Making a Float Plan

Does anyone know where you are going kayaking this weekend?

It is good practice to prepare a paddling float plan even if you are just heading out for a quick weekend camping trip. Things happen out there, no matter how much planning we do, or how long or short the excursion. Giving someone a good idea of where you may be, and how you are getting there will help should something go terribly wrong and a search is initiated on your behalf. Pick a person you know. Preferably someone who is not currently the beneficiary to your life insurance policy. Preferably someone who also kayaks regularly and understands some of the challenges and changing conditions you will face on your trip.

photo by Dave Barnes

photo by Dave Barnes

Carry a copy of your float plan with you in your kayak, which includes the following information.

Your name.


Home Phone #.

Make and colour of your car.

Phone # of your emergency contact person.

Your launch site.

Destination and route (route if possible).

Your return date.

A time to call for a search (usually 24 hours beyond your estimated return time)

Number of people in your group.

Type and colour of your kayak (s).

Your cell phone number (if applicable).

A few other things to remember about making a float plan. Factor in a bit of elbow room in your estimated times so that delays, minor ones, will not be cause to alarm the troops back home, and begin an unnecessary search and rescue. If you are overdue for reasons out of your control then do your best to call your contact person or the authorities as soon as possible. Last minute changes to your float plan before or during your trip should be reported as well in a timely fashion. Make sure your contact has an answering machine or voice mail and will check it regularly while you are away. Remember, unnecessary searches cost us all in time and stress, not to mention monetary costs of launching a search and rescue operation. Good communications and contacts will lessen the likelihood of anyone jumping the gun to save you when you are just hanging out on a beach for an extra night. The use of cell phones that now seem to work well in most recreational areas on the west coast, as well as carrying a VHF marine transceiver will aid in checking in as needed. If your phone does not work, place a call to the local coast guard station with the radio. There will be a panic button for that on the radio set. They will be happy to assist you in connecting with your contact person, and or, relay messages that you are all right. They will not assist you in getting a pizza delivered. They get right uppity when you try that.

One last thing, a recent event gave me cause to wonder. Someone had arranged regular check in times with his spouse. This is a good practice but of course, his cell phone would not work where he had camped. This is getting better but a wise paddler will double-check on cell phone reception before departing. He had a VHF radio but was only using it to check the weather forecasts. In his mind, he was fine, but his lack of communication caused some upset at home. Don’t be afraid of calling for help, or in this case just sending a message home that all is well. I have heard tragic tales that all came down to ego, or simple neglect. You are wrapped up your outdoor experience but there are people back home wondering about you. And you better hope one of them has an idea of your whereabouts.


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