Radio a MAYDAY

If you are in imminent danger and need immediate help, radio a distress call.

How to radio a distress call

Before making a distress call - wear your lifejacket and activate your distress beacon (if carried on your vessel).

Switch your radio on to full power and turn to:

  • VHF: channel 16
  • SSB: 2182kHZ, 4125kHZ, 6215kHZ or 8291kHZ

Clearly say:

  2. This is [vessel name]” 3 times
  3. Callsign [of the vessel]” once
  4. MAYDAY [vessel name and callsign]
  5. “[vessel’s latitude and longitude OR bearing and distance from a known landmark]”
  6. “[nature of distress and assistance required]”
  7. “[any other information, e.g. number of persons on board, description of vessel, liferaft or dinghy carried]”
  8. Over

Allow a short time for reply, listening on the same frequency for an acknowledgement.

If there is no reply

If there is no reply, repeat the distress call, working through all the distress frequencies on the radio.

If contact is made with a shore station

Tell them you have activated your distress beacon and follow their instructions.


This information is also available for your boat in the form of a sticker

Radio distress calling sticker [PDF: 30kB, 1 page]

Related information:

VHF channels

This sticker lists the major VHF channels.

[PDF: 110kB, 1 page]


Radio handbook

Your guide to marine communication.

[PDF: 852kB, 72 pages]