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How To Use Your VHF Radio to Call for Help in a Boat Emergency | BoatUS

How To Use Your VHF Radio to Call for Help in a Boat Emergency | BoatUS

Hey there folks! Lenny Rudow here for BoatUS Magazine. You know, when you’re boating in any sort of populated area, even though it’s sort of old tech, what is still the most reliable, least expensive, best way to get in touch with the authorities in case you need help? Why, it’s still the VHF radio. If you’re not already familiar with how to use your VHF, go to the BoatUS Magazine website, read our VHF radio protocol article, and watch our three tips for using a VHF radio video. And most importantly, make sure you have DSC activated on your radio. Don’t worry, we tell you how to do it on the website, but this is very important, people. Your radio has got to be DSC active. In the meantime, what you need to know is how to make a mayday call. That’s a call for a real emergency. If your boat is out of gas, do not call Mayday. If your boats on fire, call Mayday. If your boat breaks down, do not call Mayday. If your boat is sinking, you call Mayday. Step #1 with a DSC-active radio is to flip up the red cover and then press and hold the distress button for 3 to 5seconds until you hear it beep. That beep tells you that your radio has sent a distress signal to the Coast Guard. They now know your exact latitude and longitude as long as your radio is DSC active and it automatically tunes your radio to channel 16 for further communications. Remember channel 16 is a hailing and distress channel. It’s what the Coast Guard is always monitoring. A lot of folks, a lot of boats, out on the water are constantly monitoring 16. But it’s not a channel to chat on. You do not hold conversations on 16 and almost always when you contact the Coast Guard, they’ll immediately ask you to switch and answer on a different channel. Soon after hitting that button, you should receive a voice communication from the Coast Guard. They’re going to want to know things like how many people are on board your boat, the nature of your emergency, and all those kinds of details. Hint: Whenever you’re making a mayday call, everybody on board should already be wearing a life jacket. If they’re not, have them put one on. Bottom line, people, from here on out, follow the Coast Guard’s instructions. Now, when you communicate with them, remember to speak slowly and clearly. Don’t hold the mic right up in front of your face, because your own breath can create wind noise. Instead hold it at a 90 degree angle, right about like that. What if your radio is not DSC active? Well, first off, people, get that fixed immediately. Now, if you have to deal with the radio that’s not active, you want to first tune it to channel 16. Then repeat Mayday! three times. Call the Coast Guard, give the name of your vessel and the nature of your emergency. Like so, without my finger on the button: Mayday Mayday Mayday. This is the Write Away calling the Coast Guard. We are aflame. Once you’ve established contact, the Coast Guard will come back to you and ask you for more details. They’ll want your position data, how many people are onboard, etc., etc., etc. If no one answers after a few moments, make the call again. Now, what do you do if you’re in a situation that you want to make the Coast Guard aware of but it doesn’t quite reach that Mayday status just yet? Well, then you make what is called a pan-pan call. You would repeat the same information, but you would say it like so: pan-pan, pan-pan, pan-pan. Coast Guard this is the Write Away calling. Once you’ve established communication with a Coast Guard, you can rest assured they will come to your assistance as soon as is humanly possible. Well, folks, we hope you found this video helpful. Please leave your comments below, and be sure to subscribe to the BoatUS Magazine YouTube channel. [SOUND OF GENTLE WAVES]

Reader Comments

  1. Do you still press the red button prior to making a pan pan call or is that only for mayday call? My hand held radio is DSC active.

  2. The know your exact latitude and longitude as long as your radio is DSC active AND connected to a GPS OR you punch in the coordinates yourself.

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