A float plan could save your life
A float plan outlines your expected journey while boating. Think of it as leaving a footprint on the water that can be followed by anyone searching for you.
Creating a document to leave with your family and friends ashore can protect you and everyone on board. If you fail to return on time, your float plan lets your friends and family know what to do and whom to contact. It also provides vital information search and rescue personnel can use to help locate and assist you in an emergency.
Creating a float plan
The ideal float plan should include the following information:
Details about your vessel
- Boat name
- Boat registration number
- Type of boat (power, sail, paddle)
- Boat size
- Boat color
- Year and make
- Type of engine
- Unique features like a flag or wakeboard tower
Details about your boat’s safety equipment
- Sound signals
- Visual distress signals
- Navigation equipment
- Number/color of life jackets on board
- Boat operator’s name, address and telephone number
- Number of passengers on board, including names, addresses and telephone numbers
- Emergency contact information for all aboard
Description of your trip
- Day/time of departure
- Day/time of intended return
- Proposed route
- Instructions in case of emergency
Typically, the skipper should be responsible for preparing a float plan; however, any member of the crew can step up and do so.
Sharing your float plan
There are numerous templates available online from various boating organizations, including the official float plan of the U.S. Coast Guard. The America’s Boating Club app includes a float plan that has everything the Coast Guard’s has and more. Plus, once you input your boat information into the app, it autofills any plan you make with that information.
Once completed, print or electronically share it with two trusted relatives or friends, as well as with your local marina. If you don’t check in from your trip as expected, your float plan guardians have sufficient information to contact authorities and request help or an immediate search.
Having an electronic document allows you to upload it and make it accessible to anyone who needs it. This way, you can update it when your itinerary changes, and your guardians remain in the know.
Finally, consider adding pictures of your vessel to your file. This helps search and rescue teams dismiss other boats that aren’t yours and zero in on your vessel more quickly.
Bottom line: A float plan could save your life. To learn more, including why you need one, go to danboater.org. -DAN Boater