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What Should Be Included on a Boating Float Plan?

November 22, 2021

Boating involves a certain amount of risk. That’s why there are measures and laws in place to help people boat more safely. Vessels are required to have certain safety equipment on board, and boaters need a license in order to operate their craft.

While float plans aren’t required by law, they are a simple safety measure that can make all the difference in the event of an emergency. Find out what float plans are, what they should include and how to file them in this article from the boating safety experts at Drive a Boat Canada.

What is a float plan?

A float plan (also known as a trip plan) is a document like a flight plan that boaters file with someone on shore before taking a boat trip. Boaters are encouraged to file a float plan before every excursion so that the authorities can use it to facilitate search and rescue operations in the event of an emergency. No matter how short your trip will be, a float plan is a great way to make sure that you can be found if anything untoward happens.

What to include on a float plan

Boating float plans can be more or less detailed, depending on how long you’re planning to be away. If you’re just going out on the lake for a few hours, jotting a quick note about where you’re going and when you plan to be back will usually suffice.

Coast guards and other boating authorities often have their own lists of what to include on a float plan, and each one is slightly different. The important thing to remember is that the more pertinent information you include, the better your chances will be if an emergency occurs.

Vital information to include

Here is a list of vital information to include on your float plan if you intend to be away for any significant length of time:

  • Description of the vessel: Include the boat’s size, colour, make, whether it is motor- or wind-powered, and the vessel identification number.
  • The number of people aboard: List names, ages, genders and any medical conditions or disabilities that could be relevant in a rescue operation.
  • Destination and timeframe: Note your destination and when you plan to arrive. If the journey will be a long one, consider including places and times for periodic check-ins en route.
  • Contact information: Provide contact information for the vessel, including cell phone numbers and VHF radio if you have it.

Useful additional information

  • The approximate route: Including the route you plan to take will help rescuers find you in the event of an emergency.
  • The boating safety equipment on board: List equipment such as personal flotation devices, distress flares and navigation lights.
  • Starting point: Consider including the name and location of your starting point (marina, launch ramp, etc.).
  • Vehicle information: Consider including the location and license plate number of your vehicle or tow vehicle.

How to file a float plan

Generally, float plans are left with someone you know who can contact a Rescue Coordination Centre or search and rescue team on your behalf if you fail to arrive at your destination. However, they can also be filed with a marina or your local Canadian Coast Guard detachment. Transport Canada has created a handy boating trip plan form that can be filled out online and emailed to your designated person.

Note that it is extremely important to notify your designated person of any changes to your boating plans and inform them promptly when you return. Otherwise, search and rescue operations may be deployed needlessly.

Boat safely with Drive a Boat Canada

Float plans are great tools that give search and rescue teams the information they need to help you if anything goes awry during your boating trip. Leave your float plan with someone you trust and rest easy knowing that you have given the authorities the best chance of finding you in the event of an emergency.

Learn more about boating safety with Drive a Boat Canada’s online boating course. Passing the exam at the end of the course is the simplest way to get your boating license, which you’ll need in order to operate a boat on Canadian waters.