Every sailor hopes he will never need to say those three words. “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday”, but you need to be prepared in case you find yourself  in a situation you need to send a distress call to the Coast Guard.

The proper way to send a distress call:

You may only have seconds to send a distress call. Here’s what you should do:

Procedure for VHF Channel 16 MAYDAY:

  1. If you have an MF/HF radiotelephone tuned to 2182 kHz, send the radiotelephone alarm signal if one is available. If you have a VHF marine radio, tune it to channel 16. Unless you know you are outside VHF range of shore and ships, call on channel 16 first.
  2. Distress signal “MAYDAY”, spoken three times.
  3. The words “THIS IS”, spoken once.
  4. Name of vessel in distress (spoken three times) and call sign or boat registration number, spoken once.
  5. Repeat “MAYDAY” and name of vessel, spoken once.
  6. Give position of vessel by latitude or longitude or by bearing (true or magnetic, state which) and distance to a well-know landmark such as a navigational aid or small island, or in any terms which will assist a responding station in locating the vessel in distress. Include any information on vessel movement such as course, speed and destination.
  7. Nature of distress (sinking, fire etc.).
  8. Kind of assistance desired.
  9. Number of persons onboard.
  10. Any other information which might facilitate rescue, such as length or tonnage of vessel, number of persons needing medical attention, color hull, cabin, masks, etc.
  11. The word “OVER”

Stay by the radio if possible. Even after the message has been received, the Coast Guard can find you more quickly if you can transmit a signal on which a rescue boat or aircraft can home.

For example:

MAYDAY-MAYDAY-MAYDAY

THIS IS BLUE DUCK-BLUE DUCK-BLUE DUCK WA1234

MAYDAY BLUE DUCK

CAPE HENRY LIGHT BEARS 185 DEGREES MAGNETIC-DISTANCE 2 MILES

STRUCK SUBMERGED OBJECT

NEED PUMPS-MEDICAL ASSISTANCE AND TOW

THREE ADULTS, TWO CHILDREN ONBOARD

ONE PERSON COMPOUND FRACTURE OF ARM

ESTIMATE CAN REMAIN AFLOAT TWO HOURS

BLUE DUCK IS THIRTY TWO FOOT CABIN CRUISER-WHITE HULL-BLUE DECK HOUSE OVER

Repeat at intervals until an answer is received.

Procedure for Digital Selective Calling (DSC) Radio: DSC MAYDAY

Here some additional information about the Coast Guard in our region

Ninth Coast Guard District

Group Buffalo
1Fuhrmann Blvd.
Buffalo NY 14203-3189

VHF Radio Coverage Chart – Lake Ontario

VHF Radio Coverage Chart – Niagara and Eastern Lake Erie