Friday, December 02, 2011

Occupy the Million Dollar View

Now that the current phase of the Occupation movement—one that involved camping out in public places—is drawing to a close, thoughts turn to other, even more effective venues and exploits. Occupying the front lawns of mansions owned by the 1% would certainly send a message, although a very brief one, since trespassing happens to be illegal.

And then it hit me: it just so happens that the 1% own, roughly speaking, 99% of the really desirable beachfront properties, while the 99% have to make do with the 1% or so of the coastline that is reserved for public use. The 1%ers really like that “million-dollar view,” and the seaside mansion is one of their ultimate status symbols. Try to approach them from land, and you will quickly get spotted by vigilant local police and private security and won't make it very far—well shy of making any sort of statement, or even getting on the 1%er's radar.

But it just so happens that, according to US Federal law, they can only own property down to the low water line. In absence of specific regulations (marine sanctuary, public beach, municipal harbor, shipping lane, military reservation and so on) everything below the low water line is considered public anchorage. (It is everything below the high water line in Canada, which means that you can even occupy the beach at low tide and still not be trespassing.) Any vessel can anchor within a few meters of the 1%ers property, entirely spoiling their precious view with gigantic protest signs hanging from the mast, but if the boat is manned and is legal, then there is not a thing that they can do about it. On a calm evening, you can sail up, anchor, raft up, put up a big sail to use as a screen, and project a movie onto it. Eat the Rich, anyone? Then film their reaction, and project that next, with subtitles.

You might think that getting a sailboat flotilla together takes a lot of money. The boats that 1%ers such as Senator John Kerry prefer certainly are super-pricy, but then there are also many boats that can be had for free or for $1 (provided you agree to sail it away), or for a very small sum. For most people, sailboats are luxury items, and in these hard times many owners can't afford to keep them. They would like to get what they think their boats are worth, but since they can't, and since the boats are costing them money they don't have just sitting there, they are often willing to part with them for very little money. The trick is to make a ridiculously low offer sound non-insulting.

If a sailboat is engineless or has an outboard engine of 9.9 horsepower or less (which doesn't count as a real engine) then it is automatically grandfathered in and doesn't even need to be registered: just paint a name and a port of call on the transom, and it is legal. If it has an inboard diesel that runs, pull it out and sell it, and use the proceeds to finance the purchase of the boat itself, sometimes with money left to spare.

Would you like a more permanent occupation? Rotate vessels through the anchorage, going on an overnight cruise to nowhere every fortnight or so, keep all of the boats occupied at all times, and you are still legal. To establish a permanent base of operations that doesn't move, buy a mooring (a stationary mushroom anchor with a buoy chained to it) and use it to park a habitable but non-seaworthy vessel such as a houseboat.

There are some safety requirements, but they are minimal: life jackets and life preservers, sanitation (a composting toilet works well), functioning navigation lights, fire extinguishers and flares (unexpired ones), and an anchor. Land cops can't touch you. It helps to have a marine VHF radio. When hailed, you have to know radio protocol and marine terminology, and use it. If boarded, you have to cooperate. Some things are stricter than on land: get caught with any drugs, and the vessel gets arrested (as well as you). Neglect boat maintenance in a serious way, and it will be declared “manifestly unsafe” and scuttled, and you will be set ashore. But the water is generally free of riffraff as well as police brutality. Everyone tends to be polite, safety-conscious and just does their job.

You might have some issues with private security, who might not be particularly interested in following the law. But then sailors in pirate-infested waters have found a neat trick that really works: shooting skeet. It's quite challenging to hit a clay pigeon from a boat, so you will need to bring plenty of shotgun shells. It is good sport, and also a peaceful yet effective show of force that works on pirates, and will certainly make the private Mickey Mouse cops think twice about challenging you further.

For something more to do, why not join a yacht race? Yacht races are organized for and by some of the wealthiest 1%ers, who like to show off before each other. Join them just for the downwind leg (their fancy racing sloops are all about tacking upwind and actually don't do that well downwind) and unfurl a gigantic square sail with a protest sign painted on it. You might even win (that leg).

And so I hope that come next summer there will be Occupy flotillas floating up to crash swank exclusive seaside gatherings by planting themselves directly in the middle of the million dollar view and doing what Occupy already does very well: trolling the 1%ers really, really hard, 100% legally, and giving the 99%ers a chance to start thinking about getting out of that tired old pantomime sheep costume and into something a bit more fashionable.


Stanislav Datskovskiy said...

What would be a good source to read about first-time cheap/fixer-upper boat purchase and setup?

Lance M. Foster said...

Once there was a meeting in town where the wealthy were trying to pass something deleterious to poor folks in a public meeting. Well, before the meeting was to occur, the poor didn't bathe for a couple of days, then wore very warm clothes, drank beer and ate garlic and boiled eggs, cranked up the room's heat and closed the windows, and showed up en masse, packing the room. The rich didn't stay long enough in that very "close" room to pass the motion.

Free or $1 boats? How does that work anyways?

Journal Actif said...

Lance Michael Foster, I love that meeting story. It must have been hilareous to see the rich people reaction.

kollapsnik, great occupation idea! Just imagining their reaction is soothing the indignation.

Silenus said...

I like it! However, I do think that if people were showing up on the shores of wealthy people's beach mansions, and if this were interpreted as especially menacing, then some kind of forceful reaction would occur. If shotguns were being fired in the air and the police opened fire to kill the shooters, no authority would blame the police for that, even though these activities are legal.

Power operates according to its own law, which is deeper than any law system a particular society constructs. Power will defend itself when there is a serious threat, just like life defends itself. There's the will to live and the will to power, and the latter is at least as strong as the former. I have no doubt that if there is a revolution, some sizable portion of the population will die in the inevitable civil war initiated by those who lose formal power but maintain connections, influence, and the will to fight.

Nonetheless, conflict and deaths are a foregone conclusion in a collapse like the one we're facing. So it's best to get used to the kind of suffering that's coming.

Neil said...

I've heard of Seasteading, not sure what I think of it even though an old friend is now the CEO. Your idea seems cheaper. Maybe give it a resonant name like Occupied Tide.

Did you see what the children (our future) are up to the other day?

I see a serious trend in Seattle's future.

Anonymous said...

Michael Moore used to have a cable TV show, called "The Awful Truth." It was roughly ten years ago. One episode featured a bunch of people from Harlem "invading" a swanky private beach in Greenwich, CT. The beach had a residents-only policy that in practice meant only rich, white people could use it.

They invaded from the sea. Also rented a helicopter, I think. Very funny footage.

I just looked it up to check my memory, and apparently the case went to the CT supreme court, which ruled that the public beach had to be open to anyone. Even the 99%.

Glenn said...

All right Dmitry, you're going to have to tell them about Phil Bolger's designs. I believe he once designed an 8 person rowing boat that cost less than the prize money.

Minor detail, (I was a Coast Guard Boarding Officer for almost 20 years) you don't have to have a radio; you just have to use it correctly if you do. They are handy, just not required.

Things not required that are even more useful are an anchor or two, charts and a few things that let you relate the chart to what you can see and where you are.

Marrowstone Island
Jeffferson County
Washington State,

Master of the
Sloop - Boat
and the
Scow Bay

Chad hedstrom said...

Good luck making a hand drawn protest sign big enough to be seen from the shore. Sailboats have a 4-7 foot draft, meaning they need to be anchored in at least 5 feet of water at low tide. Protests aren't very effective when even the photographers with their telephoto lenses have trouble picking up on what you're protesting. Sailboats parked offshore generally add value to homes, not detract from it.

Kevin said...

My question is the same as Stanislav's. Is there some better source than Craigslist used by people savvier than I? It sure isn't the local yachting magazines I've checked out - those ads are all for boats selling for big bucks, even the used ones.

Selling the inboard diesel to finance the purchase sounds like a brilliant solution, but I expect you'd have to put cash down first, then hope to recoup it with the engine sale.

Chad, I believe Dmitry's boat draws no more than two feet of water. If I recall correctly, it's a "Bolger Box" with a retractable dagger board. If stranded by a low tide, it will rest upright on the exposed sea bottom until the tide comes in again.

The rich folks might slap you with a harassment suit, I suppose. I've never fired a weapon in my life, so I'm afraid skeet shooting would only expose my lack of marksmansip. Pitrates would laugh.

Sixbears said...

Love it!

The 1% is already fighting to preserve their view. In parts of FL, they put in mooring fields to keep the riff raff out. There are fewer free anchorages. Middle of the night "inspections" have taken place, searching for marine violations and drugs. Rarely is anything ever found. For some reason the 2 million dollar yacht is never boarded.

I bought a 19 foot Oday trailer sailer in good shape for small money. With the swing keel up, it only draws a foot of water. I've anchored right off $$$$ property many times. Occasionally have gotten some nasty looks, but there wasn't anything they could do about it.

The little boat was intended for a weekender, but we've set it up so we could go a few weeks without setting foot on shore. We've lived in tents, so a small sailboat isn't confining. The outdoors is big.

My wife and I are slowly working towards living on the water about half the year. The other half we plan on downsizing from our house (will give it to kids) to a small yurt.

We sail all the time. Nothing like a small sailboat to learn the wind and the waves.

What the rich really hate is having to look at poor people having fun. Anchor off their beaches. Laugh and sing and dance.

Anonymous said...


I am an avid follower of your blog, and the ideas that you propagate in your book, which changed my life when I first read it and as I watch the beginning stages of collapse play out.

That said, I hope that this blog post (and your idea to "Occupy the Million Dollar view") gains no traction or popularity. I hope that no-one listens to you, that no-one follows this advice, that it goes no-where.

The only reason that the benefits that you list of being on a sailboat apply, versus being on land, (free from land cop harassment, regulation, minimal red-tape requirements, ability to traverse the commons without hassle, etc.) is that the 1% have not had a need to regulate it as yet.

That is, free and open access and use of the sea (and minimal restrictions on boaters) hasn't caused the ruling class a problem. Yet. If it does, you can expect a response that will make sea travel look more and more like air travel.

If people took this blog post seriously and actually did what you suggest, there would be blow-back from the 1% in the form of new and restrictive regulations regarding sailboats. Things that ordinary car drivers must contend with, (which you rightfully mocked when you gave up a car) such as safety and emissions inspections, absurd rules of behavior, punitive fines and insurance laws, etc could become commonplace as a reaction to your idea.

Of course, these trappings are just a flimsy pretext meant to keep people "in line" and to provide a means to seize their ability to travel after extorting money if they get out of line.

So, keep the excellent blog-posts coming but hopefully you will not advocate anything that screws up the post-collapse plans of this budding sailboat enthusiast!

Anonymous said...

Wow, things are so much better after the occupy-all-that-stuff movement. I can't wait until "occupy boats" really rocks our world! Unending awesomeness for sure!

YesMaybe said...

Ngakpa Kalsang:

I think he's kidding.

russell1200 said...

In South Carolina the beaches are public property. What happens when you land on a beach that is normally accessible only via a gated community is of course an open question.

Neal: I like the video. There are a lot of people in a high school or middle school. If they all show up enmass it can make an impressive crowd. I am guessing nobody was pepper sprayed.

Hans said...

Is there a decibel restriction?

izzit said...

Yeah- that's why they (WA Land Use) are currently trying to outlaw everything that floats, and I mean everything - they even pestered the Coast Guard about their ugly ice-cutters & the Navy about their rusty tubs ("Ma'am? We're protecting you?) Sleepless in Seattle houseboat - everything must go. They claim it's to remove 'greywater' from the environment - meanwhile they pay small fines for dumping diesel, toxic chemicals, medical waste, you name it into the lakes & sewers... and claim your Tom's toothbrush morning swill is ruining their view - oops, I mean, the environment!

izzit said...

PS In areas like upstate NY (according to the Times), every podunk county is awash in Homeland money, and have used it to give themselves a federally funded holiday on the Hudson, 365+.
Recreational boaters tell of being boarded five times a day or more!

And don't get me started on the sea drones... yes, another bad 80's sci-fi script come true.

(That said, Orlov is quite right. The boat dream is cheap now! Just buy new-ish - and look scenic...)

JoHio said...

Brilliant. This is cutting edge.
Orlov's Navy.

nodecorum said...

Please advise everyone who thinks this is a good idea to learn how to sail real well before planning to anchor close into shore with the auxiliary engine as a back-up. At least mention to do this only in protected anchorages. If you want to spend any time on boats, first learn to respect the sea and understand it complexities.
As an alternative, get a boat, learn to sail it real well and paint your message on the mainsail and go out and enjoy the water. Plenty of people will see your message. And never forget that the sea is not very forgiving.
P.S. Racing downwind is much more exhilarating and all around preferred to upwind pounding to weather. Just ask a sailor.

Journal Actif said...

Here's an other idea.
(Occupy the Waterfront, vintage movie poster style)

I prefer the design on Dmitry's t-shirt though. Ordering one for my 11-years-old son, who loves anything water.