Float plans are one important piece of paper

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 27, 2004

Here is a question for all the recreational boaters out there: What is the single most important paper connected with a recreational boat trip?

There are lots of important documents – your registration, your maintenance record and your insurance information are all critical. However, I believe that a filed &uot;Float Plan&uot; is the most important.

What is a Float Plan?

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In the simplest terms, a Float Plan is a written record of where your vessel is going to, who is onboard, what your vessel looks like and when and where you expect to return to. In the simplest of terms it gives the Coast Guard or other responding agency a good starting point to start the search from. In fact a well-developed plan that also includes &uot;check ins&uot; is about the best way to safely build a safety plan for your vessel.

For those of you with access to the World Wide Web, a Float Plan can be easily downloaded from http://www.boatsafe.com/nauticalknowhow/boating/float1.html. This simple form should be filled in with as much detail that the operator possesses. Specific things that should always be included are:

— Name and detailed description of the vessel (including the top and bottom colors of your vessel). Specific departure and arrival location and time (what marina or boat launch).

— Information on safety equipment aboard (i.e. rafts, radio, EPIRB, lifejackets, etc.) – Have this information as detailed as possible.

— Names/ages/addresses and phone numbers of all passengers.

— Engine and communication information (including cell phone numbers).

— Food supply onboard.

— Any other helpful information concerning the expected route, destination or operator concerning the expected route, destination or operator experience.

— Agreed-upon check-in time.

Once all the information is filled in, what should you do with a Float Plan? Unlike the FAA the Coast Guard does not accept or require a float plan. I personally strongly recommend that a Float Plan be given to a responsible party.

A responsible party is someone that you trust who will follow the voyage plans you have made and alert authorities when you don’t check in as planned. The amount of time you spend adding detail to your Float Plan will help searchers concentrate their efforts and maybe save lives.

Float plans are an easy investment that pays big dividends.

Remember to boat safe – boat smart!