How to Make Your Own Logbook for Your Boat

High angle view of woman examining while writing on clipboard in boat
Kentaroo Tryman/Maskot/Getty Images
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Home-Made Logbook with Laminated Cover and Spiral Binding to Lie Flat

logbook cover

A logbook is important on a sailboat for recording all sorts of information. Originally the logbook was for navigation, named for the "log" thrown overboard on a line for a speed determination based on how many "knots" in the line were pulled out in a given time. Over time, the logbook became a record of virtually everything, including notes at regular intervals on:

  • Ship's position
  • Current speed and heading
  • Bearing toward destination
  • Wind direction and strength
  • Weather conditions, including barometric pressure, wave heights, etc.
  • Notes about the ship: repairs and maintenance performed or needed, etc.
  • Notes about crew and human factors
  • Descriptions of places visited, people met, other ships seen, etc.

With modern GPS chartplotters, many cruisers no longer record position every hour for purposes of navigation, though this is still a good idea offshore in case of an electronic failure. But most cruising sailors still keep a log of other observations, depending mostly on personal preferences. It's useful when revisiting a harbor a second time, to consult the log for information you wrote last time, whether it's the best place to anchor or to dine ashore. It's also just fun to have a record of your experiences.

Why Make Your Own Logbook?

A dozen or more commercial logbooks are available from different publishers, each unique in how it is designed for recording certain types of information. Many sailors find one they like and stay with it for years. Many others find, however, that they seldom fill in certain sections of the preformatted log and are always running out of the "blank space" to write the kind of information they like to include.

After many years of such dissatisfaction with a variety of printed logbooks, I switched to blank page books so I could write whatever I wanted and always have as much room for a day's record as I wanted. But then I found I was sometimes forgetting to write certain kinds of information - the whole reason for using a logbook with printed sections.

So I researched it and started making my own logbooks designed exactly the way I wanted them — with the added advantages of having waterproof paper and covers and being cheaper as well!

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Inside View of a Logbook with Custom Format and Waterproof Pages

logbook

The photo shows a filled-in page of my own custom logbook. The photo is too small to show the labels for the blanks to be filled in - but the whole point is to design your own based on what you want to write.

In addition to standard blanks for date, location, crew/visitors aboard, weather, etc., I like to record the day's miles, maximum speed under sail, engine hours, etc. But mostly I like the big open space in the middle to write my own notes about the sailing, ports visited, etc.

How to Do It

  1. First, carefully design what your logbook pages will look like. Study your old logs to see what information you usually record and how much room you need for it. You can do this simply enough using any word processor.
  2. Recommended is a good heavy paper, ideally waterproof or water-resistant. I have been very happy with the all-weather copier (and laser printer) paper from Rite in the Rain, available in white, tan, and light green. It is sturdy and does not tear easily; it also holds up well for spiral binding. Inkjet paper is also available, but test first to ensure your ink jet printing itself will not smear when wet. A fine-point permanent marker like a Sharpie works well on this paper.
  3. Test-print a few papers until you're happy. This paper is thick enough to write on both sides without bleed-through, so you may want to offset your printing a little to the outer margin (opposite the spiral binding) when you print each side.
  4. You could have your log photocopied on the waterproof paper, but you'll likely get better results printing it yourself on a laser printer. (Again, test to ensure the toner will not smear on the page when damp - not usually a problem with laser printers.)
  5. Spiral binding can be done with books up to one inch thick at most office supply stores, such as Staples, which also have a variety of cover stock materials to choose from. I chose about a hundred pages per logbook for my own, which is about half an inch thick. Use a plastic (nonrusting) spiral binding rather than metal.

Have some fun making your own. Include a title page with contact information, the time period covered by the log, and basic boat data (documentation or registration numbers, etc.). I included a photo of my on my title page. The whole thing ends up both attractive and professional looking, as well as personally much more useful — and has gotten me a lot of compliments as well.