Emergency Distress Call VHF Scripts for Boaters: Mayday, Pan Pan, and Securite

Emergency Distress Call VHF Scripts for Boaters: Mayday Pan Pan Securite, Emergency Distress Call VHF Scripts for Boaters: Mayday, Pan Pan, and Securite

Strangely, I like collecting scripts for distress calls so I can compare the wording. Should the caller start with location, as you do on land, so make sure the first – and possibly only – thing you say is where the problem is? Is your type of vessel the most important bit of information? If you are cut off by another VHF call, and all that is heard are your first words – were they enough? What’s the best order of information? These are questions I grapple with and ponder. When I hear of emergencies on the water, I run through what was the most important information, what should be said first, and for what type of assistance to ask. Here are some starting points – scripts for the three distress calls, as well as a few tips.

Making a Mayday Call From Your Vessel //
Mayday Script for VHF Radio

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday.”

“This is the sailing vessel _________________.”

“Our position is _______________’ north/south and _______________’ west/east.”

“We are ________________.” (Nature of Distress)

“We have ____ people on board.”

“We are _ foot Manufacturer/Type/Length/Distinct Features.”

“Our course is __, Our speed is __, Distance from __ is __.”

Speak Slowly and Give Information on the Hailing / Distress Channel 16

  • Speak slowly.
  • Speak clearly.
  • Make sure you have pressed the key on the mike when you are speaking.
  • Repeat the information three times.
  • Mayday, your position, and your emergency are the most important pieces of information to convey.
  • Include any pertinent conditions including injuries, heart attack and nature of distress such as on fire, sinking, medical emergency.
  • If battery life is a concern, state what channel you will monitor at what time – such as Channel 16 every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour.

Condition of Boat

  • If time allows, describe your boat – type, manufacturer, colors, and anything that would help identify it, such as distinguishing markings or structures.
  • Condition of the boat can include details such as taking on water, fire on board, seaworthiness.
  • Also, you can describe the type of assistance you need, such as a doctor, or water pumps.

Reporting Your Position

  • You can report your position in Latitude and Longitude, or, a distance and line of position to a known item on shore or a navigation aid like a lit mark or buoy.
  • Or, use your dead reckoning location based on speed, time, and heading, or your last known position or radar.

Mayday Meaning

  • MAYDAY – distress signal.
  • This call requires the most urgent response. This signal is used when a person or boat is threatened by grave or imminent danger and requires assistance.
  • This includes when a boat is sinking, there’s a fire in the engine room, or someone on board is unconscious or experiencing a serious injury or illness.

Mayday Example Call

Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. This is the sailing vessel Name. Our position is 30 degrees 20 minutes north/south and 81 degrees 15 minutes west/east and we are sinking. We have four adults and two children on board a 45 foot Type/Brand/Color Vessel.”

  • As long as your radio continues to function, keep periodically transmitting your Mayday call on Channel 16.
  • If you don’t have any response on 16, scan other channels. If you hear other radio traffic; interrupt it with your Mayday call.
  • Make sure your radio is set to the higher power setting.
  • Also, try channel 22A, the Coast Guard channel.

Making a Pan Pan Call From Your Vessel //
Pan Pan Script for VHF Radio

Pan Pan Example Call

Pan Pan, Pan Pan, Pan Pan. Hello All Stations. This is United States Mayport Florida Group Break. A Fishing Vessel Offshore St. Augustine has sighted three large waterspouts moving in a southeasterly direction. All vessels in the area, be advised.”

Pan Pan Meaning

  • PAN-PAN – (pronounced pahn-pahn) – urgent information signal.
  • This call is used when you need  immediate assistance to deal with a serious situation that is not life-threatening.
  • This call is used in situations such as when someone has fallen overboard, or a boat is drifting into shore or a busy shipping channel or a rocky jetty.
  • For an emergency that is not immediately life-threatening, use Pan-Pan instead of Mayday.
  • Some other examples are if your vessel is out of fuel or your vessel has a slow, controllable leak or the engine is disabled and you want help standing by in case the situation worsens.
  • The radiotelephony message PAN–PAN is the international standard urgency signal that someone aboard a boat, ship, aircraft, or other vehicle uses to declare that they have a situation that is urgent, but for the time being, does not pose an immediate danger to anyone’s life or to the vessel itself.

Making a Securite Call From Your Vessel //
Securite Script for VHF Radio

Sécurité Example Call

“Sécurité, Sécurité, Sécurité, This is Big Huge Enormous Red Cruise Ship Boat departing her slip. All vessels in the area be advised, we are departing our slip.”

Securite Meaning

  • SECURITE – (pronounced sea-cur-i-tay) – safety signal. This call is used to transmit information about the safety of navigation. For instance, a tow boat may alert everyone in an area that they have a long tow, or a large commercial vessel is navigating a narrow channel, or a cruise ship departing her berth
  • Also, this call is used to transmit weather information, such as when a powerful storm system is approaching or someone has sighted a waterspout and reports it in a particular area.
  • This call may be used as a preface to announce a navigation safety message. This may be an approaching storm, a navigation light failure, a submerged log in a harbor entrance or military gunnery practice in the area.

Calling Another Vessel / Land

To call another vessel named “Sue,” and you are on “Buttercup,” say “Sue, Sue, Sue, this is Buttercup, over.” They will respond “Buttercup, this is Sue, let’s switch to channel 71.” You would respond, “Buttercup switching to 71” and then converse on channel 71. When finished, announce “This is Buttercup switching back to 16” so everyone knows where you are.

When you switch to a working channel, and someone is already on it; both parties return to 16 and try for a different channel.

Other Reasons for Making a VHF Call

Other than emergencies, there are plenty of times you will need to correctly and efficiently use your VHF radio to make a call. Some are:

  • To call a vessel to warn them of a danger
  • To call a vessel with unclear intentions
  • To call a bridge for an opening
  • To answer someone calling your vessel
  • To call a port or marina for clearance or docking instructions
  • To participate in a VHF cruisers net group
  • To call your own vessel by using a handheld VHF from shore or dinghy
  • To perform a radio check to confirm your VHF is operational
  • To broadcast a MAYDAY distress call
  • To perform a Pan Pan announcement
  • To issue a Securite announcement
  • To help relay a message between two boats
  • To help relay a message between shore and another boat
  • To call for a towing service
  • To call for food or meal delivery
  • To call for a harbor taxi or launch
  • To call for a pumpout service
  • To call and ask for local knowledge information

VHF Radio Basics

  • Channel 16 is the hailing and distress channel. That means it is for calling other boats or land, or calling a Mayday, Pan Pan, or Securite call.
  • Monitor this channel to hear emergencies, weather alerts, navigation restrictions, or others trying to hail your vessel.
  • Channels 68, 69, 71, and 72 are for non-commercial traffic, and 72 is restricted for ship-to-ship communications.
  • In our Florida area, bridges monitor Channel 16 and 9.
Emergency Distress Call VHF Scripts for Boaters: Mayday Pan Pan Securite, Emergency Distress Call VHF Scripts for Boaters: Mayday, Pan Pan, and Securite

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