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Boat Emergency – How To Call For Help

Dec 8, 2022

Accidents happen in the sea all the time. Being surrounded by ocean water is dangerous; high tides can make it difficult to control the boat, they can push people overboard and even cause engine problems leaving it completely powerless.

Being able to call for help during an unforeseen boat emergency can be the difference between life and death.

If you’re going into open waters on a boat, it’s important that you know how to call for help in case of emergencies.

Here are some ways you can facilitate communication during a boat emergency:

Visual Distress Signals

The first thing you should do during boat emergencies is to send out a visual distress signal that can be seen from a distance. Although it often feels like it, you aren’t alone in the ocean. If you use the inbuilt visual distress signals on your boat, other vehicles nearby will see them.

The US Coast Guard demands that all recreational boats have visual distress signals onboard to prepare them for emergencies.

Night distress signals

SOS electric signal lights and red signal flares are the simplest and most common ways of sending distress signals after-dark. The SOS electric signal is a bright light that is attached onto boats and ships much like an orange distress flag.

There are two types of red signal flares: handheld devices and aerial devices. Handheld devices burn for 3 minutes and are useful when there are other boats nearby who may see your boat from a distance.

Aerial devices are useful for times when it looks like no one is around. These launch into the air and burn for 6 seconds.

The VHF Marine Radio

The VHF Marine Radio

There are specific radio channels that are reserved for the purpose of emergencies and other distress calls. These channels are monitored by the US Coast Guard so they can respond immediately whenever an emergency arises.

Channel 16 was created for emergencies only; it can be used to reach out to vessels in close proximity. Note that improper use of this channel might leads to penalties so only use it when you need to. Once you make initial contact with another party, switch to channel 68 or 69.

Issuing a MAYDAY Call

Channel 16 on the VHF radio can be used to make MAYDAY calls. The distance your message travels depends on the antenna and the amount of power the VHF radio has.

To make your message clearer to nearby vessels, put your VHF radio on one watt. Do the following to make a MAYDAY call:

Set your radio to one watt and Channel 16
Call out “MAYDAY” 3 times, say your boat’s name 3 times and the letters once
If no one replies, call out MAYDAY and say your boat’s name

State your location, the emergency and the sort of assistance you require
Wait for a response, if it doesn’t come then send another distress call
Use Your Cell Phone
The problem with using a cell phone on a boat is the fact that it is difficult to get service. However, if you dial 911 you should still be able contact law enforcement.

Before you head out into the ocean, it makes sense to take boat safety lessons to prepare you for unforeseen circumstances.

Boater’s Academy is an online boater safety course that consists of a free study guide and online quizzes. Once you pass the quizzes, you will receive a boat safety certification that shows that you have the knowledge and skills to keep you safe on the boat.

Our course is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators as well as the U.S. Coast Guard.

Get started today!