Only a few years back I went into a yacht chandler to look at the various ships logs that were available and I found, to my dismay, that they had none at all in stock.
Back in the day, when boat shows were still running, before the dreaded word Covid even existed, I went to Southampton Boat Show in the UK, and to my complete surprise there were none for sale anywhere at the show either!
Over recent times I have begun to ask Kraken owners and sailing friends if they do, in fact, still keep a written log? It appears that only half still do keep any log at all, and if skippers do, mostly it’s just a record of their position once or twice a day. For jaunts around the coast it would seem, almost no one keeps a log, relying instead on the track and data kept by the plotter.
Embarrassed words and mumbled excuses are often proffered, as the words of their Yachtmaster’s teachings come to mind. But, let’s face it, in the digital world we live in today, the simplicity of using an electronic plotter is very compelling for short voyages. If only for a few hours, it’s perhaps acceptable, however, for passages over several days or even weeks, I believe it to be very important that a detailed hourly log is kept. A few of my reasons why may not be so obvious though…
First, my log keeping has a lot more entries than any log you will be able to buy ready made, even online.
I draw my log up across both pages of an A4 landscape ruled notebook using a pen and a rule with a total of sixteen columns!
We’ve tidied the headings up using Photoshop in the example below, so you don’t have to try to decipher my hand written hieroglyphics.
Nowadays I have satellite communication systems on board, which appraise me of weather expectations, but prior to having sat com, my hourly log also recorded atmospheric pressure. If my sat com link fails for any reason, I immediately include pressure level in the hourly log. There are plenty of other readings you may want to add too.
Having a record of the yacht’s position and the course to a destination from an hour ago is extremely helpful should the electronics fail, however, the points below are some of the less than obvious benefits gained from running such an extended log on the hour:
- It requires the watch crew to check and understand a whole range of information and record it on the hour, every hour, meaning they have to be constantly alert and thinking about what they are doing.
- As the watches rotate it involves all crew in the passage plan and the progress the yacht is making on that voyage.
- It focuses the crew on the speed the yacht is making and the time of arrival at a destination. For example, if they don’t address sail setting and trim, they can see the effect it has on the arrival date and time. As a skipper, it’s very frustrating to come on watch and find that the yacht is under canvased and the speed has been under what was expected for a while. If this had been the case, for say eight hours, it could mean an afternoon arrival is now early evening and could even result in an extra night at sea.
- The crew coming on watch can read the log to see how the wind has been trending.
- The skipper can begin to build a picture of fuel usage over the main engine and generator and how much fuel is being used overall, so they can then estimate whether they have enough fuel for the whole voyage.
- Each member of the crew gets to understand battery levels and the actions that are needed to regenerate or conserve power, before the autopilot fails or inverters trip out due to low battery power.
- By recording the cross-track error (XTE) all crew begin to understand the early necessity of a corrective change and whether the course adjustment was effective. I find this particularly beneficial for less experienced crew. A skipper will, have plotted a course to each way point of the passage plan and checked that the course is clear of hazards and dangers, but if the crew then don’t steer that course they are potentially sailing into dangers that the skipper expected the yacht to be well clear off.
- All crew become aware of all the elements of the yacht and the systems that need to be managed on the passage.
- The skipper can see the critical battery, fuel and water levels and their trends simply by reviewing the log history. This combined with the daily checks at sea (that are also run and logged) will forewarn and forearm the skipper and the crew for the eventualities ahead.
I would be very interested to hear how many of our readers keep a log of any sort as well as your views and comments on the subject.
Next month we’ll cover the Daily Checks at Sea itinerary.