Q&A Float Plans

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Why should I file a float plan?

A float plan can save your life in an emergency, whether you’re heading offshore in a 60-foot sportfisherman or out paddling a kayak for the day. It contains vital information for rescuers and should be left with a reliable person who can be trusted to contact the proper authorities if you don’t check in or return as planned.
A float plan should include such information as:

• the name, make, model, year and color of your boat
• your hailing port
• the names of all people on board and contact information for each
• the planned itinerary, including the purpose of the trip and any possible variations
• ETDs and ETAs
• communication devices on board
• safety and survival gear on board
• responsible shoreside contacts and their contact information

If the itinerary changes, it’s crucial that shoreside contacts be notified. Typically, the skipper of the vessel prepares the float plan, but any crewmember can be assigned the preparation and filing duty.
A float plan form and information on filing it can be found online at the Coast Guard Auxiliary’s FloatPlanCentral.org. The forms can be filled out and e-mailed to shoreside contacts or printed. The site includes tutorials and a “Boating Emergency Guide” to use if you have a genuine concern for the safety and welfare of the person who filed the float plan.
Keep in mind that the Coast Guard does not accept float plans. Also, you are responsible for contacting each shoreside contact upon your safe return.
You can also find online float plan forms and information at BoatUS.com and NOAA.gov (search keyword “float plan”)

This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue.