Mayday Call

September 29, 2021
Mayday Call Procedure Card

Making a Mayday call will likely be stressful.  Your VHF radio may be your only lifeline.  The VHF may feature Digital Selective Calling but we must complete the procedure with a verbal message.  We’ll go on to discuss this further down in the article.  Let’s look at the components of the mayday call so we understand what to do.

What warrants making a Mayday Call

There are many reasons for making a mayday call but are generally life and death situations.  Someone’s life is on the line.  A passenger has gone overboard and you can’t see them.   A fire onboard that is likely going to engulf the vessel.  A capsized vessel.  A vessel in the middle of a major storm.  Someone onboard having a major medical issue.  These are all reasons for a Mayday Call.

What if someone makes a false call?

Responding to Mayday calls takes a huge effort.  Moreover, response takes a tremendous amount of money because the preparation for sea rescue is enormous.  As a result, false calls are severely punished.  Foolishly committing this prank can be fined in three ways.  First is a six year jail sentence.  Secondly a $250,000.00 criminal fine may be assessed.  That is not a typo it is a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar fine.  Thirdly a $5,000.00 civil fine may be assessed.   If you make a call, the Coast Guard will ask you questions to justify their rescue efforts.

What is the procedure?
  1. Ensure your VHF radio is on
  2. Open cover over the RED distress button
  3. Press the RED distress button ONCE and release
  4. Select nature of distress:  Fire, Sinking, Man Overboard, etc…
  5. Press and hold RED distress button for 5 seconds to send the alert
  6. Wait no more than 15 seconds for the acknowledgement
  7. Send the following VOICE MESSAGE on high power using channel 16



This is NAME (of vessel), NAME, NAME

CALL SIGN (your ship radio license number)  &  MMSI (Maritime Mobil Service Identity number for the vessel) Both may be skipped by a recreational boater.

MAYDAY, NAME (spoken once)

CALL SIGN (unique identifier)    MMSI (Maritime Mobil Service Identity)  Both may be skipped by a recreational boater.

MY POSITION is… (latitude & longitude) (bearing) (distance from a charted object) all three if available

NATURE OF DISTRESS:  (why you are calling for help)


WE HAVE (number of) PERSONS ONBOARD and life jacket status.

Any other pertinent information like a better description of the boat and nature of the emergency etc…  You may have to offer a better description of medical conditions.  You might include personal descriptors such as height and weight etc…

then OVER

How can I be prepared?

Again, this is stressful.  You and your family should practice a mayday call.  Any practice will help.  Make sure you are not using a live microphone!

The picture accompanying this article is one of a card.  With this in mind, one can easily find this doing an internet search, then print and laminate for the boat.

In Conclusion

Here is a great United States Coast Guard video on how to make a Mayday Call on a Boat:  Protocol for calling the U.S. Coast Guard from your fishing vessel

Above all, remember there are no egos when passengers lives are in your hands!  Connecticut Boating Certificates LLC teaches this topic in our Public Licensing Course.  Connecticut’s Boating License is reciprocal in all of the United States including American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.  Get your license with us.