Sailing the Apocalypse – A Different Kind of Sea Story for Preppers

Sailing the Apocalypse, the latest novel by Scott B. Williams, lets you imagine what it’s like to combine prepping with going out to sea. It’s a different kind of sea story for preppers. It’s not like any I’ve read before. Let me explain.

Do you know someone who’s anticipating a widespread collapse? Some people do, you know, and they become immersed in grandiose plans for survival. They have an unstoppable sense of urgency. It’s as if they’re eager for things to fall apart.

However, carrying out their plans can sometimes be plagued by misadventure. That’s the situation Scott B. Williams describes in Sailing the Apocalypse. If nothing else, that title should make you curious to read it.

I enjoyed reading this novel, and I believe you will, too.Trust me when I say it’s not just another sea story. Unlike Scott’s previous works of fiction, this isn’t a post apocalyptic story. In fact, this one has a message for those anticipating a coming collapse. I’ll share my observations about that below.

The Captain at the Novel’s Helm

Scott B. Williams has been my guest on DestinySurvival Radio several times before to talk about both his nonfiction and fiction writings. He always has something interesting to relate to preppers, and I’m glad to have him back on for our conversation this week.

If you’re not familiar with Scott, or you need a refresher…


Scott has been writing about his adventures for more than twenty-five years. His published work includes dozens of magazine articles and twelve books, with more projects currently underway. His interest in backpacking, sea kayaking and sailing small boats to remote places led him to pursue the wilderness survival skills that he has written about in his popular survival nonfiction books such as Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It’s Too Late. He has also authored travel narratives such as On Island Time: Kayaking the Caribbean, an account of his two-year solo kayaking journey through the islands. With the release of The Pulse in 2012, The Darkness After in 2013, and Refuge in 2014, Scott moved into writing fiction and has many more novels in the works.


Sailing the Apocalypse


Charting the Novel’s Course

Terry Bailey is obsessed with escaping America and traveling tby sea to remote islands before America inevitably collapses. Robbie, his 12-year-old stepson tells us the story. He and his mother and older sister have never been exposed to the kind of notions and plans Terry puts forth.

They spend a quick two years building a 46-foot Wharram catamaran on which their sailing journey begins. They leave their home in Mississippi and manage to sail as far as the Florida Keys. This is a whole new adventure for all of them–or misadventure, as the case may be.

Things don’t quite go as intended. They encounter several difficulties, such as close calls with other vessels and more than one encounter with marine police. Oh, then there’s Leona. (You’ll hjust have to read the book.) Scott assures me these are realistic situations.

Even though it’s told from a 12-year-old’s viewpoint, Sailing the Apocalypse isn’t intended specifically to be a young adult story. It’s engaging, entertaining reading for adults as well. Scott touches on a number of significant ideas many of us will be familiar with. This novel isn’t meant to be a heavy read, and so it isn’t. But it proves to be instructional without seeming like a sermon.

I believe Scott has hit upon something much bigger than telling an entertaining tale. It has to do with our attitude toward the world as it is and how we will prepare to face what’s coming. Will we see an instantaneous collapse? Or will it be a slow burn? And, most importantly, how should we respond?

The Character at the Boat’s Helm

Terry Bailey is a fictional character drawn from Scott’s experiences with other people. Terry’s example is largely negative and should serve as a warning to us. Though he is knowledgeable and has many skills, he’s not as knowledgeable and skilled as he thinks he is, and it gets him in trouble.

Terry is the proverbial “gloom and doomer,” but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong about everything. I’ll bet you’d be surprised by how many of his viewpoints you believe are right.

Being preoccupied with his escape plans, Terry doesn’t take time to enjoy what day to day life has to offer. In his dealings with others, he thinks he’s right and has all the answers. If only others were as brilliant as he is–or as he thinks he is. Humility isn’t one of Terry’s assets. He “blows off” most people and wouldn’t have been a pleasant person to be around.

But it’s not all negative with Terry. He became a mentor to Robbie as they worked on the boat together. He didn’t try to go it alone. His core group was his immediate family.

And wouldn’t we all like to have our families on board (no pun intended) with our prepping efforts?

Coming to Know This Guy

Chances are, you know somebody like Terry. I did. Can we talk?

Reading about Terry became personal for me. I could relate to who he is because he reminds me a lot of my late friend, Gerald Franz. I don’t share what follows with the intent of speaking ill of Gerald by comparing him to Terry. He was like a father to me. But it’s rare I can identify this much with a character in a novel, so bear with me while I give vent to my feelings a bit.

Like Terry, Gerald was knowledgeable about a wide variety of topics and collected countless books. Among them were books on all aspects of survival and preparedness. He ordered unbelievable amounts of survival related things online so he could have them delivered by UPS and not have to drive. However, he did make plenty of trips to the hardware store and Wal-Mart to get parts for various projects, often designed for escape and evasion..

Terry and Gerald also had in common a dark view of the future and a sense of urgency to get prepared. Both were wary of most people and had a low opinion of the common man as well as of government and big corporations. Like Terry, Gerald thought his beliefs were right, and others should, too. Both were negative about many things, but Terry’s came from pride and saving face.

And that’s where the differences begin. Gerald could be a real charmer, not abrasive like Terry. Gerald wasn’t nearly as full of himself as Terry when it came to dealing with other people. Regarding a dark view of the future, Christian beliefs tempered Gerald’s. He saw hope in a time to come because he was a student–and once a teacher–of Bible prophecy, having a solid faith in Jesus Christ.

Another big difference is that Terry acted upon his escape plans. Gerald was always contriving clever ways to escape, but didn’t follow through.

Having said that, he did score a newsworthy achievement on the water back in the early ’80’s when he attempted an atlantic Ocean crossing. Unfortunately, it failed not far out to sea, and he was rescued by the Coast Guard.

In later years he owned a nice sailboat and trailer, as well as a couple of kayaks and canoes, which sat deteriorating at his place, until he allowed them to be sold before he died. Previously he went out with one of his little canoes once or twice for a few hours on a nearby lake. He believed people underestimated the value of getting away on the rivers. However, he concluded in the latter months of his life that his dreams of escape and community building in a remote area down South were unrealistic and weren’t going to come to pass.

But back to Terry. Were his plans and actions realistic? Read Sailing the Apocalypse and draw your own conclusions. What would you do differently?

Coping on the Sea of Life

Before I go on, please don’t feel like you have to look for the deeper things in the book. They just sort of jumped out at me. It’s really an easy, fun read. Scott says it was an easy, enjoyable book to write, too. Therefore, read it yourself and just enjoy the trip.

With that said, permit me to share a few observations about messages I picked up from the novel. While the book isn’t preachy, I tend to get that way sometimes, so I’ll understand if you think that’s the case now and decide to skip the next few paragraphs.

Take some hints from Terry’s experiences. If you’re planning to go out to sea, know your vessel and its equipment. Know the relevant regulations that pertain to wherever you’ll be sailing. Be ready for hard work and vigilance.

But here’s a “big picture” insight that comes to mind. As Scott observes, skills are vitally important for survival, even more so than equipment. While learning by doing can be a good thing, the ideal would be to gain a certain level of experience before putting ourselves and others in peril.

Scott’s novel also offers instruction for those ruled by urgency. I’m reminded of what one of my school teachers often said. “It doesn’t pay to hurry.”

That same teacher also said, “Don’t worry about anything because nothing’s going to turn out all right anyway.” But, hey, that’s why we prepare, isn’t it? Each of us is hoping to weather the bad stuff coming down the pike. But I trust none of us wants to be foolish about it.

One of the most difficult things about prepping is the fact that we don’t know when things will collapse, or how that collapse will happen. Will it be a rapid fire event, or will it be death by a thousand cuts? And just when will things fall apart anyway?

On the other hand, what if nothing happens?

I’ve said it here before, but we need to be prepared to face reality if things don’t come apart. For example, look at Y2K. Those who prepared for it were wise. Yet nothing noticeable happened, so we’re here today to tell the tale, no worse for the wear.

Coming Into the Port of Greater Knowledge

In spite of the length of this post, I’ve deliberately avoided giving away the events described in Scott’s novel. In fact, I didn’t even tell you how the book got its title. Well, you’ll glean a little bit more when you hear my conversation with Scott. So I invite you to listen to DestinySurvival Radio for February 19, 2015. (Right click to download.)

But I truly hope you’ll read Sailing the Apocalypse. By clicking on its title, or the book cover photo above, you’ll be taken to the page where you can order your copy. To find out more about Scott’s upcoming books or to contact him, visit his website at

Scott says there will be more to come. Sailing the Apocalypse is going to be the first in a series. That gives us something to look forward to. How will Terry change? What else will we be able to glean from his example? And what about Robbie? Will he grow up on a distant tropical island? And how will the rest of his family fare?

If anything you’ve read here or heard in this week’s DestinySurvival Radio sets your boat afloat, why not leave a comment below and let your thoughts sail?

An Additional Resource

If you’re serious about combining prepping and going out to sea, another resource is The Nautical Prepper, by Capt. William E. Simpson II. He was my DestinySurvival Radio guest twice in October of 2013. View posts about those shows here and here.


Author: John Wesley Smith

John Wesley Smith writes and podcasts from his home in Central Missouri. His goal is to help preppers as he continues along his own preparedness journey.