A mayday call is a distress signal used by mariners to indicate a life-threatening emergency. It is considered the highest level of urgency in marine radio communications and should only be used in the most dire of circumstances. In contrast, a PAN PAN call is used to indicate a less urgent situation such as a mechanical failure, but still requiring assistance.
Recreational boaters should be familiar with the proper protocol for making a mayday call in case of an emergency. The first step is to activate the boat’s Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) if one is on board. The EPIRB will automatically transmit the boat’s location to search and rescue authorities, making it easier for them to locate the vessel in distress.
Next, the boater should use the VHF radio to make a mayday call. The proper format for a mayday call is as follows:
“MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY. This is (vessel name and call sign) on (channel frequency). Our position is (latitude and longitude or location description) We are in (type of emergency) and require immediate assistance. Over.”
It is important to provide as much information as possible in the mayday call, including the vessel’s name and call sign, location, type of emergency, and the number of people on board. This will help search and rescue authorities respond quickly and efficiently.
Once the mayday call has been made, it is important to keep the VHF radio tuned to the channel used for the call and to listen for any instructions or updates from search and rescue authorities.
In the case of a PAN PAN call the format is similar, the phrase “PAN PAN” is used instead of “MAYDAY”, and the urgency of the situation is described. The format is:
“PAN PAN, PAN PAN, PAN PAN. This is (vessel name and call sign) on (channel frequency). Our position is (latitude and longitude or location description) We are experiencing (type of emergency) and require assistance. Over.”
It is important to note that while a PAN PAN call is less urgent than a mayday call, it should still be treated as a serious situation and requires immediate action.
When making a mayday or PAN PAN call, it is important to use a VHF radio. VHF radios have a limited range, typically around 20 to 25 miles, and the range can be affected by the terrain, the weather conditions, and the power level of the radio. Modern VHF radios have a power output of 25 watts, which can be decreased to as low as 1 watt in low power mode, making it more energy efficient but with a limited range.
It is also important to note that VHF radios are line-of-sight communications, meaning that the radio waves travel in a straight line and can be blocked by obstacles such as hills, buildings, or other boats. This can limit the range of the radio and make it more difficult to establish contact with search and rescue authorities.
In conclusion, a mayday call should only be used in the most serious of emergencies, and recreational boaters should be familiar with the proper protocol for making a mayday call. A PAN PAN call is used in less urgent situations, but still requiring assistance. It’s important to use a VHF radio, be aware of its limitations in regards to range and power, and always have an EPIRB on board in case of an emergency. Knowing the proper protocol and having the right equipment can make all the difference in a life-threatening situation on the water.