As part of every flight, aircraft pilots create and file a flight plan with essential details about the plane, their route, and even the cargo onboard. This information will provide search and rescue personnel with the critical information they need in an emergency. In boating, the same procedure should apply, and as the captain, the safety of your passengers and crew should always be your top priority. One of the most critical steps you can take is to file a similar document called a float plan before leaving on every trip.
A float plan is a written document outlining your boating itinerary and provides details about your boat and crew. It includes information such as your destination, the route you plan to take, and the time you expect to be at checkpoints or ultimately return.
A good float plan should include the following:
Filing a float plan can speed up a search and rescue effort by providing an early alert to family and friends when the boat is overdue at a planned stop or a check-in by radio or cell phone is missed.
One of the most critical features of a float plan is the ability to identify an overdue vessel. To make the float plan effective, leave a copy with a responsible adult you know and trust to follow any planned steps and procedures. Your main point of contact should be available to receive check-in calls and be proactive if a scheduled call doesn't happen. You can choose your primary contact from your pool of friends, family, or even other boaters. If you are friendly with several other boaters, you can have multiple contacts who can look out for each other.
The captain is responsible for the safety and well-being of the crew and all others aboard a vessel. After a float plan is created, the captain should remain diligent in adhering to and maintaining contact with the dedicated individuals tasked with knowing the vessel's location. To recap, below are points related to this responsibility:
Filing a float plan before heading out onto the water is an essential step in ensuring the safety of everyone onboard. By providing important information about your trip to family and friends, a distress call can result in a faster response, and an overdue vessel can be quickly identified, which will increase the chances that everyone onboard is found and returned to shore.
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