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Keep This Sailing “Legal Document” Up to Date

Did you know that all of sailing navigation starts with one vital legal document. And it’s not your boat registration or documentation. Nope, not by a long shot.

Sail without this and you could place your boat and crew at high risk in a legal case or even be unable to prove your “right action” in a court of law. Read on to discover one of the most overlooked aspects of recreational sailing or boating!

We had caught them stealing red-handed, and now had them under arrest. It was a cold January day at sea. Throughout the night we had followed the huge fishing trawler as she sneaked into the waters of the delicate US Continental Shelf.

Her goal was to fish for lobster–and that’s just what she was doing in the middle of the night! Against the law? You bet! And we had her in our grasp.

Our boarding party was aboard, her captain confined to quarters, and our boarding crew had taken over the ship. We were escorting her into the port of New York, where her captain and crew would be formally arrested.

After we moored, our Captain called me into his cabin. “We need every chart, log, and document kept throughout the incident” he said. So, my crew and I gathered all together and went to see the prosecuting attorney.

Sure enough, those logs and charts were vital, legal documents that would make or break this case. And break it they did! The ship was seized, the captain and crew repatriated to their country in disgrace, and the Coast Guard credited with another bust of the bad guys…

Make your Boat log simple, clear, and legible. Use a single horizontal line for mistakes and initial the entry. Imagine that you hand your boat log to someone unfamiliar with sailing. Could he or she read and understand it? Make each entry in your log with this single point in mind.

As you can see from this actual sea story, your boat logs play an important role as a legal document. Keep your logs neat, concise, and use proper entry procedures. And that includes log entry corrections too.

Make log entries clear and simple. Set your boat log up so that it reads like a story (see the sample entries above). That way, if someone else picks up your boat log, they will be able to read across the columns and interpret all events from start to finish.

Discover 5 basic rules

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