You are required to keep a Ship’s Log at sea, but there are lots of ideas about what exactly is required or useful in a log book. Finding a flexible, affordable, weather resistant solution is also not easy. We’ve found some solutions that you might find helpful.
The first boat we bought had a huge leather-bound log that they had religiously kept from the day she was launched forty years earlier. It had a screw-post binder which allowed it to grow over time by adding more pages. The one trouble with that log book was that experiential anecdotes were mixed in with maintenance notes and voyaging notes – it was very difficult to find specific references. The leather also had gotten damp over the years and looked a bit worse – more charismatic – for wear.
So for Phoenix we created two screw post log books, one for maintenance and experiential anecdotes with an index on each page, and a second Ship’s log for voyaging notes. Both are screw post books and both are filled with pages that can be printed on any printer.
Ship’s Log Book
The Ship’s Log is what we use underway. We keep track of wind speed and direction, our heading and speed, and the barometric pressure. We try to add an entry each hour, but at least at the beginning of each person’s shift and when things change. Note that the full page has a page number so that it is clear no pages were torn out. I print them by sets of ten, adjusting the starting page number for each print set. I also keep a table of contents page that lists the page number of the beginning of each major leg of the voyage. Ship’s Log – Sheets | Ship’s Log – TOC
Journal / Daily Log Book
The Daily Log is a sort of Journal where we write our thoughts, memories and keep notes on what we fixed. Our passengers are also welcome to write their impressions. In order to make it easier to find notes on what we fixed or broke, there is an index along the bottom of each page with the major systems (see above) such as Instruments, Plumbing, etc. By circling the system that is discussed on that page the log is much easier to visually search later. I also leave a large outside margin for adding dates, notes etc. Daily Log – Sheets
Maintenance Log Book
The format and included fields will be different for each boat depending on its systems. And example of ours can be seen below. You can also download it and customize it for yourself. You will also need to update it when you add or replace a system. Checklist
Resources to Make Your Own Log Book
Log Book Pages
Download, customize, and print these templates to make your own log books (all in Word, doc format):
Finding the right material for the cover of a screw post portfolio cover was a little challenging. First I tried a conventional hardback cardboard binding, but this warped in just a season or two. So I have two suggestions – the rigid Acrylic Screwpost Portfolio Cover (Vista) which is less expensive and the Aluminum Screwpost Portfolio Cover (Machina) which is very classy, indestructible, but more expensive and may scratch wood surfaces.
Whether you decide to use some of the resources here, or buy a log book from a chandlery, the important thing is to actually use these logs. The Ship’s Log is a bare minimum requirement for responsible seamanship. The Daily Log is wonderful to look back on and is a great memory jog for writing those facebook or blog posts when you return to the world of internet.