What is a Float Plan? Everything You Need To Know

When you are planning on going out onto the water, you are going to want to make sure that you are safe. This means getting a number of safety supplies to have with you on your boat. You also are going to want to let others know that you are on the water, so you can receive help if anything happens.

A float plan is a form that lets someone know what the trip is, as well as all the important times, such as the launch and return time. This form helps rescue teams know the area to look if there is any sort of incident that prevents a safe return. This traditionally is given to the dock master.

So, you now know the basic about what a float plan is and why it is essential to have, but there is plenty more you need to know in order to set up a proper float plan. Throughout the rest of the article, I will go over everything that you need to know about float plans, so you can set one up for the next time that you go on a sailing trip.

What is a Float Plan?

A float plan is a piece of paper that mentions all the significant details about the trip that you are planning on taking. Traditionally you include people who are going on the trip with you, where you are going, the time that you are leaving, and the time that you are expecting to get back. If you are using an official float plan form, you are going to be expected to include:

  • Description of the vessel
  • Number of persons onboard
  • Destination, including the general route to be taken
  • Contact information for yourself, and the communication devices on the vessel
  • Timeframe of the outing

While you don’t have to submit an official float plan every time you are heading out, it is recommended that you tell someone about your trip so that help can be sent if there is any sort of issue. You never know what might happen, and the open waters are a dangerous and unpredictable place.

What is Included in a Float Plan?

Using an official float plan form is going to be the most effective version of any float plan. It is incredibly detailed in just about every aspect so that help can be sent out to the right spot, and know exactly what and who to look for. The official float plan form asks for details about:

  • The Vessel: size, color, make, type of boat, size of engine if any, the fuel capacity of the engines, the port it is launching from, the navigation tools it has, and a vessel identification number
  • Vessel Communication: radio call sign/number, radio type, channels, and frequencies used, and DSC MMSI number
  • Vehicle Info: your vehicle’s (or the tow vehicle’s) location and license plate number
  • Distress Signals: a list of options for both audible and visual distress signals that you have
  • Safety Gear: a list of safety gear that you have onboard
  • The Passengers: the names of all aboard and their ages, genders and any medical conditions or pertinent disabilities
  • The Operator: the name, address, gender, and license that the boat operator has
  • The Route: a detail description of the route that you are planning on taking. This should include key places and times that you will check in with someone onshore and when you plan to return.

How & Where Do You File a Float Plan?

Once you have finished filling out your float plan, you can really give it to just about anyone, so long as they have the ability to contact the United States Coast Guard if you fail to return. Typically, people give their float plan to a family member, a reliable friend, or a marina dock master.

Once you have given your float plan to someone, make sure that you keep them updated before you leave. If you happen to leave late due to a mechanical incident, update your time schedule for them so that they don’t prematurely send out the U.S. Coast Guard to find you.

Something else that you should do is to try to call, email, text, or radio the person that you have given your float plan to in order to keep them updated. This also will let you know you can connect them if any emergency is to happen, so the help can be sent out quicker.

Where to Get a Float Plan Form?

There are a number of different places that you can get an official float plan form. Even if you aren’t able to print out an official float plan, so long as you have all the information written above, you can use a blank piece of paper as a float plan. You can find a variety of different float plans that you can use across the internet, but some reliable good float plans can be found at the USCG Auxiliary Float Plan or BoatUS or SeaTow.

While a float plan is supposed to be used to help keep you safe and used by the U.S. Coast Guard if there is an emergency, you should not submit your float plan to them. Make sure that the person you are giving your float plan to have the ability to contact the U.S. Coast Guard. A great way to make it easier is to write the phone number for the U.S. Coast Guard on the page.

What Trips Should You Create a Float Plan For?

You should create a float plan for any type of trip you are taking. Even if you are only going a little ways out, having an emergency plan is helpful, as you never know what might happen. For short or quick trips, you can use a verbal float plan. But in order to keep yourself and your passengers safe, you should always let someone know where you are going and how long your trip is going to be.

Final Thoughts

A float plan is something you should always have if you want to be safe and secure. I don’t always make one as I should but any trip that will be out in open waters and multiple hours away from land should always have one. Its an extra step in setting up for your big sail, but it is absolutely necessary in my opinion. Stay safe out there! Cheers!


Boatlifehq owner and author/editor of this article.

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