The latest posts from Bug-Out Survival
For those of you who have requested a review copy or are among the ten lucky winners of the Goodreads book giveaway for this book, please be assured that you will be getting your copy from the publisher as soon as they get the shipment they are awaiting. The way the book distribution system works, shipments often go out from the printer directly to the booksellers before even the publishers or the authors get theirs. The book industry is changing so fast anyway that every time I have a new book released it seems there is a surprise of one kind or another.
For those who have been patiently waiting for this book for so long, my coauthor Scott Finazzo and I again want to thank you for your continued interest despite the delays and setbacks. We have gotten word from our editor at Ulysses Press that sales of this book have been fantastic, no doubt due to the continued interest so many people have in doing all they can to be prepared for the unexpected. We hope you will find it useful in your own preps once you get your hands on a copy, and that you will use it as intended, as a workbook to be written in, marked-up and customized to your needs.
Because of the interview, Finazzo got his hands on the first hard copy of the book to ship from the printer. We are hoping these will start shipping any time now.
The publisher should have copies of the book in their offices around the first of March. I will announce other opportunities for free copies this book here on Bug Out Survival once I have copies in hand. Those of you who have survival or prepping related blogs and would like a review copy should email me directly with your address information.
I first became acquainted with Scott Williams by reading Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It’s Too Late. This was the first of his books I’d read and to say I was impressed is a dramatic understatement. Here was a guy who’d truly been there and done that. Not only did he have practical experience, he was able to communicate his knowledge effectively. His writing style was easy to follow and a pleasure to the eyes and mind.
Time and again in subsequent books, Scott has shown he is no armchair prepper. His knowledge and skills have been hard-won by doing rather than just reading a few books and regurgitating the same information someone else came up with and never tested in the real world.
I’d hazard a guess and say that well over 90 percent of preppers are list makers. We make lists of bug-out bag contents, food pantry supplies (both what we have on hand and what we need to acquire), wish lists of the gear we’d love to buy once we get that bonus from work, to-do lists for chores and projects. The list of lists goes on and on, doesn’t it?
That said, many preppers, even the ones who have been around a while, are probably missing a thing or two (or more) on those lists. Maybe they forgot about them, maybe they never heard of them before. No matter the case, more than one prepper has agonized over whether they’ve accounted for everything. When the balloon goes up, or the grid goes down, is the worst possible time to realize you forgot something.
The beauty of The Prepper’s Workbook is they’ve done the remembering for you. With easy-to-understand forms and checklists, all you need to do is fill in the blanks. Granted, that might be oversimplifying things just a tad as prepping in general involves (or should involve) a lot more doing than reading. The point is, follow the proverbial bouncing ball and, by the end, you should be fairly well set should disaster strike.
Every prepper has a different plan for what to do in a crisis and how to go about getting things done. That’s as it should be as we each face unique circumstances and challenges. There is no one single game plan that will work for everyone. That is where The Prepper’s Workbook will really help, as it allows for customization to suit your individual needs, strengths and weaknesses. By following the instructions and filling out the forms, you will be able to create a survival plan that is unique and perfectly suited for you and your family.
Fill out the worksheets, run through the checklists, complete the projects. Take your time and do everything the way it should be done—no cheating! Be honest with yourself and recognize where your plan is lacking, then work toward improving on that weakness.
Even if the worst never comes to pass and you never have the opportunity to truly put your plans to the test, you’ll rest easier at night knowing that if the world begins to fall apart in the morning, you’re ready for it.
Author of Prepper’s Home Defense and
The list price printed on the back doesn't mean much, as almost all online retailers and especially Amazon sell for a significant discount off retail. Right now it's listed for pre-order on Amazon for $11.03 but that price fluctuates for all kinds of reasons only Amazon knows and it may be less when it's actually in stock and ready to ship. I really hope that will happen sometime in late February, even though it's listed there as available March 18. All I know for certain is that at this point, our work is done so the rest depends on the shipping and distribution times.
Once copies are in my hands and in the publisher's offices we will have some book giveaways, and as always, review copies will be available for those who have related websites and blogs.
The updated cover design for The Prepper's Workbook:
Along with the new cover shown above, the final revisions and most of the interior design work is now complete on the new and updated version of the The Prepper's Workbook, co-authored with Scott Finazzo. It is now in the production stage and though the new release date listed on Amazon is March 18, my editor says that it should be available to ship by mid-February. I know that a lot of readers have pre-ordered the book since it was first listed on various online sites last year, and I know it is frustrating to wait so long, but the final version of this book will be much more useful than what I had originally envisioned. Rather than a book of mostly checklists, The Prepper's Workbook is a complete interactive planning tool to help you prepare your home and family for any disaster, whether of natural causes or manmade. You don't have to have any background in preparedness to use this book, and the focus is on the ordinary family who wants stay safe and be self-sufficient in a short or long-term disaster. In other words, you don't have to be expecting the collapse of civilization to benefit from this book.
A lot of the focus is on accessing what you currently have and do not have that you might need in the aftermath of a disaster, and the worksheets and activities will help you acquire, organize and store these items. You will learn how to prepare your home for sheltering in place and how to plan an evacuation, as well as how to determine whether it is best to stay or go. There are sections on specific types of disasters and how to plan for them, as well as sections on first aid, home and personal defense, and the most important survival skills you need to acquire and master. Along with all the information we provide in the book, there are just as many fill-in-the-blank pages and worksheets that will require you to put the "work" in the workbook. When you are finished with these tasks, you will have a unique and perfectly-tailored reference book with all your critical preparedness information compiled in one readily-accesible and handy location. This, we hope, is what will make this book so uniquely useful among a flood of books covering the topics of disaster survival and preparedness.
I received some excellent submissions from those who participated by sending in their personal list of what they consider the Top Ten Essential Skills that any prepper/survivalist should possess or attempt to master.
As you would expect, there was a lot of overlap in these lists, as most of us can agree on at least five of the top ten essential skills, especially: finding and purifying water, fire making, shelter making, navigation and food gathering (including foraging, fishing and hunting). Other commonly mentioned skills included the use of firearms for hunting and personal defense, knowledge of first aid, use of camouflage and stealth and hand to hand combat skills.
One of the lists submitted had an interesting and probably overlooked skill set that most people should pay more attention to: mechanical skill to maintain gear, firearms and mode of travel. People who like to work on things as a hobby or have jobs that require mechanical skills may be all set in this department, but in today's society, fewer people do their own repairs or use their hands at work. If you are among them, you can begin by doing small, routine maintenance jobs on your home, vehicle and other items. As you gain proficiency in this, your confidence in your ability to keep everything you need going after the SHTF will be much greater.
As stated in the last post announcing the book giveaway, the five winners were chosen at random by a drawing, not based on the quality or content of their Top Ten List. To those who didn't win, I still appreciate your participation and contribution. As Scott Finazzo and I put the finishing touches on The Prepper's Workbook, these lists will be taken into consideration as we complete the final section of the book, and you may see one of your ideas published there.
So, here are the five winners of a copy of The Darkness After:
J. Miller of Chesapeake, VA
J. Guerra, of McAllen, TX
H. Coulter, of Prentiss, MS
T. Cleveland, of Savanna, GA
D. Baldwin, of Ft. Collins, CO
The winners have also been notified by email and the books will be sent out today.
If you'd like a chance to win a free copy so you can check it out, I want to announce two book giveaways: one here on Bug Out Survival and the other on the Goodreads website.
My coauthor, Scott Finazzo, and I are putting the finishing touches on The Prepper's Workbook, and the book giveaway I'm doing here relates to that project. In the final section of the workbook, we discuss The Top Ten Survival Skills Every Person Should Know.
What do you think are the top ten most important survival skills and why? Post your answers in the comments section below or send them to me directly by email to email@example.com, making sure to include your mailing address, to enter the drawing on August 15 for five (5) signed copies of The Darkness After. Who knows, maybe you'll submit something we haven't thought of and see your suggestion printed in The Prepper's Workbook when it is published in September. I'll announce the winners no later than Friday, August 16 right here on Bug Out Survival.
The other book giveaway for The Darkness After is hosted on Goodreads and all you have to do is sign up below for a chance to win one of ten (10) copies.
Some changes have been made to the format of The Prepper's Workbook and it will hopefully still be ready for release in September after a final reorganization of the material. The improved format of this book that my coauthor and I have been working on will make it a much more useful addition to any prepper's library and hopefully it will be worth the wait for those of you who have already preordered.
The Darkness After was completed early in May and all final revisions and proofreading done a few weeks ago. I'm still awaiting word as to when it will be sent to the printer, and have heard that it should be any day now. The publisher did change the publication date on Amazon from mid-June to early August, but I've been assured that it will likely be available before then, probably in early July. I will post an update here as soon as I know for sure.
Meanwhile, here's a little more about the book. Some readers may recall that I have said I'm working on a sequel to The Pulse, and there will certainly be a sequel. The Darkness After is not that sequel, however, but rather a parallel story with different characters facing the consequences of the same event.
The action takes place in the same general region as the final part of The Pulse, specifically New Orleans and south Mississippi. As I've mentioned before, part of what inspired the idea for The Pulse is what I witnessed personally in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in this region. With the grid down for just a few weeks in the New Orleans area and much of south Mississippi and south Louisiana, the chaos was bad enough. These books explore the possibilities of how bad it might get if the power was off for months, or even longer.
The two main characters in this story are a bit younger than even the college students, Casey and Jessica, in The Pulse. But despite this, 16-year-old Mitch Henley and 18-year-old April Gibbs both have unique backgrounds and strong motivations to get where they're going that give them the edge in a lawless world of anarchy and violence.
The son of a Mississippi game warden in one of the most heavily-wooded counties of the state, Mitch is a natural-born hunter and woodsman and a master of the longbow, his favorite hunting weapon. And on her own since the age of 17, April has unexpected skills learned from her own father that will serve her well in her desperate quest to reach the one person who matters most in her life. Here's the official book description from the Amazon listing:
The thrilling story of teenagers struggling for survival as the modern world collapses around them
Massive solar flares bombard the Earth. An intense electromagnetic pulse undermines America’s power grid, wreaking havoc. Panic and chaos ensue in cities like New Orleans, where 16-year-old Mitch Henley was stranded after driving his parents to the airport. The son of a game warden in a rural Mississippi county, Mitch is an expert hunter and woodsman and knows he can survive back on his family’s remote 600 acres.
With no way to know if his parents’ plane landed safely or crashed because of the pulse, Mitch sets out alone to walk home. But what Mitch hadn’t counted on was meeting April: a determined young woman who has an even more compelling reason to make it to her destination. Thrust into adulthood at an early age, April is a fighter who won’t back down, and when the two of them pair up to face the dangers ahead, they endure and overcome one setback and disappointment after another.
Set in the same anarchy-and-desperation-reigned world of the author’s dystopian thriller: THE PULSE, THE DARKNESS AFTER is a frightening look at how fragile our technologically dependent lifestyle really is.
So that's the latest and as much as I know regarding the release dates. As soon as I get copies in hand of each new book, I will post a book giveaway here so reader's will have a chance to get a free, signed copy.
Those of you who have read my Bug Out Vehicles and Shelters know that I have a chapter devoted to bicycles in the book. As a long-time cyclist who enjoys riding for fitness and exploring backroads and trails by bike, I am interested in many different types of bicycles, but if I could have only one, it would invariably be a touring-specific bike. When asked in the interview today why I would choose such a bike when mountain bikes are usually the first kind that come to mind as bug out bikes, I explained that it is because bike touring has been constantly evolving and developing as adventurous riders take these machines literally to the ends of the earth. Such bikes are designed to withstand abuse, carry heavy loads, negotiate rough roads and even some off road conditions and perhaps most importantly, be comfortable so that you can cover serious miles day after day.
The difference in these touring-specific bikes begins with the frame, usually built of rugged and forgiving Chrome-moly steel rather than aluminum or carbon used on more performance-oriented bikes. The wheels are also stronger, built to carry heavy loads and to fit wider tires when conditions require them. Touring bikes have a wide range of gears to handle long climbs while carrying heavy loads, and the frames are fitted with brazed-on eyelets for mounting sturdy racks to carry panniers and additional gear lashed on top.
While some touring bikes look much like road racing machines to the casual observer, these differences are apparent upon closer inspection. Because of the popularity of long off-road trips, such as the Adventure Cycling Association's Great Divide Route, many bicycle manufacturers are building truly capable touring machines that have most of the desirable attributes of mountain bikes combined with the long-distance capability of road bikes. It has been interesting to see what they have come up with. For example, the Surly Long Haul Trucker is a proven road touring bike I mentioned in the book, but the newer Surly Troll has a lot to offer as a bug-out machine to those inclined towards mountain bikes but needing real traveling ability:
The orange paint job might not be the best choice for this service, but you can see that this is a bike that could do the job. To give you an idea of it's potential, check out this site: While Out Riding.
Instead of giving me the go-ahead immediately on the sequel, however, my publisher suggested an entirely different novel set in the scenario of The Pulse - the same grid- collapse event caused by a solar flare - but with a different storyline and different characters. Most of the characters in the new novel (which will also likely be followed with one or more sequels) are young adults or teenagers, so the book is targeted to both young adult and adult readers. The Darkness After will be an action-filled adventure story with a somewhat faster pace than The Pulse. Here is the cover image:
I am still in the middle of writing this one now, but have also worked out a contract with my publisher to do the sequel to The Pulse later this year, after the June publication of The Darkness After. In addition, I will be completing The Prepper's Workbook later this spring, and the new publication date for it is set for sometime in September. The other change regarding that book is that I will now be working on it with my friend and fellow-adventurer, Scott Finazzo. The cover for the book should be updated soon to show both of us as coauthors.
Though I have not posted anything about the forthcoming Prepper's Workbook, I'm sure many of my readers have found the listing on Amazon, which still incorrectly shows the publication date as tomorrow, January 15. I apologize for the confusion that may have caused, but I was expecting my publisher to change the book details to reflect the new publication date before now. At any rate, if you have pre-ordered the book as many people do on Amazon, it will still be shipped as soon as it is released. I will post more details on both of the projects soon:
You can join us tomorrow (Thursday, July 26) at 1:00pm CDT right here on the embedded player, or listen in later anytime you like after the show:
For a review from the perspective of a prepper and survivalist, here's Jim Cobb's take on the book from his blog, Survival Weekly: http://survivalweekly.com/2269/the-pulse-by-scott-b-williams/ Jim will soon be a fellow Ulysses Press author, with his own book: Prepper's Home Defense coming out in October.
The reason that this is good news is that Barnes & Noble has finally gotten on board with how serious the topics of survival and prepping are, and the bookstore chain will now be stocking Bug Out and many related titles on their store shelves in most, if not all locations. In fact, my publisher said they were going to have an end-cap dedicated to the subject in the next month or so. This is an about face for this chain, as they were reluctant to stock many of these titles until their popularity increased. I stopped by my nearest Barnes & Noble store the other day to check this out, and sure enough, there were copies of Bug Out, Getting Out Alive, and Bug Out Vehicles displayed prominently on the shelves, along with some excellent related titles by other authors. Hopefully the backorders will be filled soon and Bug Out will soon be listed as "In Stock" on Amazon again. I apologize to anyone who may have ordered the book without knowing this and is still waiting.
"My favorite adventure stories have always been those that cast ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances and predicaments their previous lives could not possibly prepare them for. Although I sometimes enjoy reading works of fiction that involve larger than life characters with highly specialized training and superior fitness, skills and abilities, you won’t find any fearless heroes of that kind in The Pulse.
From the back cover:
THE END OF THE ELECTRIC AGE
As massive solar flares bombard the Earth, an intense electromagnetic pulse instantly destroys the power grid throughout North America. Within hours, desperate citizens panic and anarchy descends. Surrounded by chaos, Casey Drager, a student at Tulane University, must save herself from the havoc in the streets of New Orleans. Casey and two of her friends bug out to the dangerous backwaters of Mississippi where they are forced to use their survival skills to seek refuge and fight for their lives.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, Casey’s father, Artie, finds himself cut off and stranded. His Caribbean sailing vacation has turned into every parent’s nightmare. Warding off pirates and tackling storms, Artie uses the stars to guide him toward his daughter.
The Pulse is a compelling action-adventure novel that reveals what it would take to survive in a world lit only by firelight, where all the rules have changed and each person must fend for himself.
The 10/22 is a compact carbine even in its standard configuration, and even more so with a 16-inch barrel, but until recently, if you wanted to conceal it completely inside the average backpack or bug-out bag, you needed to either fit a bulky and somewhat heavier aftermarket folding stock, or take the receiver out of the stock as I described in the above-mentioned post. I've carried the 10/22 both ways on various wilderness trips. Folding stocks such as the Butler Creek model I used completely change the balance and feel of the weapon, and add a lot of bulk inside the pack when folded. Taking the standard rifle apart works, but does entail some risk of losing internal parts if you're not careful, and takes a lot more time than simply folding a stock.
The new take-down version of the 10/22 brings a whole new reason to choose this weapon, as you can now have one of the best semi-auto .22 carbines in existence with the packability of other take-down models such as the Marlin Papoose and Henry AR-7.
Here's a video introduction to this new 10/22 model that shows just how easily it can be taken apart and put back together:
For serious packing of a bug-out bag, I would certainly lose the bulky, fitted backpack it comes with, though this may be a handy way to carry it in other situations such as in a vehicle or boat. I haven't picked up one of these yet, but for $300 I probably will and look forward to comparing it to my other 10/22 rifles.
I've written about the Kawasaki KLR650 here before, and I'm sure many readers have either owned one or know somebody that does. It's not a motorcycle that excels at any one thing, but rather one that does everything well enough. For this trip, that meant everything from surviving the truck traffic on the interstate at 75 mph, to negotiating twisty pavement in the mountains, such as the infamous "Tail of the Dragon" stretch of North Carolina's Highway 129. But most importantly, it meant the freedom to explore off-road on gravel forest service roads and beyond.
I went alone on this ride so I wouldn't have to do much scheduling or planning, and besides, I needed time to myself anyway. Mainly, I wanted to revisit some of my favorite areas in the regions, such as the Joyce-Kilmer and Citico Creek wilderness areas, where I've embarked upon many a solo backpacking trip in times past. Hiking this time was limited, but with the KLR I was able to get to some nice, secluded campsite with the bike and all my gear, some of them places few four-wheeled vehicles could reach.
As anyone who's visited this area knows, the driving (and especially motorcycle riding) is spectacular. Going in the off-season and during the week makes it easy to avoid the crowds. One of the most scenic roads is the Cherohala Skyway, which runs through some of the wildest areas of the southern Appalachians, from Tellico Plains, TN to Robbinsville, NC.
This is a view out into the Citico Creek Wilderness Area, which is described on p. 158 of my book: Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It's Too Late. A black bear encounter I had one dark night deep in the middle of this wilderness reminds me to choose campsites carefully and take all the precautions to keep a clean camp when in these mountains. This a place where you can seriously disappear if you have a need to, especially if you don't mind bushwhacking into the rhododendron thickets in the deep ravines along the drainages.
But as nice as the paved mountain roads like the Cherohala Skyway are, the KLR really comes into its own and proves its worth on the endless miles of gravel forest service roads that lead off the beaten path.
Exploring them leads to all kinds of great places, like this fantastic stream. One thing these mountains are not short of is water, so carrying a lot of it is not necessary as long as you have a means to purify it.
It's hard to leave a place like this and ride back home, but after this little escape I'm now planning a longer motorcycle trek out West to some of my favorite hang-outs there, like New Mexico's Gila National Forest. I have no doubt that the trusty KLR will get me there and back.
And the winner is: Kenny! Kenny's comment is the 13th one down on last week's post. I guess number 13 can bring good luck sometimes! For all those who didn't win, keep an eye out for more giveaways, as I have lately been receiving a flood of books and other products to review and test. And again, I think this book is a worthwhile addition to your survival library, whether or not can get it for free!
Empact America is dedicated to preparing, protecting and recovering from an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) event - a very real threat that could plunge our electricity-dependant civilization into total chaos. This interview comes at a good time, when I have been thinking a lot about just such a scenario. Last week I just finished the manuscript of my latest book: The Pulse: A Novel of Surviving the Collapse of the Grid, which will be published in July. Here's the completed manuscript: all 109,415 words.
I'll be posting more about that book here on Bug Out Survival as soon as details like the cover are finalized. It does involve a major grid-down scenario, putting the main characters in a variety of dangerous situations, requiring them to use many of the techniques and methods I've written about here on this site and in my previous non-fiction books.
If you have time to listen in on tomorrow's interview, you can do so on the embedded player right here:
This book is unique among practical medical handbooks in that it specifically addresses the issues of medical help when conventional means of help is not available, such as in a post-SHTF scenario. Topics include all sorts of problems ranging from sanitation, hygiene and infections to environmental factors that can lead to heat stroke, hypothermia, burns, smoke inhalation and even snake bite and stings. There are many additional resources in the back of this 440-page book, including a glossary of medical terminology and a list of YouTube Video Resources.
Look for a full review of the book here in the near future as soon I get caught up enough to read it in depth (As many of you know, I've been quite busy with my own latest book project). In the meantime, if you'd like a chance at winning this signed copy of the Survival Medicine Handbook, just leave a comment on this post with a username and I'll put all the names in a hat and pick the winner one week from tonight. It doesn't matter what you say in your comment, everyone gets an equal chance based on the luck of the draw. Look for the winner to be announced here next Monday night, and good luck!
Here's the full interview if you want to listen. Unfortunately, like last time I was on the show, there was a minor glitch with Blog Talk Radio, so the start of the show was delayed. It does play though, if you bear with it through a couple minutes of silence at the beginning.
There are many ways to accomplish the goal of staying physically ready for events that may test your endurance or strength, the most common of course, being gym workouts with weights or machines, as well as cardio-intensive training such as running, cycling or walking. Excuses for not using these methods are as plentiful as huge array of workout equipment you can find for sale at any sporting goods store, and range from time restraints to cost considerations.
There used to be a time when most people did enough physical work that none of this was necessary anyway, but unless you're in the really small percentage of those today who earn their living doing something like brick-laying or chopping wood with an axe, chances are you need to work out to stay in shape. What if you could take a simple tool like a sledgehammer and use it to work practically your entire body without the need to buy dumbbells, barbells or a Bowflex or some other kind of machine?
This isn't the kind of iron-pumping workout designed to build muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but if you want to increase your functional strength and stamina, as well as speed and power that could make the difference in a fight or flight survival scenario, pick up a 16lb. sledge or even an 8 or 10-pounder and try these 23 exercises:"
I've done this routine a few times since discovering this video on YouTube and I can tell you that it is a great workout that will leave you feeling like you've done something when you're finished. You can determine the intensity by the speed with which you execute each movement as well as by choking up or down on the handle of the hammer. You don't need much weight to get the effectiveness, and in that regard it's much like working out with kettlebells; more about the technique than the weight. If you want to try it, I would recommend first following along with the video using an unweighted stick or axe handle to learn the proper form. Then start with a real sledgehammer. He's using a 16-pounder in the video, but unless you're in great shape already, you'll probably find that's too heavy to swing with good form, speed and power. The difference in this and merely lifting weight is that you have to overcome the inertia of all that weight swinging at speed to stop each stroke in the air with control, as he is demonstrating in the video.
You don't need a lot of time to do this entire routine, maybe one minute for each exercise, but if that's not enough you can use it for circuit training and go through the whole thing again when you're done: two, three or even four times if you're able.
Almost everyone has a sledgehammer somewhere in the toolshed, and if you don't you can go out and pick one up for $20 to $30 at any building supply or hardware store. It's a cheap piece of equipment compared to stuff designed specifically for exercise, and you'll probably find plenty of other uses for it as well.
One thing that all preppers and people with an interest in survival have in common is the desire to be self-sufficient. The ability to do-it-yourself and make things from scratch can go a long way towards freeing you from dependance upon expensive manufactured versions of the same things, which in many cases are inferior to what you could make yourself.
As long-time readers here probably know, I'm a big fan of travel by boat, whether on remote wilderness rivers, through southern swamps, or along the coast or open ocean. As a result of my interest in a variety of small craft, as well as a life-long interest in woodworking, I began building my own boats some 18 years ago, and have since built more than a dozen vessels, ranging from sea kayaks and canoes to fishing boats and offshore sailboats. Most of my wilderness and sea journeys by boat would not have been possible if I had to buy the factory versions of these boats I built myself - mainly because I could have never afforded them. But aside from the cost, there is an indescribable satisfaction to be had from turning a pile of wood and some epoxy and fiberglass into a beautiful and functional watercraft and then paddling or sailing it to some wild place.
While you can save a lot of money doing it yourself, building a boat is still far from free, especially if you care enough about how it looks and how long it will last to use quality materials. And there's also no getting around the fact that it's a lot of hard work. The same can be said about anything worth building or doing right. You need some basic tools, as well as the ability to use them, and unless you have a talent for design, a set of plans drawn by someone who does. Thousands of boats are built this way in garages and backyards every year all over America, and one would think that the right to do so would be unquestioned and unchallenged. That's exactly what a Murpheesboro, Tennessee man named Jonathan King thought when he purchased plans and built a simple, low-cost 14-foot wooden boat so he could take his seven-year-old son fishing.
Tennessee, like most states, requires boats that are fitted with engines or sails for propulsion to be registered with the state in which it is operated. This involves a small annual or semi-annual fee that is not unreasonable, but if you build your own boat from scratch, you first have to get it inspected so that a HIN (hull identification number) can be issued. This number is required in order to apply for the registration number. Like the registration, getting this number is not that big of a deal in my experience here in Mississippi, and having it does help prove ownership if the boat is stolen, so while it's a minor aggravation, most home boatbuilders don't complain.
But apparently that's no longer enough in Tennessee. Given the current economy, many states are looking for additional revenue anywhere they can find it, and Tennessee has hired outside consultants to make sure they don't miss any opportunity to tax citizens for things they may have overlooked. This is where Jonathan King ran into trouble. After applying for the HIN for his homebuilt boat, which he never intended to sell and built solely for his own use, he was threatened with court action if he did not pay a $539.00 "use tax" on the boat, as he was now considered by the state to be a "boat dealer." Never mind that he had already paid sales taxes on the plans that he purchased, as well as on all the plywood and materials used in the construction. This "use tax" he was now being hit with probably amounted to nearly as much as all the materials required to build a boat of this size. Thinking this was a mistake, he called the auditor and was told that no, they knew he built if for his own use, but the tax was still due and the state could get liens on the craft or pursue misdemeanor charges against him if he didn't pay. Here's the original story:
This has prompted lots of discussion among do-it-yourself boatbuilders, such as these threads on the Wooden Boat Forum:
Here's one that starts with a letter from the designer of the boat to the governor of Tennessee:
As he points out, this story is going viral on the Internet, as well it should. Those of you who are not into boats may not think it matters, but it's just one example of increasing loss of freedoms and restriction on what you can and can't do on your own property. As some have pointed out, if a "use tax" can be levied against a home boatbuilder, what's to stop them from taxing those who build their own picnic table or doghouse, make their own clothing or bake their own cookies? Isn't the economy already hurting ordinary people bad enough without punishing them for trying to save some money by making things themselves?
Another thing many Americans may not realize, especially if they are not boaters, is that most European countries have incredibly strict laws regulating building and using boats. For example, in the U.K., a person building a boat at home for their own use is not permitted to sell that vessel until five years after it is completed. That means if you spend hundreds or thousands of dollars building your dream boat, and then either discover it was not your cup or tea or perhaps need the money because you lost your job - tough luck, you're stuck with it. Other European laws strictly regulate the type and size of vessel that is permitted to go offshore, and require you to buy and equip your boat with all sorts of expensive safety equipment that does not necessarily apply to the type of craft you own. For example, in some countries sea kayaks are not permitted to travel more than 1-mile from the shore, despite the fact that they are among the most seaworthy of vessels. There are many people who would like to see such laws passed here as well, and if this "use tax" issue is not resolved in Tennessee, it looks like we're already headed that way.
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