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Anchor (Safety & Survival)

A device used to connect a vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the vessel from drifting due to wind or current.


Anchor: Line Length (Safety & Survival)

The overall length of both the chain and/or rope attached to the anchor.




Bell (Safety & Survival)

A sound producing device used in periods of reduced visibility or whenever a vessel operator needs to signal their intention or position (See Horn, Whistle).


Boating Emergency Guide (USCG Float Plan – Boating Emergency Guide)

The instructions used to guide and direct the person holding the float plan (the “Holder”) on what to do if the persons onboard do not return or check-in as planned.




Cell / Satellite (Vessel)

Identifies the phone number, of either a cellular or satellite telephone, that can be used to contact the one of the persons onboard the vessel during the voyage.  It is important to note that the Coast Guard does not advocate cellular or satellite phones as a substitute for the regular maritime radio distress and safety systems recognized by the Federal Communications Commission and the International Radio Regulations -- particularly VHF maritime radio.  However, cellular or satellite phones can have a place onboard as an added measure of safety.


Charts (Vessel)

A printed or electronic geographic representation generally showing depths of water, aids to navigation, dangers, and adjacent land features useful to mariners (See Nautical Chart).


City (Persons Onboard)

The name of the city or town where the person lives that will be operating the vessel.


Color (Vessel)

Identify the primary color of the vessel’s hull and superstructure, including any graphics that decorate the hull or superstructure.


Contact 1 (Contacts)

The name and phone number of the primary contact at the site where the vessel will be launched and recovered.  Typically a marina operator, but may also be a Park Ranger office, county Sheriff office, or a local resident in the immediate area.


Contact 2 (Contacts)

The name and phone number of a secondary contact such as a Park Ranger office, county Sheriff in the area of the launch site.  On a long voyage, it may be a marina operator or other person at the destination point, thus providing contacts at both ends of the trip.


Compass (Vessel)

A navigation instrument for determining direction, either magnetic (showing magnetic north) or gyro (showing true north), that is installed or carried onboard the vessel.




Depth Sounder (Vessel)

A depth sounder indicates how deep the water is so you can avoid running aground, can set your anchor with proper scope, and can navigate more accurately.  Transducers, similar to those of a fishfinder, gather depth and speed information and pass it to connected displays.


Dewatering device (Safety & Survival)

A device designed to help remove water from inside compartments of a vessel.  Water located high in the vessel, or sufficiently off-center should be removed first to restore the vessel’s stability.  Used to prevent sinking, capsizing or listing.


DGPS (Vessel)

Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) is an enhancement to Global Positioning System that provides improved location accuracy, from the 15-meter nominal GPS accuracy to about 10 cm in case of the best implementations (See GPS).


Dinghy (Vessel)

A small boat carried on or towed behind vessel as a tender or a lifeboat.


Document / Registration No. (Vessel)

The certificate of documentation number issued when the vessel was documented, or the state registration number displayed on the port and starboard side of the vessel’s bow.


Certificate of Documentation Issued by the Coast Guard, it serves as evidence of ownership and indicates all trade endorsements under which the vessel is entitled to operate.  The certificate must remain on the vessel whenever it is operational for presentation to law enforcement officials.


State Registration Number Number issued by a state issuing authority for the purposes of identifying a vessel as found on the vessel registration.  This does not include an official number issued by the Coast Guard for documentation purposes.


Draft (Vessel)

The draft (or draught) of a vessel's hull is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull (keel), with the thickness of the hull included.  Draft determines the minimum depth of water the vessel can safely navigate--expressed in feet or inches.


DSC MMSI No. (Vessel)

The Digital Selective Calling (DSC) Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number is the nine digit number used by maritime (DSC) equipment to uniquely identify a vessel or a shore radio station.


DSC is a technique using digital codes which enables a radio station to establish contact with, and transfer information to, another station or group of stations.  It is essential that all vessels with DSC radios obtain an MMSI number, and have it programmed into the radio.  Recreational boaters that purchase DSC radios are required to do this before using the DSC functions of these radios.




E-mail (Vessel)

The e-mail address used to contact the vessel operator, if they will have the ability to receive such messages onboard.


Electronic Distress Light (Safety & Survival)

This is an alternative to flares for recreational boats.  It is required to automatically flash S-O-S.


EPIRB: UIN (Safety & Survival)

EPIRB is an acronym for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, a device, usually carried aboard a vessel that transmits a signal that alerts search and rescue authorities and enables rescue units to locate the scene of the distress.


The UIN is Unique Identification Number stored inside each 406 MHz distress radio beacon (EPIRB and PLB).  This 15 digit number enables the distress radio beacon to be uniquely identified.


Exposure suits (Safety & Survival)

An exposure or immersion suit (also known as a survival suit) is worn when abandoning ship, providing flotation as well as excellent hypothermia protection.  It is a one-piece international orange garment constructed of nylon-lined neoprene or polyvinyl chloride foam. It is also equipped with an inflatable pillow to help keep the wearer’s head out of the water.  The suit has a built-in hood, boots, and gloves.  The immersion suit is designed as one size fits all.




Fire Extinguisher (Safety & Survival)

A portable apparatus for putting out small fires by ejecting extinguishing chemicals or gas (Contact your local USCG Auxiliary Flotilla or see Virtual VSC for more information about fire extinguishers for your vessel).


Flag (Safety & Survival)

An orange flag with a black square above a black circle.  The flag is at least 90 cm x 90 cm (3 ft x 3 ft), with grommets at each corner to allow it to be hung or flown.  Other arrangements have also been accepted in kite or balloon form, but all have the orange and black square and circle form.  The square and circle form is intended to simulate a cylinder-over-sphere dayshape, indicating distress.


Flare, Aerial (Safety & Survival)

The flare burns with an intensity of at least 10,000 candela (formerly "candlepower"), for at least 5.5 seconds, reaching an altitude high enough to make sure it burns out before it falls back to the surface.  The signals are either self-contained or pistol launched and either meteor or parachute assisted type.  Pistol projected flares must be designed to be fired by a signal pistol approved under 46 CFR 160.028.


Flare, Handheld (Safety & Survival)

The flare burns with an intensity of at least 15,000 candela (formerly "candlepower") for at least 50 seconds.


Float Plan Note (Persons Onboard)

A free-form note field where the Planner can enter any additional information that is specific to the voyage.  For example, a boater who is boating to Florida for the summer may state “Coastal cruise to Florida Keys for the summer.”  Or for a kayaking club or group, identify the name of the club “Banberry Kayaker’s Club” and then list the individual kayakers as well as the color of their kayaks in the “Passenger/Crew” section.


Freq. Monitored (Vessel - Communications)

The VHF frequency you normally have your VHF radiotelephone tuned to.  For a complete list of VHF channels and frequencies, refer to the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center's list of U.S. VHF Channels and Frequencies.




GPS (Vessel - Navigation)

An acronym which stands for Global Positioning System, is a specific satellite-based navigation system used in conjunction with mobile equipment to determine the precise position of the mobile equipment. See DGPS.




Has experience with: this vessel (Persons Onboard)

 If checked, it tells SAR personnel that the Operator has had prior experience operating this particular vessel and is familiar with both its controls and handling characteristics.


Has experience with: the boating area(s) (Persons Onboard)

If checked, it tells SAR personnel that the Operator has had prior experience boating in the waters, waterways and inlets identified in the itinerary.


HIN (Vessel)

Federal law requires all boats manufactured after October 31, 1972, including homemade boats, to have and display a unique 12 character Hull Identification Number (HIN) that uniquely identifies the boat.  Two identical hull identification numbers are required to be displayed on each boat hull.



The person with whom the float plan is given (e-mailed) to by the Prepper.  The person is responsible for initiating a Search and Rescue if the Prepper does not return or check-in as planned.


Horn (Safety & Survival)

A sound producing device used in periods of reduced visibility or whenever a vessel operator needs to signal their intention or position (See Bell, Whistle).




The proposed outline of the voyage; For each location (or waypoint) described on the itinerary there is: 1) a planned departure and arrival date and time, 2) the method or mode travel used to get there, 3) the reason for stopping at the location, and 4) the specific time of the day the operator of the vessel will check-in (contact) the Holder of the float plan.




[There are no Float Plan terms under this heading]




[There are no Float Plan terms under this heading]




Line length (Safety & Survival)

Length in feet of the line used to connect the anchor (working or storm) to the vessel.




Maps (Vessel)

A static document (printed or electronic) which serves as a reference guide, emphasizing land forms, including the representation of relief, with shoreline represented as an approximate delineation usually at mean sea level.  A Map is not, and cannot be used to plot a course.  Maps merely indicate a surface path providing no information of the condition of the waterway or body of water (See Charts).




Name & Hailing Port (Vessel)

Identifies the vessels name (if documented) and the name of the port from which the vessel hails.  The "hailing port" is a place and a State, Territory, or possession of in the United States.  The state may be abbreviated. See also: USCG National Vessel Documentation Center.


Nautical Chart

A printed or electronic geographic representation of waterways showing positions of aids to navigation and other fixed points and references to guide the mariner (See Chart).


Note (Persons Onboard)

This field is used to note any special medical conditions, disabilities, or limitations that would be of concern if the person was stranded or lost. e.g. can’t swim, vertigo, artificial leg/arm, type 1 diabetes, etc.




Operator (Persons Onboard)

Is the person onboard who is responsible for: a) the safe operation and navigation of the boat, and b) the safety and conduct of the passengers and crew.  The operator may or may not be the owner of the vessel, though it typically is.



The vessel operator has not checked-in by the stated, expected, or required time.




Passengers / Crew (Persons Onboard)

This subsection contains a listing of individual passengers and crew that will be onboard the vessel for this voyage. It is used to help search and rescue identify who they are looking for.


PFDs (Persons Onboard)

A general name for a wearable flotation device designed to keep a person afloat in water.  This field indicates that this person has a type I, II, III or V of suitable size to wear onboard the vessel.  For more information about each type of PFD see Life Jacket Wear / Wearing Your Life Jacket.


PLB UIN (Persons Onboard)

NOTE: This field is provided for each person on board and identifies whether or not person has a PLB.

A PLB or Personal Locator Beacon is distress radio beacon designed to be carried by an individual person.  They can only be activated manually and operate exclusively on 406 MHz.  All PLBs also have a built-in, low-power homing beacon that transmits on 121.5 MHz.  This allows rescue forces to home in on a beacon once the 406 MHz satellite system has gotten them "in the ballpark" (about 2-3 miles).  Some newer PLBs also allow GPS units to be integrated into the distress signal.  This GPS-encoded position dramatically improves the location accuracy down to the 100-meter level--that’s roughly the size of a football field.


The UIN is Unique Identification Number stored inside each 406 MHz distress radio beacon (EPIRB and PLB).  This 15 digit number enables the distress radio beacon to be uniquely identified.


HOW A PLB WORKS: When Personal Locator Beacon is activated it begins transmitting its UIN signal.  After a Search and Rescue satellite receives a beacon signal, it relays the signal to earth stations which process the data and transmit an alert message to a Mission Control Center (MCC) via a data communication network.  The MCC performs matching and merging of alert messages with other received messages, geographically sorts the data, and transmits a distress message to the national Rescue Coordination Center (RCC).  The RCC investigates the beacon alert and launches assets to find the parties in distress.



A person, usually the vessel operator, who prepares a float plan for an intended voyage.


Prominent Features (Vessel)

This field identifies the unique or special features of your vessel that make it distinctive from any other vessels of its kind or type.




[There are no Float Plan terms under this heading]




Radar (Vessel)

An acronym for Radio detecting and ranging, is an electronic system designed to transmit radio signals and receive reflected images of those signals from an “object” in order to determine the bearing (direction) and distance to the “object.”


Radio Call Sign / Number (Vessel)

A "Call Sign" is a combination of letters and numbers that identify an FCC license (if applicable).  If you do not have a Ship Radio Station License, the U.S. Coast Guard, Navigation Center recommends that you use your boat registration number and the state in which it is registered if you are in out-of-state waters (e.g. “this is Rhode Island WA 1234”), in place of the call sign.


Radio-1 (Vessel)

The primary radio used on board the vessel, if available.  This may be either a fixed-mount or portable unit.


Radio-2 (Vessel)

Backup or secondary radio used on board the vessel, if available.  This may be either a fixed-mount or portable unit.


Raft/Dinghy (Safety & Survival)

A floatation device made of inflatable material, stored onboard and designed for use by people forced into the water.


Registration No. (Vessel)

The registration number of this vessel.  The owner/operator of a vessel must carry a valid certificate of number whenever the vessel is in use.


Rescue Authority (Contacts)

The name and phone number of a first responder in the area of either the launch site or destination.  First responders typically include local law enforcement (police, sheriff), emergency response, and related personnel, agencies, and authorities.




Search and Rescue (SAR)

Is an operation to retrieve persons in distress or imminent danger, provide for their initial medical or other needs and deliver them to a place of safety.


Signal Mirror (Safety & Survival)

A signal mirror is a special pocket-sized mirror with a sighting hole in the center used to attract attention of passing aircraft or boats by reflecting light at them.  Such reflected light may be seen up to five miles or more from the point of origin.  The sighting hole allows you to accurately aim the reflection directly at the passing aircraft or boat.


Smoke (Safety & Survival)

A signaling device, floating or handheld, that produces a dense orange smoke for about 5 minutes (4 minutes absolute minimum) used to attract boats and aircraft that are within visual range during daylight hours.


State (Persons Onboard)

The name and phone number of a first responder in the area of either the launch site or destination.




[There are no Float Plan terms under this heading]




[There are no Float Plan terms under this heading]




Vehicle (Persons Onboard)

The vehicle used to transport the operator or the operator and tow the vessel to/from the launch the launch site.



Any watercraft, other than a seaplane, of any size that is used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water.  The term "power-driven vessel" means any vessel propelled by machinery.  The term "sailing vessel" means any vessel under sail provided that propelling machinery, if fitted, is not being used.


Visual Distress Signal (Safety & Survival)

A visual, emergency signaling device approved or certified by the Coast Guard.  These include both pyrotechnic and non-pyrotechnic devices including the launcher.




Trailer (Persons Onboard)

This field indicates that a trailer was used to haul the vessel to the launch site.  The launch site is specified in the “Location/Waypoint” field on the Itinerary.


Whistle (Safety & Survival)

A sound producing device used in periods of reduced visibility or whenever a vessel operator needs to signal their intention or position.  During periods of restricted visibility, fog, or darkness, the sound it produces may be heard by rescuers up to 1,000 meters/1,100 yards away (See Bell, Horn).




[There are no Float Plan terms under this heading]




Year, Make & Model (Vessel)

The year of the vessels manufacture, name of the manufacturer and model name or number.  For example: 2015 Boston Whaler 270 Dauntless; where “2015” is the year,” Boston Whaler” is the manufacturer and “270 Dauntless” is the name or model number.




Zip code (Persons Onboard)

The postal zip code of the vessel operator's residence.

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