While down sizing the books in my den I came across one of my many logbooks. I opened it up and began to read of my early adventures in kayaking. It was a nice trip down memory lane. Then I began to reflect upon the values of keeping a logbook. I have used logbooks ever since I began Scuba diving in the early 1970s. When I took over the outdoor program at U.C. Santa Barbara in 1980 I used logbook s for the different trips I would lead (backpacking, canoeing, snow camping, mountaineering, etc.) I have not only recommended logbooks to my trip leaders and staff I have required them for my instructors in training. Some instructor/guide organizations require logbooks. It can also provide documentation for a job.
I found my logbooks to be invaluable for many reasons. They provided me a time to reflect (see Time for Reflection) which has helped me in lessons learned. My logbooks also provided incredible logistical data and weather information. I also had record of when the event took place and who was there (which has won me many arguments with friends.) The more times I launched from the same location I realized I was recording a long-term study of that location. I could see the changes in the beach and exposed obstacles, the seasonal weather patterns, the seasonal use by others, the wildlife differences, seasonal ocean conditions and the changes in clothing I used for the different seasons. A detailed logbook can make future trips to an area easier for you or your friends.
When I had enough information in the logbook I was able to listen to a forecast and check the buoy conditions and I would know what to expect from my different launch sites. If I had left that information to memory I would have been lost. Since it was recorded, I was able to compare the data and see the patterns that were relevant to my locale. I had created my own document for "local knowledge." The information from my logbook also helped in how and where I would teach my classes. I would set up my teaching progressions to take full advantage of the normal daily wind patterns. There is so much information that can be recorded on a simple days paddle. The key is to know what you would want in the future and your intentions for recording it. A good question to ask yourself is, "what would I like to know about a location if I want to try paddling there?" The answer to that question is a good foundation for your logbook.
I also found out my logbooks would grow with information categories as I used it more often. I got carried away for a while when my logbooks seemed like they were guidebooks. If one wanted to take the time, a well though out logbook would have the necessary information to be a published guidebook. The great thing about logbooks is how diverse they can be. It is totally up to you in what you wish to record. I have seen many different styles over the years, from simple to fancy. The prettiest one I have seen was hand made with a carved leather cover.
One of my early kayaking logbooks was a commercial pseudo-diary. I added many other categories for each page. The categories were: date, day, time, launching site, tide, weather conditions at site, wind, marine forecast, buoy information, paddling partners, ocean conditions, surf conditions, about the paddle, estimated mileage, general comments. When I look back at this journal there are other things I wish I had recorded. When I have viewed other logbooks I think about what I can or could have included. With the advent of GPS units there are even more categories that can be added to logbooks. I have included a link to A Sea Kayakers Logbook Categories, which is a list of possible categories for logbooks.
As I mentioned earlier you should have a reason to use a logbook. I have shared some of my reasons. I also recommend NOT using a logbook for every outing. I think it is important to just jump in your kayak and go for a paddle. Rather than worrying about record keeping just feel and enjoy the moment. When you use a logbook keep it in prospective. Hopefully your first reason for being there is to enjoy the paddle. If you decide you want or need a logbook, collect the information you may find useful. It has been years since my last entry into a logbook. In reflection, I wish I had kept up on log entries more often. I do know that my learning curve is much higher due to keeping a logbook. Since I am moving to the Pacific Northwest in the next month I will be setting up a new logbook to develop my own record of local knowledge for my future favorite paddling sites.
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