Jen Ezpeleta

ZOMBIES CAN’T SWIM Sailor proposes sailing to escape from pandemic

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Captain Kevin McQuistion, author of the upcoming book, “Bug Out Sailboat: How to Escape Zombies and Coronavirus by Living Off the Grid on a Sailboat.” Photo by Kimberly Dester

by Kimberly Dester

Captain Kevin McQuiston’s sailing affinity was realized on the Mississippi River. At 11 years old, he would take out the Sunfish, a “glorified paddle boat with a cockpit,” as he calls it, and sail the smooth waters along the east side of Iowa. Nine years ago, he bought a 34-foot sailboat he named Namaste and took a two-year sabbatical to sail from the dry safety net of Philadelphia down toward Cuba. He got as far as Charleston, South Carolina, before he was “waylaid by an inappropriate woman,” he says. 

McQuiston, a United States Coast Guard licensed Master Captain, now lives aboard his boat, a 33-foot Newport sailboat named “Livin’ the Dream” in King Harbor. He has translated his sailing expertise into a career captaining charters out of King Harbor and Long Beach’s Shoreline Village. And now he wants to teach people how to flee the next global atrocity, aboard a sailboat. 

McQuiston is self-publishing a how-to guide on surviving a pandemic by escaping on a sailboat for both novice and master sailors. “Bug Out Sailboat: How to Escape Zombies and Coronavirus by Living Off the Grid on a Sailboat” is set to be published in January on digital platforms such as Amazon. The idea struck him in the early months of the pandemic when charters and group activities were prohibited.

“When this whole thing started, my friends would ask me ‘Are you okay?’ And then they would stop and go, ‘Well, of course you’re okay. You’ve got a sailboat,’” said McQuiston. “It occurred to me, my boat is pretty much always ready to go.”

According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, one in 10 households in the United States owns a boat. McQuiston refers to sailboats as “Winnebagos that float,” making them the perfect escape vehicle when dry land is full of chaos. To keep his floating RV prepped for a sea escape, McQuiston buys a large jug of water every week and has managed to stock at least 60 days worth of food. Aside from provisions, however, he says it is not necessary to map out a detailed schedule since the unpredictability of the sea is sure to thwart those efforts.

“Yeah, you can prepare. But you’re going to have to deal with whatever it is,” he says. “You don’t need to live in that story of what could happen. When you’re sailing, you can think about what’s going to be coming up; it’s just you and the water. You can think about the plan, you  can pack the food, but what’s going on right now? What’s our course? How’s the boat moving right now? Everything else is just a story you’re making up in your head.”

McQuiston studied at a Buddhist seminary and aligns his beliefs with the eastern philosophy of living in the “now.” He says Buddhism and sailing have their moments of intertwining: sailing, he says, is the closest thing to Zen he has achieved in the  western hemisphere. He also says the Buddhist philosophy of living in the “now” is, in itself, a survival technique. The trick, he says, is not to prepare, but to accept what is currently happening.

His website, bugoutsailboat.com, offers sailing lessons and instruction on how to craft an escape plan. His ultimate goal is to offer the average American an option beside playing the waiting game on shore should another pandemic hit. He also wants to help others embrace the lifestyle that has brought him so much peace, regardless of survival techniques. 

“[My sailboat] is my temple where I feel like one with everything,” says McQuiston. “It’s my office where bougie women day drink Chardonnay with me. It’s my sanctuary.”

See bugoutsailboat.com for more information. ER 

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