If you are already a Captain, a boat owner or aspiring to become one, you know there are several reasons why your boat log is the most important legal document you possess. No matter the size of your ship -yacht or catamaran-, you will need a boat log to organize the most important data of your journey. Boat maintenance, fuel supply, wind conditions… There’s a lot to keep track of. So it’s important to keep everything in order.
Even in the days of GPS and satellite positioning, keeping a boat log is still important.
We know you’re not Christopher Columbus or Ferdinand Magellan. You are not aiming to discover uncharted territory are you? Although boat logs were originally used to record a boat’s course in order to provide clues as to the specific location of the ship, hence making the return voyage safer, the purpose of boat logs today is much simpler.
Curious about Columbus’s boat log? You can read a couple entries here.
All the details matter
Sure, it’s exciting to imagine your boat log as a pirate’s diary. Maybe you’re tempted to include tales of sea monsters, mermaids and hidden treasures in your log. But keep in mind, for legal reasons (in the event of a collision, grounding or to solve a liability issue) the Coast Guard might ask to see it, and if it’s not organized (or if you haven’t bothered to keep one) you might be in trouble, mate. This is the number one reason why you should keep an organized boat log. It’s time to invest a couple of minutes in learning how to keep it neat and tidy.
Remember: Unlike Magellan, you have all the gadgets necessary to make navigation easier. All the time and effort the GPS saves you, should be invested in keeping your boat log organized.
Modern boat logs provide historical data about weather, engineering, and navigation.
- Weather and navigation entries specify wind and sea conditions because they have a direct impact on the navigation course. If you get caught in a storm and lose your bearings, your log can help you determine the best course of action once the sea settles.
- Engineering entries should include engine, water and fuel capacity, fluid pressures (oil; transmission fluid), battery voltage, and holding tank level (if available).
Separating the information correctly will allow faster logging. Create a chart that you can fill out swiftly and make sure you are jotting down entries every hour. It’s a good idea to train your best mate and share the responsibility of keeping the boat log.
Nobody’s perfect, but did you know boat logging mistakes can get you into trouble?
The most important tip we can give you is that under no circumstances should you erase or white out any data in your log.
The correct way to amend an error in your boat log is to cross out the data once, jot down the initials of who corrected it, and then write the new data immediately below those initials.
New captain? Quick tips you can apply right away
- Use well identified columns to make the logging process easier.
- Attach a pen to your boat log so that you won’t have to search the whole ship for a writing instrument.
- Always keep your log in the same place. The larger your boat is, the more important it is to assign a fixed cabinet or shelf for your boat log. It shouldn’t be anywhere other than in that cabinet.
- Better safe than sorry: Store your boat log inside a waterproof plastic bag. Just in case.
2.0 Boat logging. Navigating in the new millennium
We know you love new gadgets. Another option you should consider is a digital boat log. The advantages of going digital include:
- Automatic formatting that will provide a neat, organized chart every time.
- Digital boat logs won’t leave out any details, all the important data will be archived.
- Include all the important data without worrying about space, you can store an infinite amount of information in a very small device.
- You can load all your information in one place. If you have several boats there’s no need to keep two separate journals.
- Keep track of all your upcoming maintenance and provisions lists, make them as long and specific as you want. Space is not an issue.
- The data will be stored automatically, and wherever you go, your boat logs will be there with you.
Trust us, once you make the effort to sort out all the data your boat log should include, it is going to be easy to update entries every hour. We hope you are convinced that pirate’s diaries, sea-monster and mermaid sightings aside, keeping an organized boat log is still important.