When you travel by houseboat, does someone on shore always know where you are? The U.S. Coast Guard says leaving a float plan behind can save a life, yet less than five percent of boaters ever do it.
I touched base with Dan Fendel, president of Float Plan One. He’s created an extremely simple way to log a float plan for houseboaters. It’s as easy as downloading an app. When you get ready to have fun on your houseboat and leave the dock, you simply log onto your account with your Smartphone and enter the basics of your current trip.
When you initially register, you put in your basics of usual crewmates and body of water. Before you leave the dock on a journey, you update each specific travel plan with a couple of clicks. This allows you to make sure your information is updated and to choose your current crew of passengers from the roster you already filled in of your circle of family and friends.
The app will locate you via GPS, set your starting point, and ask you where you're going and when you expect to return. The information doesn’t stay dormant on your phone. What good would that do if you dropped your phone and broke or it died on your expedition? It’s sent to a server that stores all the information.
Whether a long-range cruise or a single-day round-trip journey, information will be stored in your account and as you leave your port of departure you will "file" your Float Plan One float plan with a simple touch of a button.
As Fendel puts it, you're not only filing your plan and giving your location and intentions, you're setting a cyber alarm clock. It’s easily extendable if you're having more fun than you thought or you can close your plan at the end of your journey. But it you are overdue by whatever interval you select, an alarm will be raised without you having do anything further, regardless of a cell phone or Wi-Fi connection.
An unlimited-use membership in Float Plan One is only $69.95 per year and includes profiles for two vessels. Additional vessels can be added for a one-time fee of $10 each with a one-time $35 activation fee. So for $104.95, you can always be covered and never have to hand-write a float plan again.
Now that we’ve covered safety, let’s get on the water and experience a houseboat adventure.