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Thread: Information Management: What does your log book look like?

  1. #1
    Principal Partner toddster's Avatar
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    Information Management: What does your log book look like?

    Are you a compulsive note-taker or a goldfish live-for-the-moment type of sailor? Do you take written notes of every trip and every bit of maintenance? If so, do you use a bound journal? Loose-leaf notebook? Software package of some sort?

    And what data do you record for each trip?

    I have to admit that my note-taking has not lived up to my prior ambitions. Being a Twenty-First Century Digital Boy, I figured that I would keep the log electronically. But it turns out that I don't always take the laptop to the boat every time I go. Ideally, the log would live permanently on the boat but also be copied in "the cloud" so that I could access it from home or wherever.

    What is actually happening is that I scrawl notes on an engineering pad on the chart table, then take the pages home with me to transcribe or use in the shop. Now I have quite a little collection of pages of drawings and measurements that I used for building things, but they live in a notebook back home in the shop. And a word-processing document with sporadic journal entries, but not much formal structure. And lists of things to bring next time on my phone. And digital photos stored on my desktop computer.

    It seems like the right combination of hardware and software to bring all this together is always just out of reach. I had been working on a solution using "Bento" database that would work on both the laptop and the phone or iPad. Just now, I popped over to their home page to see if there are any new capabilities that might be useful, and found the message, "FileMaker stopped offering Bento on September 30, 2013. FileMaker no longer offers the Bento consumer products." AARRGH!!! This of course is another danger of putting too much effort into software-based solutions. Sooner or later, the software needed to read the data always goes away. So chalk up another requirement: must have a universal file type.
    s/v arcturus E29 #134

  2. #2
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    Google Docs/Drive might work for you.

    As owning a sailboat is new to me I have only just begun to consider this question. I think keeping a log on a sailboat is more important than on a powerboat because so many more variables affect the characteristics of sailing.

    On my power boat I only started keeping a log book about 3 months ago and I confess to being so busy before and after my boating day that stopping to actually enter log information tends to be tedious and often ignored. My logbook is nothing fancy, just a notebook picked up from OfficeMax. Like you however I do think having a log book that would be accessible no matter where or when I am would be great.

    Because of my increased use of Android smartphone, and tablet, I have found myself using Google docs/drive more and more for anything from simple reminders to short stories. I have also increasingly used voice recognition to speed up the entry portion.

    Google automatically saves to the cloud and the device, all your devices, in fact. Any device running with Google Drive on it will automatically update the documents.

    As far as the technology disappearing...I guess anything could happen but I think Google tech is as safe a bet as anything these days.

    Interested in hearing your solution as I will likely begin using Google sooner or later.

  3. #3
    Principal Partner toddster's Avatar
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    One method that I use in my lab is to have a series of pre-printed worksheets and data forms for routine procedures. They not only serve to record data, but also act as a sort of check-list for each procedure. (This is especially helpful on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons ) In fact, I'm working on four of them right now. When the worksheet and all of the data forms for a project are completed, the project is done. Then I take them back to the office and transcribe them into the computer. This is the sort of thing that I was trying to replace with Bento.

    A similar approach might work for the ship's log, although I think there would be more free-form sorts of data to deal with.

    Good Grief. Just yesterdays notes have a list of six things that broke or started leaking in the two weeks that the boat sat quietly by itself. How do these things break, just sitting there? Plus there were four things that I forgot to take or couldn't find on board.

    re: disappearing technology. I have boxes. Nay, a whole closet-worth of obsolete tapes, discs, platters, and cartridges that I spent years and decades filling with data. There's no way all that could have been copied into paper notebooks. But there's probably no way to ever read most of that stuff again, either. Most everybody I know has stuff like that. You just can't throw it away...
    Last edited by toddster; 10-11-2013 at 05:23 PM.
    s/v arcturus E29 #134

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    Principal Partner Christian Williams's Avatar
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    What works best for me is a small Moleskine. Notes on oil changes, people, busted gear, dimensions, to-do. Not enough room for waxing poetic such as "plethora of dolphins and sky the color of Tangerines", which when read ten years later tends to make you puke. A pencil is always there, trapped with a rubber band. Offshore, Wetnotes works well.

    Truth is, my "Thelonious" blog here is the current record of the current boat. With pictures. Best running record I have ever kept.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    cw@christianwilliams.com
    "Thelonious" E32-3 Hull 604 (1985)
    Marina del Rey

  5. #5
    Principal Partner Rick R.'s Avatar
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    We use a logbook from West Marine. I log each trip, start time, last line, engine hours as well as weather conditions and a bit about the trip. There is a separate section for matenance where I log that info. I've always had terrible penmanship and usually complete each entry atthe end of the day when I'm in a hurry. I feel sorry for anyone wanting to read our...lol!
    1989 32-200
    S/V "Easy"
    (hull #844)
    Pensacola, Florida

    " Only a sailor knows why a dog sticks his head out the window of a moving car."

  6. #6
    Principal Partner Rick R.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christian Williams View Post
    What works best for me is a small Moleskine. Notes on oil changes, people, busted gear, dimensions, to-do. Not enough room for waxing poetic such as "plethora of dolphins and sky the color of Tangerines", which when read ten years later tends to make you puke. A pencil is always there, trapped with a rubber band. Offshore, Wetnotes works well. Truth is, my "Thelonious" blog here is the current record of the current boat. With pictures. Best running record I have ever kept. Click image for larger version. 

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    Keep up the blog Christian! Your writing is very enjoyable. Reminds me of Hunter Thompson minus the Steadman drawings and ink splashes.......
    1989 32-200
    S/V "Easy"
    (hull #844)
    Pensacola, Florida

    " Only a sailor knows why a dog sticks his head out the window of a moving car."

  7. #7
    Principal Partner Mark F's Avatar
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    Goldfish here ;-)
    Lotus Flower
    1976 E27
    Santa Cruz CA

  8. #8
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    For routine maintenance I have a spreadsheet with the following column headings:

    Date Hours Fuel Oil Batt Comments

    Under the fuel, oil or battery columns I'd make an X and record the date and engine hours when the work was performed. It was a system used at a charter club I used to be a member of.

    Paul
    E29 "Bear"

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    Principal Partner Lucky Dog's Avatar
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    I prefer a Dixon Ticonderoga® Black Pencil, #2 and 80# art paper. Trying out the app "what's on my boat".
    "The greatest tragedy in life is people who have sight but no vision." Helen Keller

  10. #10
    Principal Partner toddster's Avatar
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    Yes, "Ships' Inventory" is on the list of controlled documents that I need to establish. The "whats on my boat" app looks like one way to do it, but I think the apple "numbers" spreadsheet, which I already own would be better. For one thing, the documents live in the cloud, so they're always present on all my devices. I just have to make sure that they are stored locally as well, when I'm "off the grid." Oh, and it would be nice if someday it worked with "Siri."

    Of course, then I'd have to spend a whole weekend sometime assigning numbers to all of the lockers and deciding where everything really belongs. It's amazing how many hidey holes there are on a 30-foot boat. I waste a lot of time trying to figure out whether something is on board or back in the shop (100 miles away.) Just last week I wasted a half hour looking for the butyl tape, before deciding that it wasn't there. (I had to use sikaflex instead.) But it's not here in the shop either. Do'H! Maybe I stuffed it into one of the new cubbies inside the liner, behind a deck plate.

    Oh, well, a weekend doing inventory on the boat would be better than a weekend in the office.
    s/v arcturus E29 #134

  11. #11
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    Smile

    Goldfish here too . . . but I'm looking outside my bowl . . .

  12. 10-14-2013, 11:09 PM

  13. #12
    Principal Partner toddster's Avatar
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    I have been pondering this for the last few evenings. (Clearly a procrastination mechanism activated in the face of impending wurk.) It seems to me, at the moment, as if the scraps of information that I'm trying to organize fall into three categories. Perhaps three different notebooks or computer directories. With maybe a bit of overlap.

    1. The Log Book (Notes about actions and on-going activities.)

    2. The Ship's Manual (Information about things on the boat.)

    3. Cruising Notes (Information about things outside the boat.)

    Perhaps I will blather on in depth, in a blog entry, and post some images. For now, I'm working on what to do for the Log Book. The obvious solution is to go with what I've already got and (mostly) know how to use. Otherwise it may never happen.

    So I'm forging ahead using Apple "Pages" word processing software. I might break out a few things to the "Numbers" spreadsheet. The advantages are
    -It runs on all my devices, OSX and iOS. (Although data entry could be tricky on the phone.)
    -Documents can live in the cloud and locally
    -It's pretty seamless to paste photos, maps, even videos and sound files into a page.

    Probably one could do all this with Google docs and other solutions, but I think Apple has most of the others beat for multi-media integration and page layout. Anyway, I already own this stuff.

    Disadvantages are
    -Tricky data entry on the phone. (May need a more clever author.)
    -Trusting Apple to continue the software perpetually. (But files can be saved to other formats.)
    -File sizes can get out of hand if too many media files are pasted in. (This can be reduced by cropping and inserting photos manually, instead of using the default chooser.)
    -I've used word processors (MS Word) for large multi-media notebooks before, in decades past, and seen it all become corrupted. Hopefully the tech is more amenable to this sort of thing now. Still, it might be a good idea to start a new file periodically. Say, every year maybe. One could archive each year's log as an eBook or even a bound volume, if desired. Of course, if one wanted, one could print out each page as it is completed and stick it in a paper notebook.

    So I've made up some stationery for the boat and used it to produce first-drafts of several forms. There is some front matter, but the main forms are:
    - Float Plan (A planning document that can be emailed to crew & guests, as well as the usual safety stuff. Likely not used for most day-sails.)
    - Voyage Record (Typical log book entry fields with room for photos, etc.)
    - Maintenance Record (can be a list of routine maintenance or shop notes for a project or larger repair.)

    I suppose others might add forms for races or what-have-you.

    Anyway, these forms can be printed out blank to use manually, or pasted into the main document repeatedly as they are needed from the "insert section" menu. Tables within them can be stretched or deleted from each entry as needed. E.g. If you are just driving from buoy to buoy up the channel, you might not need the table of navigation fixes. If no electronics are on board, the paper forms can be used and transcribed later.

    Perhaps this makes no sense to anyone else. But it seems like a method to proceed with the madness for now.

    See, a goldfish could have had a cocktail and watched a movie by now...
    s/v arcturus E29 #134

  14. #13
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    photo logbook

    I use a blank notebook for my log, writing on thre right side pages and putting pics on the left side Click image for larger version. 

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  15. #14
    Principal Partner toddster's Avatar
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    For OpenCPN users

    For those who use OpenCPN open-source (free) chartplotter software, there turns out to be a free log-book plug-in that you can download. The plug-in only works for Windows or Linux, though, no option for MacOS (waddaya want for free?). Seems a bit hard to customize, but hey, free.

    Hmm. Can't seem to post the image. Found at http://opencpn.org/ocpn/downloadplugins

    I did get one tip from looking at it. Among the miscellany that I didn't think to put in my title page was the insurance policy number and claims phone number.
    Last edited by toddster; 10-17-2013 at 11:12 PM.
    s/v arcturus E29 #134

  16. #15
    I don't keep any logs other than maintenance , future projects (prioroty and budget) and inventory, They are all done on spreadsheets.

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