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Old 09-27-1999
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Tom Wood is on a distinguished road
Log in Records Early and Often

Every sailor has a list. Some keep the current slate of jobs in neat spiral notebooks while others use the backs of envelopes. Part of any sailor's list might read like this:

  • Replace chafed reefing line
  • Replace burned-out bulb in galley light
  • Change zinc in engine manifold

One inevitable Saturday morning will find our sailor standing at the parts counter of his local chandlery, list in hand, as a smiling young clerk awaits his first request.

"A new reefing line, sir? Yes sir, what diameter, what construction, what color, and how long, sir?"

Our sailor fumbles with his notes, scribbles something, and moves on to the bulb.

"Oh, yes sir, we have many bulbs—do you know the number?" replies the clerk. A small shake of our sailor's head confirms his fear. "Well can you tell me if it's incandescent or halogen, what wattage and what style of base it has? Can you even tell me the manufacturer and style of the fixture?"

The zinc is strike three, as the now straight-faced clerk asks for the make, model, and serial number of the engine. Our sailor leaves empty-handed.

The solution to these embarrassing scenes is a maintenance log. In its simplest form, it may begin as a diary of what was done aboard the vessel and when. But a systematic sailor soon tires of flipping the pages of a chronology, looking for a warranty date or a part number. It is then that order is imposed on the chaotic notes.

We prefer to keep our maintenance log in a fat three-ring binder separated into sections by indexes with tabs. The loose-leaf form allows us to take a blank sheet out onto the dock or into the engine room to make notes, punching it and inserting it into the book when finished. This helps keep the book clean and dry. The loose-leaf format also lets us add pages as new equipment is recorded and installed. Deleted gear can be tossed in the circular file.

The first section contains all the general information on the vessel, such as, hull serial number, year built, documentation, and state title numbers. The only things that have changed on these pages over the years are the last survey date and the color chip number for the hull paint.

Following "Vessel Information" are sections titled:

  • Engine and Propulsion
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Spars, Rigging, and Sails
  • Hull and Deck Hardware
  • Electronics
  • Safety Gear
  • Dinghy and Motor
  • Head and Galley Gear
  • Interior General
  • Miscellaneous

No detail is too small. The make, model, and serial number of the transmission is there, of course. But the part numbers for head repair kits, replacement stove burners and spark plugs for the outboard are there as well. Computer spreadsheets for speed under power and fuel consumption are inserted, as well as parts diagrams for every pump on board. When a propeller company did a study of our prop, that was punched and inserted too. We even keep track of where we take on fuel and water—just in case.

A good maintenance log impresses potential buyers when it's time to sell the boat and may even increase re-sale value.

Keeping a good maintenance log is a matter of discipline. The few moments expended jotting down critical information may save hours of labor in the future. When we replaced the standing rigging on Cirrus II, the date, diameter of wire, brand, length of each stay and shroud, and terminal type with pin sizes were all recorded. Months later, one of the new wires showed evidence of severe corrosion. Not only did we have the purchase information for warranty replacement, we had the exact length and fitting numbers without requiring a bosun's chair and tape measure.

Many sailors will prefer to purchase a ready-made maintenance log with blanks that can simply be filled in. Until recently, however, most of what was on the market was very basic and confined mainly to engine-oil changes.

The Beckson Sailboat Manager is a ready-made three-ring binder where the maintenance records can be kept. Any three-ring binder can be customized to serve also as the log for boat records.

 BecksonMarine has lately come out with a handsome book called the Sailboat Manager. The 9.5 by 8.25-inch three-ring vinyl binder is easy to carry around and stow. It is chock full of checklists, storage diagrams, and handy tables. And while the tabs are not as finely organized as our book, section dividers and more pages could easily be added. It does have sections for personal information such as passport numbers, common telephone numbers, medical information, and a waypoint/route log that are convenient. The only difficulty we see with the Sailboat Manager is its $39.95 price tag and that filling it out initially might wipe out a few weekends of sailing.

Editor's Note: For more information on the Sailboat Manager, contact: Beckson Marine, Inc. (203) 333-1412.

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