‘Mayday’ is a procedure word used as an emergency distress call by mariners: ‘only to be used in the case of grave and imminent danger to a vessel or persons; such as a fire, sinking, man overboard or similar situation.' This over-the-radio voice procedure has full authority over any other communications and will also focus the attention of The Coast Guard and surrounding vessels.

Why Is The Word 'Mayday' Used As A Distress Call?

Mayday is easy to understand as a radio distress call and more practical than using, for example, the Morse code distress signal SOS, which was considered to be ineffectual in voice communication due to the difficulty in identifying sibilant "S" sounds over a radio. In terms of etymology, Mayday is a phonetic term derived from m'aidez, which in French means "help me".

How Do I Broadcast Mayday?

Switch on your VHF radio in the high power setting and select Channel 16 (27.88mHz).

Transmit, and slowly and clearly say: “MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY”

(say the name of your vessel 3 times. Say your MMSI number and call sign)

(say the name of your vessel once)


(by latitude and longitude or bearing and distance from a charted object)

(say nature of distress: sinking/on fire/man overboard etc)


(say number of persons on board and any additional useful details on current status/colour of hull/flares fired etc)


What Is Mayday Relay?

If you hear a Mayday broadcast and The Coast Guard doesn't answer, you can assist by transmitting a distress call on behalf of a vessel that is in danger - this is referred to as a Mayday Relay.

DSC VHF Mayday Procedure Cockpit Card

At Seachest, we offer a DSC VHF Mayday Procedure Cockpit Card that's designed to be displayed near your DSC VHF Marine radio. It features step-by-step radio and communication instructions with blank spaces in which you can write your boat’s name, MMSI number and Call Sign using a permanent marker pen. A must-have reference tool for new, novice or less knowledgeable seafarers on board, this card is printed using light-fast ink and encased in heavy-duty plastic to protect against wear and tear.

Post By Ed Mason