The Importance Of Keeping A Cruising Log

The Importance Of Keeping A Cruising Log

Laila Elise - The Importance Of Keeping A Log On A Boat Laila Elise holds a cruising log on a yacht. Photo: YachtWorld.

Sometimes we forget how important it is to pass down history. Granted, many events are often admittedly recounted inaccurately, but it’s undoubtedly better to impart some knowledge of what has happened in the past than to simply forget history altogether (although after the year we’ve had in 2020, some might argue for the latter.) Regardless, keeping a log on your boating and yachting adventures will not only help you preserve all the little moments you experienced, but also track patterns or problems so you can learn from them and refer to them in the future. As with keeping a journal or diary a logbook helps immortalize the monumental (or even the petty and trivial) events in our lives. At the very least, a great log is bound to provide your kids or grandkids a good laugh someday. Here are a few tips for things to include and how to stay on top of your daily logs to really get something memorable and worthwhile out of the task.

Yacht Log Basics

A ship’s log, also called a logbook, is actually a very important and sometimes overlooked tool onboard a yacht that helps document ongoing boat management and operation. The best logs provide not only a detailed record of repairs, operation and navigational routes, but also of events and stories – helping the captain and crew remember what they encountered, how they responded and what they learned along the way.

Develop A Habit Of Logging Together

Getting in the habit of writing down the day’s events at a particular time – perhaps over a beer once you’ve stopped for the day while the sun is going down – can prove very productive. However, if your crew is “active” at night, you might make better use of jotting down your log notes of the prior day’s shenanigans each morning over breakfast. Whatever you decide, try to be diligent about it. This will not only keep you from forgetting any important details, but will likely become something you and your crew look forward to recounting each day and can even lead to better communication among the group overall.

You might be surprised to hear that your version of a particular day’s events is radically different from your fellow mates – which will hopefully lead your team in the direction of conflict resolution if there are any underlying issues. Further, having a set time for discussion will not only act as a catalyst for conversations about going forward and plans for the days ahead, but will also force reflection on days that might have seemed uneventful or forgettable upon first glance.

Include Relevant Important Statistics

After a strenuous day at sea, when the boat is safely anchored for the night and you’ve finally got the generator running (for now), it might seem like a daunting task to get up from your current lounging position and check your fuel gauges and mileage but it’s absolutely worth it. Keeping track will not only help you understand the mechanics and behavior patterns of your vessel a bit better, but it may also help you remember external triggers. Perhaps your water tank appears low only after days in which you cooked a lot on board, or maybe your gas mileage is decidedly a lot worse on those long slow intracoastal days with dozens of low bridges. Whatever the problem may be, writing down daily statistics might be the first step in helping you discover it and find an appropriate solution.

It Blurs Together: Write It In The Moment!

While some discipline and routine are definitely necessary to keep a successful and meaningful log of your journey, there are inevitably those little moments on an adventurous boat trip that deserve a bit of special attention before getting lost in the chaos of the day. We all know boat journey days can feel particularly LONG, and so something seemingly important that happened at first light can be easily forgotten by lunchtime.

“Wait, that was TODAY?” might be a popular sentiment among the crew as all time seems to blur together somehow when out on the water. If you see something noteworthy or something makes you chuckle as you’re cruising, instead of that somewhat unreliable “mental note”, take a second to jot it down – maybe in a quick group chat or notes file on your phone. Your brain will thank you when you are unsuccessfully trying to recall it late in the day over the blank pages of your logbook.

Keep A Code

A typical logbook will have a “rules” section at the beginning that can be used as a way to set (or infer) the tone of your voyage. The contents can be serious “No smoking anywhere aboard the vessel – even the outside deck” or perhaps have a more humorous quality “no discussing ex-wives” or “don’t take anything Brad says seriously after 3 beers.” Have some fun here, but remember to keep a baseline record of the vitals stats.

Logbook guidelines are useful to have if you want to set some ground rules for not only the trip, but for the way you expect your mates to treat your boat (and each other). You can also build camaraderie along the way by adding to your rules as a group, such as: “try to avoid open ocean days during massive hailstorms” based on your experiences together. You’ll build trust with your crew by including them in some of the decision making – and besides, rules are just guidelines anyways, right?

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Passing Under Bridges Onboard A Boat Can Be A Tricky Process Passing Under Bridges Onboard A Boat Can Be A Tricky Process. Photo: Ryan McVinney/Boat Trader.[/caption]

If you’ve ever been out on a boat bigger than a canoe, chances are you’ve had some experience managing the wonderfully complex bridge system on America’s Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). The more experience you’ve had with regards to bridges, the more likely it is that you’ve developed some nagging frustrations in this area. It’s no secret that navigating through rivers, canals, human-made waterways and natural marshes takes a certain amount of patience, skill, planning and etiquette – some of us more equipped and adept than others.

Some prefer to take their chances with uncertain weather, wind, and eight foot rollers out in the ocean than spend their days stuck in boat traffic trying to figure out the puzzle of bridges that unfortunately goes along with traversing the inside waterways. While there will inevitably be some waiting around involved no matter how prepared you are, here are some great tips for managing #bridgelife in order to help save you some time – and possibly preserve your sanity.

Know Your Boat’s Measurements

This might seem like a no-brainer, but do you actually know the exact height of your vessel? Including the radar tower? It might not be the same as quoted in your user manual. This is especially important to ask for upfront if you are just renting the boat for the day, or if you are unfamiliar with the area you’re cruising around in because you never know when a low bridge might surprise you around the corner while you’re flying across the water at, to quote one of my favorite captains, “mach10.” Bridges will usually (almost always) have a clearance height sign (hopefully visible), and if you’re lucky, a tide marker in the water indicating the appropriate changes in clearance to aid you in deciding whether or not you need to wait for the next opening. Experienced boaters will attest – it can be kind of tricky to eyeball on the spot, especially if there are other vessels behind you on a busy Saturday, or your able bodied “crew” has had a few beers, so it’s best to give yourself a nice buffer here just in case.

Research Your Route Ahead Of Time

In theory, we all should do this – though reality is indeed always another story – we might as well strive for success. If you know you’ll be traveling up a stretch of the ICW to see some friends up North on a Saturday, it’s definitely worth it to check out the bridges along your trip – particularly the first few – before embarking on your journey. There’s nothing worse than waking up at 7am, firing up the engines, hurrying to shuffle everyone aboard only to have your 25kph cruise come to an abrupt halt after the first 5 minutes when you realize you have to wait until 9am for the
next bridge opening. Bummer. You could have slept in!

Use Online Resources On The Day Of Travel

There are some great online guides and sites for those of us that don’t really like to plan (or think, for that matter) ahead. This can save you major time and gas money – as well as heartache on your much deserved boat day. Although they seem poorly planned, (like pretty much everything else in infrastructure) bridges are somewhat on a purposeful timing schedule. Ever see a couple of dudes blow by you in their center console with quad 450s after a bridge opening, only to find them waiting like a couple of dummies for 40 minutes at the next low bridge? Slowing your speed between bridges will not only psychologically be easier to handle, but you’ll save precious dollars on gas or diesel and look like a boss who knows the waterways better than Captain Quint in Jaws.

Follow Basic Right-Of-Way Rules

Most states will have a no wake or slow speed requirement when passing under bridges, regardless of whether or not it’s a fixed, swing, or drawbridge, or if it’s open or closed. You’ll get a lot of dirty looks from your fellow caps if you breeze on through, especially in the case of two way traffic. Small boats should generally yield to bigger boats…we know that doesn’t seem fair but things rarely are. Fast moving vessels and power boats can use a bridge opening as a time to get in front of slower moving vessels, barges, or sailboats on trolling motors – it’s a safe
opportunity to pass, rather than waiting until getting out into a busy narrow channel where mayhem typically ensues.

Be Nice On The Radio

You don’t necessarily have to sweet talk the bridge operator, but it wouldn’t hurt to at least be polite – and, if you possess the talent, make ‘em laugh a little! Think about it: sitting up in that little locktender pilot house all day must be incredibly boring, and they’re much more likely to hold that slowly closing bridge if you ask politely than by screaming frantically on channels 9 and 13, asserting your importance and embarrassing yourself in front of everyone else within range. Remember – other boaters are listening, too. In fact, this goes for boat-to-boat communications too. Keeping it friendly and professional on the radio, despite what crazy shenanigans may be ensuing around you will earn you respect and keep you grounded in your duties as captain or first mate.

Relax And Enjoy Your Downtime

So you have to wait 25 minutes for a bridge opening – it’s not like the world is going to end in the meantime (though it may seem so with the year we’re having). Use the time however you’d like – whether it be retying all your lines in a neat and orderly fashion (that your father still won’t approve of), enjoying the company of your passengers, making a quick snack, admiring the view, or even possibly looking up your next bridge crossing online – ahead of time.

Don’t Forget – Lower The Antennae!

You’re so thrilled about being able to clear the bridge without having to wait for the next opening, grinning from ear to ear until you hear the slow grind of your antennae snapping off. Don’t try and act like you haven’t done it. We all have, at least once. And once is enough!/>

A Lesson In Bridges And VHF Etiquette
Category: Features
Laila Elise provides tips for managing #bridgelife in order to save time and run smoothly.

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