Float Plans 101: Don’t Sink Your Ship!

Do you know what’s worse than feeling lost at sea? Being lost at sea without anyone knowing where you are or when you’re supposed to come back! It’s like going to the mall with your mom and not having a cellphone to text her when you’re ready to leave – except that it’s not just embarrassing, it’s downright dangerous.

That’s why float plans exist! A float plan is like a Google Map that you make yourself – it tells people where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and when you should be back. It’s not rocket science, but it’s important to get it right. In this article, we’ll give you the lowdown on float plans and how to create one that will keep you from going under.

What is a Float Plan?

To put it simply, a float plan is a written document that outlines your boating excursion plans. It includes information such as your destination, route, estimated time of arrival, and emergency contact details. It’s like a safety net that should be in place before you head out to sea. If something goes wrong, your float plan can help rescuers locate you quickly.

An ideal float plan should also include information about the condition of your vessel, the equipment you have on board, and any medical conditions you or your passengers might have. In other words, it’s like packing a bag for a trip, except you’re not just packing clothes, you’re also packing safety gear, a First Aid kit, and your boat’s registration.

Why is a Float Plan Important?

Even the most experienced boater can run into trouble at sea. Weather conditions can change quickly, equipment can malfunction, and accidents can happen. If you’re caught off guard, a float plan can make all the difference in the world. Here are some reasons why you should never skip the float plan step:

  1. Safety: A float plan can help rescuers locate you quickly in case of an emergency. If you’re stranded at sea and haven’t told anyone where to find you, it may take days or even weeks for anyone to realize you’re missing. With a float plan in place, you’ll have a better chance of being found before it’s too late.

  2. Peace of Mind: Knowing that someone has a copy of your float plan can give you peace of mind. If something goes wrong, you won’t be alone. A Search and Rescue team will be notified, and they’ll have all the information they need to start looking for you.

  3. Saves Time: If you do run into trouble, your float plan can save rescuers valuable time. They won’t have to waste time searching for you because they’ll know exactly where to look.

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How to Create a Float Plan?

Now that we’ve convinced you that having a float plan is important, let’s talk about how to create one. Here are the steps:

  1. Gather Information: Before you start filling out your float plan, gather all the information you need: your boat’s make and model, your emergency contact’s name and phone number, your destination, and your estimated time of arrival. If you’re traveling with someone else, ask them to fill out their own float plan.

  2. Fill Out the Form: There are different float plan forms available online, but they all ask for the same information. Fill out the form as accurately and completely as possible. Make sure you include information about the equipment you have on board, your vessel’s condition, and any medical conditions you or your passengers might have. If you’re not sure about something, ask for help.

  3. Distribute the Plan: Once you’ve filled out the form, make several copies of it. Keep one copy on the boat with you, give one to someone on shore, and leave one with the marina or coast guard. It’s also a good idea to email a copy to someone back home as a backup.

Tips for Creating a Great Float Plan

Creating a float plan is easy, but creating a great float plan takes a little more effort. Here are some tips to help you create a float plan that will make you the envy of all your boating buddies:

  1. Be Specific: The more specific you are in your float plan, the better. Include details like your intended course, speed, and estimated time of arrival. If you’re going to be fishing or diving, include information about where you plan to do those activities.

  2. Check the Weather: Before you set sail, check the weather and incorporate it into your float plan. If there’s a storm on the horizon, it’s better to stay in port than to risk getting caught in high winds and waves.

  3. Update the Plan: Your float plan isn’t set in stone – you can update it as needed. If you change your destination or your departure time, update your float plan accordingly. It’s also a good idea to update your float plan every season to make sure it’s current.

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Example of a Float Plan

If you’re not sure where to start, here’s an example of what a float plan might look like:

Section Information
Vessel Name SS Minnow
Vessel Type Catamaran
Equipment Life jackets, flares, First Aid kit, VHF radio, GPS
Emergency Contact Mary Ann Summers, (555) 555-1212
Destination Catalina Island
Departure Time 9:00 am
Expected Return Time 5:00 pm
Route Leave marina and head west along coast. At point X, turn southwest and head to Catalina Island. Anchor at Two-Harbors Bay.
Activities Snorkeling at Two-Harbors Bay
Medical Conditions None


In conclusion, a float plan is a simple but essential tool for anyone heading out to sea – whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a first-time boater. By providing important information about your vessel, your destination, and your estimated time of arrival, you’re helping to ensure your own safety and the safety of your passengers. So next time you’re planning a boating excursion, don’t forget to pack your float plan. Your family will thank you for it!