Float plan helps bring stranded boaters home safely

GULFPORT, MS - Coast Guard leaders say family members who had float plan information played a major role in saving the lives of two boaters who found themselves stranded on Chandelier Island for nearly two days.

It was a horrifying experience for Kyle Sick and John Cuevas of Hancock County. But without a float plan, the experience could have been much worse.

Coast Guard officials say boaters should never launch before leaving behind a float plan.

"It's important for us so that when we get the initial call we can get the maximum information about where the person went, who went with them, what kind of experience they have, what kind of survivability or survival equipment they have aboard," said Rebecca Polzin, Officer In Charge at the Gulfport Coast Guard Station.

Boaters can print out a float plan template on the Coast Guard's website. It shows you what sort of basic information you should always leave behind, like the characteristics of the boat, where it's headed, and a return time.

"Give it to a loved one, a family member, a friend. Yesterday's case, the family member told us they were going out to Chandelier Island. We knew pretty much exactly where they were at," said Polzin.

According to Polzin, the absence of a float plan broadens a search area for them tremendously, making it much tougher to locate missing boaters.

"You just look at the Gulfport area and all the marinas and different islands and different channels, the possibilities are endless as far as where a person could be."

The officer in charge of the Coast Guard Station in Gulfport said it's important to note the float plan is not something you file with the Coast Guard, but rather information you leave with a friend or relative.

The two fishermen are now recovering from their ordeal at their homes.

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