“What are the most important things I can do to ensure my safety on the water?”
Ask any seasoned boater, maritime professional or emergency responder and one of the top answers will be: “File a Float Plan.”
Simply put, a float plan lets concerned parties know where you are, when you are expected to arrive, and how to find you if you fail to show up as expected. Leave a copy of your plan with a friend, relative, or with the marina before you leave. Here is a LINK to a sample float plan form that you can mostly fill out in advance of a trip, but any plan should include:
1. A Description of the Boat:
Describe your boat in detail. Give name, length overall, color and type. Include projections such as bowsprits or boomkins, along with dinghies. Add description of dodges, awnings, weather cloths, enclosures and the color of each. Specify the registration number or documentation number. If possible, add photos to enhance the descriptions.
2. Persons in Crew:
Include name, gender, age, driver’s license number, and contact information for skipper and crew. Add in medications required by each person. Rescue teams need to know this for medical emergencies to avoid allergic reactions or provide care for special medical conditions. Realize that flight surgeons can often be contacted to provide assistance via consultation on the radio in time-critical medical emergencies.
3. Sailing Route and Safe Havens:
Describe the proposed route from start to finish. For extended trips, include harbors of refuge that can offer safe haven in case you need to divert course to wait for an unexpected storm to pass by or get repairs.
4. Navigation Gear:
Start with the basics–nautical charts. What chart portfolios are aboard in case the electronics fail. These could include the popular ‘chart kits’ or a block of charts for a group of islands or operating area (i.e. southern New England). Next, give details for electronic navigation equipment aboard: GPS (include installed and hand-held), Chart Plotter, and radar.
5. Propulsion–Sail, Inboard and Outboard Auxiliary:
Describe sail color, mainsail numbers and logos, and sailing rig (sloop, cutter, ketch, yawl). Provide inboard and outboard engine manufacturer, horsepower, and number of cylinders. How much fuel do you carry aboard (include Jerry-Jugs and color of the jugs)?
6. Land Vehicles:
Pass along a description of your automobile if you parked it at a marina; make and model along with the license plate number. Leave a set of keys with a relative or trusted friend.
Use these easy sailing tips for peace-of-mind when you leave for a day sail or longer cruise or voyage. That way, you will know that friends and family will have the information they need in case the unexpected comes your way!