A Thought for the New Year

Our new friends, Natalie and Mitchell from Sea Major, called last night at 8:30 pm (gasp) to see if they could come over for a visit. Once we wrapped our brains around having a reason to stay up past 8:30, we had a great time recapping our respective trips down the ICW and drinking cheap beer. Currently, Journey has settled for Yuengling and, last night, Sea Major chose Budweiser. Based on our newly realized beer limitations, we’ve decided to pretend we’re in high school again, although I’d also need a bottle of Boone’s Farm and Jake, a pack of Camels ;)

We chatted a lot about this crazy cruising life that we have recently adopted and the types of cruisers we have encountered. After playing with words for a few minutes, we decided that some cruisers carefully practice good seamanship and others, not so much. Maybe because we are newbies, we all feel like being obsessively prudent with systems, charts, and weather is essential (for Natalie and me, it probably has more to do with our chosen captains, they’re both a little… meticulous :)

It made me think of a theory I have read about on countless cruising blogs called “The Black Box Theory” from The Practical Mariner’s Book of Knowledge by John Vigor. Admittedly, I haven’t read the book, but the theory reads like this:

“The basis of the theory is that there is no such thing as fortuitous luck at sea. The reason why some boaters survive storms or have fewer accidents than others is that they EARN their “luck” by diligent and constant acts of seamanship. Aboard every boat there’s an invisible black box. Every time a skipper takes the trouble to consult the chart, inspect the filters, go forward on a rainy night to check the running lights, or take any proper seamanlike precaution, he or she earns a point that goes into the black box.

In times of stress, in heavy weather or other threatening circumstances where human skill and effort can accomplish no more, the points are cashed in as protection. The skipper has no control over their withdrawal. They withdraw themselves, as appropriate. Those skippers with no points in the box are the ones later described as “unlucky”. Those with points to spend will survive- but they must start immediately to replenish their savings, for the sea offers no credit.”

I have continuously grappled with the words “lucky” and “fortunate” in terms of our opportunity to do this trip, but I think Mr. Vigor makes a good case for earning your fortune with his theory. I also appreciate his nod to the skipper having “no control.” Anyway, I love this theory and I think it holds true in life as well. Do good, be thorough, and you’ll be all right.


For this New Year, the crew of Journey wishes you a black box filled with earned good fortune and lots and lots of love. Thank you for reading, and thanks for the love <3


  1. Magnolia completely subscribes to this theory! As we are complete newbies we TRY to take nothing for granted. In case you were wondering I subscribe to the “Adventure 2 Us” (http://adventureustwo.blogspot.com/2013/12/adventure-us-2-talks-to-me-by-h-michael.html) that suggests out boats “speak to us” and I assert the times I have ignored Magnolia she responds quite unhappily! Have a wonderful holiday and get down here when you can!

  2. In my old profession the adage was, “When things go sideways, you revert to your training.” I’m sure by now, you know Sarah and I subscribe to the “Things happen for a reason” theory. Life hands us experiences and we either learn from them or bad things happen the second, third etc. time around. We may not know the exact reason why something happens, but I believe it is to teach us something.
    Training can be as simple as reading and planning, or it can be actual doing – repetitively to where it becomes second nature. The short trips you made in the Chesapeake Bay may not compare to what you have or are preparing to do, but they have given you experience in predicting weather, waves and other conditions – as has your trip thus far on the ICW – which will affect your travels. This was all training – and training happens every day when you can see how something can be done more efficiently, safer and expending less energy.
    Thus ends this year’s Words from the Not So Wise.
    We love you, be safe, have fun and keep those posts coming!

  3. I like this and will share with the staff. It applies to teaching,too. You know , Drena, you may have thought you were lucky to have good students, but they were lucky that you had a black box full! I think because you were well…..meticulous. :) miss you, Barbara

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