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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.


  1. Kudos on your foraging exploration! Developing that sort of resilience brings a sense of well being almost unknown in the modern world.

    Just curious where you went and what your thoughts are on the viability of foraging through the winter months?

    1. Hi David,

      In our new (forager/oldster) boat, we rowed and sailed around Chichagof Island plus a trip up Lynn Canal and back. About 450nm. More on that in posts to come.

      We're pretty confident that winter foraging, plus what we've put up from summer, will keep us well fed push-come-to-shove. But haven't tried out the winter end of it, yet... will come down to preserving the proteins for winter consumption, doing more winter hunting/fishing or a combination. Drying greens ahead has worked just fine.

      Hoping to try out the end-of-summer fish/hunt camp where we put up a winter's worth of food while the getting is easy. We're basically 6 months of full forage, 6 months of winter.

      Dave Z

    2. Yes, it would be great to hear more about your thoughts on rowing/sailing Mustelid. Were most nights spent at anchor or beached? How does she compare with Wayward as an oldster's craft? How did foraging on the outer coast compare with inside waters?

      And about a hundred other questions, but that's a start:)

      Looking forward to future posts.

    3. I'll reply in brief (more depth in future posts):

      Rowing/sailing worked out well. Unexpectedly able to windward... enough to make us consider more effort in pursuing it.

      Most nights at anchor, but with maybe a couple of weeks beached, total out of 4mos.

      Much easier than WW in all respects. Accommodations were very comfortable, though luxuries were minimal.

      Outer coast is in some ways easier for forage, we thought. Mostly due to high variation of niches set very close together. We had access to all inside waters niches cheek on jowl with open gulf niches.

      More to come!

      Dave Z

    4. Posted on behalf of David Omick:

      --Maintaining caloric intake is usually where foraging succeeds or fails. Roughly what percentage of your calories came from seafood?
      I'm guessing it was quite high and in terms of foraging, this is especially interesting as seafood could be depended on during winter months.

      --Did you tend to forage for a time in one location before traveling to another place? If so, how long before moving on?

    5. Hi David,

      I'd say the major share of our calories (over the two months before the experiment diluted) was from fish.

      While we brought olive oil with us and used it sparingly for starting to fry (though we often poach without added oil), we scaled fish (mostly cod and pink salmon) and ate the skin (rich in oils and other good stuff. I noticed that I, especially, went after every last bit of oil available! We also ate their livers, eggs and roe (all rich in oils) as well as hearts.

      We ate a LOT of (mostly red huckle) berries, but they are more tart than sweet. Hard to guesstimate thier caloric contribution.

      The rest was wild greens and sea'weeds'. As much as we wanted.

      From our additives, some mayo (for sauces), rice/lentils (1 dry cup every third day or so). We'd use that to make a 'snackable' salad for long rowing days, and take a bite or two when hunger hit.

      So it wasn't pure subsistence, but close enough that we felt confident we could reach it.

      One calorie source we want to try is tapping alder and cooking down to concentrate sugars (for wine making, especially, but we'll see). Fuel is pretty much for free.

      We pretty much foraged as we went, and only lingered especially for some really great berry patches. Fishing could be done from the boat (anchored or under way), most places, or we'd row out to the nearest fishy looking patch of kelp.

      That being said, we'd anchor anywhere from a few hours to a week, depending on what we wanted to explore and conditions.

      The longer we stayed, the more efficiently we could gather and fish. But the difference isn't too large. We find that a glance from a distance pretty well distinguishes a rich patch from a sparse one. So we don't lose too much to prospecting around.

      Dave Z

  2. Awesome article, I've just returned from several rabbit holes from your links. Guerrilla Gardening is a gem in itself.

    Is there any way to print out your articles for my survival-adventure binder?

    Again, was great to see a new article.

    1. Hi Michael,

      Your browser should have a PRINT and SAVE PAGE option... depending on how they handle it, one or both should give you a workable option.

      Would love to hear more about your binder!

      Dave Z

    2. Hello Dave! Will try out your print options this afternoon after I score more printer ink. So far, I cannot forage or scavenge that LOL.

      Binder started a few years ago when I noticed I had hundreds of links of useful stuff and upon checking found MANY of those links were Gone.

      That and I found a nor'easter a few years back when I was sick that my beloved had issues with the generator-power up the house. She didn't know the steps as well as I thought. Not her fault, mine for lack of refresher training or a Printout of How Too.

      Skills need refreshing and if it's Important get a Hard Copy.

    3. Couldn't agree more!

      Here's one of my many, more-or-less languishing projects that might interest you:

      Pretty much your binder approach, but with (hopefully) crowd-sourced content sheets. A lot of the work has been done by someone, but much remains, and a clearing-house site would be a real bonus.

      Maybe you're interested?

      Dave Z

  3. I am glad to see you two have returned to the world of internet communication.
    On the theme of skills and scrap metal might I refer your more connected readers to and to you I recommend Jerry Frost and the Alaskan blacksmith association. Good people all.
    Hand forged copper nails from salvaged copper grounding wire sounds like something right up your alley.

    1. Hi Charles,

      Thanks for those links... I'll check them out!

      We used foraged copper grounding wire to rivet planking on our first boat (lapstrake). Made the washers from copper pennies, which were a lot easier to come by back then.

      So yes, you have our number to several places! 8)

      Dave Z

  4. Look me up on IFI and I will try to introduce you to the black arts ;-)

    1. Okay... what's IFI stand for? DZ


    3. May be a while afore I get there, but I'm a'comin'! DZ

  5. Way cool rocket stove adaptation to a small microcruiser. Already had my portable rocket stove but ordered my own set of loppers today. Thanks!

    Amen to looking forward to a microcruiser performance review with (sorry, creaking joints distracted me a bit) the elder sailor slant. Especially how you two strategized and handled the west side of Chichagof. Pretty amazing. Good to see you both appear healthy and happy too.

    BTWay: planning on self sufficient months in a low pop density- resource rich cruising ground may just pay off in spades the way the global stage is developing. Peace be wid yas.

    1. Hi Roberto,

      That hood over the rocket stove hinges up, so we can remove it for cleaning and outdoor use. All materials foraged!

      More about the trip coming soon!

      Dave Z

  6. Some of the most memorable times have been cooking and eating foraged food. And... facing the probability of being far from politically correct in the future, a good skill to cultivate.

    1. Hi Len,

      It's an experience we find fulfilling on any number of levels... gastronomically, economically, historically, environmentally... the 'allys' go on and on! 8)

      Dave Z

  7. Schofield is a good guide. We’ve been using it for years.

    Also useful is Beverly Gray’s _The Boreal Herbal_ and _Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast_ by McKinnon, et al.

    Also, for medicinals, there’s _Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West_ by Michael Moore.

    We consider all if these essential.

    1. Agree on all of those... and I'd add David Aurora's All_the_Rain_Promises_and_More for mushrooms. His Mushrooms_Demystified if you're delving deeper.

      Dave Z

  8. A brief comment and a request:

    Winter (and winter storage) is the key season to consider when thinking about a forage/subsistence lifestyle.

    It would be nice to be able to see some detailed plans and/or explanation of your rocket stove adaptation for indoor use.

    1. Yes to winter storage... we collect twice as many plants as we eat in spring/summer/autumn and dry ahead for winter. It pretty much all fits in a 4g square bucket. Seaweeds are good all year round, though not as prime in winter.

      We're hoping to start canning once we get some set-up time, and will start fishing for bigger salmon and halibut, and (maybe) start hunting deer as well. For now it's small cod, rice/lentil, cheese and peanut butter for winter proteins. Work in progress. 8)

      RE the Rocket Stove and Hood... I'll try to get a post out on that. Meanwhile, Episodes 4 and 6 of the MUSTELID series (releasing one a week at the link below) will show the installation in more detail.

      Basically, it's a flattish box with a cutout that fits over the stovetop. A stack from it's after end leads up, through a deck flange and out a smokehead in the normal manner. Only special thing is the stack can be very short as Rocket Stoves push fumes via thermal expansion (which is why the work at the front end of Rocket Thermal Mass Heaters... about 40ft of push).

      Dave Z

      MUSTELID Series:

  9. I mentioned offshore desalinators for foraging water... there have been some recent developments.

    QUENCHSEA has developed a low cost manual pump ($130).

    Even more exciting, they have an innovative system that reels a container down 300m - 500m... pressure at depth drives salt water across an osmotic filter, leaving fresh water. They claim it's a 5min process. COOL!

    In other news, MIT researchers have made high yield atmospheric collectors from inexpensive materials (gel)... this tech should be coming available soon for DIY.

    So exciting times for foraged water at sea!

    Dave Z