Any experienced boater will not ignore having a float plan and they’ll always advise you to expect the unexpected. No matter how safe you think your boat or the weather is, always prepare a float plan before you begin your journey.
Even a small failure like battery problems can keep you stranded in the middle of your journey and in some cases, the engine may fail.
Your float plan will help the rescue team to identify your boat really fast provided you have added all the necessary information required in plan.
What Is A Float Plan?
It’s a document where you add all the details about your boat and boating trip or excursion. You have to add all the required information about yourself, the passengers, and the vessel.
Then you leave this document to family members, agency, or any trusted person. A Float Plan is used for rescue when things go wrong in your journey.
Why Is The Float Plan Important?
A float plan contains all the vital information about your trip including your boat info and your entire route. Even with the advancement of technology, a lot of boats go missing every year and probably because they haven’t created a float plan with details of their route.
Some will just fill in boat information and never mind writing down the details about their journey, while some will not update the float plan, they’ll keep on using the same over the years which is not good at all.
Basically, we can say that a float plan helps identify missing boaters in water; once you plan your trip and it’s time to return but you haven’t, you can easily be traced using the information provided in your float plan.
Some won’t even bother to tell family members where they’re going, it’s easier to get lost at the sea and probably there won’t be radio signals or cellular network, you’ll end up in the middle of nowhere.
A float plan will help in this situation to identify your boat. If your family calls the coast guard, they can easily explain the details written on the float plan. Without it, all they can do is give your name, the type of boat, and color which will not help much.
The most important questions that will help are which marina you left and where you’re heading to and the routes you plan to take. Without this information in your float plan, you’re making it difficult to be traced when you’re in danger.
How To Fill A Float Plan
You can write a float plan any way you want to be provided you have mentioned all the important info required, it can be handwritten where you explain details about your boat or journey, it can also be typed.
But a more standard way to do it is by downloading a form from agency websites which are mostly available online for free download.
They have created fields where you can add all important information, this way it will be more professional and you won’t take the risk of forgetting important information that is supposed to be included.
Who Should I Submit The Float Plan To?
Once you have a detailed plan, you should distribute it to family members or trusted persons, or can be left at the marina dock. If you haven’t returned in time, they’re responsible for handing over the floatplane to the US Coast Guard so that they can begin tracing your boat.
Don’t hand over the float plan directly to the U.S Coast Guard when departing for your trip, it should be handed to only trusted persons within your reach.
Make sure to provide them with instructions on how to contact or even provide them with emergency numbers for the authorities involved if you haven’t returned or they couldn’t reach you at the said time.
Also, make sure to update your float plan even if you make the slightest change especially when it comes to your route. Contact the person you handed the float plan to and let them know of the changes.
For this reason, it’s required that you create the float plan when you’re about to begin your trip so that every detail in the float plan is finalized and remains accurate.
What To Include In Your Float Plan
- Description of your vessel; This is where you add the description of your vessel/boat including; vessel identification number, make, size, color, size of the engine if any, and type of boat.
- The number of persons for the trip; Include all the names of passengers, right from the driver to instructors and also with their contact information like phone numbers and home address. Though it’s not mandatory, you should consider adding pictures of all the passengers on board.
- Location of your departure; You should include the name and location of the marina or launch ramp where you’re taking your boat and so on.
- Destination; This is important information that must be filled in accurately, explaining where you’re heading to and all the routes you’re going to follow. Explain your stops and the activities you intend to perform on your trip.
- Timeframe for your outing; Write down the time you intend to come back so that when the time arrives and you’re out of reach, the proper action can be taken to trace your boat.
- Add contact information; Though, we have stated that a float plan should be handed over to family members or any trusted person, if you however decided to hand over the float plan directly to other agencies, there is the need to provide contact information of family and relatives so that they can be reached if assistance is needed from their part.
- Vehicle license plate number; This should also be included, add license plate number or tow vehicle’s number as well.
When Should You File A Float Plan?
Every time you’re going out boating, you should write a float plan, you should always expect the unexpected. Things can go wrong at any point and even if you’re going for a short trip, you should consider creating a float plan.
It’s almost impossible to trace you or your boat without a float plan and that’s why every trip deserves it, whether you’re boating on a river or at the sea, you should leave a float plan to family members.
Some believe if a trip is only for a day, it doesn’t require a float plan, it’s only ideal for a weekly trip or more. That is not the case, you should always have a float plan for all boating trips.
- Make sure to examine your boat for leaks and damages.
- Check fuel levels and ensure they’re enough for the distance you want to cover.
- Charge your batteries 100% full.
- Check all controls also and ensure they’re working well.
- Make sure there are fire extinguishers and they’re also mounted on the right locations on the boat. There are also automatic extinguishing systems, you want to make sure they’re working.
- Have spare parts onboard like extra batteries and so on.
- You should have PFDs (Personal Floatation Devices) for all your passengers.
You can now see how important a float plan is and the important information you need to add. Overall, we can say that your life is at risk if you go out boating without a float plan. It doesn’t take much of your time, just grab a piece of paper and write a float plan next time you’re going for a boating trip.
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