Boat cards are your calling cards on the boat -- a quick way to exchange info without writing it out each time. What should be on yours?

Boat Cards

If you’re new to cruising, you may be wondering what boat cards are . . . or what to put on yours.

Basically, they’re “business cards” with your contact information that you can give to other cruisers, marinas and even stores, depending on the local custom. For example, in some of the Mexican towns where we cruised on Que Tal, every store you did business with wanted a boat card. In other towns, no one did.

You can have them made at a local copy shop, an online printer such as Vistaprint, or make your own. I like to make our own – we have a laptop and printer on board – simply because I can change the card any time I want to, but if you don’t have a printer or don’t want to do the fussy design work, you can have them made anywhere that makes business cards.

What to include?

  • Boat name
  • Names of those on board – use the name people actually call you, such as a nickname instead of your legal name that no one ever uses.
  • Ways that people can contact you – say a cell phone and general email. Ham ID if you have one. DeLorme inReach IDs are also becoming popular.

Think about possibly including:

  • Photo of those onboard – I find a picture of people much more helpful than a picture of a boat unless the boat is truly identifiable at a glance from a 1” x 1” photo.
  • Something uniquely identifying to help people remember who you are (for us, both the Gemini cat and the “small white boat dog”)
  • Facebook – if you have a boat page or want people to friend you, include the info (including your Facebook name if different than the name on your boat card).
  • Blog if you have one.
  • MMSI number if cruising an area where DSC is used a lot (for example, in many foreign countries where cruisers tend not to have cell phones).
  • Home marina if you are currently based out of one.

Don’t include:

  • Any information that you don’t want everyone to have (say, a satellite phone number). You can write it on the back for people who need it. [That’s why I covered up our phone number and email in the photo – I really don’t want it in a photo on the internet!]
  • Any limited bandwidth email such as Sailmail, Winlink or one you get via sat phone. You can write this info on your card for anyone who needs it.

Probably don’t include:

  • Home address or mailing address
  • Home phone
  • Fax number

A few general thoughts:

  • Use large enough type that people can read your info easily.
  • It’s better to have less info and larger type than vice versa.
  • If you use a photo of yourselves, make it large enough that faces are identifiable, and use a photo that looks like you do when cruising.
  • If you have a lot of info, think about putting some of it on the back instead of squishing it all on the front.
I really like boat cards that have photos of those on board as it is a huge help in remembering who’s who. So why don’t we have one on ours? I don’t have a good photo of the three of us. Yep, it’s on the to-do list!

Anything else that you include – or don’t – that I forgot? Please add it in the comments.

  • Sue
    Posted at 09 December 2014 Reply

    Good advice about boat cards. Our unique identifier…we are the yellow boat quite distinctive.

  • Willie Haskins
    Posted at 09 December 2014 Reply

    Good info about making your boat card. Think about what you are going to do with the cards from other people that you will amass. I have several card wallets. One is for cruising cards. One is for marinas, restaurants, and hairdressers. Another is for boat repair services. A fourth is for miscellaneous (eg Internet providers). After seven years cruising, all are getting full.

  • D and Don
    Posted at 09 December 2014 Reply

    We like to include the type and make of boat we are on also.


  • Colin Mombourquette
    Posted at 09 December 2014 Reply

    A great idea. Active Captain also has eBoatCards:

  • Jill Carter
    Posted at 09 December 2014 Reply

    I love boat cards! As we are on a circumnavigation, and change our cell number often, I’ve actually included a space on our cards to handwrite whatever current number we are using. BTW – just love both your FB page and website ….. so much wonderful detail !!!

  • Lynn Kaak
    Posted at 09 December 2014 Reply

    We make sure the MMSI number is on ours. Very handy!
    But Willie is right, you need to know what to do with the cards you receive.

  • Kevin Howe
    Posted at 09 December 2014 Reply

    Love this tip!!!

  • Jennifer Dean Neumann
    Posted at 09 December 2014 Reply

    I put a photo of the boat on ours to help ppl remember. I think you’re “german catamaran” will cover it for you. And mention of the dog. Very cute.

  • Christine Kling
    Posted at 09 December 2014 Reply

    I don’t keep boatcards – I scan them with the app called WorldCard Mobile (iOS or Android) which will import the information into my contacts. It doesn’t recognize fancy fonts, so I suggest people use plain fonts and group the information in a single spot so it is easier for OCR readers to understand.

  • Michelle Rene
    Posted at 10 December 2014 Reply

    Wow thank you for all this simple but helpful info

  • Belinda Wolfe
    Posted at 10 December 2014 Reply

    I keep the boat cards I collect stacked with a rubber band. but I also add them to my Evernote iPhone app (free). I simply take a picture of the card (back & front). Evernote can locate the card by searching any word in the picture. So if I can remember the boat name but not the people I would search for “barefoot”. If I can remember a person but not the boat name I could search for “Carolyn”. It’s very handy especially when I’m away the boat and see a boat I recognize. Also, not required but handy, I can associate a ‘tag'(s) with each card. For me, I use two tags: Looper and/or DeFever. That way I pull up just Loopers or DeFevers! This app also is great for keeping recipes …..buts that’s another subject

  • Mark and Cindy - s/v Cream Puff
    Posted at 10 December 2014 Reply

    Adding an MMSI number is helpful since DSC radios continue to grow in popularity. Using the MMSI to make a DSC call is a great way to reach a vessel privately.

    Mark and Cindy
    s/v Cream Puff

  • D and Don
    Posted at 10 December 2014 Reply

    Because we have collected so many boat cards we have moved up to a large three ring binder with plastic business card holder pages. I have them in alphabetical order and then the cards are inserted in order they are received. So, if it was someone we just met, their card would be at the end of the bunch. Also I do not double stack the cards as I like to be able to see what I have written on the back side. For example, I write the date we met and where and any other items I want to remember. Like they have a dog and it’s name. If you want photos, let me know.


  • Marie H
    Posted at 11 December 2014 Reply

    I’ve wanted to make boat cards for some time. I just couldn’t make up my mind what to put on them. I am going to do some before the season starts this year. Love the 3 Ring binder idea Don. You could have indexes for different catagories.

    • D and Don
      Posted at 11 December 2014 Reply

      Actually we have two, three ring binders. One for cruiser cards (the big one) and the other one for businesses and marinas and such.

      AS rara s what to put anthem, if you get a chance ask all that you met for cards to get a sense of what they do to help you.

      D and Don

  • Lamarr Harding
    Posted at 20 December 2015 Reply

    A friend was running out of “Vista print” cards.

    I lined some up on a photo copier made a white master sheet and copied onto brightly colored card stock. Many copies per page, cut them out with scisors (helps to have a border on cards) For a few bucks had hundreds of cards.

  • Marta Crichlow
    Posted at 24 April 2016 Reply


  • Jane Jarratt
    Posted at 25 April 2016 Reply

    Caroline, what programme do you use for your boat cards?

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 25 April 2016 Reply

      A free version of Serif PagePlus. I prefer Microsoft Publisher as easier to use, but it’s exxpensive and that’s about the only thing I need desktop publishing software for.

  • Jeanny Aldrich
    Posted at 25 April 2016 Reply

    We should have put our picture. I find it so much easier to make a connection when I have bost cards with people’s pictures on them

  • Jeanny Aldrich
    Posted at 25 April 2016 Reply

    Vista print

  • Monika Ludewig Bradley
    Posted at 25 April 2016 Reply

    Vistaprintakes it so easy to create boat cards and business cards and easy to upload a photo as well

  • John Herlig s/v Ave del Mar
    Posted at 10 May 2016 Reply

    I love seeing boat make, length, and year on them, but the diversity in what and how people create boat cards is the best!

  • Sylvia
    Posted at 02 June 2016 Reply

    I just received one of the best boat cards ever. Two teenagers on the boat make the cards by hand in their spare time. Hand-drawn pic of the boat plus boat info. No two cards exactly alike and it’s always an ongoing project for the “kids”. I will treasure this mini work of art, a memento from an extremely cool cruising family. (After 3 yrs of cruising we still haven’t gotten around to making our boat cards. There always seems to be something else to do. I guess we should have made our cards before we threw off the dock lines.)

  • John Parsons
    Posted at 31 August 2017 Reply

    As per 100% usual, here’s yet another Totally Awesome, Super Useful post by TBG! Thank You, Carolyn! It amazes me how you continue to come up with such creative and captivating posts. Even though we are not sailors, this post is SO useful for ANY travelers who interface with diverse demographics. We have been creating small quantities of custom business cards for almost 40 years. We got the idea from the ancient 1974-1980 TV series “The Rockford Files” starring James Garner. As one website devoted to “The Rockford Files” says, “he kept a small press in the backseat of his car to print instant business cards to go with his numerous aliases and scams.” Well, the idea stuck with us and we’ve been using it ever since. Even if we’re only going on a short one week Road Trip, we make up “travel cards” for that adventure. And “Project Cards” are a Way Of Life with us. We love passing out our custom cards and the happy feedback then engender. The more you get dialed into the art & skill & utility of “boat cards” or “travel cards” or “project cards,” the more endearing and enlightening they can become!

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