You finally have your boat ready to cast off for an epic adventure at sea.
The systems have been triple-checked, and you’ve stocked up on anticipated spare parts, just in case. Life vests are accounted for, sump pumps are all functioning, the drains are clear of blockages, batteries are charged, and the vessel has been provisioned with food and sundries. Lastly, the oil has been changed, and fuel topped off at your favorite fuel dock, like Riviera Dunes Marina in Palmetto, Florida.
In the earlier planning stages, you charted your course, planned your ports of call, and decided where to anchor or pull into a marina. You have probably also figured out where you will get additional fuel, water, and other provisions and services along the way.
You’ve thought of everything and checked your lists and spreadsheets, but have you filed a float plan, and have you planned for an emergency?
Filing a float plan is imperative if you plan to go on a long trip. Knowing that someone else is aware of your plans and when to send help will give you peace of mind. Without an official float plan, you rely on someone else to go off their memory to convey your plans to rescue personnel to locate you. A float plan is also not just for yachts and sailing vessels. A float plan is also recommended for recreational boating like rafts, canoes, kayaks, sports fishing, jet and water skiers, and day-use speed boats.
Leave the float plan with someone dependable who will notify the proper authorities should you not return or check in at the planned time. This can be a family member or friend, or marina. You can also officially file a float plan with the US Coast Guard. Go to their website for details on how to file.
According to Boaterexam.com, the following should be included in a float plan:
Name, description, and information about owner/operator
Vessel information: size, type, color, engine, etc.
Safety equipment on board
Trip details: departure date, return date, destination, proposed route, stops along the way, etc.
Name, description, and info of passengers
You can visit their website for more information and downloadable forms. Also, include a picture of the vessel with the float plan. Providing a digital and a printed copy of both the plan and the picture is good practice.
When planning your trip, you may also want to consider a paid membership to Sea Tow, which provides emergency services on the water. Think AAA but on waterways. Check out seatow.com for more information about what services they provide.
As per the US Coast Guard website, the following is regarding the app available on mobile devices:
“Features of the app include state boating information; a safety equipment checklist; free boating safety check requests; navigation rules; float plans; and calling features to report pollution or suspicious activity. When location services are enabled, users can receive the latest weather reports from the closest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather buoys and report the location of a hazard on the water.
The app also features an Emergency Assistance button which, with location services enabled, will call the closest Coast Guard command center.
The Boating Safety Mobile app was not designed to replace a boater’s marine VHF radio, which the Coast Guard strongly recommends all boaters have aboard their vessels. The app was mainly designed to provide additional boating safety resources for mobile device users.”
It is important to note that when you are experiencing an emergency situation, you are advised to use your VHF radio, not the mobile app.
When planning for emergency situations that may arise, being prepared is much better than being at risk.