Making Lists and Using Them

My Seamanship instructor and fellow ThreeSheetsNW blogger Bill Ray talked to the class one day about lists and how important and useful they could be to boaters. We had been talking about accidents and catastrophes and how they often begin, not because of one single event, but through a series of small mistakes or mishaps.

Lists can be an essential ingredient, if created and used properly, in thwarting accidents and catastrophes. It’s why they’re used and so important, for example, in aviation.

The Admiral expressed a desire to refine her boating skills so that she’d feel more comfortable taking the Laika out without me. While I’ve spent countless hours on the boat familiarizing myself with all the systems and taking numerous solo voyages into the lake, there hasn’t been an easy way of transferring that knowledge.

So, we decided a set of lists would be useful. There are a bunch of little steps required to be performed every time we take the boat out, or bring it back in. Thus was born the Captain’s Guide for the M/V Laika. Incidentally, M/V stands for motor vessel. You’ve undoubtedly heard the term SS used. That stands for steam ship. A whole list of these can be found here.

I selected a 5×8″ format in landscape orientation. I created the booklet in Apple’s Pages program, but could have easily done the same using Microsoft Word.

A sample page from our quick guide flip book

A sample page showing fuel locations near Seattle

Our first version of our guide is nine pages. Color coding was used to differentiate the guide’s sections:

  • Heading Out
  • Emergencies
  • Fuel Locations
  • Returning Home
  • Vital Vessel Information

It was important that the guide be JIS-5 rated, so I went to Fedex (Kinkos) and laminated each of the pages after producing color copies on 32lb bright paper and trimming them down to a reasonable size. I drilled some holes and bound the pages with notebook rings.

We’ll be testing the guide out over next few weeks and making changes as necessary. One section I plan to add soon will provide a quick overview of the steps and documentation necessary to travel between the US and Canada using our NEXUS status. Another will contain vital insurance and accident reporting information.

If you’d like a copy of the guide you can grab a version I created without all our personal information. There are versions in PDF, Pages and Word formats.

Sample guide:

  • PDF: click here to download
  • Pages: click here to download
  • Word: click here to download
This entry was posted in Onboard, Safety, Uncategorized and tagged , by David. Bookmark the permalink.

About David

David is a Seattle-based technology entrepreneur. He's created several successful companies. He's an avid boater and enjoys spending time with his daughter, friends and Australian Shepherd aboard MV KAYLA in Lake Washington and Puget Sound. He's also a Reserve Firefighter / EMT and enjoys sharing his knowledge of safety and life-saving skills with other boaters.

4 thoughts on “Making Lists and Using Them

  1. well….I guess I did my mayday wrong then….we struck a rock at 32 mph outside of roche harbor….

    my mayday consisted of
    mayday -mayday – mayday
    this is wildwhim wildwhim wild whim
    have struck underwater obstical and am taking on water…
    location is XYZ..
    mayday -mayday – mayday

    waited for a return answer which was immediate….after determing my exact location and passing to Victoria coast guard….I realized I was still in american waters…
    so..hit the DCS button…..once I did instantly sent a command to Seattle Ctr coast guard and they broadcast an exact position to where we were….
    within minutes I had 6 boats around me to help out….Washington State Wildlife was the boat that helped out the best…officer Zach came on board and took the wheel as I kept monitoring the water and bilge pump….



  2. first thing I did was assess if anyone was hurt….moved them out of the way to lift the engine hatch….saw water coming in and then instantly got on the radio..
    time is the most important thing…find out what is wrong and treat it quickly…if you can’t fix it…get on the radio as fast as possible and start your rescue….if the boat is going down…look at where your at and have a handheld ready to go…



    • Steve, you implemented the priority headline to my emergency checklists perfectly: People First, Boat Second, Talk Third

      One of the tragic aspects of aircraft accidents are the number of people who get wrapped up in talking on the radio to somebody miles away instead of fixing the problem for the airplane they are riding in.

      David, your elegant implementation of your checklists would do a 787 proud.


  3. Wow, that is very organized! We just bought a larger boat and instead of taking it in and out of the water it will be staying at the dock. I am certainly going to make up some of these lists just to help both of us keep track of the important things. Thank you!


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