Float plans – an integral part of boating

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 7, 2003

Special to the News-Herald

Nowadays we seem to be in an information overload. Your pager will receive news updates, there are a bunch of news channels on cable to chose from, the News-Herald covers our area better anyone else. We have CNN radio news for a 24-hour fix.

Even with this constant news stream, did you know that you can listen to a world-wide news broadcast over the internet? Some recreational boaters fail to provide loved ones the most basic of news items: a simple float plan.

Email newsletter signup

I don`t know about your family, but we live and die by notes at the DiRenzo’s. Want something picked up from school? Write a note. Need to remind yourself to get a gallon of milk? Write a note. You need to pick up a birthday card? Write a note. This simple approach applies to building a float plan, so let’s write one.

First off, you need to choose a responsible person to whom to give your information. This choice is critical because it will be this individual that initiates actions if you don’t check in.

Now that you have someone selected the next item should be a detailed description of your boat and its’ equipment. Put everything into this, from the style and color to a specific description of all the communication equipment onboard. If you have a cell phone make sure it makes the list. Same goes for your EPIRB and life raft information. Note life raft’s supplies.

State the specifics of your voyage. For example, if you were working your way up the Chesapeake Bay over a two-week period pick specific ports you will pull into and the dates. Have times when you can check in with the responsible person who is holding onto your plan.

Invest in a second nautical chart and physically plot your trip out. This will enable rescue providers with great starting points.

Finally, if you have guests, note their names, ages, contact numbers and any health concerns, such as heart disease or high blood pressure.

If you don’t feel comfortable writing your own plan there are commercial organizations. One I have heard good things about is, Float Plan Registration, a non-profit corporation.

From their Web site, www.safetytripplan.com or call 1-888-569-9292.

Like their Web site notes, &uot;You purchase a lifetime registration for only $45. You get a 1-800 number and PIN code. You fill-out a one time registration card telling them about you and your boat (make, year, length – even send in a picture if you like).

Just as commercial and recreational airplane pilots have for years filed a flight plan every time they go up; every time you go out on your boat you simply call in and, in your own voice, leave a recorded message about where you’re going and a time at which you should be deemed to be ‘overdue’.&uot; Not bad!

Having been at the coordination end during a search, I have learned three important lessons on why float plans are a must.

First, in rescue operations, response time is critical. Second, the more info you have the better the chance you’ll be spotted or found.

Finally, make sure you stay on your planned track makes it much easier to find you when you get into trouble. Until next week… Boat Safe and Boat Smart!

Joe DiRenzo is a resident of Suffolk and a regular News-Herald columnist.