Whether your recreational clients are hitting the water for a few hours or a few days, preparedness is key to ensuring a safe and enjoyable boating experience. In addition to recreational marine insurance, there are many safety aspects to consider before a day out on the water. One preparation aspect many boaters overlook is that of a float plan, a critical piece of the safety puzzle. In this guide, we will cover the essential elements of a float plan, allowing your clients to operate their boat safely and to get help if things go wrong.

What is a Float Plan?

A float plan is a document that provides a brief overview of any boat trip. Typically, a float plan tells others where you are going, what you will be doing, and when you plan to return from your boat excursion. There are many other details that can be included as well. The purpose of a float plan is to allow authorities to gain valuable knowledge if something were to delay or prevent a boater’s return to shore. This critical document can speed up search and recovery efforts, giving concerned parties a roadmap of sorts to help locate the vessel and its occupants.

There is no specific format of float plan, although downloadable forms are available online. Float plans should be filed with a trusted individual such as a family member or friend. One common misconception is that float plans can be filed with the United States Coast Guard; unfortunately, the agency will not accept them. They will, however, utilize a float plan to search for a missing vessel.

Why Do You Need a Float Plan?

Imagine your clients are getting ready to head offshore for a pleasure cruise or a fishing trip. After a few hours on the water, they discover that their boat’s battery is dead or the engine has flooded. The VHF radio they have for emergencies is not working. Eventually, their family or friends notice that they have not returned from the boat trip, and they begin to panic. What happened to your and their vessel?

Without a float plan, authorities may have no idea where to begin a search. Friends and family may also have no valuable information to share with the Coast Guard. Just like recreational marine insurance, a float plan is a risk management tool that can help authorities find missing or stranded vessels. It should be considered a vital component of every boat trip.

Essential Parts of a Float Plan

As mentioned earlier, there is no specific format for a float plan. That being said, there are several key pieces of information that should be included in any plan. This information includes:

  • Description of the vessel
  • Number of people onboard, including boat operators
  • Destination of the trip
  • Expected route to be taken to and from the destination
  • Contact information of boat operators and passengers
  • Expected time of the trip, including travel and return times

The vessel description should include information such as the color, size, and make of boat as well as vessel identification number(s). As for the route, weather and sea conditions can cause even the best-planned trip to require rerouting. A float plan should have a general route included, narrowing the search location if the vessel does not return at the expected time.

It can also be useful to include the marina or dock where the vessel is to be launched. If the destination is a dock or marina different from the launch point, that information should be added to the plan.

Finally, once the plan is completed, your clients should give it to a family member or friend who is not accompanying them on the boat. If an offshore emergency occurs, that person can provide the plan to rescue authorities. With a float plan and the protection of a recreational marine insurance policy, your clients will gain peace of mind, allowing them to better enjoy their boating excursions.

About Merrimac Marine Insurance

At Merrimac Marine, we are dedicated to providing insurance for the marine industry to protect your clients’ business and assets. For more information about our products and programs, contact our specialists today at (800) 681-1998.