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    Why You Should Use A Float Plan

    A good day on the water can go bad — fast. A float plan can ensure you get the help you need before it's too late.

    Why You Should Use A Float Plan


    When your day doesn’t go as planned — and you’re not back at the dock when expected — ­someone needs valuable info to send the cavalry.

    A good day on the water can go bad — fast. A float plan can ensure you get the help you need before it's too late. (Photo: RBFF/Jim Gallop)

    You're a few miles from shore, wrapping up a few hours of fishing, when you turn the key to start the engine and hear "click." Your battery is dead, and you're too far from shore to get a cell signal. You told a friend you planned to be home before nightfall. As the sun sets, you realize that's not going to happen. The next day your friend realizes you're not home and calls the Coast Guard. They ask what kind of boat you're on, the color, what kind of trailer you have, where you launched. Your friend doesn't know any more than that you're on a small boat with an outboard. A wide area search and rescue is launched with no way of knowing where to start.

    Scenario 2: On the way back from a nice outing off the east coast of Florida, a thunderstorm suddenly kicks up and a huge gust flips your small boat, dumping you and your nephew in the water. Your electronics are wet, and all you can do is hold on to the hull in the chilly water as the sun sets. It's Saturday and you're not due back to work until Monday. No one knows anything more than you "went out in the boat somewhere."

    These two scenarios have two things in common. First, they're both actual events, and second, both skippers needed a float plan. In the first instance, the man was found after an exhaustive search that started in the wrong place. In the second one, the men were located nearly four days after capsizing and spent a few days in the hospital recovering. In either case, giving a float plan to a trusted person would have allowed rescuers to quickly locate the distressed boaters and prevented unnecessary time and expense for searchers.

    Float plans are useful for any boat, whether it's a kayak or cruising yacht. Here is a blank one to get you started. Fill it out completely and give it to someone reliable. Be clear about when they should take action. You don't want them to panic if you're a few minutes late, but you also don't want them to delay too long. It's better to notify rescuers and have it called off when you show up a little late than wait overnight while you may be treading water.


    Whether you are on the water for an afternoon or a month-long excursion, a float plan can be a lifesaver. Download a copy of the BoatUS Float Plan to get you started.

    A float plan includes all the pertinent information the Coast Guard will need in a search, including the names of the owner and operator of the vessel, description of the operator and passengers, and information about the vessel. It will also include info about your trip including departure date, departure location, destination, your planned route, if you will have a buddy's boat close by, and your expected return time. Also, consider adding another page with photos showing the make and color of the boat along with any identifying markings, and the size and brand of your outboard. And don't forget to notify your emergency float plan contact when you reach your destination and if you materially change your plans. Some details in float plans may vary depending up on the length of your trip.

    Float Plan Travel Tips

    My partner and I recently completed a month-long, 950-mile cruise up the East Coast. Using a BoatUS float plan gave us peace of mind, especially on longer legs. We came home with a few suggestions to share with fellow boaters.

    1. During your trip, try texting, emailing, or/and calling your float plan contact person to check that you can get through.2. Text or call your contact at arrival and departure points during an extended trip, especially one with several longer legs.3. If your boat has an MMSI properly registered and an AIS properly set up, your contact (or even rescuers) can plug your MMSI number into an AIS tracking website to pinpoint your location and watch your progress. (Note that the websites aren't always up to date.) BoatUS Members can request a free MMSI number.4. If you're buddy boating, encourage your friend(s) to file a float plan, too, and tell your contacts you're traveling in company, following the same itinerary — useful info if help is needed. Also, if both boats have MMSI-enabled VHFs, try calling each other's MMSI number periodically to check in. Calling by MMSI number keeps channel 16 open for emergencies as it starts its transmission on dedicated digital MMSI channel 70.

    — Claire Wyngaard Advertisement


    safety and prevention personal safety

    June 2020


    Charles Fort

    Contributing Editor, BoatUS Magazine

    Charles Fort is BoatUS Magazine's West Coast Editor. He often writes local news items for BoatUS Magazine's Waypoints column and contributes to Reports, in-depth tech features in every issue written to help readers avoid accidental damage to their boats. He is a member of the National Association of Marine Surveyors, he's on ABYC tech committees, and has a 100-ton U.S. Coast Guard license. He lives in California.

    Source : www.boatus.com

    What Should Be Included on a Float Plan?

    A float plan should include a description of the vessel, the number of persons onboard, the destination and route, contact information, and timeframe of the outing. Learn more about what should be included on a float plan and how to file one.

    What Should Be Included on a Float Plan?

    Pilots file a flight plan before each takeoff for general safety and to facilitate possible search-and-rescue operations should they be needed. For the same reasons, boaters should file a float plan, which is the best preparation for a boating emergency.

    What is a Float Plan?

    A float plan is an overview of a boat excursion that can give authorities a head start in looking for a boater if he or she fails to reach his or her destination.

    A float plan document should include:

    Description of the vessel

    Number of persons onboard

    Destination, including the general route to be taken

    Contact information

    Timeframe of the outing

    A float plan can be created by anyone whether heading down the river on a personal watercraft (PWC), going kayak fishing along the coast, or doing serious offshore sailing. Details to be included vary but the more specific the plan, the better.

    Vessel information should include size, color, make, type of boat, size of engine if any, and a vessel identification number.

    Consider adding information such as the name and location of the marina or launch ramp where you started.

    Add your vehicle’s (or the tow vehicle’s) location and license plate number.

    Include the names of all aboard and their ages, genders and any medical conditions or pertinent disabilities.

    Describe the intended itinerary in detail and provide multiple points of contact for those aboard including cell phones, VHF radio (if available) and even home addresses. Focus on key places and times you will check in or when you plan to return.

    How & Where Do You File a Float Plan?

    A detailed float plan should be left with a family member, a reliable friend, a marina dock master or anyone else you trust to contact the US Coast Guard in case of an emergency. Don’t file a float plan directly with the US Coast Guard.

    File the plan before you depart—the more time you allow prior to leaving, the better organized you and others will be. If your plans change due to weather, mechanical issues, or even personal preferences, reach out to your contact and update them or risk launching an expensive rescue mission even if you’re still in the slip.

    Where Do You Get the Forms to Create a Float Plan?

    There are numerous resources that can guide you in creating a hardcopy float plan or even provide an online form to complete. One of the most comprehensive forms can be found at USCG Auxiliary Float Plan. Notice that this form clearly states that your float plan is NOT to be filed with the Coast Guard but rather with someone you trust to contact the Coast Guard if you cannot be reached directly. Page 3 even guides your contact person as to the steps to be taken to notify authorities.

    Other places you can find float plan forms include an on-water assistance organization like a boat towing company (BoatUS or SeaTow, for example) or your state’s boating and waterways department website. The USCG Auxiliary also offers an app.

    What Are My Responsibilities When I File a Float Plan?

    Float plans don’t need to be formal. If you’re heading out to anchor in a favorite cove for the weekend, you can jot down when you’re going, where, with whom and when you expect to be back.

    If you tell your contact person that you’ll call them when you arrive at the cove or when you get back home—do so. Don’t head to dinner and forget. You may know you’re safe but the person you entrusted with your potential rescue doesn’t. Close out a float plan when you’re done with your excursion by notifying your contact that your outing is complete and that you’re safe. Never leave a float plan open.

    A float plan is a boater’s safety plan. It’s a bit of insurance and peace-of-mind that if you find trouble out on the water, someone will find you.

    Read Next: Boating Safety Guide

    You Might Also Like:

    Boat Safety Checklist & Equipment List

    Pre-Departure Checklist

    Weather Safety Tips for Boaters

    Best Boating Apps: Navigation, Fishing, Weather & More

    First-Time Boat Owners: How to Get Started

    Source : www.discoverboating.com

    Float Plans: What They Are & How to Create One

    Learn about what float plans are, why you should create one and what's included. Download our printable PDF template and create a float plan for your next trip.

    What Is a Float Plan?

    Before heading out on a boat trip, it's always wise to leave a float plan with someone you trust---especially for longer trips. A float plan, such as the sample shown here, provides information about where and when you are boating.

    What Information Should a Float Plan Contain?

    A Float Plan should be filled out before departing on your trip. Leave it with someone who you can rely on to notify the proper authorities should you not return at the planned time.

    Name, description and information about owner/operator

    Vessel information: size, type, color, engine etc.

    Safety equipment on board

    Trip details : departure date, return date, destination, proposed route, stops along the way etc.

    Name, description and info of passengers

    What Information Should a Float Plan Contain?

    Download the float plan and pre-departure checklist.

    Filing A Float Plan

    Fill one out and leave it with a family member, friend or local marina before leaving the dock. If you get caught in a storm or run into an emergency situation, having a float plan filed with a responsible party could save your life.

    At the very least, you should always let a family member, friend or marina know where you are planning to boat and when you expect to arrive home. If you don't arrive when expected, they can then contact the authorities who can then check to make sure you are not in danger.

    Contact a friend or family member and let them know what your plans are by filling out a float plan.

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    Source : www.boaterexam.com

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