Whenever you are planning a long day trip that will take you far from your home port or an overnight trip, you should file a float plan. A float plan is form that contains information about your boat, people on board, destination and how long you plan to be out on the water.
Before you depart, you can give your float plan to someone reliable who will be responsible for notifying the Coast Guard if you do not return by the scheduled time and do not notify the person that you will be late. Once the Coast Guard has the form, it can begin a more accurate search based on the route you described on the float plan.
By not filling out a float plan, it could be hours or even days before anyone knows you are gone. Even when people realize that you are missing, they will not know where you are, so a search would be very difficult.
If you plan on going to a new destination, heading far offshore or traveling for a long time, you should fill out a float plan. If you are planning a short day trip, a float plan may not be needed, but you should still tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
Filling out a float plan may seem like a nuisance, but you will not regret it if you do get in trouble and a rescue will more likely come much sooner because the authorities know where you are.