My February Joy: Logbooks at a New Latitude

As most of you know, I’m working on a history of the classic yacht Hound. This year, Paul and I used that as justification for an escape to Antigua, the boat’s long-time winter base. After all, it’s much easier to be the boat’s biggest groupie when living within walking distance!

A huge honor

A few days ago, long-time captain Tom Stark loaned me his logbook. While officially serving as a legal record, the best logs read more like a journal; an emotional communication of a vessel’s importance to her humans. They are irreplaceable, so I was very flattered by his trust. “It’s only since 2019,” Tom said, adding apologetically, “and I did a better job early on than I do now.” 

No apology needed: five years of cryptic but heartfelt notes brought back key details of both deliveries and day sails, while providing this groupie with several belly laughs along the way. “Beautiful day for a motor!” he wrote at one point. Along with dolphin and whale sightings, fish caught (and the meals they produced), he manages to convey the joy of Hound’s bluewater behavior: “Surfy and fun!” One of my favorite entries quoted a crewmember; “She sails like a happy puppy.” And of course there’s the relief of making landfall; arriving in Bermuda after his first offshore passage as captain, he wrote, “Dark and Stormies, babyyyy!”

Personal history

Since 1970, my father has kept a log of Katrina’s many miles in soft-bound engineering notebooks. In his distinctive yet legible scrawl, he jotted down something almost every time the boat upped anchor or left the mooring. First was always crew names (family members abbreviated to a single letter, so I proudly became “C”); then weather and sailing details, harbors visited, and any unusual occurrences. More important to him (and far less interesting to me, until I took on the role of “little Skip”) was the meticulous logging of engine hours and mechanical details; documenting a switch to the second water tank helped us figure out when we would need to fill up again. Though Katrina hasn’t sailed nearly as many miles as Hound since their launchings in 1970, she has done two Transatlantics and several other offshore passages.

About ten years ago, Mom laboriously read into dictation software each handwritten entry, so that Dad could (after a lot of cleanup) share it as a PDF. The most recent update includes last summer’s Wingfoiling from a Sailboat, along with other adventures.

When we arrived here in Antigua, I opened up that PDF log to a bookmark labeled “Caribbean 1987” and refreshed my memories of this island. After a Transatlantic back from Europe, Mom and Dad and I had spent January working our way north from Grenada; once we arrived here, my parents flew home to work for a few months, leaving their 22 year old daughter in charge; a true leap of faith that I now find flattering as well as terrifying.

My own daily log entries brought me right back: the names of friends who joined me for a Caribbean winter escape; the underlying, never-ending, gut-worry of being the one in charge; fantastic snorkeling; boats that anchored too close; dinners in the cockpit; star-gazing. Our only connection to the world beyond Antigua was the single-sideband radio, so when I first heard that Dennis Conner had won back the America’s Cup, I added, “BBC’s dry edge was rather nice.”

Logs matter, at any latitude

Writing down daily occurrences may not seem at all significant at the time, but years later the details meld together into a very important primary history. Even if no one else reads my own scribblings, they serve as an excellent reminder about the timeless joys of this wonderful and friendly island. 

In addition to enriching the story of Hound, Captain Tom’s notes have provided both excellent entertainment and a bit of perspective for the boat’s most devoted groupie. I’ll make sure to reward his trust by returning the logbook safe and sound, long before they leave the dock for next week’s Caribbean 600.

 Got a story about a logbook (or journal) entry that changed your view of the world? Share it in the comments below, or send me an email. I read every single one, with gratitude.

6 Replies to “My February Joy: Logbooks at a New Latitude”

  1. My father, a teacher, always kept a log on our Easter and summer cruises. He presented the daily routine fairly accurately…in what he imagined was “olde English” a la Drake, and label the margins of some charts, “Heer there be Dragons.”

    1. That’s a great memory, thanks Andy! (And explains where you got the “Dragons” habit on your own chart.)

  2. I have my logbook from two years sailing through the Caribbean, 1991-93. And three more, one for our journey down the ICW in 2017 plus that winter in the Bahamas, and two more for the following two winters mostly in the Bahamas.

    I’ve enjoyed looking through that first one many times over the years. That motivated me to keep decent logs since. I’ll be starting two new ones this summer season, one for the sailboat and one for the fishing boat 😁.

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Beth. I definitely understand how reading back through old memories can be a motivation going forward.

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