The water, the sunshine, the beckon of the fishing reel – these are the constant calls heard by those who own a boat. And while it is tempting to grab a friend, hop on board your sailing vessel and go, you will have a much more enjoyable (and safe) experience if you take a few moments planning your next boating trip.

“Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.” – Tom Landry

* Assess which destinations are within your cruising range given your time frame and vessel. You can obtain a cruising guide for your area and then check it against your fuel consumption and average estimated travel speeds for the waters you will be traversing.

* If you need to replenish supplies at a fuel dock or marina, call to confirm that necessities are available, including provisions, fuel, and dockage – transient slips often require an advance reservation. You’ll also want to make sure that your destination will be open at the time of your arrival.

* Over half of the calls for on-water assistance are due to mechanical failure, so inspect the mechanics and electronics on the vessel to ensure they are in good working condition. Also, check your first-aid kit, PFDs ropes, ground tackle and fresh water supply to be sure all is in order. Inventory backup provisions (emergency food and water) and spare mechanicals (engine oil, coolant). If you do not have a spare engine key, have one made before setting sail.

* If it has been a while since you have been out on the water, check that you have all the appropriate navigational charts – even if you rely on electronic GPS and maps, have paper charts on board just in case. You may even want to consider taking a refresher course in navigation to be on the safe side.

A float plan* is a simple form that outlines pertinent information about you and your vessel. When planning your next boating trip, asks will include necessary information, including vessel name and type, propulsion and electronics, safety and survival equipment, information about the crew and any guests, and the ship’s itinerary. You should send the completed plan to any person expecting you at any point along the way, as well as a friend or family member who is not on board. Keep an eye on the marine forecast for at least ten days in advance, and don’t tempt fate – if the forecast is questionable, do not plan to go out on the water.

Here is a final checklist before you go:
Planning your next boating trip:

Is the weather forecast favorable?
Are there any restrictions or hazards I need to identify?
Do I have all my maps and charts; first aid kit, necessary tools and spare parts?
Do I have fully functioning safety equipment aboard?
Do I have sufficient reserves of fuel or an identified place to refuel?
Is my VHF radio working properly?
Do I have my Sign & Glide membership information?

Even the best plan can experience an unforeseen event; that’s when we will be there to help. Call Sign & Glide today for peace of mind on your boating excursion.

* The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers a click-and-print float plan at