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Distress Call


The most urgent call is a MAYDAY call. This is a distress call of the highest priority. It is used when a person or the ship is in grave or eminent danger and requires immediate assistance. It can only be sent upon an order given by the ship's master.
The proper way to issue a MAYDAY call is:

1) The distress signal "MAYDAY" is spoken three times.
2) The words "THIS IS" spoken once
3) The name of the vessel spoke three times
4) The distress signal "MAYDAY" spoken once
5) The name of the vessel spoken once
6) The position of your vessel (if you don't know that, look for a landmark, "We are just passing the Bay Bridge"
7) The nature of your distress "we are taking on water" or "we have a fire in the engine room"...
8) State the kind of help needed "we need a helicopter to airlift our Captain who is unconscious and bleeding severely"
9) Any other info that might help (approximate length or tonnage of your vessel, amount of people on board, number of people needing medical assistance)
10) When you are through, say, "I will be listening on Channel
11) End your message by saying "This is (your ship name) OVER".

At this point release the microphone button and listen. Someone should answer. If you do not receive an answer, repeat the above steps in an emergency.

Please note the following:

The only person on board who is allowed to send out a distress call is the master or skipper. Never - absolutely never - issue a distress call without permission of the master!

If you should find yourself in the water...

Hypothermia Chart

If the Water
Temp. (F) is:

Exhaustion or

Expected Time
of Survival is:


Under 15 min.

Under 15 - 45 min.

32.5 - 40

15 - 30 min.

30 - 90 min

40 - 50

30 - 60 min.

1 - 3 hours

50 - 60

1 - 2 hours

1 - 6 hours

60 - 70

2 - 7 hours

2 - 40 hours

70 - 80

3 - 12 hours

3 - Indefinite

Over 80



If at all possible you must get yourself as much out of the water as you can. You need to conserve heat by restricting all unneccessary movement.

Remaining still if possible, assuming the fetal, or, heat escape lessening posture (HELP), will increase your survival time. About 50% of the heat is lost from the head. It is therefore
important to keep the head out of the water. Other areas of high heat loss are the neck, the sides, and the groin. If there are several people in the water, huddling side to side in a circle will also preserve body heat.

Should you swim to shore? This is a most difficult decision. It depends on many things. Some good swimmers have been able to swim 8/10 's of a mile in 50 F. water before being overcome by hypothermia. Others have not been able to swim one hundred yards. Furthermore, distances on the water are very deceptive. Therefore, stay with the boat. Even a capsized boat is easier to see than a person in the water. This will make it easier for rescuers to spot you.

Do not swim unless there is absolutely no chance of rescue and you are absolutely certain that you can make it. If you do swim, use a PFD or some other flotation aid. You may be able to swim or tread water for hours but hypothermia is the number one killer of people lost overboard.