We may be in the middle of the desert, but our thoughts and conversations frequently turn to getting back to Nine of Cups. We've been thinking of our upcoming passage across the Indian Ocean and wanted to review the info on our log sheets to see if we needed to make any adjustments. We've modified this log sheet over the years and every now and then, it still needs a tweak.
First of all, we do keep a log sheet and whenever Cups is on the move, we log hourly. To some, this might sound excessive considering that's 24 log entries a day on a long passage. We've talked to other sailors and some log every 4-6 hours or only once a day and that works for them. For us, however, it's a quick reality check every hour of where we are and what's happening around us. It's easy to become lackadaisical on a calm night watch or after a few days at sea with not much happening. Logging keeps us more attuned and forces us to pay attention to details we might overlook otherwise … like the voltage or maintenance issues, for instance.
We've known some sailors who keep very elaborate logs including sea temperature, sea conditions, true vs. apparent wind direction, etc. We include some of these, but not all. We've figured out over the years what information is most important to us and include that in the log. We find that having the log also provides a good history of our passages, sea conditions en route and anchorages. We've also used it to provide officials with proof of our whereabouts on some occasions. “How come it took you so long to get from Point A to Point B?” “Take a look at our log … the wind was against us and our speed was only 4 kts.”
So … what information do we feel is pertinent? Take a look at our Passage Log. All the usual stuff is there: date, time, track, speed, sky, wind direction and speed, barometer and position. We've kept track of our cumulative mileage since Day 1, hence we can account for our 73,387 nautical miles to date. We also check voltage regularly to ensure that when we're sailing, we know when it's time to start the engine for a bit to top up the batteries. The “Comments” column is used for everything from “Dolphins” to anchorage depth and seabed … 16' / sand, for instance.
We added the General Notes & Maintenance block for ease in making the to-do list. On my watch, I might notice some chafing on a line or a light is out or any number of issues. It's so easy to think of it and then forget to do it or advise David. If I write it down, David notes it and if it needs addressing right away, he'll handle it. Many times, however, it's something that's better handled when we're anchored or moored. David reviews the sheets at the end of each passage and makes sure each noted item is resolved. That way, nothing is overlooked.
On long passages, we keep track of engine hours and fuel consumption as well as water consumption. We want to ensure we have adequate water to see us through a passage even if the watermaker should fail. Entry items such as distance remaining, average speed and hi/lo distance run are more for planning and bragging rights after the passage.
A couple of notes:
*While we're at sea on a longer passage, we usually hand-number the pages, so it's easier to reassemble them if they get out of order.
*Each page has 24 lines to accommodate an entire day's passage
*We usually 3-hole punch the sheets at some point during the year and put them in a binder. We left room at the top of the form for 3-hole punching.
*We usually have blank copies made from our original when we're ashore, though we have the capacity to print them aboard in a pinch.
*We use a clipboard for the log sheets while we're underway and keep it safe and dry in a large zip-loc bag in the cockpit.
I know, I know … hard copy of anything sounds so antiquated, but it's what works for us.
Interested in a copy of our log sheet format? Send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org and she'll be happy to e-mail it to you.