Have you ever wondered what would happen if something went terribly wrong while out on the water? If no one knows where you are going, how many stops you are making along the way, and what time you are expecting to be back by, how will they know when/if they need to call authorities?
A common rule before leaving the house is to say where you're going and when you'll be back. The same, simple rule goes for boaters too, except there's a name for it. Before taking a trip out on the water, you should always be sure to let someone on shore know your float plan, a detailed agenda of where you expect to be and how long you expect to be gone.
A float plan can include any or all of the following information: name, address, and phone number of trip leader; name and number of all passengers, emergency contacts and any special medical conditions; boat type and registration information; trip itinerary; a list of communication and signal equipment onboard.
Here’s how to execute a float plan:
- Designate two responsible friends and family members as your float plan guardians.
- Provide your float plan guardians with guidelines as to how long they should wait before contacting authorities when you do not check in as expected per your float plan. Use as many notes as possible to record this information.
- If possible, provide your float plan guardians with contact information for the emergency personnel (US Coast Guard, marine patrol, etc.) where you will be boating.
- As you fill in your destinations and estimated arrival dates (ETAs), take into consideration the predicted weather, realistic boat speed and your ability to contact your float plan guardians to update your float plan as you reach (or change) your planned destinations.
- Don’t neglect to fill in the crew and passenger information. Their ages, descriptions, medical information and emergency contacts are vital to search and rescue personnel.
- If your destinations and plans change as you travel, update your float plan so your guardians can easily monitor your progress, avoiding needless worry and unnecessary calls to emergency personnel.
- Remember to close out your float plan by checking in at your final waypoint.
Be safe, don’t be careless!