Boating Safety: Preparing a Sail Plan and Pre-Departure Checklist

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Prepare a Trip/Sail Plan

Before setting off on a long trip or a cruise out offshore, be sure to let someone know your plans so they can arrange for a search if you do not arrive at your destination. The best way to achieve this is to leave a Sail Plan (sometimes called a Trip Plan or Float Plan) with a responsible person on shore. All boaters should take the following actions pertaining to "Trip Plans":

  • Before heading out complete the plan with the necessary details to assist initiating a call for Search and Rescue in case of emergency.
  • Before heading out file the plan with a responsible person familiar with the instruction.
  • During the trip update the plan.
  • When the trip is completed deactivate the plan to avoid launching an unwarranted search and rescue.

A trip/sail plan is a voyage itinerary, which includes travel route and basic details such as:

  • Owner's name, address and telephone number
  • Vessel's name and license number
  • Whether the vessel is a sail or power driven craft
  • The size, type and colour of the vessel
  • Type of engine
  • Safety equipment on board, life rafts, flares, etc.
  • Radio channels monitored-HF, VHF, MF
  • Number of persons on board
  • Search and rescue telephone number
  • Distinguishing features of the pleasure craft
  • Description of the trip, time of departure, time of return and proposed route
  • Instructions in case of emergency

Use a pre-departure checklist

Use a pre-departure checklist to avoid situations that could lead to emergencies. No matter if you own, rent or are borrowing a boat, before heading out make sure the craft is in good working order and properly equipped. A boating trip should be fun, safe and hassle free. The number of boaters stranded each year is significant. More than 50% of the calls for assistance received by Federal Rescue Coordination Centres were from boaters who were in trouble as a result of the mechanical failure of their boats. Start with an inspection of the hull, look for cracks or other damage. If your craft has an engine, check that the throttle is operating smoothly, check that the steering is operating properly. Check oil and fuel levels. A good rule of thumb for fuel:

  • One-third for the trip out
  • One third for the return
  • One third as a reserve

Avoid inconvenience and potential danger by taking a few minutes with the checklist or a similar checklist:

  • What is the weather forecast?
  • Any local hazards or boating restrictions?
  • Do you have maps or charts?
  • Are there enough PFD's (personal flotation device) of appropriate size for everyone on board?
  • All safety equipment in good working order?
  • Ample reserves of fuel for the trip or will you need to refuel?
  • Is your VHF radio working properly?
  • First aid kit, basic tools and spare parts?
  • Have you let someone know where you're going, or, do you need to file a trip/sail plan?
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Boating Safety: Preparing a Sail Plan and Pre-Departure Checklist

This article was published on 2010/12/24