Nav-station notebooks

A place for everything and everything in its place: “the inside skinny,” neatly arranged. Photo by Marilyn Brigham

By Marilyn Pond Brigham

At the end of a day of cruising aboard Selkie, our Catalina 445, my husband and I are inevitably tired and looking forward to being at the day’s port-of-call, where we can relax and discuss one of the more mundane – yet pleasurable – aspects of cruising, which is what we’re going to do for dinner that night. For years, the conversation went something like this: “What was the name of the restaurant we went to three years ago when we were last here? We had that wonderful lobster dinner. Oh, I remember – ‘The Landfall.’ Or was it ‘The Windfall?’ Nope, I’ve got it – ‘Fallsview.’ Anyway, it was something like that . . . it sure was a terrific place!”

This discussion would often take place as we approached a given marina, where our slip assignment was, for instance, “B-233.” Well, where is that, exactly? We do find the slip, but the marina’s wifi password invariably doesn’t work, and now finding the name of that restaurant has become more challenging. This scenario wasn’t repeated too many times before we hit upon a solution – nav-station notebooks!

We started by collecting all the errant paperwork we had about each of our frequently visited cruising destinations. We then sorted and put the information into sets of plastic notebook/binders for these areas, which, in our particular case, mostly comprised Cape Cod, The North Shore (between Boston and the New Hampshire border), Maine and Rhode Island. Inside each notebook we inserted clear plastic sleeves with marker tabs for specific harbors within each geographic area.

Now, when we’re approaching a destination, we turn to the appropriate section of one of these notebooks to find all the information we need to find our slip at the marina, that great restaurant, or the terrific shop I vowed to return to “next time.”

So . . . how to begin? Get the plastic binders, plastic sleeves and stick-on tabs at your favorite stationery store. The first tab is the name of the harbor. The first sleeve contains the paper NOAA chart showing the approach to the harbor and the inner harbor (and yes, I know this information is available on your Raymarine chart, and potentially even on your cell phone, but paper charts are still an essential part of a redundant system).

The next sleeve contains the map of the harbor’s marinas, each showing the dock configuration and the slip numbers. This can either be printed off the marina’s website or gathered from the marina from the last time you were there. It’s also good to have a page with the marina’s contact information, i.e., the preferred VHF hailing channel, phone number, or any special instructions. The following sleeve has other information about the marina, such as guest services.

Additional sleeves can contain information you’ve collected from the internet about going ashore. I particularly enjoy being a tourist, and grab any and all brochures I can so we don’t miss any of the local sights. Many have colorful maps that highlight local points of interest, historical places and restaurants. You can also store brochures from places that indulge your interests, such as walking tours, bike rentals, museums and special shops. How about bakery and takeout menus, or information regarding that restaurant that happens to deliver to boats? Or things of a purely practical matter, like drugstores, marine supply outlets and repair facilities? Or perhaps an article in Points East piqued your interest in a harbor? Rip those pages out and include them in a sleeve for your next cruise. You can be as comprehensive as you like.

It’s always a good idea to periodically cull the information in the notebooks. Nautical charts are updated, restaurants close and marinas are sometimes reconfigured. Spend some time doing this in the winter, when you’re dreaming of cruising and potential ports-of-call. Certainly you can add to your collection, as well.

So, what’s the benefit of all this organization? For starters, we never have to worry about finding our assigned slip at the marina. We know just where to maneuver (even if the dockhand isn’t standing at the slip waving to us) and when we’re assigned slip “B-233,” which is a starboard tie-up, we can ask for a different one if it’s not to our liking. Also, we’re never scratching our heads regarding that great restaurant, and need not worry about a reliable internet connection. Beyond that, it’s one less aspect of a cruise we need to worry about, which is always a good thing.

Marilyn Brigham, along with her co-captain/spouse, Paul, sails Selkie, a Catalina 445, out of Quissett Harbor in Falmouth, Mass. She’s a life-long sailor and a current member of both the Quissett and Cottage Park Yacht Clubs.

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