A Float Plan Should Contain What Information? (Safety Tips)

Many people have come to me over the last several years asking, “Mark, a float plan should contain what information?” This always makes me happy–it shows that these people truly care about their well-being and the safety of their friends.

And as we know, when boating you always want to prioritize safety. One essential aspect of boating safety is having a well-prepared float plan.

Let’s dive into the world of float plans and discover why they are an indispensable tool.

What is a Float Plan?

Float Plan: a document that outlines important information about your boating trip.

A comprehensive guide for yourself, your passengers, and rescue authorities in case of an emergency.

By creating this type of plan and filing it, you proactively communicate key details like your intended route, departure, and expected arrival times. 

Whether you’re going on a short kayak outing or an offshore excursion, a float plan acts as your strategic blueprint. Don’t forget to make one!

Create and File Your Float Plan

The benefits of creating and filing a float plan are numerous.

  • Provides a systematic approach to organize your boating trip, allowing you to plan your route, destinations, and timeframes effectively.
  • Helps authorities initiate search-and-rescue efforts promptly
  • Provides loved ones with a way to track your journey.
  • Acts as a contingency plan in case of unforeseen circumstances. 

A Float Plan Should Contain What Information?

When creating a float plan, include the following details:

  • Contact information:
    • The boat operator’s contact info and physical description.
    • The number of people on board. Include the names of each passenger and their age, gender, phone number, and home address. Any other relevant information you can provide, like skill level and medical conditions, should be included. 
    • An emergency contact’s name, phone number, and relationship.
  • Detailed information about your boat. Provide a clear description of the vessel, including its make, model, and size. Include any mechanical issues, the vessel identification number, and license plate information if applicable.
  • An outline of your planned itinerary and route. Specify the departure location, including the marina or launch ramp name, as well as the date and time of departure. Provide the planned destination, along with the expected arrival time.
    • Include alternative destinations or potential stops in case plans change due to weather conditions. 
  • All the safety equipment onboard, including type IV PFDs, should be included on a float plan. Specify the communication devices available (VHF radios, mobile phones). This information helps authorities assess your preparedness for potential boating emergencies. 

(For more information on type IV PFDs, see our article “What Is the Main Advantage of a Type IV PFD?”)

A float plan should contain what information?

Why It’s Important to Leave a Float Plan 

It seems like a no-brainer to provide someone with vital information that can assist them in saving your life. If you fail to return as scheduled, your filed plan gives the authorities a head start. Be sure to file a float plan regardless of how long you plan to be on the water. 

Float Plan Templates and Resources

Using a template can simplify the process of creating a comprehensive and organized float plan. These templates provide a structured framework that ensures important information is never overlooked.

Websites, boating safety organizations, and the USCG Auxiliary provide downloadable templates. I like using the US Coast Guard template–it’s much easier than coming up with a plan from scratch. 

And while using a template is convenient, keep in mind that you must spend some time customizing it according to your unique trip details. 

Selecting the Appropriate Recipient

When filing a float plan, it is essential to choose the right recipient, someone who can act as a reliable point of contact. This should be a family member or a close friend, someone you trust to contact the USCG if you don’t return on time.

The selected recipient should understand the importance of a float plan and be capable of taking appropriate actions in case of an emergency.

Understanding Post-Submission Responsibilities

After submitting your float plan, make sure to regularly communicate with your designated recipient and update them about any changes to your itinerary. Inform them of your safe return or any deviations from the original plan.

If your plans change significantly, notify the appropriate authorities (typically the U.S. Coast Guard), to avoid an expensive rescue mission. Remember, responsible boating includes not only filing a float plan but also maintaining open communication throughout your trip.

Contacting the Coast Guard and VHF Radio Protocols

In situations where a significant emergency arises or you require immediate assistance, contact the Coast Guard. Their expertise and resources can swiftly address boating emergencies. 

Adhere to the following VHF radio protocols.

  • Select the appropriate channel, typically channel 16, which is the international hailing and distress frequency.
  • Clearly state “Mayday” three times to indicate a life-threatening emergency.
  • Provide your vessel’s identification number, location, nature of the emergency, and the number of people on board.
  • Remain calm and await instructions.


Creating and filing a float plan is a necessary step for boaters to ensure their safety on-water. To make things easier, use float plan templates. If you’re going kayak fishing, canoeing, jet skiing, or sailing–really, whenever you’re hitting the water for more than a few minutes–filing a float plan with someone you trust to contact the Coast Guard is a very good idea. Just be sure to include all the necessary information!


What is a float plan?

It’s a document that contains important information about your boat trip. It includes details like your route, destination, departure and return times, as well as information about the vessel and the people on board.

How do I create a float plan?

Creating a float plan is simple. You can use this template, or you can create your own. 

Do I need to file a float plan for every boating emergency?

It’s a good idea to do so, even if you’re just going out on a short excursion. This way someone knows where you’re going and when to expect you back, information that can be crucial for search and rescue operations.

What if I don’t have anyone to check my float plan?

If you don’t have anyone to check your float plan, you can use a mobile app or online service that allows you to file and share your float plan electronically. These services often have features that allow you to check-in during your trip and notify your contacts when you’ve safely returned.

What are some common mistakes people make when filing a float plan?

Forgetting to provide detailed contact information. Failing to include a list of emergency contacts. Neglecting to update the float plan if there are changes to the itinerary. Not informing anyone about their plan.

Are there any resources available to help me file a float plan?

Yes, quite a few. Organizations like BoatUS and the Coast Guard provide downloadable templates and guidelines on their websites. There are also mobile apps like Float Plan and Sea Tow that allow you to easily create and share your float plan.

What is the benefit of filing a float plan with the Coast Guard?

Don’t file with the Coast Guard–leave it with a trusted friend or family member who will provide it to the Coast Guard in the event that you don’t return on time. This way they will have an overview of your trip. If you don’t return as planned, the Coast Guard can initiate a search and rescue (SAR) operation quicker.

Photo Credits
Photo 1 by the US Department of Defense
Photo 2 by Serhat Beyazkaya
Photo 3 Lenka Žigon

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