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Old 06-20-2022, 09:24 AM   #1
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Electronic Logbooks - what do you use?

I've been trying to decide what to use for our logbook and a friend recommended this Logbook Suite software which is available for iPad, Mac or PC. The developer is in Germany, but it's got all the website materials and manuals in English, and they have been around for more than 10 years with frequent upgrade releases.

So we have a Yacht Devices YDNR multiplexer/router that broadcasts the NMEA data. I've been testing out the iPad version of the Logbook, and it has a simple connection app that made that part really easy. What I really like about it is that it can pull data off the NMEA network (weather, the usual nav stuff, engine hours, battery SOC, tank levels, etc.) and either you can click to make those entries or you can pay more for the Pro version, and it will create hourly updates of that data in your log for you. Of course there are places where you can enter lots more data yourself - you can even add photos and journal entries. You can export to pdf and print it out if you like. My friend prints a copy of each year's (sailing season's) logbook.

However, the software is pretty pricey at 179 Euros for the Pro version on one device - not a subscription.

You can buy additional modules available for purchase, including an engine maintenance, repairs and installation module.

Wayne has his Excel spreadsheet for all his engine data, so we're not interested in that, but I want us to be more systematic about keeping a decent log now.

I'm a writer, and I believe in paying for intellectual property, so I don't have a problem with paying for really good software, but I'm also not sure I need something this complex.

Has anyone here used this? If so, what do you think of it? Any recommendations for something else?

FYI, we do not use OpenCPN, we use TimeZero for navigation, so any log that is available in OpenCPN won't work for me.
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Old 06-20-2022, 10:29 AM   #2
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I can’t speak to this specific software. I have used several different free Flight Log softwares in the past to track my paragliding and sail plane activities. The number one problem I have run into is abandonment. Not a big deal when you average only 10 hours a year. Could be a disaster in other areas like boat maintenance. I like the idea that your recommendation has been around for 10 years. While the software might seem expensive, maybe that’s the cost to keep them around for years to come.
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Old 06-20-2022, 12:24 PM   #3
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Hi Christine. I'm struggling with the notion that "...179 Euros is pricey". But that's obviously your call, not mine. And, as you seem to have a penchant for logging large amounts of data on a routine basis, I suspect you're stuck with dealing with complex software.

I have poked into a multiplicity of electronic logging aides for navigation and maintenance for many years, both professionally and recreationally. I have concluded that (for me of course-your mileage may vary) simple hand entries in a written log is WAY more useful in the long run than crashing and bashing through complex software while cruising. And automation simply hasn't worked well for me in the long run. As Tiltrider has alluded, software solutions have a finite life, and maintenance and upkeep on logging software and associated hardware is NOT something I, as a recreational boater, finds appealing. But again, YMMV.

You might query James Hamilton (https://mvdirona.com/) for inputs to your inquiry. James has one of the most comprehensive data logging and display setups on a recreational boat that I have ever seen. Implementing something similar for yourself, as you allude to in your original query, may very well require someone of his significant software skills and education, and more importantly, his mindset.

I wish you well. For me, routine written entries in a paper logbook have been a significant benefit to me for decades. It duplicates the process mariners have used for generations. My logbooks sit safely on my shelf for later perusal, immune to software foibles, hardware glitches, and time. As do my grandfather's logs, which make great reading more than a century after he put pen to paper.

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Old 06-20-2022, 02:04 PM   #4
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...
You might query James Hamilton (https://mvdirona.com/) for inputs to your inquiry. James has one of the most comprehensive data logging and display setups on a recreational boat that I have ever seen. Implementing something similar for yourself, as you allude to in your original query, may very well require someone of his significant software skills and education, and more importantly, his mindset....
When I first saw Christine's post, the first idea that came to mind was what has been done on Dirona. But as you say, they have invested quite a bit of time, thought and energy developing the systems on Dirona. One thought I had a long time ago, was that I would not want to be the buyer of Dirona in the future, unless they have created detailed documentation on what they have done and kept it up to date.

The flip side is that I can see, if not the need, at least the want, for this kind of data logging, which is going to take time and/or money.

Later,
Dan
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Old 06-20-2022, 03:43 PM   #5
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I tried to download the trial of the mentioned software. Guess I'll need to redo as the software won't boot up. I did want to check it out to form an idea. Found their programming a bit suspect as it requires several components in addidtion to it.

That said, we started with Idea. They were sold, spent some time in limbo. We ended up converting to custom software of our own, so no help to anyone in that regard. What we wanted in a log was not just tracking the boat, but some area to comment on what we did in each location, sights, restaurants, entertainment.
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Old 06-20-2022, 04:13 PM   #6
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FYI, we do not use OpenCPN, we use TimeZero for navigation, so any log that is available in OpenCPN won't work for me.
Why not?
A backup plotter or 3 is a sensible thing to have and the logbook on opencpn is the right price.

Personally, we just use Google docs, also free, viewable offline and auto updates to the cloud when back in mobile range

As for networking onboard ships, I follow Admiral Adamas recommendations

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Old 06-21-2022, 05:10 AM   #7
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While the software might seem expensive, maybe thatís the cost to keep them around for years to come.
Excellent point. Abandonment is certainly a problem with software and especially with the ever-changing marine electronics landscape. Really, though, it is unavoidable unless you want to go back to using a sextant for navigation. In the world of marine electronics, everything has a finite lifetime.
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Old 06-21-2022, 05:37 AM   #8
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Hi Christine. I'm struggling with the notion that "...179 Euros is pricey". But that's obviously your call, not mine. And, as you seem to have a penchant for logging large amounts of data on a routine basis, I suspect you're stuck with dealing with complex software.

I have poked into a multiplicity of electronic logging aides for navigation and maintenance for many years, both professionally and recreationally. I have concluded that (for me of course-your mileage may vary) simple hand entries in a written log is WAY more useful in the long run than crashing and bashing through complex software while cruising. And automation simply hasn't worked well for me in the long run. As Tiltrider has alluded, software solutions have a finite life, and maintenance and upkeep on logging software and associated hardware is NOT something I, as a recreational boater, finds appealing. But again, YMMV.

I wish you well. For me, routine written entries in a paper logbook have been a significant benefit to me for decades. It duplicates the process mariners have used for generations. My logbooks sit safely on my shelf for later perusal, immune to software foibles, hardware glitches, and time. As do my grandfather's logs, which make great reading more than a century after he put pen to paper.

Regards,

Pete
Hi Pete. Like Warren Buffet, I like to do my due diligence in research before I make a purchase, any purchase. The logbook software I have found so far has a range of prices starting with Boating Suite which is free and this Logbook Suite is at the upper end, hence I called it pricey. I have no qualms about paying for good software, as I said, but the most expensive is not always the best, nor what suits my needs. And like the subject of this post states, I am simply asking to learn what other people use for electronic logbooks to see what else is out there. I understand that YMMV.

As to using what my grandfather did, well, the first time I sailed to New Zealand and back to California was in the mid 70's, and we used a sextant for navigation. I have been an eager adopter of first SatNav and then GPS devices and then electronic chart plotting with multiple devices interconnected through NMEA. I have no desire to go back. I wrote my first book on paper and then on a manual typewriter, but in the mid 80's I jumped at the chance to buy a suitcase computer for word processing, and I have never looked back. I admit that I am a bit of a tech nerd, but it keeps this old brain working, and I enjoy the challenge of keeping our extremely complex boat working.

While your and your grandfather's paper logbooks may be immune to software foibles and hardware glitches, they are not immune to flood, fire or theft. Nothing is guaranteed, but my electronic logbooks will have multiple back-ups.

Regards,
Christine
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Old 06-21-2022, 06:11 AM   #9
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When I first saw Christine's post, the first idea that came to mind was what has been done on Dirona. But as you say, they have invested quite a bit of time, thought and energy developing the systems on Dirona. One thought I had a long time ago, was that I would not want to be the buyer of Dirona in the future, unless they have created detailed documentation on what they have done and kept it up to date.

The flip side is that I can see, if not the need, at least the want, for this kind of data logging, which is going to take time and/or money.

Later,
Dan
To both Pete and Dan - Yes, I've been an enthusiastic follower of both James and Jennifer Hamilton on Dirona - they are both terrific software engineers. And Dan, Dirona has already sold as the Hamiltons have returned to Seattle, so someone is now trying to manage all that special programming. Like you, I hope he was able to pass on significant documentation.

I learned so much about designing our own Maretron system and screens by rereading and studying screen shots from all their posts that mention Maretron. I may not have "his significant software skills and education, and more importantly, his mindset," nor do I have the knowledge of Seabits Steve, another person I consider an Internet mentor, but that hasn't stopped me from undertaking the design and programming of our network.

We have a Yacht Devices Voyage Recorder YDVR-04 that records all the data on the network onto a memory card. I got a large enough card that it can hold approximately one year's data and it will erase to make room for current data. You can download a logbook interface and manually transfer the data. I am considering that route as well, but I am attracted other facets of Logbook Suite like the personal journal and the addition of photos.

Yes, our network is crazy complicated, but having designed it and done the programming, I hope to be able to maintain it and upgrade it as time goes on.

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Old 06-21-2022, 06:58 AM   #10
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Why not?
A backup plotter or 3 is a sensible thing to have and the logbook on opencpn is the right price.

Personally, we just use Google docs, also free, viewable offline and auto updates to the cloud when back in mobile range

As for networking onboard ships, I follow Admiral Adamas recommendations
Hi Simi. Why not OpenCPN? First of all, we have Coastal Explorer as a back-up plotter, as well as Navionics on the iPad and iPhone. It's the charts that make multiple plotters expensive, as it isn't usually easy to use the same digital charts across plotters.

Second, back in the day, most of the folks using OpenCPN cruising in the South Pacific where we cruised were using bootleg charts that got passed around from cruiser to cruiser. My husband used to work for a software company, and I write books for a living, so we're not fans of pirated content. I understand today it is more possible to buy legitimate charts, but still not for every place in the world. We're planning to go down to Tunisia and Algeria when we leave Turkey, and I don't see any charts in their chart store for those countries.

And as for your Admiral Adamas's recommendations, anyone who uses Google docs or connects his computer to a GPS or AIS device is using networking on board his ship.
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Old 06-21-2022, 10:46 AM   #11
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OP, assuming your interest in data logging is long term access to and use of that data consider the file format the system uses. Should you suffer hardware failure running abandoned software that uses a proprietary file format you've lost the data. Or struggle writing an algorithm to handle conversion.

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Old 06-21-2022, 11:38 AM   #12
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Certainly to each, his own. You can take the electronic log book idea a step further and install a voyage data recorder, a black box. To me however, sailing the seas has a huge romanticist element to it, a nostalgia, and isn't just about crossing the river to get to the other bar.

I think logs (time, position, description) belongs in a hard cover book. It is absolutely wonderful to sit back in a cozy arm chair, during a rainy grey day, and read about your adventures from years back. OP is a writer, and should appreciate that there are times when electronic books (Kindles) are handy, and times when a dog-eared paperback or a worn, stained hardcover is ideal.

However, Excel spreadsheets or other software are absolutely perfect for tracking costs, detailed maintenance items, inventory and spares, etc. I like the idea of saving it to Google Drive, as its not CUI/Confidential information for the most part and solves the worry about laptops being destroyed by water/fire/coffee/etc.
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Old 06-21-2022, 01:44 PM   #13
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Certainly to each, his own. You can take the electronic log book idea a step further and install a voyage data recorder, a black box. To me however, sailing the seas has a huge romanticist element to it, a nostalgia, and isn't just about crossing the river to get to the other bar.



I think logs (time, position, description) belongs in a hard cover book. It is absolutely wonderful to sit back in a cozy arm chair, during a rainy grey day, and read about your adventures from years back. OP is a writer, and should appreciate that there are times when electronic books (Kindles) are handy, and times when a dog-eared paperback or a worn, stained hardcover is ideal.



However, Excel spreadsheets or other software are absolutely perfect for tracking costs, detailed maintenance items, inventory and spares, etc. I like the idea of saving it to Google Drive, as its not CUI/Confidential information for the most part and solves the worry about laptops being destroyed by water/fire/coffee/etc.


I think you touch in an important distinction which is different information for different purposes. A log can be anything from a simple record of port/anchorage calls, all the way to a detailed hour by hour journal. What you are trying to record heavily influences how you record it. Considerations are ease of recording, easy of viewing, ability to search, ability to share, and longevity. Probably other too.

This is problem with many correct answers. Hereís where we have ended up, not really by planning, but more by evolution.

1) our shipís log is actually very sparse with little more than date and time of departures and arrivals, and key events like fueling and boarder crossings. Thatís about it.

2) I keep a very detailed journal of everything I do on the boat in terms of upkeep, repairs, modifications, diagnostics, etc. it has a subsection for routine maintenance thatís just a table of tasks and date/hrs when done.

3) my tracks recorded by coastal explorer are the definitive logs of our voyage when and where. They can be exported to any of several common formats for use with other charting and mapping programs.

4) a to-do list in a spread sheet. As the new boat projects settle down, this will probably become another subsection in the journal. It started out as a separate document so I could easily share it with the builder as we worked through issues.

5) a blog for public consumption. Mine is a combination of travel log, plus boat project stuff that I think is worthy of sharing.

6) at times I have run an N2K data recorder, but it has been less than satisfactory. I have used the Maretron voyage data recorder, and itís really a pretty lame product. The good news is that it will record very single message on the N2K bus, and it has been indispensable a number of times going back to look at something to see exactly what happened. But it has a habit of destroying expensive, high capacity USB sticks in a way that makes them completely unrecoverable on any machine. It just bricks them. They also use a proprietary file system, plus a proprietary file format, so you are 100% at their mercy for accessing and analyzing the data, and their tools are quite poor. Itís not one of their better moments as a vendor.

One thing I donít do is record mountains of engine room data. I monitor and alarm things extensively, but I donít record stuff on engine room checks. Tracking, trending, and alarming is what computers are for, so I assign that job to them.
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Old 06-21-2022, 01:47 PM   #14
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.

And as for your Admiral Adamas's recommendations, anyone who uses Google docs or connects his computer to a GPS or AIS device is using networking on board his ship.
Yes, no, maybe.
AIS, GPS and open CPN is on a stand alone PC and not connected in any way to the interwebs
Google docs are on another PC, downstairs
And none of the above talks to engine, radar, autopilot, depth or anything else
Every bit of gear is stand alone and able to removed without affecting anything else.

I was somewhat involved with a vessel that had integrated, networked systems crap out before in remote locations and it was a nightmare at the time as none of us were computer engineers, software designers or programmers.
I suspect several of the crew had only recently discovered fire (-;
Ended up being a bin job and took her back to stoneage
They even scrapped the electronic controlled engines and went for a pair of remanufactured WW2 vintage cats.

But, that was a long time ago and things are likely different now but ..........
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Old 06-21-2022, 02:54 PM   #15
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To both Pete and Dan - Yes, I've been an enthusiastic follower of both James and Jennifer Hamilton on Dirona - they are both terrific software engineers. And Dan, Dirona has already sold as the Hamiltons have returned to Seattle, so someone is now trying to manage all that special programming. Like you, I hope he was able to pass on significant documentation.
...
Wow. I did not know Dirona had been sold. There is just NOT enough time in the day to keep up with everything. Last I had read, Dirona was still hanging out in Scotland but about to go to port for food and repairs, which seem like yesterday, but I guess not.

Now I have to go read what the Hamiltons are up too!

Thanks,
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Old 06-21-2022, 03:13 PM   #16
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I had to check what had happened to Dirona, and as I was fast forwarding through the Hamilton's online life, I found this comment about Dirona's systems.

https://mvdirona.com/2022/01/2021-summary/

Quote:
Your questions on what to do with the automation aboard Dirona is a good one. It was a wonderful system but the entire system was one gigantic beta test project. I learned an enormous amount from all the work and we really enjoyed it over the years. But it was 12,000 to 15,000 lines of beta test code. Far more complex than anyone could reasonably take care of and I donít have time or desire to many the support lines so it all was removed and what was sold was a very well equipped but not automated Nordhavn. It has an excellent Maretron monitoring systems and is, by far, the best equipped 52 in Nordhavn fleet but all the automation had to be removed.
Later,
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Old 06-21-2022, 05:47 PM   #17
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What?
So all that automation actually made it harder?
Who'd have thunk it (-!
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Old 06-21-2022, 08:36 PM   #18
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my maintenance log "is there". No rhyme no reason..... no order. To the next owner, sorry about that. Feel free to rewrite it
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Old 06-22-2022, 06:16 AM   #19
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I think logs (time, position, description) belongs in a hard cover book.

However, Excel spreadsheets or other software are absolutely perfect for tracking costs, detailed maintenance items, inventory and spares, etc. I like the idea of saving it to Google Drive, as its not CUI/Confidential information for the most part and solves the worry about laptops being destroyed by water/fire/coffee/etc.
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1) our shipís log is actually very sparse with little more than date and time of departures and arrivals, and key events like fueling and boarder crossings. Thatís about it.

2) I keep a very detailed journal of everything I do on the boat in terms of upkeep, repairs, modifications, diagnostics, etc. it has a subsection for routine maintenance thatís just a table of tasks and date/hrs when done.

3) my tracks recorded by coastal explorer are the definitive logs of our voyage when and where. They can be exported to any of several common formats for use with other charting and mapping programs.

4) a to-do list in a spread sheet. As the new boat projects settle down, this will probably become another subsection in the journal. It started out as a separate document so I could easily share it with the builder as we worked through issues.

Ditto these two.

We do simple pen-and-ink entries in a physical logbook while underway. Maintenance log, repair journal, project list, inventory (and location of "stuff" on the boat), fuel and costs, etc. all in an Excel spreadsheet with various tabs. Important tracks saved in TimeZero. I've added (or will add, as I get to it) some supplemental functional "schematics" -- entertainment systems, nav systems, plumbing, etc. -- in PowerPoint.

Augmented by softcopy manufacturer's documentation for every system on the boat.

Most of the reason we use Excel so much is because I can modify it on the fly, as needs expand or evolve. No reliance on another vendor needed for software changes and so forth. I want a new tab? I make a new tab. I want an additional column? I make an additional column. I want to color-code external labor costs differently from my own labor? Easy. Et cetera.

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Old 06-24-2022, 06:42 PM   #20
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For comings and goings you might want to look at Nebo.

You can do it with an app on your phone or get a NeboLink that does it automatically.

https://nebo.global/?v=7516fd43adaa

Doesn't keep maintenance records though.
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