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Safety First!
by Wayne Spivak
National Press Corps
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary


Float Plans may be the key to your survival

When you think of the Coast Guard what comes to mind? For many, they would answer the orange and blue racing stripe; others talk about how the Coast Guard does maritime search and rescue missions.

And while the Coast Guard and Auxiliary do practice and hone their search and rescue (SAR) techniques, we are even more interested in preventing the recreational boating public, as well as commercial boaters, from getting into situations where SAR is required.

For recreational boaters, we have developed a simple 5 minute form that can literally save your life!

Every parent I know, when they leave their children with a babysitter, asks the following question as they walk out the door: “You do have our contact numbers, right?”

As a boater, why not do the same? A Float Plan is a simple to use form that – like the telephone number you leave the babysitter, is a means for the Coast Guard to know who to look for, where to look, and what type of boat you’re in , in the event that you don’t return home when you planned.

What is a Float Plan?

A Float Plan is similar to a pilot’s flight plan in that it is a simple form that lists all the information about you and your vessel. The major difference is, unlike the flight plan which gets field with the FAA, the float plan is not field with the Coast Guard. We’ll discuss who you file your float plan with shortly.

The Float Plan asks the magical questions that will assist the Coast Guard, should your vessel fail to reach its intended port at the appropriate time.

BOSTON June 13th- Coast Guard First District received a call at 3:15 p.m., today from the brother of an overdue boater aboard the sailing vessel Exody who was expected to arrive in Bass Harbor, Maine at the Morris Yachts.

Steve Willingham, 57, left the Long Wharf in Boston for Bass Harbor, Maine in a 26-foot sailing vessel Exody June 4. Willingham last communicated with his brother from his cell phone while he was in the vicinity of Gloucester, Mass. No one has since heard from Willingham.

This press release was released shortly before this article was written. This is a prefect example of how a Float Plan can be of major assistance to the Coast Guard.

A Float Plan asks the following types of questions: The vessels name, type, propulsion, types of electronics (radio and navigation), safety and survival equipment, the crew, (who are they, where do they live, etc.) and finally the vessels itinerary.

What do I do with my Float Plan?

The Float Plan is then given or sent to those people who are expecting the vessel at each stop on its itinerary. So you would give a copy to a neighbor who would expect you home at a given time, a marina that you headed to, as either a stop over or even a major fueling point, and your final destination.

You will note that we do not tell you to give a copy to your local law enforcement or Coast Guard, as they do not have the resources to track this type of information, but your friends and destinations do, because they are expecting you.

The people you give your Float Plan too, must be instructed to wait so many hours (discuss what a reasonable time would be with each person you give the Float Plan to) before they contact the Coast Guard or local law enforcement in the event that you don’t arrive, or don’t make contact with them.

In short, he Float Plan will provide most of the information that will be needed by the Coast Guard or local law enforcement to start a SAR mission. Without a float plan, a SAR mission is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Where do I get a Float Plan?

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary has made that as easy as click and print. We developed Float Plan Central at http://www.uscgaux.org/~floatplan.

There you will find a Float Plan in PDF format that is allows you to fill in your information on line, so that it’s easy to read. All you need to do then it to print up the correct number of copies.

Float Plan Central also provides additional information to the boating public, including a Boating Emergency Guide™.

Float Plan Central also provides you with a section called Tales of the Plan, which features real life stories of people who have used Float Plans, and how in many cases it has saved the day, if not saved lives.

A little about us

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is composed of uniformed, volunteers who assist the Coast Guard in all of its varied missions, except for military and direct law enforcement. These men and women can be found on the nation's waterways, in the air, in classrooms and on the dock, performing Maritime Domain Awareness patrols, safety patrols, vessel safety checks and public education.

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary was founded in 1939 by an Act of Congress as the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve and re-designated as the Auxiliary in 1941. Its 30,000 members donate millions of hours annually in support of Coast Guard missions.

For more information on the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, visit us at www.cgaux.org.

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