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Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, and wrote about it's design and construction at

Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write... I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Friday, November 25, 2022

Foraging Ahead: Independence Along the Way

Our Go-to Guide

Good info; great pictures
We also use it to organize notes from other sources

Hunter-gathers by nature
Store information for use,
Understanding that there may be a time
When information is scarce.

― Brian C. O'Connor, Jud H. Copeland, Jodi L. Kearns

This sudden sweet loot appearing...

― Aspen Matis

Foraging Ahead: Independence Along the Way

Anke and I have been pursuing the know-how and means to stay out and away for longer and longer periods. At least to have the option. We've come a long way; still have a long way to go.

We recently spent half of a four month rowing / sailing trip experimenting with near hand-to-mouth forage. During this time we lived mostly from fish and wild plants. We took along our complementary rice / lentil mix (2:1 for complete protein), dried fruit and olive oil, using each very sparingly.

Result? We lost weight and felt great! 

We were hungry more often than we normally tolerate, but not to the point of discomfort, and were eating amply at mealtimes. We quickly learned to make up a 'salad' for the day (fish and berries mixed in)... this allowed us to snack as needed between two cooked meals a day. 

Of note, the 'super-carb' diet of vegetables, fish meat and oils, and fresh berries - the bulk of what we were eating - supported the heavy exertion of rowing up to 12 hours a day (well... mostly more like 6 to 8).

Meanwhile, we were cooking and heating with a rocket stove modified for indoor use. This let us gather wood every few days with ratcheting anvil loppers (quicker and easier than sawing), while drying it onboard as needed.

So we're pleased to find that our sloppy assemblage of skills has brought us near to the point that we could subsist indefinitely, if need be. 


If we wish to venture away for any extended stretch of time - let's say months to years - from towns / resupply it helps to find werewithal along the way... shelter, water, food, fuel and materials.

Shelter is pretty easy, assuming we're sailors aboard our live-aboard vessels... they come with us as a matter of course. When necessary, shelter may be improvised from foraged materials (a big subject... maybe later?).

Water is nowadays only a little tougher. Offshore seawater desalinators are available in manual models and can be DIYed

'Longshore, especially in our rainforest, spring and groundwater flows provide plenty of fresh water, which can be easily filtered by compact, cheap and durable systems. These too can be DIYed with simple filtration systems, using home-made charcoal as the active principle. 

A plastic bottle filled with water and left in bright sun for a sufficient time will UV-sterilize its contents (SODIS: SOlar water DIStillation). Sadly, plastic bottles may be foraged along all the coasts of the world.

Food is foragable in hunter (fish, game, fowl) / gatherer mode. 

For sailors, fishing is the easiest, especially if you are willing to eat cod and other 'scrap' fish. I'll include other seafoods in this category, despite not being fish per se... crustaceans and molluscs  (grazing, single shell types are less prone to PSP (Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning) than bivalves).

Hunting and fowling are another deep subject I'll leave for another time. Consider salting, smoking, jerking and canning as longer term options for preservation without a freezer.

Most environments that are even marginally intact support a wealth of edible plants, and guides are generally available featuring local edibles and those to avoid.

Guerrilla gardens can help concentrate and enhance native plants, and add select, supplemental varieties. In our region, for instance, high-carb plants are few and far between... guerrilla potato patches are one way to add them. Alternatively, consider adopting a paleo-, neo-paleo- or neo-lithic diet... all three come much easier once you're out there.

NOTE: These diets are a little fuzzy. Generally speaking, paleo diet allows only wild grains (if at all), neopaleo diet adds early, cultivated grains, while neolithic adds 'modern' whole grains.

Plants can be dried (big weight and volume savings... just add water!), canned and fermented to preserve.

Fuel is used for heating, cooking and power (electrical and possibly propulsion).

Wood and other bio-fuels can be collected from land and shorelines along the way. 

We've had the most experience with wood, and supporting technologies are highly developed. A mild-steel stove or range, for instance, will work with driftwood, where cast iron will degrade. Rocket, gassifying and forced draft stoves are widely available, DIYable, and have the advantage of burning more efficiently and with less smoke. Less wood is necessary, and smaller pieces work well meaning reduced impact ashore, footprint aboard and gathering effort.

Materials are mostly wood in some form, and, nowadays, beach-combed trash. These can be used for repair, replacement and fabrication of new features.

Wood grows on trees, and spars of all sorts - masts, booms, battens, sprits - can be constructed with minimal shaping (especially when your vessel has been designed for tree shapes). Planks, knees and half-rounds (rails) take more effort, but can cover most any ship-board need. Wooden vessels take these materials in stride; resin based and composite vessels can be patched with them but may require further work once back in 'town'.

Beach combed garbage can often be repurposed to fill all sorts of needs. We're living in the neo-plasticene, after all. Planks, fasteners, containers, hoops, chafe gear, (PVC) springs, hose, valves, and so on can all be improvised from plastic garbage. There's an amazing assortment of metal this and that floating about, too, attached to wood or half sunk in sand. Repurposing rulz!


Two additional aspects are key to all this; skills and tools.

Skills include the ability to identify, hunt / gather / process / preserve wild foods, tool use and maintenance. Is ingenuity a skill? Certainly of help! Ditto a sense of humor.

Tools run the gamut and are suited to your approach. Tools for mechanical, wood-working, wood-gathering and transport, fishing rods and reels, firearms, canning, drying, cooking and processing and maintenance are all possibilities to be tailored to your particular approach.

I lump into this category fasteners, wire, zip-ties and the what-have-you that lets you keep stuff from moving. Lubes to keep stuff moving. Consider generalist items that can be used flexibly in unexpected situations.


The learning curves involved vary from low pitch to steep, and all are more or less life-long pursuits. That being said, the journey has rewards from the very first step, and the entire path is rich in satisfactions.

Foraged necessaries extend our time at large on the water, freed from return to the world of shopping and the cash economy with all its demands.

The reward is freedom!

PS. On our return, our first serious guerilla garden plot of potatoes had done well despite record heat early on, followed by exceptional wet! WooHOO!!

Sailing quietly, doing nothing, potatoes grow by themselves!

Spuds in Space!
Well... it's a Rocket Stove.