I never go anywhere without my little black book. I often forget to grab my cell phone, and once in awhile forget to check for my wallet as I go out the door, but I rarely forget my LBB. My LBB does not contain phone numbers for old girlfriends. Instead, it contains pretty much all the information I need to keep my life in order.
Some of the information is pretty much to be expected. Phone numbers and addresses of friends and family for example. I also have a section with all those birthdays we need to remember (which I forget anyway)
Then there is the section devoted to the dozens of passwords and user IDs I need. As we all know, the list is long and gets added to frequently. I use a sort of shorthand encryption for my passwords in case I lose my LBB. This might slow down a dishonest old fart, but a halfway intelligent 3rd grader would probably figure out all my passwords in half an hour. I don't know what the solution is – I couldn't possibly remember all those account numbers, user IDs and passwords, and if my encryption method is too complex, I might need a 3rd grader on call to help me figure out how to unscramble my information. They have software programs for corralling all those passwords, but you need another password to get into the program.
The most important section, however, is all the boat information I keep with me. I have all the pertinent information for every system on board Nine of Cups. For example, I have the watermaker model and serial number. I also list the part numbers for the various spares kits for it, as well as the contact info for the manufacturer and a couple of distributors. I include the usual prices for the spares in case I run across one in a chandlery or nautical flea market somewhere. That way I can tell immediately if the price is outrageous or a bargain, and whether the part is the correct one. Finally, I make a notation about where the spares for the watermaker are stored on board Cups.
There are similar notes about the diesel engine, outboard engine, electronics, autopilots, wind generator, solar panels, pumps, and the myriad of other devices and systems on board. Where it makes sense, I also make a note of dimensions. Our propane locker, for example, will fit some 20 lb. propane tanks, but not all. If I need to exchange one or buy a new one, I can measure the critical dimensions before lugging it back to the boat. Likewise, when we were looking for the new mattress for Nine of Cups, I had a drawing with the dimensions in my LBB.
I also have a list of all the lines we use aboard, with diameters and lengths. That way, if I come across a sale or another one of those flea markets, I don't have to rely on my notoriously bad memory to remember that we use a 9/16” line, 120 feet long for the mainsail halyard.
Ditto the sail dimensions. That's not so much in case I run across a used sail somewhere, but to make it easy when it's time to reorder a new sail. All the information I need is at hand and easy to find.
As I write this, I am thumbing through my LBB, and here are a few other miscellaneous items I've filed away: beer brewing records for each batch; gold leaf suppliers for the gold on the name boards; equalization records for the batteries; battery and charger information for our laptops; my list of things to do when preparing for a storm – one if we are anchored and one if we are at sea (hmm...maybe a future blog topic?); a table of fuel capacities and rate of fuel consumption at different RPMs; information on how much wobble I measured on the prop shaft after the last time I aligned the engine; combinations to all the locks we have aboard...
My LBB lasts about a year riding around in my back pocket. Then I buy a new one and before copying everything, I reorganize and regroup the information, deleting anything that is no longer relevant, like a bilge pump that has been replaced with a different model for example. Then I store the old one in a safe place as a backup in case the new one ever gets lost.
At some point, I will undoubtedly make the conversion from my LBB to the electronic version. I am resisting, mainly because my LBB works quite well, costs far less, and I don't have to worry about dropping it. Now if Leatherman ever comes out with multi-tool that combines pliers, wire cutters and a knife or two with a touchscreen mobile device, I'm there.