Assisting a Vessel in Distress

You are obliged by law to render assistance to a vessel in distress if you can do so without endangering your vessel or crew.

Consider the following measures so that you will be prepared to render assistance.

  • If you have VHF radio, continually monitor channel 16 when underway.

  • Keep a constant lookout, watching for signals of vessels in distress.

  • When you hear or see a distress call, check your safety equipment and have it ready for action.
    • lifebuoy, life sling
    • heaving line
    • boat hook
    • all onboard should be wearing PFDs
    • tender or zodiac ready for launch
    • issue a relay MAYDAY if the emergency call has not been made
    • pyrotechnic flares at hand
    • first aid kit ready for action

  • When you approach the vessel, make an assesment of the best way to assist, without endangering your personal safety.

  • If radio contact is active, ask the operator of the vessel in distress what specific assistance is required.

  • Stand by until the distress situation has passed.   If rescue personnel, such as Coast Guard or local law enforcement officers appear on the scene, take direction from the rescue authorities on the best way to assist.