Can You Survive On The Beach?
We just got back from a relaxing short vacation in Duck, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We typically spend a few days there each spring, and as I sit on the beach, watching the dolphins and pelicans while I enjoy a cigar, my thoughts sometimes wander to what it would be like to use a place like Duck as a BOL or permanent retreat.
I'm sure that many of us have dreamt of hitting the lotto jackpot and buying 1,000 acre spread in the mountains of Montana with a bunker, several years of food, small livestock, and a completely off-grid 5,000 square foot log cabin... but what other options are there for the lottery millionaire survivalist?
If you are not familiar with the Outer Banks, they are the barrier islands blocking the North Carolina coastline from the ravages of tides, waves and even hurricanes. Among the islands and communities are Roanoke (where "the Lost Colony" was before disappearing, Ocracoke (where Blackbeard based his pirate operations), Hatteras (home of one of the iconic East Coast lighthouses), Nags Head (where the Wright brothers first achieved powered flight), Duck (former home of a munitions impact area) and Corolla (known for wild horses descended from those left behind by shipwrecked Spanish treasure hunters in the 17th century).
So, would it work? First the negatives: small lot size, no ground fresh water, limited wildlife, extremely crowded during "the season," and very susceptible to hurricanes and tropical weather systems. But let's take a look at how it could work if you had a giant jackpot at your disposal. I'll use Duck as the location.
First, access: After crossing from the mainland on the Rt. 158 bridge to Southern Shores, you take a left and head up highway 12. It is the only way to go north through Duck, into Corolla and it ends at a beach access point where there are no roads for the last few miles of NC beach to the Virgina border. There a person would find a very inhospitable state park facility with a beach/desert/wilderness. Essentially, other than by boat, there is only one way in and one way out of Duck. It is between a couple hundred yards and about a half mile wide from the Atlantic beach to the sound shore. Were a SHTF scenario happen, it would be a simple matter to barricade the highway and only allow in those who own property. A "neighborhood watch" of sorts could be established for a coastal boat patrol. At the Army Corps of Engineers facility on the impact area, they have a very long pier and a very tall watch tower.
I'd construct an elevated home on the beach front. The dune system is well established and provides good protection. I'd have the home engineered to be much more durable than the typical beach house, with concrete pillars, hardyplank siding, steel framing, and shatter-resistant windows covered by roll-down steel hurricane shutters. The roofs there usually have a number of angles and profiles. I'd use that as a fresh water collection source during rain, feeding to a cistern for use when municipal water sources fail. The roof itself would be covered in solar panels and a small wind turbine would combine to be the primary power source (I'd stay grid tied, but have battery power storage). I'd naturally include a safe room, along with storage for weapons, equipment and food.
You'd think that a coastal island would not be suitable for growing food, but you'd be surprised. The area is surprisingly covered in brush and trees, and many restaurants have their own gardens. I think you'd have to really build up the soil, and incorporate huglekultur methods, but food production could definitely be done at least on a limited or supplemental level. With proper shelter, you could also raise rabbits and chickens. For food gathering, fish from either the sound or the ocean are likely, along with crabs, seabirds, and small mammals like squirrels and opossum being abundant. We even saw a white tail deer doe in the brush on the leeward side of the beach dunes at the resort where we stayed. The wildlife is evidence that fresh water can be harvested or contained. The wild horses of Coralla get their water mostly from the plants they eat, but are also known to use their hooves to dig holes 2-4 feet deep which then fill with fresh water during rains. Of course, with the large amount of wood, a small population for a relatively short (6 months or so) duration event, could do desalination from a still.
Speaking of population, the year-round residential population of Duck is about 500. During "the season" that grows to about 20,000 transients. If SHTF in the summer, most of these people would leave for home. During the winter, the residents would most likely be prepared for a longer time than an average person on the mainland simply because so many stores and restaurants are closed and folks need to plan ahead.
If you had the money to build the right kind of home, I think that a place in Duck (or a similarly remote beach location like Key West, Hilton Head, Chincoteague, etc... could be a viable full-time retreat location for many events other than a hurricane. It would be ideal for a pandemic situation with a long quarantine (either ordered or self-imposed).