Presented by Wayne & Joan Church at our April 06 Planning Meeting

Simple Float Plan Form

USCG Float Plan Form

What is a float plan and why should you take the time to prepare one?  A float plan is a life saving device on paper.  It describes your boat, persons aboard, trip expectations, return date, and other facts required by rescue personnel.  It may mean the difference between a successful rescue and a needless tragedy.  A float plan can be a critical tool for the Coast Guard when they get a report of an overdue boater or fisherman.  It can alleviate much of the investigative work they do before they send units.

 Preparing a float plan is a simple task performed by the operator of the vessel before going on an extended boat trip.  A float plan is probably not necessary if you are taking day trips such as up river to the locks, down river to Ft Myers Beach or to St James City for lunch.  But if you are going off shore fifteen to seventy miles or more on a diving or a fishing trip, a float plan is a critical tool for the Coast Guard when they receive a report of an overdue boat..

Not too long ago, in the Mobile Ala and New Orleans area, Coast Guard units searched the Gulf, south of Alabama, for a family of five who were reported missing in a 32- foot boat.  After four days of searching more than 13,000 miles of ocean, an area larger than the state of Maryland, the searchers fears became reality when the victims were located deceased among a debris field.  It was the lack of information on the family’s location that frustrated search and rescue.  Had a float plan been completed, the valuable time lost investigating a potential location would have been eliminated allowing units more time to search, and possibly save a life.

One of our former members, Lew Lipset, his son and a friend went on a diving trip.  Their 30- foot boat split apart and sunk fast. They bobbed in the water for 46 hours in the Gulf of Mexico.  A storm was heading their way..  From the 71° water, they saw planes pass and boats cruise by.  Fortunately, they were rescued after nearly two days in the water.   This is another example where simple basic information should be given to loved ones, should you be overdue.

Before you leave the dock, review your check list-- make sure all life saving and safety equipment is on board and ready for instant use, listen to the weather report, review charts for your area, and leave a float plan with a dependable person i.e., your marina dock master, a family member, or a friend.   NOT WITH THE COAST GUARD.  Do not think that a float plan is only for those with large boats.  Owners of small boats should prepare one as well.

Since VHF radio waves travel only in a line of sight, 20 miles is about the maximum distance over which you can reliably expect to communicate from your radio.  Its range may be greater if you are within line of sight of a tall receiving antenna onshore. It transmits one mile for every foot your antenna is off the water.  Consequently, a vessel with an eight-foot antenna mounted six feet off the water line equals 14 feet, or approximately 14 miles of transmitting range.  These factors change with the weather and other conditions.  Range increases at night when the signal bounce may be totally different.

Your planned route may change because of unexpected circumstances.  It is imperative that you notify the holder of your float plan immediately of your change of plan.  Do this by telephone or cell phone. A float plan is simply basic information loved ones should have, should the search and rescue professionals be called to perform what they do save lives.