We boaters try to make safety a priority, but most of us fail to do one simple thing that could drastically increase our safety margin: filing a float plan.
A float plan is simply a statement of where you plan to go, who’s onboard, and about how long you intend to stay out. If anything happens that prevents you from returning home at the end of the day, the float plan gives SAR personnel a starting point.
“Filing” a float plan can be as simple as telling your wife or neighbor what your plans are. Give them a basic idea of where you’ll be and an out-side time you’ll be home by. Make sure you allow plenty of slush-time so they don’t call the coast Guard simply because you’re running late, and when you are running late, check in by phone to let the appropriate people know.
You’re a loner? No problem. Simply write out your float plan on a piece of paper (including your name, address, cell phone number, the number of people aboard, and the size and type of boat you’re on), put it in a small zipper-lock baggie, and slide it under the windshield wiper of your tow vehicle. Often the authorities will discover someone’s overdue when they find their tow vehicle “abandoned” in the boat ramp parking lot. If they find your truck after-hours they’ll see the float plan, and know where to start looking. Another good move is to write your basic plan out on the launch ramp fee deposit envelope, if you use one of the ramps that works on the honor system during off-hours.
Here—we’ll even make it easy for you. Print out this page, cut out the plan form below, and use it.