A well-devised system for engine room logs facilitates timely maintenance, keeps junior watchkeepers on their toes, and can head off potential catastrophes.
Record keeping is not only for the flag state. Internal record keeping is just as important for the engineer. Keeping track of scheduled maintenance can keep the engine room on track and operating with a minimum of downtime and failure. And using records in a novel way can help catch problems before they become dangerous. It can be as simple as a small form that one can fill in with dates and hours for past and next scheduled services. Self-adhesive label holders made for binders provide a clear plastic holder for notes that can be placed on or near each piece of machinery.
During long passages, it is impossible for one person to do hourly engine room checks, yet these checks are important to catch issues as quickly as possible before they become catastrophic. On yachts with small crews, many people who are not mechanical get pressed into service to become watchstanders. In a four-hour watch with two people on the bridge, one will be tasked with doing the hourly machinery watch. Running logs can be useful to ensure that these watchkeepers are doing their jobs.
With a little effort, an entire 24- hour period covering main-engine and ancillary equipment can fit on one printed spreadsheet page. The trick is to not only include as much equipment as will fit on the page, but to organize it so that one trip around the engine room will take the watchkeeper to every corner.
Yes, the usual engine pressures and temperatures have been noted, but is the fuel purifier on? Place a check here. What’s the pressure on the water maker, and what’s the output reading? Write it down. And while you are there, look inside the frame to see if there are any leaks.
These pieces of equipment are arranged all around the engine room, and by forcing the watchkeeper to physically go to each piece to get the information, leaks and strange noises can be spotted early.
A quick orientation for their first watch is usually enough to instruct even the most junior crew member on where to look and what to write. The supporting requirement is to give them full permission to wake the engineer or captain if something just doesn’t look right. I would always tell them I’d rather be awakened for nothing than left to sleep and have a disaster occur.
Hourly running logs are also valuable to spot long-term trends. Values that are changing slowly may not be noticed in just a day. Water maker production may be falling to the point that a filter change is required; or generator oil temperatures may be rising above normal, indicating a need to clean the heat exchanger. These things can alert the engineer to developing issues that may require attention or a call to the service agent.
In case of a failure, proper records can be on our side if questions arise with owners, investigators, or even captains.
JD ANSON HAS MORE THAN 20 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE AS A CHIEF ENGINEER ON SUPERYACHTS. HE IS CURRENTLY PROJECT MANAGER AT FINE LINE MARINE ELECTRIC IN FORT LAUDERDALE.