Make a Mayday Call

Mayday comes from the French “venez m’aider” or “come to my aid”. It is the internationally recognised call for grave or imminent danger. Never “practice” a mayday call on the radio, role play with your crew off air. Using the word “mayday” live on air means you are in big trouble and need help NOW! If you have trouble but it is not a life threatening emergency, make a PanPan call

If you hear a Mayday call, DO NOT ANSWER unless there is no reply. Start writing down the message in case you have to relay it.

Does your crew know how to read a GPS position or give a bearing? Make sure they do.

  • Mayday is always stated three times in a row, to ensure that it is heard accurately.
  • It is essential to speak clearly, slowly, and split numbers. For example, say One-Five instead of Fifteen.
  • If you know the phonetic alphabet - Use it (i.e. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie etc.)
  • Hold the microphone a few cms away from your mouth.
  • Stay calm, and speak slowly if you can. Rushing through the transmission is not going to get help any faster.

On Ch 16. Press and hold down the talk button. Breath once then talk.


THIS IS (my boat)
THIS IS (my boat)
THIS IS (my boat)

MAYDAY (my boat)

(Release button and wait for reply. If nothing in 15 seconds, repeat your message. Make sure you are on CH16. When the Rescue centre replies, press and hold down talk button again, breathe once then talk.)

MAYDAY (my boat)
WE ARE AT vessel’s position in degrees & minutes of latitude and longitude
OR bearings & distance relative to a well-known geographical feature

Explain nature of emergency ie fire on board or sinking


Numbers of persons on board

Description of boat

Whether you have a life-raft, EPIRB, and are wearing life jackets OR NOT

Whether you are abandoning ship and moving to a liferaft.

Let go the talk button and wait for reply.

While waiting, prepare flares, life rafts, life jackets, gather emergency supplies, brief your crew. Stay calm and set an example for everyone else to follow.

If you have to abandon ship after your first Mayday call, call back on ch16 to let the Rescue Centre know they will be looking for a liferaft or persons in the water.

Keep a person on standby on the radio for as long as possible.