What Is A Sail Plan/Float Plan? And Why Do You Need One? | Become A Cruiser
What is a sail plan/float plan and why do you need one

What Is a Sail Plan/Float Plan? And Why Do You Need One?

Table Of Contents

When you are heading offshore it is essential to have a responsible person on land who knows about your planned passage and route. The person you choose should be comfortable contacting the authorities and Search and Rescue if you don’t complete your voyage by a certain time or date.

When we are heading off on a long passage, we leave our sail plan/float plan with three responsible parties on land. They all have contact details for each other.

Whether leaving for a few hours or several days, a sail plan remains one of your most important lifesaving tools.


What Information Do I Need In My Sail Plan/Float Plan?

The Sail Plan/Float Plan is a Trip Itinerary of your sailing plan. Should you not arrive at your destination within a reasonable period of time, search and rescue have an idea of where to start looking for you.

Information required in a float plan is as follows:

  • Vessel Itinerary
  • Vessel Tracking
  • Voyage Plan
  • Vessel Details
  • Communications and Safety
  • Crew List
  • Crew Medical Insurance
  • Vessel Insurance
  • Instructions in case of Emergency
    • What to do if you don’t think we’ve arrived on time
    • Steps to take if we are genuinely overdue
    • If you receive a call because our EPIRB or Iridium was triggered
  • Additional Information

Vessel Itinerary

The vessel itinerary includes the departure and destination ports and any alternate stops you may make en-route. Here is an example of our sail plan information from our passage from English Harbour, Antigua – Cartagena, Colombia.

I don’t create a whole sail plan/float plan for every day trip or a quick overnight passage. We speak to a responsible party and advise them of our trip route, ETA, and how to contact the authorities.

When choosing the responsible party for a short passage, I make sure they have a previous copy of a float plan with all the required information. For longer passages, I always create a full new sail plan/float plan.

DEPARTURE PORTEnglish Harbour, Antigua
DEPARTURE TIME AND DATESaturday 16th June 2018 – 12:00
ARRIVAL PORTCartagena, Colombia
ESTIMATED ARRIVAL DATEFriday 22nd June 2018 +/- 10:00 am
ARRIVAL PORT CONTACTSClub Nautico Cartagena (Marina) – +57 (5) 651 7121
Agent Contact Details – David (WhatsApp) + 57 313 523 0742
Oranjestad, Aruba
Colombia, Bahia Honda
Colombia, Cabo De La Vela
Colombia, Santa Marta – Marina – +57 (5) 436 3601

Vessel Tracking

In this section you put your specific tracking details that people on land can follow you on.

We used to track our position while sailing with a Delorme InReach. We were very happy with it until it caught fire (for more info on our lithium device battery fire click here). Just before we left the Caribbean, we decided to buy an Iridium Go as it offered so much more than simple tracking. We now have access to weather and can send messages and emails mid-ocean. It is even possible to make a satphone call if need be. I highly the Iridium Go with a Predict wind unlimited subscription.

We were starting to head off on longer passages offshore and loved the fact that Predict Wind will upload weather and emails to your device via satellite while you are offshore and far from any internet. Not only are you able to access weather and emails, but they have a great tracking tool that shows people on land where you are.

What is a sail plan/float plan and why do I need one
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Predict wind weather and tracking of some of our routes in French Polynesia

Position reports posted to:

  • Map Tracking https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/ (you can log in with your details to track a specific boat).
  • AIS services like Marine Traffic may also show the position of the boat. In reality, when we look on Marine Traffic at our own movements the info is often months old as we haven’t been near a shore-based reporting station and getting satellite tracking info from marine Traffic requires a paid subscription.

Voyage Plan

Here is the example of what we used as our voyage plan as we sailed from Antigua to Colombia

The plan is to depart English Harbour, sail down the southern coast of Antigua, to the north coast of Monserrat. From there, we plan on sailing directly for a point on the most northern cape of Columbia, passing approximately 30nm north of Isla Aves. From there we plan on staying between 7-20 nm offshore down the coast of Colombia to Cartagena. We are planning on departing Antigua on Saturday, 16 June at about noon and expect to reach Cartagena on Friday, 22nd June.

Our boat speed varies from 5kts to 8 kts with 5-6kts being the norm.

Once we arrive, we may not be able to leave the boat to get a sim card until we have been cleared to visit land by the authorities. We will, however, send you a notification message via our Iridium Go.

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Vessel Details

TYPELagoon 380
YEAR/MAKE/MODEL2006 /Lagoon 380 S2
PROPULSION2 x Volvo D1-30 27HP
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Photo Of The Boat

Communications and Safety

SATELITEIridium Go (Iridium Phone # and email address)
AISYes, Class B – Transceiver (transmit and receive)
EPIRB Your EPIRB Number – EPIRB TYPE -> ACR Global Fix V4

Crew List


Medical Insurance

If you have medical coverage for the crew members, it is a good idea to add the insurance details to your float plan should it be needed in an emergency.

  • Provider
  • Contact Number
  • Coverage Area
  • Coverage
  • Deductible
  • Name and Certificate number for each crew member

Vessel Insurance

The vessel insurance is also important information for your responsible person to have on hand.

  • Provider
  • Contact Number
  • Policy Number
  • Customer Number

Remember to state whether additional search and rescue is included in your insurance coverage.

Instructions In Case of Emergency

What To Do If We Don’t Arrive On Time

It is entirely possible that we have less wind than forecast, and we take up to a day longer to reach our destination. Alternatively, if the weather is worse than expected, we may stop for a night en-route at one of the above diversion ports/ bays.

Should this occur we will attempt to send you an Iridium Go message. Please do not be overly concerned should this occur.

Steps To Take If You Believe We Are Genuinely Overdue (At least 12 hours has passed since our expected ETA)

  1. Send us an Iridium message. Please wait 2-3 hours for a response
    • Try to contact us through normal means: email, Whatsapp, etc.
  2. Contact Club Nautico and David our agent in Cartegena – Contact details above
  3. Check with [List Emergency Contact Names and Contact Numbers] to see if they have heard anything
  4. Finally, contact the Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Center [Enter number – more details below in ‘How to contact Search and Rescue‘ section]

Additional Information

I have a dropbox account. In it are the copies of the sail plan/ float plan document. Copies of passports and medical insurance certificates for all crew members, as well as boat registration, and boat insurance certificates.

The dropbox link containing all the documentation is placed at the bottom of the sail plan/float plan document.

The document is emailed to the responsible parties. I ensure confirmation of receipt and that the responsible parties are comfortable taking on the responsibility of contacting Search and Rescue if required.

Upon arrival, contact the responsible person/people and advise that you have arrived, and they may destroy your sail plan/float plan.

How to Contact Search and Rescue

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Search and Rescue Regions Worldwide

The above map shows the Search and Rescue regions worldwide. Click here to find the contact details for the closest Search and Rescue Centre to you. You can search by country, or by latitude and longitude.

Your position is then marked on the map. This is very useful if you are traveling through multiple countries on your passage. You can find the contact details for every country you will pass through to add to your sail plan/float plan or to have onboard to call in the event of an emergency.

Fortunately, we have never got into the situation where our float plan was required. But it does give us peace of mind knowing that someone is looking out for us and will contact Search and Rescue should we not arrive on time as expected.

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Hi, I’m Nic! Our Family of four have been out cruising since 2016. We have sailed about 15,000nm, almost halfway around the world. We sold everything, took the leap of faith, and bought a 10-year-old Lagoon 380 ex-charter catamaran. We’ve fixed every system on the boat, often more than once. Cruising has been such a wonderful, positive experience for our family that I want to share my tips to help you Become a Cruiser.

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