to the area but is now firmly established and can be found in the wild in many places.  I've often climbed these to get the drinking nuts while camped on the remote beaches of Cape Sable, at the southern tip of the peninsula.  They are also common throughout the Keys.

The Everglades is a paradise for reptiles and amphibians.  Anyone who is not squeamish about eating snakes, lizards, turtles and the like would have no trouble finding food here.

Of course 'gators are everywhere in the 'glades - more plentiful in the freshwater areas, but also in the brackish and salt water of the mangrove fringes, where they share habitat with the American crocodile, which is making a big comeback in south Florida. Another big reptile that is doing well, but does not belong in this ecosystem is the Burmese python, which has now populated much of south Florida.  I looked, but didn't see any on this trip.

The 'gators alone are so plentiful that one could easily survive by hunting the small ones.  Alligator meat is good, too.  I used to stop in every chance I got to get a 'gator-tail po-boy at a little restaurant in Louisiana down near the Honey Island Swamp. 

On another note, I noticed that down along the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41), where there are many small Miccosukee Indian settlements, large gated fences with "Keep Out" signs have been erected since last time I passed that way.  I also noticed this sign at one such village - apparently Bush is to blame for whatever's wrong here as well.  I didn't know he was British, however....

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Florida Keys Rendezvous

I'm leaving tomorrow on a road trip to the Florida Keys; kayak on the roof racks and camera gear packed for some paddling, sailing, snorkeling and photography.  I've got assignments to write several magazine articles related to this trip, for magazines such as SAIL, Multihulls, Southwinds and Sea Kayaker.  

The kayak I'm taking is my 17-foot Arctic Tern, which I built in 1998.  In the background are the nearly completed hulls of my Wharram Tiki 26 catamaran.

Two of these magazine articles will be about the main reason I'm going there - to attend the annual Spring Wharram Catamaran Rendezvous in Islamorada.  As some readers may be aware, I'm currently building my own Wharram Tiki 26 (pictured above) - which to me is about the perfect bug-out vessel if one were inclined to really get out of Dodge and cross some big water safely.  Read more about Wharram catamarans on the designer's website here:

Wharram sailors are a different breed altogether from the usual "yachtie" types one typically thinks of when thinking of ocean sailboat cruising.  These are boats designed to be built by most anyone in their own backyard, and as fancy or cheap as you care to go.  Most people interested in the designs like cheap, and some of the catamarans built to these plans are "interesting," to say the least.

Of course, sea kayaking in the Keys will bring back many memories as well - as I have done two long-distance paddling trips that took me through the area, and have found many great little hideaway camping spots among the mangrove jungles and isolated patches of beach out of sight of the Overseas Highway.  

The rendezvous itself is an example of how these boats attract a like-minded crowd of self-sufficient and outside-of-the-box thinkers.  Wharram sailors from all over Florida and many ports much farther away congregate in an anchorage to raft up, share sea stories, compare notes on boatbuilding and outfitting details, and generally have a good time.  I'm looking forward to joining them.

Speaking of far-ranging Wharram sailors, I just got word from a friend that Glenn Tieman, who has been working his way slowly across the South Pacific on a Wharram "double-canoe" that he built in California, has reported in after four months with no word at all from him.  He described his experiences among the remote atolls he's been lost among as being "off the planet."  Here's a photo of his boat, named "Manurere," which is Maori for "Bird on the Wing."  This photo was taken in the Marquesas almost a year ago:  Glenn's boat is truly at home in this environment, where the concept of sea-going double canoes originated.

Well, the Keys won't be that exotic, but definitely better than nothing and at least the water is clear, the diving is good, and coconut palms are abundant.  This will be about the only real break I'll get this summer, as when I return, I will be back to the grindstone working to finish my next book manuscript, which is due in September.  I'm also looking forward to receiving my author's copies of Bug Out, which I just learned today will be shipped to me on the 18th, so I should have them by the end of next week, and those of you who pre-ordered from Amazon should be seeing yours soon as well.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Drinking Water From Vines

I just received an interesting email from a former Mississippi resident, Leon Pantenburg, who now lives in Oregon and publishes a great online survival resource:  Survival Common Sense.  Leon describes himself as a "wilderness enthusiast" in his bio, but if you read it, you'll agree that this is an understatement. He's done some awesome trips, including paddling the Mississippi River from the headwaters to the Gulf in a canoe and backpacking all over the West in some of the finest wilderness areas in the country.

Leon sent me a few topics he'd posted on his own site and invited me to share them with my readers here.  I found this article on getting drinking water from vines especially interesting, as I have used the method myself.  Here in the jungle-like woods of the Deep South, large woody vines, or lianas, are common.   Most of the largest ones are some variety of wild grape, but there are others as well. Many of these bear the delicious wild grapes called "muscadines" in these parts, and are eaten as is, used in jellies and preserves, and for making excellent wine.

Leon frequently collaborates with survival writer, Peter Kummerfeldt, author of the book Surviving a Wilderness Emergency.  This article was written by Kummerfeldt, with the notes in italics by Leon.  These are Leon's photos as well, taken near the Big Black River on a recent trip back to Mississippi.  Hope you enjoy this as much as I did:

If you live in the southeastern United States, or in any jungle-like tropical area, here is a tip for finding a drinking water source. Like any survival tip, experiment and check this out before you need it!

 Water can be obtained from vines. Water-producing vines varying in size from pencil thickness up to the thickness of an adult man’s forearm can be found throughout much of the southeastern United States.
When selecting a vine as a water source, look for those with a larger diameter. The greater the thickness of the vine, the more water it is capable of producing. A sharp knife, or better still, a machete, will be needed to sever the tough, woody vine. Start by cutting into the vine. 

Vines that exude a white latex sap, or those that produce a colored or foul smelling sap, should be avoided.

If no sap is noticed, or if the sap that is observed is clear and without aroma, remove a 24-inch inch section by severing the higher end first and then the lower end. If the lower end is cut first, the water contained within the vine is drawn up by capillary action and far less water will drain out by the time that the upper end is severed.

Once removed, the section of vine is held vertically and the water contained within it will drain into a container  (perhaps a cupped hand) where it should be further evaluated.

Liquid that is colored should not be consumed. Liquid that has an unpleasant aroma, other that a faint “woody” smell, should also be discarded. This water could be used to satisfy any hygiene needs.
Taste a small amount of the water. Water that has a disagreeable flavor, other than a slightly “earthy” or “woody” taste, should not be utilized for drinking. Hold a small amount of water in your mouth for a few moments to determine if there is any burning or other disagreeable sensation. If any irritating sensation occurs, the water should be discarded.

Ultimately, liquid that looks like water, smells like water and tastes like water, is water and can be safely consumed in large quantities without further purification. Preventing dehydration and maintaining your ability to function safely and survive depends on your ability to locate and gather water efficiently and safely.

  Another note from Leon: A recent trip to the great state of Mississippi gave me the chance to test this survival technique for finding water in vines.  Walking through a beautiful deciduous forest near the Big Black River wetlands, I noticed many vines hanging from trees. They’re called “wild grape” vines by the Warren County locals, even though the vines don’t bear any fruit.   

My first reaction was to grab one and see if a person can really swing through the trees. Instead, I took out my Leatherman, locked in the saw blade and followed Peter’s instructions. The vines produced beautiful, clear water that tasted great!

I'd like to add that as a kid growing up in Mississippi and spending as much time as possible in the woods, my friends and I often played "Tarzan" by following through with what Leon thought about.  First you have to cut the vine loose near the ground, and hope the many tendrils wrapped far up in the branches of the host tree will hold your weight.  Some of these vines allowed some really long and exciting swings.  The fun stopped one day when one of our group of pre-teen boys named Kervin Farr plummeted nearly forty feet into a big gully that we were swinging across - breaking both of his legs and ending up in a wheelchair for a few months.  So be careful!

More information on getting water from vines and other plants can be found in the "Tropical Rainforest Survival" section of the excellent book: How to Survive on Land and Sea, by Frank C. Craighead Jr. and John J. Craighead. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bug Out Release Update

Some of you may have been looking for my book, Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late to be available on Saturday, May 1st, as that was the publication date listed on Amazon and some other sites.  Everything was completed in time for the release, both by me and all the folks at Ulysses Press, but as sometimes happens in this business, there was a delay with the actual printing.

I found  out from my editor today that the books will ship to their warehouse on the 17th and should be available in stores on or around the 25th.  Those of you who pre-ordered through Amazon and other sites should be getting your copies around that time or shortly thereafter.  I'm excited about seeing the final product and hope that the information contained within will be of use to those of you who interested in doing all you can to prepare for survival.  I'll post any further updates here when I have them.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill About to Wreak Havoc

Sunrise at Mississippi's Horn Island, across the Sound at Gulf Islands National Seashore.
(photo by Dick Dixon)

Ironically, I just recently wrote a feature article for SAIL magazine about the fantastic remote and unspoiled barrier islands and the Mississippi Sound that I consider one of the best sailing and cruising grounds on the Gulf.  The article is in the May issue of the magazine, which was just published days ago.  Here's a link to more about that piece that I posted on my other blog: Scott's Boat Pages.

And just a few minutes ago, I posted the tips Dave Sears sent on Unconventional Methods of Gathering Seafood.  Reading this really made me want to be out on the salt again right now, but I'm still a ways from completing the construction of my boat that will replace the one I lost in Hurricane Katrina. 

Unfortunately, all the sailing, fishing and escaping to beautiful uninhabited islands in this region appears to be coming to an end for an uncertain period of time.  The growing oil slick and the wind conditions that are spreading it our way leave little hope that this area and much larger areas of the Gulf will be spared from its impact.  I just corresponded with my friend, Dick Dixon, who took the photo above and who is an avid sailor and photographer based out of Pascagoula.  He informed me that his boat is indefinitely locked into the Pascagoula Inner Harbor, as it has been closed off with booms to try and prevent the oil from reaching the marshes of the estuary.   He also told me of another marina that is already price-gouging in advance of this impending disaster, asking tenants for a monthly fee equivalent to about 10 times that of other marinas in the area.  Time will tell how bad all this will be, but it's not looking good tonight.

Other (Unconventional) Seafood Gathering Methods

Dave Sears, a reader who commented recently on my post about bowfishing, has had some interesting experiences in collecting food from the sea.  He sent these seafood gathering tips via email.  These are new to me, and sound fascinating. Here's what he had to say in his own words:

Not being a writer (I am a retired tug captain with 43 years experience all over the world), I really don't know where one would post articles such as: on catching shrimp with a junniper bush and a cement block anchor. The shrimp are attracted to the junniper for some reason and their whiskers get entangled in the dense shrubbery. It's maybe illegal I think, since it's basically a shrimp trap.   You shake the shrimp out of the bush into your boat. Haven't shrimped this way for 50 years. LOL. 

Or how about a trot line for catching crabs. My uncle used to buy "bull"  lips from the slaughter house very cheap. Theyr'e super tuff as cows actually pinch off grass with their lips, not their teeth as does a horse (which needs de-sanding frequently). These "bull" lips are twisted into a 21 thread line 100 fathoms long, every couple feet. The trot line is deployed along a channel side with anchors (cement blocks) both ends. No buoys for others to steal it as they do crab traps on occasion. Cross bearings enable you to relocate and grapple up the line when you want. A spool such as used for keel rollers on boat trailers, mounted on a bolt welded to a C-clamp affixed to the gunwale of your craft is your line lifter/guide. As the line clears the water, the tenacious crab drops off the bait, but you have sufficient time to see if it's a fat Jimmy or a berry crab (female w/egg clusters). We would flip the desirables into the boat with an old tennis racket while the other person paddled. You don't need to run it daily like servicing traps. The crabs are free to come and go. In Florida it's legal to have one 5gal bucket of blue crabs per person with regular fishing licenses. I suspect my uncle took me along more for the xtra bucket of crabs than any other reason. LOL. 

My dad was a Tampa boy and used to make cochina stew from the tiny cochina clams. He'd boil the cochinas, strain the broth, add milk, butter, and oyster crackers. Only seasoning black pepper.  well, not exactly survival food if you already have luxuries like milk and butter. if you want to use these ideas, feel free. I'm sure you'd write em up better than I can.
Dave Sears

Thanks for the useful tips, Dave.  I look forward to trying that juniper bush "shrimp trap" someday.

Now the cochina clams Dave mentions are something I have tried.  On my long kayak trip down the west coast of Florida and through the Caribbean, I boiled up a pot of these tiny clams on more than one occasion.  On parts of the Florida Gulf Coast, you can scoop them up by the bucketful right at the edge of the surf line.  Boil them until they open, then use a toothpick or sharpened stick to eat them right out of the shell.  It takes a lot to make a meal, but they are great source of easily-obtained protein on the seashore.

By the way, I welcome useful reader tips like Dave's, so if you have something related to Bug Out Survival that you want to share and don't have your own blog on which to publish it, send it my way.


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