If you’re new to cruising, you may be wondering what boat cards are . . . or what to put on yours.
What’s a Boat Card?
Basically, a boat card is a “business card” 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.
Where to Have Boat Cards Made
You can have boat cards 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
There are three things that you should always include on your boat card:
- 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.
- 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
Boat Card Design
A few general thoughts as you’re designing your boat cards:
- 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. But I’ll admit that ours doesn’t have one since we don’t have a good picture of the three of us!
This article was originally written in December 2014 and updated through April 2020.
Good advice about boat cards. Our unique identifier…we are the yellow boat quite distinctive.
Willie Haskins says
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 says
We like to include the type and make of boat we are on also.
Colin Mombourquette says
A great idea. Active Captain also has eBoatCards:
Jill Carter says
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 says
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 says
Love this tip!!!
Jennifer Dean Neumann says
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 says
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 says
Wow thank you for all this simple but helpful info
Belinda Wolfe says
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 says
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 says
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 says
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 says
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 says
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 says
Jane Jarratt says
Caroline, what programme do you use for your boat cards?
The Boat Galley says
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 says
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 says
Monika Ludewig Bradley says
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 says
I love seeing boat make, length, and year on them, but the diversity in what and how people create boat cards is the best!
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 says
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!
Carolyn Shearlock says
Love the “Rockford Files” connection!
USE BOTH SIDES!
I printed off my own boat cards but found that the ink ran in any kind of moisture. Be careful about the ink used and the paper used (I used Avery business cards) because you may end up with a mess. For that reason I will be having a commercial business print up my next set.
I recently had a first-time experience where skippers were handing me their boat cards. I had nothing to give in return, so on my return home I looked up this podcast I remembered from way back. Very handy and helpful!
The first version of my boat cards have been ordered.