Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Black Box Theory of Sailing

It’s the start of a new sailing season and as we prepare the boat for another 6 – 8 months of sailing, an article, I am sure many sailors are familiar with springs to mind; Jon Vigor’s, Black Box theory of sailing. For those who are not yet familiar with it, it is a theory suggesting why some sailors come into trouble and while others seem to sail on by unscathed. It explains that sailing is reduced to 5 essential elements.
A well found ship.
A good crew.
Adequate preparation and maintenance.
But the 5th essential is never given a name. Could it be the reason why some sailors will go aground on the only patch of sand that is surround by reefs or despite all your best efforts the elements go against you but somehow you come out safe and sound. Jon Vigor reduced this 5th essential to the black box theory. Whereby, every boat has its own imaginary black box, which is filled up with lucky points when you practice good seamanship or are safety conscious. There is no way to check how many points are in the box but points come out too when you ignore that inner voice in your head that tells you, you should have checked something or waited for better weather etc.
If the box is kept filled then when you do get into unexpected trouble the lucky points will help you. However if your box is empty then maybe your luck is running low.

And so with this in mind I am thinking back over the last season and wondering did we work hard enough on “Alianna”. Maybe we should have ticked off a few more jobs on the jobs list. Its not that we are not safety conscious, Sim is overly so – working extra hard to put in points for my clumsiness at times. We have done all the usual checks when we are about to put to sea. Sim has checked the engine and fixed the small over heating problem on our old, 33hp Westerbeke by cleaning out the heat exchanger. I have been up the mast on two occasions and checked the rig to the best of my ability or taken pictures for Sim to inspect when I get down. A few water leaks have been fixed though we still have a couple more we need to do while we are here. The hull and the propeller have been scraped free of barnacles and the chain scrubbed of all the nasty growth that had accumulated in the particularly potent Prickly Bay.

Despite all this I still have that nagging feeling that our little black box could be fuller. So we will keep chipping away at the jobs list in an effort to earn more points to keep us safe on our travels.

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