We next move on to the prepping strategy of Bill Simpson, aka Captain William E. Simpson the Second.
As his NatGeo profile proclaims, he is “a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer with decades of boating and expedition sailing experience, who has successfully survived long-term off the grid at remote uninhabited desert islands.” He is also apparently the author of the forthcoming book The Nautical Prepper, which I’m guessing was his reason for agreeing to appear on the show (we’ve yet to see a true ‘Joann and Cletus’ off-the-street prepper; everybody always has something they’re pimping).
Like Doug the Rock Man, whose prepping revolved around his livelihood (in his case, selling Really Big Rocks), Bill’s approach is reflected in his maritime lifestyle.
And for what specific contingency is he preparing? A “geomagnetic storm”, (translates to Big Solar Flare), which he believes would have the effect of a planet-wide EMP, knocking out the electrical grid and sending our modern technocivilization into ruin. To counter that threat, he has spent several years (and half a million dollars) designing and building a 70-foot-long, 90-ton steel boat (at what point does a Boat become a Ship?) he calls the Iron Maiden.
In his estimation, such a big-ass boat—made of 3/8” steel—will function as a giant floating Farraday cage, protecting his radar and such delicate instruments from the effects of the solar flare-up. Now, I am by no means an electrical engineer, but something about that seems kinda…off…to me. Maybe because I’m picturing a solar-storm-EMP like a bolt of lightning?, and I’m pretty confident a metal watercraft is just about the least-safe place to be in a lightning storm. I dunno.
Anyway, Captain Bill’s basic premise with his nautical prepping is that a boat is the anti-bunker. In other words, instead of being holed up underground in a concrete box, breathing stale air and eating canned peaches, his boat allows him complete…freedom of the seas, as it were. Assuming one likes seafood, it’s not a bad notion.
To give this a test, Bill has invited a group of family members and family friends for a 70-mile, multi-day trip down the Columbia River to the sea. While they’re on this voyage, they’ll live off some of the 2,000 pounds of staples which Bill has stored on the Iron Maiden. Alright, pretty impressive. It’s good to have stuff to fall back on if the fishing is bad. Of course, he hasn’t stored any citrus-y fruit or anything rich in vitamin C (t’ fight off th’ scurrrrrrvy, yarr!), but that’s okay because he plans on gathering seaweed, which is apparently rich in it. At this point a caption pops up to remind us that a daily requirement of vitamin C would require eating five pounds of seaweed!
Eventually they go ashore to practice using all of Bill’s improvised defensive weaponry: spearguns, harpoons, &c. Then they break out the real goodies—Bill’s flare gun! They waste some shells shooting at logs, and then use one to start a petrol fire! Somehow I guess the idea was to deliver the gas onto an enemy boat via Molotov cocktail, shoot the flare at it, and then speed away while they burned up. Or something. Not the best use of resources, if you ask me.
At least then we get to see some actual practical skills—Bill demonstrates wound-suturing on a chicken breast (which they hilariously set up to look like Grandson Billy’s arm)…GREAT sight gag!:
Thumbs-up on that, because knowing how to stitch up wounds is one of those skills that could definitely come in handy in a long-term disaster scenario. Best learn how and practice such skills now, before the time comes when you might need it.
And then there’s the format-enforced Big Dramatic Stunt, involving ramming the boat into a dinghy of ‘pirates’. Meh.
However, it does remind me of the joke where the bosun goes below deck and announces that all the oarsmen are to get a double measure of grog! Everybody starts to celebrate, until he announces…“But the Captain wants to waterski!” *rimshot*
In the experts’ assessment, they tell Bill not to rely on deepwater fishing; something to do with poor yields? I dunno, but I don’t think they’re worried about it for the same reason I would be. Witness the fact that the world’s oceans are rapidly becoming acidified and deoxygenated, leading to massive die-offs of phytoplankton (the foundation of all ocean food-chains).
The experts also tell Bill to store water, just in case his onboard desalination plant should fail. Like I’ve said before, ‘Practical Preppers’ job on this show is really just to reinforce the misguided belief that the consumption-and-hoarding-based Type I/Bunker model of prepping is the One Right Way. Bah. The Captain dismisses their criticisms on the basis that they apparently have no experience with life at sea, which is probably true. He then makes a quip about how their idea of being prepared is just “a piece of flat land with some chickens”. Ha ha ha.
Strangely enough, however, even though his nomadic, nautical approach is just about the furthest thing from the mode the so-called ‘experts’ advocate, they still give Bill 83 points (a new high!), for eighteen months’ initial survival.
With regards to making saltwater drinkable, I’m a big fan of solar stills, which can be improvised with any number of readily-found materials. Here’s a link to build a simple one of your own!