Aug 04 2022 All Articles

Why a float plan is essential

We’re not just floating an idea – a float plan is essential.

When your day doesn’t go as planned — and you’re not back at the dock when expected — ­someone needs valuable information so as to send the cavalry. That quote, from the boatus website, goes a long way toward summing up why boaties should have a float plan.

Let’s look at what a float plan incorporates, why it’s considered vital, and how to create one.

Essentially, a float plan is an overview of your boat trip, providing vital information to assist search-and-rescue authorities in the event of a boating emergency.

The key information it should contain is:

  • A description of the vessel
  • The number of people onboard
  • Your destination, including the general route to be taken
  • Your contact information
  • The timeframe of the outing.

The above is a bare minimum scenario.

According to the Discover Boating website the more specific the plan the better. You can also consider taking note of the following:

  • Vessel information should include size, colour, make, type of boat, size of the engine if any, and a vessel identification number (you could share photos incorporating these details)
  • Consider adding information such as the name and location of the marina or launch ramp where you started
  • Add your vehicle’s (or the tow vehicle’s) location and license plate number
  • Include the names of all aboard and their ages, genders, and any medical conditions or pertinent disabilities
  • Describe the intended itinerary in detail and provide multiple points of contact for those aboard including cell phones, VHF radio (if available), and even home addresses. Focus on key places and times you will check in or when you plan to return.

You can always visit this site for a free float plan ready to be filled out.

Discover Boating and others, point out that a float plan is not just for those planning a serious offshore excursion. Such a plan can be created by anyone, including those heading down river on a jet ski, or going kayak fishing along the coast.

The boatus website outlines two, true scenarios whereby boaties headed out without a float plan. The boaties got in trouble and nobody knew where they were. “In both cases, giving a float plan to a trusted person would have allowed rescuers to quickly locate the distressed boaters and prevented unnecessary time and expense for searchers”. 

As the simrad yachting website reminds us, it’s important to advise and update those holding your float plan if your plans change due, for example, to a change in weather or mechanical issues. Also, advise them if you deviate from your planned route.

The boatus website includes some float plan travel tips such as… during your trip, try texting, emailing, and/or calling your float plan contact person to check that you can get through. And text or call your contact at arrival and departure points during an extended trip, especially one with several longer legs.

So, who do you leave your float plan with? Your detailed float plan should be left with a family member or a reliable friend.

In addition, don’t forget the service offered by the NZ coastguards.

The Boaties Best Mate website outlines what a Trip Report is. Essentially it is a message lodged with Coastguard Radio to advise of your intended boating activity. The information is logged against a boatie’s call sign and used for search and rescue purposes. To log a report, tune your marine VHF radio to your local Coastguard Radio station or call *500 from your mobile. You will be asked to share the name and VHF call sign of your boat; your point of departure; destination, route, and estimated time of arrival; and number of people on board.

However, these trip reports aren’t followed up unless the Coastguard is notified that you are overdue – hence the importance of ensuring someone has your float plan.

By the way, be clear about when the person holding your float plan should take action. “You don't want them to panic if you're a few minutes late, but you also don't want them to delay too long. It's better to notify rescuers and have it called off when you show up a little late than wait overnight while you may be treading water,” is the advice offered on the boatus site.

If this seems excessive – or if you view a float plan with some hesitancy - then remember the adage (in this case shared on the Simrad site) that states: “fail to plan, plan to fail”. Plan to be safe.

Looking for the right cover on the water in New Zealand in 2022?

No matter what your plans are on the water in 2022, Mariner Insurance is here to support you. We have been offering Kiwis specialist marine insurance in New Zealand for over a decade with cover for all types of boats and watercraft. Just talk to us about what you’re doing on the water, and we can tailor one of our insurance policies to fit.