There are two quite distinct purposes of keeping a record of a cruise, whether long or short. The first is so that you always know, or can work out, where you are. Then if you lose sight of landmarks, you can plot your position on the chart and lay a compass course to your destination, or a course to keep clear of danger until conditions improve. The second purpose is to give a basis of fact to weave your memories around when you tell the tale and relive your vacation in that armchair on winter evenings.
In sight of a well-known coastline in settled weather and good visibility, there may be no need to keep your log of course, speed, departure time and fixes along the way. It is, however, a good habit to work out and write down (or tell your crew) the ETA at your destination, as soon as you get on course and have an estimate of your speed. A rough calculation in your head is good enough, and there is no way you can predict your speed with much accuracy in any case. If you do not do the calculation, it is surprising how often you think you should have arrived when you are nowhere near, and vice versa.
On a day's sail in unfamiliar waters, or even in your home bay when visibility is poor, it is important to keep a log for fixes and dead reckoning. This may be done in the logbook itself, but is better entered directly on the chart. Remember to record your time of departure from the harbour mouth, or the last channel marker. If you are closehauled, wait five or ten minutes before recording your course. When you tack, record time and course before turning but again wait a bit before recording the new course. Often you have to estimate an average heading.
An idea I picked up from an English Wayfarer sailor is to paint the after 18 inches of each side deck white, have a grease-pencil handy, and use this as a "deck log". The grease pencil will write when the deck is wet, and does not wash off (you avoid sitting where you have written). We find this less trouble than getting out the logbook or plotting on the chart every time we tack, or pass a landmark, or record a change of course, speed, etc. Then, if we need a dead reckoning position, we can plot our course on the chart; if we do not, we can rub the whole thing off using a rag or tissue moistened with kerosene; or transcribe the interesting parts into the logbook to include in the story we write after the cruise.
The second purpose of the log — the story — is well worth the effort of writing down what you do and see each day of your cruise. Include wind speed and direction, point of sailing, weather changes, etc. We enjoy typing out a story when we get home. The editor of your class association magazine or club newsletter can always use a condensed version. The biggest pleasure is that you can refresh your memory and run through the cruise later with family and friends.
Photographs also are a fine record. We always take a camera along, even though it is not easy to keep it dry and safe. There is something to be said for using an underwater camera.
A movie, if you manage to make a good one, is great for showing at a yacht club winter get-together. The making of one tends to become a major project on your cruise, though. Bulky, fragile and expensive equipment is at risk of a wetting or mechanical damage. It needs quite a lot of practice, or a natural skill, to make a presentable movie. If you succeed, you will enjoy it for years and forget the problems of making it.
Another form of record is magnetic tape. Small battery-operated tape recorders have survived many cruises with our friends, and last summer I took one. Some people find it a lot easier to talk into the recorder than to write in a logbook. You have to be rather good at it for the result to be worth playing back to your friends without editing, but as a basis for writing up the story, it is a great help.
One way or another, bring back a record. It extends your own pleasant memories, and can give pleasure to others. In Appendix A is the Canadian Wayfarer Association Cruising Library Catalogue: stories written by cruising people in Wayfarer and other dinghies over the years.
These are available for borrowing. In the Wayfarer class, there are three trophies awarded annually: The Viking Trophy presented by Frank Dye for the best log of a cruise, world-wide; the Ted Davis Memorial Trophy presented by Don Davis for the best from a member of the Canadian Wayfarer Association; and the George Smith Trophy for the best in the United States Wayfarer Association.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Planning
Chapter 3: Equipment
Chapter 4: Rigging and Sails
Chapter 5: Camping
Chapter 6: Cooking and catering
Chapter 7: Communication
Chapter 8: Navigation
Chapter 9: Heavy Weather
Chapter 10: Spares and repairs
Chapter 11: Clothing, Personal Items, First Aid
Chapter 12: Stowage
Chapter 13: The Record
Appendix A: The CWA Cruising Library
Appendix A1: Dinghy Cruising Logs on line
Appendix B: Book List
Appendix C: Recipes
Appendix D: Addresses: Government Agencies, etc.
Appendix E: Buoyancy Testing