How's Your Float Plan? Does It Include These Seven?

You’re on your way - but is your float plan left behind adequate?
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All prudent sailors will leave a clear, concise float plan with a friend, relative, or neighbor, (and/or depending where you sail, an abbreviated one with rescue authorities direct). That way, in case you fail to show up when you say you will, they can contact the authorities with solid information. Rescue teams need this to lay out search routes and to coordinate rescue teams. Include these seven vital points in any float plan.

1. Boat Description and Three-Way Photo:

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. Add photos to enhance the descriptions. Take three outside shots; bow, beam, and stern.

2. Persons in Crew:

Include name, gender, age, address, driver's license number, passport number, and a clear photo of 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. 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. Emergency Extras:

What emergency gear should you carry? Include radio(s), EPIRB, liferaft (with color and model/type), flare kits, survival suits, exposure suites, flotation bags, de-watering and bilge pumps.

5. 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.

6. 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)?

7. 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 and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). 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!

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John Jamieson (Captain John) with 25+ years of experience shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need for safer sailing worldwide. Visit his website at www.skippertips.com for a free issue of the highly popular 'Captain John's Sailing Tips' newsletter. Discover how you can gain instant access to hundreds of sailing articles, videos, e-Books and more!