|If we're gonna be up a creek, we'd best have a paddle!|
(Not sure of provenance, but found this image here)
In a recent post, A Stitch in Time, I wrote of TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know IT), and concluded with a list of skills and stuff to have on board. Not coincidentally, the same list applies to shoe-string living, on the water or off, and more generally to emergency preparedness.
The debate surrounding most anything, these days is highly polarized. Left/right, liberal/conservative, sane/insane, perpetrator/victim. Most of us are just trying to find our way among a few facts, and laying bets on those to which we give credence. 'Nuff said.
I take it you're reading this because you're interested - in practice or vicariously - in a simple life on or near the water. After all, that's all I got. The whys and wherefores aren't so important. We're all welcome, here.
It doesn't take TEOTWAWKI for this kind of information to be useful. Emergency situations can crop up out of nowhere. Katrina in New Orleans, flood or fire in California, snowstorms in Chicago, car breaks down in Texas. You're laid off, foreclosed upon or the ol' ticker skips a beat.
So this list can be approached 'Post Collapse', 'Emergency Preparedness' or 'Voluntary Simplicity'. Works for me, any which way, so suit yourself.
Much of the information given below can be found online. Rather than buy a stack of tomes with exhaustive, specialized detail, look for good, concise presentations. Print 'em out and organize them in a binder/notebook, and trade up whenever you stumble upon better.
The alternatives are good, general compendiums in book form, covering a range of subjects or important/complex subjects in greater detail.
We use both. Look for good presentation and information density. Don't let 'em collect dust... get that knowledge into your head and hands. Kids eat this stuff up... let 'em!
Main sources of information are books (Consider buying local, Libraries and Inter Library Loan); magazines; online articles, blogs, zines and websites; people (don't forget old-timers!). I've included links to many that we have onboard or have been helpful to us. But it's a wide world, and we don't get out, much.
Finally, don't undersell your own ability to figure things out. We don't want to spend our time re-inventing the wheel, but our own focus and tenacity can solve problems and resolve questions that are unique to us. That's a powerful tool perched on your neck... don't waste it!
Survival Training - Books, SAR (Search and Rescue), seminars, etc. provide training and education over quite a range of scenarios. Never know when you'll be separated from your base.
Basic Medical Training - I recommend Wilderness First Responder training, usually available through your local SAR. Sets you up for most anything that can be handled without access to medical facilities. Where There Is No Doctor and Pain Free are good, core references.
Pharmacopoea - Natural medicines and tinctures, aspirin, antibiotics, anaesthetic. Books should be available for medicinal plants in your locality. Ask around. Do be sure to find reliable sources, and cross-reference these to the best of your ability. Pay attention to cautions and dosage. This stuff is potent... like any medications, they can kill as well as cure.
Dentistry - Cavity stabilization and tooth extraction are emergency procedures (not standard DIY). But emergencies emerge. Teeth are right next to the brain and wired for extreme sensitivity. A bad tooth is red flag and left untreated or improperly handled can kill. Serious stuff. Try Where There Is No Dentist for an intro.
Basic Self Defense - This is an individual choice issue. Many books, classes and whole disciplines cover a range from 'empty hand' tactics to physical/spiritual mastery of martial arts. Weapons may or may not be part of your choice, but consider that they won't always be at hand. At a minimum, learn how to prevent and defend yourself from personal assault.
Engineless Sailing - The Complete Sailor is the best all-round book I know of. Consider Emergency Navigation, as well, in case you have to cover long distances.
Make Fire, Vinegar, Pine Tar, Charcoal, Tallow, Soap, Rope/twine, Leather, Weaving - I don't know of a single, good source for these, but all can be found online. Many libraries have the The Foxfire Bookseries (link is to first of many), a collection of mountain folk skills.
Alcohol - Recreational, medicinal (tictures), for fuel and potentially for trade. The Alaskan Bootlegger's Bible is one comprehensive text among many. Be aware that many laws control the production and distribution of alcohol, and that it's an addictive toxin. Some forms are lethal toxins (learn the difference!). In emergency situations, consider that its consumption won't likely be in your best interest.
Metalworking - This is the skill that separates us from the Stone Age (not a bad age, but we may as well take advantage!). Lots of metal lying around, for our lifetimes. Being able to work it is a bootstrap skill. I recommend The Complete Modern Blacksmith, among others.
Forage / Gardening / Food Preservation (drying, smoking)/ /Beekeeping Animal Husbandry? - These are traditional farming skills and can be locale specific. Two general references are Country Wisdom & Know-How, and Back to Basics.
Fishing / Hunting (snares) - More local knowledge. Indian Fishing and Living Off the Sea are good places to start. Snare info can be found online (snares offer a great advantage to active hunting... they're on the hunt 24/7).
Leather tanning - Online info available. I'd recommend brain tanning, for starters, as ingredients are always on hand. Check out rawhide, while you're at it.
Stone-age (start-from-zero) skills - Flint-napping? Basketry? Pottery? - These skills might come in handy, but, for our lifetimes, there's a super-abundance of metals and containers lying around in piles, so this is pretty well covered, for now. But there are plenty that are useful in a pinch, and I'd recommend at least a survey of techniques. Neo-primitive, neolithic and wilderness survival online sites are good sources as are a variety of books.
Full Set of Hand Tools - Quality tools are often available, second hand, at very good prices. I'm a little out-of-date, but solid tools at competitive prices are available through Frog Tools, WoodCraft and WoodWorker's Supply, among others. An ax and medium sized tool-box will hold everything needed to build a boat from standing timber, and shape metal. Not necessarily fast, but capable.
Non-Hybrid Seeds - Hybridized seed don't breed true (can't save seeds from this harvest for next). Non-hybrid seeds (sometimes called heirloom seeds) can be found online, in individual seed packets or garden- to farm-scale mixes, with a range of varieties. Many are packaged for long term storage, and can be kept in reserve for years.
Year's Supply of Food? - Some food on hand allows you to concentrate on emergencies and provides a cushion in changing conditions. No finite supply is a long term solution, however, and the ability to feed oneself and dependents from local and renewable sources is a more flexible approach. Azure Standard is one supplier of bulk food goods, both organic and non. Buy local where you can, and cut out middle-men.
Grinding/Processing Mills / Plant Oil Extraction- Many foods, wild or domesticated, benefit from processing. Plant oils are difficult to extract without tools. For a wide selection of these and related, non-electric tools, see Lehman's Non-Electric Catalog (Lehman's primarily serves Amish and Mennonite communities).
Clothing - Consider durable, flexible clothing with backups. Innermost and outermost layers get the most wear, so you may want to lay in more of these. Learn to darn those darn socks!
Okay... them's the basics as I see it, but the list is by no means complete. If more come to me (on my own or via readers), I'll come back and update this post.
Remember that this is just a start and tip of an iceberg. You'll find your own paths through the mountains of choice offered us, at present. Look for flexible solutions in keeping with your situation, beliefs and style. Get your family and friends involved for the sheer pleasure of it. More heads are better than one, and community is a crucial resource.
Don't panic, friends, but don't put this off... the times, they are a'changing, and not always for the better.