Float plans one key to making sure on-the-water emergencies end well

Posted on: May 23, 2018 | Bob Frye | Comments

Hey, I’m all for it.

Getting away from it all, that is. There are few things as wonderful as being alone or mostly alone in nature.

And rivers are great pathways to adventures.

You’ll likely hear birds or the splashing of a fish. Perhaps the voice of a companion. Maybe the only sound will be the plopping of water droplets falling from your canoe or kayak paddle back into the river, to rush away for parts unknown.

Early or late in the day there may be mist to add a little mystery to it all.

No matter what, your destination, if you choose, can be a spot no landlubber can reach.

It’s rejuvenating, captivating, soul-enriching, battery-recharging, oh how I love this bliss.

Until it isn’t.

Accidents, injuries and changes for the worse in the weather can happen. Back home — where many of the same people and conveniences you purposely left behind are all around – those may amount to nothing more than inconveniences. There’s usually help nearby for even the most troubling problems.

But on the water?

Maybe not so much, even in this world of smartphones and instant communication.

That’s where a float plan comes in.

It’s a roadmap to your own salvation, is what it is.

Say you get lost, or maybe injured to the point you can’t get yourself or your paddling partners home. Your boat fails and you’re left stranded.

Will searchers know where you got on the river? Where you are planning to get off? And when?

Do they know what kind of boat you’re paddling, how many people are in your group and who they are?

If the answers to those questions are no, it may be a while before anyone even starts looking for you. And even then, you’re the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Maybe you survive long enough for help to arrive. And maybe not.

It’s not worth taking the chance.

With boating season kicking off – it’s National Safe Boating Week right now, and traffic on the water will only soar after Memorial Day – it’s time to recognize the importance of float plans.

“Embrace solitude not isolation,” said Mike Baron, recreational safe boating specialist for the U.S. Coast Guard Ninth district. “Share your day out with someone on shore.”

That’s easier than ever these days.

The Coast Guard has a pre-made float plan that works not only for paddlers but operators of powerboats, too. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has its own version.

It’s simpler and shorter, but sufficient.

Boat-ed.com offers a plan of its own, too.

There’s even a float plan app available these days.

The Coast Guard Boating Safety App provides a variety of important information and services. In addition to float plans, there’s safety information specific to individual states, a safety equipment checklist, weather reports from the nearest NOAA weather buoy and navigation rules, among other things.

More information on its is available at http://uscgboating.org/mobile/.

Whichever form you choose, or if you make your own float plan, be sure of two things.

First, leave the float plan with someone responsible at home. They’re the person who’s going to alert the authorities that help is needed if you don’t get home safely on time.

So make sure they’re keeping tabs on you.

And second, do that person a favor and let them know when you’re safely off the water. You don’t want them calling out the rescue team when you’re already home, tired but otherwise refreshed.

Fear shouldn’t keep anyone off the water.

But there’s nothing wrong with being prepared for emergencies either.

Hey, I’m all for it.

Bob Frye is the everybodyadventures.com editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or bfrye@535mediallc.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodyadventures.com.

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