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What is a float plan, and why should you use one?

A float plan is an unofficial plan you communicate to a loved one or friend when you are taking a boat out on the water. Akin to a flight plan, which pilots file with airports, float plans let someone know when you should be expected back. If you don't come back within a reasonable time, they then know something might have gone wrong and can send appropriate authorities to look for you.

The National Association of Rescue Divers recommends that all boaters "file" a float plan with someone. Inform someone trustworthy that you are planning to be on the water and for how long. Tell the person where you will launch your boat form, what type of boat you have, and provide some identifying features or numbers of the boat if the other person doesn't already know them.

Provide an idea of where you will be taking the boat: up or down river, across the lake, or just about the immediate vicinity? Provide times for your boating excursion and a list of who you are taking with you.

All of this might sound like a lot of detail to get into each time you take the boat out for a spin, but it should only take about five minutes to write down the information or tell someone. And the information can save lives: If something happens when you're out on the water, this information lets rescuers know where and what to look for. It also lets them know if they've recovered everyone who might have been involved in the accident.

Taking steps to protect yourself and passengers in the event of an accident is important. If an accident does occur, understanding your legal rights for seeking compensation if someone else is at fault is also important.

Source: National Association of Rescue Divers, "Common Boating Accidents," accessed Sep. 04, 2015

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