A few years ago, Jim Young started feeling bad about not filing float plans before heading out on his boat so there would be a record of his whereabouts if something happened.
Young looked online and found a few float plan samples. But using one would require downloading it, filling it out and sending it to people. It wasn’t easy or convenient.
“The barrier to doing it was just too high,” he said.
That led to Young, a self-employed software developer who lives on Bainbridge Island, creating the website Float Plan Registry. The free site, which went live in August, allows boaters to create a profile with reusable detailed information about their vessels, crew members and contacts.
Once the profile is built, a float plan can be created in minutes that is automatically emailed to the user’s contacts. Users can built itineraries with checkpoints and receive check-in reminder emails to update the status of their journeys. They then have the option to check in, postpone or cancel the checkpoint.
Contacts are notified when each checkpoint is reached, and can also go online at any time and check the progress of the trip. The system also allows boaters to enter “overdue” times so contacts are notified if they don’t reach their intended destinations.
The website provides a demo for boaters to try, step-by-step instructions on how to use it and a list of frequently asked questions. The idea is to make the process as streamlined as possible, Young said.
“I can’t help but think that more people would file float plans if it was easier,” said Young, who owns a 1988 34-foot Tollycraft.
“That’s my motivation here — to find a way to make filing them easier and lower the barriers to the point where there’s almost no excuse not to do it.”
The site currently works with email notifications only, but Young hopes to add the ability to send text messages and allow boaters to check in via a SPOT tracker. He’s thinking about selling more advertising on the site, but says he wants to continue offering the service to boaters at no charge.
Young has asked members of his Tollycraft owners group to test the site and provide feedback, and has used it himself for recent trips to the San Juan Islands and Edmonds. Among Young’s contacts is his stepmother, who he said is happy that she can track his progress.
“This was awesome for her,” Young said. “She could just watch our float plan and see where we were every few hours.”