Float plan: an excellent safety tool

Filing a float plan is a valuable safety tool and its usefulness is regularly borne out by real incidents. Take the case of SV Bonobo. The owner filed a float plan with a friend regarding a voyage from Cozumel to the Rio Dulce. Their ETA to the Rio Dulce was September 2, 2020. When Bonobo failed to arrive on time, their friend filed an online report with Boatwatch.org.

Within hours, a “Be on the Lookout” (BOLO) was being broadcast on the Maritime Mobile Service Network (14.300), the SSCA HF Radio Service Net, the Doo Dah and Cruiseheimers Nets, and the Waterway Radio & Cruising Club Net. Facebook groups all over the Caribbean were covered with the Boat Watch Facebook Group lookout.

Long-time cruiser Sabrina Nichols of the SV Honey Ryder immediately picked up on the lookout and notified Boatwatch that Bonobo was anchored at the entrance of the Rio Dulce with engine trouble. Boatwatch called the friend who filed the missing report and let him know what was happening. This is not an extraordinary event. But it proves the necessity of filing a float plan with a trusted friend who will take action if you are overdue.

Boatwatch is a free service run by cruisers for cruisers. We operate a SSB radio station, FCC call sign KPK, daily at 12:15 p.m. UTC, or 8:15 a.m. Eastern Time on frequency 8.104. We are on 15 minutes before the popular Cruiseheimers Net on 8.152. We are in partnership with the Caribbean Safety and Security Net, reporting crimes against yachts.

Take it from a pair of retired FBI agents, situational awareness is your best defense against becoming a victim of a crime.

There is no better venue for situational awareness among the cruising community than the SSB radio. Although they are good resources, satellite phones and Facebook groups cannot take the place of the SSB radio Boatwatch.org and the SSCA HF Radio Service Net stand by 24/7 to help cruisers. A sample float plan can be found at boatwatch.org/resources/.

By Ocean Navigator