Planning a weekend water getaway? Awesome. There’s a lot of fun to be had during a water outing, but there’s also a heck of a lot of prep to be done before any of the fun and frolic ensues. From food, to safety measures, to your float plan, none of these details should escape your attention.
Wait, you did prepare your float plan, right? If this is your first time preparing for a weekend on the waves, it’s important that you prep a water or float plan. But prep isn’t really all that needs to be done. So, what should you do with your float plan for a weekend water outing? Find out here.
What is a Float Plan?
Not a lot of people actually know what a float plan is. In essence, a float plan is an itinerary of your weekend plans. You can get the form from your local boating and waterways department website.
On-water assistance organizations like SeaTow and BoatUS also have float plan forms available for download on their website. If you’re looking for something a little more convenient, you can download the US Coast Guard Auxiliary application on your mobile device.
The purpose of a float plan is to give the concerned authorities a head start in case you don’t arrive at your destination as reported in your plan. Of course, nobody wants that to happen. But in case any accidents occur while you’re underway and you’re unable to contact for help, your float plan should tell the authorities where to find you.
What’s Included in a Float Plan?
The float plan should contain vital information that tells the authorities all the basic details they might need to locate and identify your boat. Fill-out forms for these plans are readily available on a number of websites so you don’t have to do the guesswork.
But for the sake of information, your float plan should include details such as:
Some float plans also ask for information like what kind of visual distress signals are available on board. They also have checklists for audible distress signals and available safety gear like life boats, dewatering devices, and search lights.
Tips on Creating a Float Plan
While the forms definitely make it easier to fill out a float plan, you don’t actually need to be too formal about them, especially if you’re headed somewhere relatively safe and familiar. For instance, if you’re just going to the local cove for the weekend, you can just write up your own float plan.
Here are some tips for creating one from scratch:
Describe Your Boat in Detail
Boats can look a lot alike, especially if you aren’t really invested in customizing. That’s why it’s important to get detailed when describing your vessel. Write down the color, year, make, model, length, type, and any prominent features that could help identify your boat.
When estimating how much time it would take to reach your destination, don’t over or under estimate. If you’re not sure how much time it would take, don’t hesitate to ask someone who’s done it before or someone at the marina where you plan to depart.
Write Everyone Down
For some reason, people feel like it’s okay to leave out kids and pets from the plan. But in case something happens and your boat is capsized or worse, you want those rescuers to find everyone. If you leave anyone out of the float plan, they might not be found since people wouldn’t even know they were on board.
Print Extra Copies
It’s always better to have multiple copies prepared. Informing more than just one contact ensures that you’ll get the help you need even when one of your trusted family or friends on land forgets or fails to file the float plan when they need to.
What Should You Do With a Float Plan?
So, what happens now that your float plan is complete? Well, you’re going to have to share it with trusted people who are staying on dry land. That includes close family, reliable friends, or your local marina dock master. It’s their job to file the float plan with the Coast Guard if it turns out that you don’t arrive at your destination based on the information listed in your float plan.
Do not file your float plan directly with the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard should only be involved if a search is necessary. Filing directly at their office could cause confusion and prompt a search and rescue. Your float plan should only reach the USCG if you’re missing.
It’s always best to share a hard copy with your trusted contacts, but you can share a digital copy online that they can download and print out in case they need to submit it to the USCG. This prevents the chances of losing the document.
See to it that you inform your contacts that you’ve arrived at your destination when you do. Although you might know you’re fine and dandy, they don’t. They’re likely to start getting nervous even just a few hours from your estimated time of arrival if you don’t make that call. You can also contact them during the trip to keep them updated on your travels.
Lastly, don’t ever leave your float plan unsettled. Once your weekend is over and you’re home safe, call of the people you left a float plan with and tell them to trash it. The last thing you’d want is for someone to mistakenly file with the USCG after you’ve wrapped up your outing.
Think of a float plan as weekend water outing insurance. So, what should you do with your float plan for a weekend water outing? Make it detailed, share it with your closest, most trusted contacts, and write one up for every outing you plan in the future. No one ever wants their water plan to be filed at the Coast Guard’s office, but it’s one of those things you’ll be happy to have prepared when the need for it arises.