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Floating A Plan
The first thing that comes to mind when an emergency happens far offshore, is no one knows where you are. A float plan will speed rescue efforts and give you and your fishing team, peace of mind!
During the recently held, Southern Kingfish Association's Hog's Breath King Mackerel Tournament, SKA teams were telling me they ran some 90 miles before they began king fishing. Mercury Marine's Scott Beattie said, "They were fishing past the Fort and in the middle of nowhere. What would they do if they broke down?"
"A lot of our tournaments, particularly the Jacksonville Florida SKA events, are events where the kingfish boats fish close to the beaches,"SKA managing partner, Jack Holmes said. "When they have boat problems, they don't have far to look for help. However, during some of our events, including Hog's Breath, some of our kingfish teams may be fishing a hundred miles out in the middle of nowhere!"
"Luckily, everyone that has fished this popular event, has made it back safely to the weigh-in site. That's not saying that some of the teams haven't been late in checking in though."
Several SKA team boats have on board satellite phones where fishermen can make an emergency call for help when cell phones and other forms of communications do not work. However, not all of the SKA teams have satellite phones on board.
Most fishing boats now carry EPIRB'S on board stored in a safe place on their kingfish boat. In an emergency situation the EPIRB is activated which automatically transmits a signal via satellite to the nearest Coast Guard Station of your exact location. EPIRB'S are more commonly called "Emergency Personal Locators" and range in price from $300 to $900.
However there is a chance that you and your fishing team members may not have time to activate your boat's EPIRB in an emergency situation. A sudden fire that erupts on your boat may not allow you time to retrieve your EPIRB. The first thing that comes to mind is to get out of the boat and into the water. And with the new super fast kingfish boats, there is a chance in hitting a large object just under the surface and tossing everyone on board either in the water or knocking them unconscious. Then you suddenly realize exactly what has happened to you and your fishing buddies. The boat is now sinking to the bottom, you have lost all means of communication and, worse yet, you are swimming helplessly in the ocean and no one knows where you are!
"During the 2007 Bell South Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament, Coast Guard officials took the time at the mandatory Captain's meeting to explain the importance of filling out a Float Plan," James Dicks said. "They also talked about the importance of a float plan and how it would be a tremendous aid in getting help to boaters in an emergency situation. The Coast Guard wanted everyone to fill out the float plan form and either leave it in their vehicle, or with a friend."
James Dicks is an SKA member and currently heads up the Costa Del Mar fishing team. Dicks also operates an Orlando-based company called Premiere-Tec-Solutions which primarily focuses on doing business for government but also includes data facilities to work with the world's financial markets for our own companies. James Dicks has also spent the past few years, in between fishing SKA fishing tournaments, traveling around the world giving financial briefs to our men and women of the armed services.
"I find it a way to give back to the men and women of the armed forces, as I wouldn't be as successful today, if it wasn't for what I learned while I served in the Marine Corps,"James Dicks said.
In 2007, James Dicks actually met with Coast Guard officials and explained the idea of building a platform to automate the process of filing and closing a float plan.
"I asked the MCPOG if the Coast guard would have any interest in a project such as this," Dicks asked. "His reply was to let him see the float plan when it was finished."
"That's when I contacted my company's vice president, Andre Laplante, who is a 21 year veteran of the Coast Guard, to layout a blueprint and drive the project. His experience of responding to many search and rescue calls in his time helped immensely. The end result was http://www.USFloatPlan.com
USFloatPlan.com is a free service and has no advertisers on the Web site. Once you have logged in all of your critical information including contacts, boats, vehicles and, finally, a password, you will be able to establish a float plan before each and every fishing trip. Once the float plan is filled out entirely, you can print the float plan and make copies. Copies can be left in your vehicle, at home, at the marina where your fishing trip was initiated, or anywhere you feel this valuable information can lead to a quick rescue when you and your fishing party have encountered a life-threatening accident.
If you and your fishing team encounter a life-threatening emergency on the water, you should contact the Coast Guard on VHF channel 16. At the same time, write down your boat's position with GPS coordinates so that rescue efforts can be directed to your location. Also remember that the Coast Guard will not respond unless there is a life-threatening situation. You can also visit http://www.uscg.mil
to learn about all the services that the United States Coast Guard has to offer.
You might also check out http://www.4seatow.com
, which offers brightly painted boats ready to respond to a variety of boating failures that you may encounter at sea.
However, if you do not return to the SKA tournament scales during a high dollar king mackerel tournament and you are unable to make contact for rescue efforts, having a float plan on land is a must.
When you and your fishing team members do not return on schedule, a copy of your float plan can be faxed to the nearest Coast Guard station. Here, this valuable information will certainly aid Coast Guard rescue teams in heading up a quick rescue. Fishing boats that are already on the water and in the general area of the mishap, will also be alerted on Coast Guard VHF channel 16 of the situation.
Several fishing seasons ago, my son Terry David Lacoss was slow trolling live cigar minnows for king mackerel some 20 miles offshore of Amelia Island Florida. Terry David had six fishermen on board the Charter boat, Amelia Angler II, when smoke began billowing from the engine hatch doors.
"The first thing that I did, was to write down our GPS coordinates and call the Coast Guard," Captain Terry David Lacoss said. "Then I instructed our charter to put on their life jackets and at the same time, I grabbed a nearby portable fire extinguisher. After opening up the engine hatch, I saw that the fixed fire extinguisher was discharging, but it was so smoky, I could only point the fire extinguisher in the general area and hope that both fire extinguishers would put out the fire."
Fortunately the fire was extinguished, but the boat had a major electrical failure and none of the electronics were operating. Minutes later, the fire re-ignited and black smoke was once again coming from the engine compartment.
"Lucikly we carry extra fire extinguishers on board,"Captain Lacoss said. "This time I was able to identify where the fire was coming from and I quickly extinguished the fire."
A nearby fishing boat had also overheard the Amelia Angler II's distress call and was standing by to take on passengers while a Coast Guard vessel was on the way!
However, if the electrical fire had shorted out the VHF marine radio before Captain Terry David Lacoss was able to call the Coast Guard, a float plan would have certainly been a tremendous help. When the Amelia Angler II did not show up on time at the Fernandina Harbor Marina, the float plan would direct rescue efforts to the distressed fishermen.
Finally, don't for one moment think that your kingfish boat is accident proof - remember the Titanic!