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How to make a proper Mayday call

Emergencies happen at sea and the U.S. Coast Guard encourages all mariners to be familiar with making Mayday calls.

Mayday calls indicate that life and property are at risk and assistance is essential. The Coast Guard recently sent out a series of reminders about Mayday calls because the crews were responding to too many false or hoax Mayday calls. Raft-Distress.jpg

“Every time the Coast Guard receives a Mayday call, usually a boat and helicopter are dispatched, to the tune of $20,000 for each call,” The Coast Guard recently cautioned after addressing the hoax calls. Fake distress calls can mean a fine of up to $225,000.

 To help mariners make a proper Mayday call, here are some tips provided by the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary:

  •  First and foremost use your VHF radio. That calls the Coast Guard directly. DO NOT use your cell phone.
  • Make sure your radio is properly setup for distress calls.
  • Locate the DISTRESS button on the radio. Hold it down until it beeps.
  • Be sure to say loudly and clearly, MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY. Say the name of your vessel.
  • You should repeat this three times. Say your boat name again.
  • Provide your exact position from your GPS in terms of degrees of latitude and longitude.
  • Make sure you describe your boat, and its distinctive features. Be sure to say if it a sail or motor boat, color, anything you can think of to identify your vessel.
  • Be sure to indicate how many people are on board
  • Once you are done with the transmission, say “Over” and then listen for any responses. Let a minute or so go by before you repeat the process.

Once the Coast Guard receives your distress call, the Coast Guard DSC signals your radio to switch to Channel 16. Once you have established contact with the Coast Guard, be prepared with these instructions:

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  • Say the name of your boat
  • State your position (latitude and longitude)
  • State the nature of your problem: fire, medical emergency, sinking, etc…
  • Be sure to state the number of people on board, and, if necessary, the number of people who went overboard.
  • Stay calm. Stay on Channel 16 and await instructions from the Coast Guard.
  • Continue to monitor Channel 16 while awaiting Coast Guard assistance.

The auxiliary also reminds boat captains and owners to have more than one person on board that can make a mayday call in an emergency. If the captain or boat owner is in distress, it is imperative someone know how to properly make the call.

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