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Old 10-11-2014, 10:22   #1
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What Justifies a "MAYDAY"?

I am confused about when you would actually call a MAYDAY. Obviously is is for a life-threatening emergency, but it still seems vague.

1.) Crew member is having a Heart attack, kidney stone, appendicitis

2) The boat is without steerage, but otherwise seaworthy.

3) Dismasted, but still floating and not in mediate jeapordy but you want to be rescued and leave the boat.

4) A fire on the boat that is not immediately threatening the boat but could become worse.

I am curious in what case there's would use MAYDAY calls over PanPan.
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Old 10-11-2014, 10:26   #2
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re: What Justifies a "MAYDAY"?

I personally would say mayday in a life-threatening emergency where someone (or everyone) needs to get off the boat, and issue a panpan otherwise.

wiki seems to suggest "grave and imminent threat requiring immediate assistance" for mayday
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Old 10-11-2014, 10:39   #3
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re: What Justifies a "MAYDAY"?

Certainly any situation where a person's life is at risk either due to injury, illness or the boat sinking.

What about a situation where the boat might be lost but the crew is not at risk. For example, a large uncontrollable leak where the boat is sinking but is close to land or a port and the crew has a large dinghy on hand that would easily take them to safety.

Mayday or Pan?
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Old 10-11-2014, 10:49   #4
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re: What Justifies a "MAYDAY"?

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Originally Posted by skipmac View Post

What about a situation where the boat might be lost but the crew is not at risk. For example, a large uncontrollable leak where the boat is sinking but is close to land or a port and the crew has a large dinghy on hand that would easily take them to safety.

Mayday or Pan?
Uncontrolled flooding is a risk, I say Mayday.
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Old 10-11-2014, 11:17   #5
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re: What Justifies a "MAYDAY"?

Quote:
Originally Posted by WindLove View Post
I am confused about when you would actually call a MAYDAY. Obviously is is for a life-threatening emergency, but it still seems vague.

1.) Crew member is having a Heart attack, kidney stone, appendicitis. Heart attack yes, kidney stones no, appendicitis yes

2) The boat is without steerage, but otherwise seaworthy. Absolutely not. This is a Pan-Pan, unless the boat is drifting towards immediate danger

3) Dismasted, but still floating and not in mediate jeapordy but you want to be rescued and leave the boat. Absolutely not. Pan-pan is appropriate

4) A fire on the boat that is not immediately threatening the boat but could become worse. No, but fires are almost a special case. As described Pan-Pan

I am curious in what case there's would use MAYDAY calls over PanPan.
The rule is that a Mayday is supposed to only be used for imminent life threatening problems. If something could become imminent but isn't yet, then Pan-Pan is still correct. A Pan-Pan call can have different levels of responce, from were sending a helicopter (medical evacuation), to well send a tow boat (broken mast), but a Mayday only has one responce everything nearby is redirected to your location, both Coast Guard and civilian. Even a local guy fishing is supposed to respond with all reasonable haste to a Mayday call.


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Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
Certainly any situation where a person's life is at risk either due to injury, illness or the boat sinking.

What about a situation where the boat might be lost but the crew is not at risk. For example, a large uncontrollable leak where the boat is sinking but is close to land or a port and the crew has a large dinghy on hand that would easily take them to safety.

Mayday or Pan?
Pan-pan. No immediate threat to life, therefore it's not a Mayday. Though a tow company with a crash pump may be a better idea.
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Old 10-11-2014, 11:49   #6
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re: What Justifies a "MAYDAY"?

Quote:
Originally Posted by WindLove View Post
I am confused about when you would actually call a MAYDAY. Obviously is is for a life-threatening emergency, but it still seems vague.

1.) Crew member is having a Heart attack, kidney stone, appendicitis

2) The boat is without steerage, but otherwise seaworthy.

3) Dismasted, but still floating and not in mediate jeapordy but you want to be rescued and leave the boat.

4) A fire on the boat that is not immediately threatening the boat but could become worse.

I am curious in what case there's would use MAYDAY calls over PanPan.
Mayday - imminent threat to life. That judgement is the responsibility of the caller to make. For example, a haemophiliac with a bruise may be applicable whereas someone else with a more serious but stabilised medical emergency might not warrant any radio traffic. It's purely a judgement call based on a specific, not general, context.

Pan pan for other non life threatening situations or where you wish to be the priority radio traffic such as a navigation hazard you think may pose a threat to others. Equipment damage might trigger a pan pan to begin a dialogue that may lead to a mayday. If in doubt make comms.

I recently listened to a mayday in SF bay that sounded more like a drunk idiot. USCG managed a dialogue which lasted for nearly an hour. They requested the mayday give their location which wasn't consistent. They requested all personnel wear pfds etc. Methodical and calm was the approach. Very well managed by the CG who dispatched a vessel to assist.

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Old 10-11-2014, 12:02   #7
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re: What Justifies a "MAYDAY"?

The taught response on this side of the pond is

Mayday : Grave AND imminent danger, i.e. its serious and its happening NOW.


PAN PAN: Grave OR imminent danger, i.e. , its serious or its might happen soon.

BUT, be very clear. Its solely up to you to decide. If you are in doubt , then its a MAYDAY.



as for your examples, 1= mayday, 2 = pan pan, 3 = your call, 4 =mayday or pan pan, hard to quantify


Note the response to Mayday and PAN PAN, may in fact be identical and in most modern 1st world SAR situations, there is very little difference. under GMDSS, your responsibility is to get the MAYDAY to the shore station ( as is others responsibility). Then the shore co-ordination will decide what assets are best deployed to help you.

Its solely up to you to decide what call to make ( if any). SAR authorities would prefer you called sooner and were proven wrong, then call later and your proven dead.


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Old 10-11-2014, 12:21   #8
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re: What Justifies a "MAYDAY"?

One thing to keep in mind is that a Pan-Pan is still a very serious call for help. The CG is willing to spend a lot of resources to assist, and may very well respond in force with helicopters, or crew boats if the situation warrants. And it is always possible to upgrade from a pan-pan to a mayday.

So as an example...

A man overboard in reasonably benign conditions is a pan-pan. And the CG is likely to start diverting resources to assist. But the moment the vessel realized they can't sucessfully acomplish a recovery it becomes a mayday, and things kick into overdrive. The helicopter that was going thru normal pre-flight gets crash started instead. rescue boats on the way at high cruising speeds go throttle down and mad dash towards the location. Commercial and recreational traffic nearby are asked to divert and assist at maximum possible speed.

Even knowing the helicopter may beat them all there any nearby resource is diverted with no thought or concern for damage done to the equipment being used, or the safety of their crew. Because a mayday has been called, and not getting there in time means someone is dead.

It is actually pretty normal for situations to escalate however. What started off as a Securitite call (navigation hazard) for loss of stearing in a shipping channel may very well become a pan pan when you start drifting towards a rocky shore, and become a mayday when the anchor chain snaps and you can't stop the drift.

Or in one situation I was involved in that started out as a PanPan medico (3" fish hook got stuck thru someone's wrist). We were were running towards shore at about 45kn to get to a hospital, when it turned into a mayday call when the idiot ripped the hook out and punctured the artery. we really thought this was life threatening, but the doctor on the radio assured us that while he was an idiot, a puncture in the ulnar artery while serious isn't life threatening, and downgraded the mayday back to a PanPan.



Frankly I think some of this is a little academic. If you really believe you need immediate assistance and make either call the CG will respond as fast as they can. The only difference is priority of the calls if they are dealing with both a PanPan and a mayday at the same time. Even then they make a judgment call about what resources are required or reasonable to respond to each call. And other than people making false emergency calls i have never heard of anyone being reprimanded for using the wrong one.
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Old 10-11-2014, 13:02   #9
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re: What Justifies a "MAYDAY"?

Quote:
Originally Posted by WindLove View Post
I am confused about when you would actually call a MAYDAY. Obviously is is for a life-threatening emergency, but it still seems vague.

1.) Crew member is having a Heart attack, kidney stone, appendicitis
Depends on your training, all three examples have a person in great pain, and if you don't know what a heart attack looks like, how are you to tell it from (for instance) a bleeding ulcer? Mayday if you believe loss of life in immanent, otherwise pan pan.

2) The boat is without steerage, but otherwise seaworthy.
TRY TO FIX IT! or jury rig a repair. Pan pan if the vessel presents a danger to others.

3) Dismasted, but still floating and not in mediate jeapordy but you want to be rescued and leave the boat.
[COLOR="blue"] Normally, losing the mast is not life threatening nor a threat to the vessel. If it occurs in daylight and calm conditions and you have crew, you might be able to tow it by putting flotation under it to float it, and get back to shore. No call for help because none is needed. You can jettison it if you must, the boat is still fine, and if you leave the boat or scuttle it you will lose self respect. (I'm not talking off the top of my head here, we've been dismasted at sea, jettisoned the rig, and motored in. I felt frightened, though I tried to behave in control, but I did go get the lifejackets out, in deference to my feeling.)

Alan Nebauer, a solo sailor, records in his book "Against All Odds" how he jury rigged his boat after a dismasting in the Souther Ocean. He rounded Cape Horn under that rig, and sailed with it to the Falkland Is. I suggest reading about how people deal with dismastings where there is no possibility of rapid help, to get ideas for dealing with one, if you're a serious sailor.COLOR]

4) A fire on the boat that is not immediately threatening the boat but could become worse.
Get busy with the fire extinguisher. Fire on a boat is one that can sometimes rapidly escalate. Maybe should consider a Pan pan.One of the uses of the pan pan call is to let the authorities know that there is a possible situation in the making. Call if off if you put the fire out.

I am curious in what case there's would use MAYDAY calls over PanPan.
Immediate loss of life or of the vessel where loss of life will follow the loss of the vessel unless there is assistance. Panpan would normally be issued first, as the problem was developing, and efforts to solve it failing, you would update it. Like located leak, cannot stop water ingress. Then water over cabin sole. Water about to reach the batteries, this is the last transmission, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, Name of Vessel, position of vessel, nature of emergency. As Stumble wrote, with the issuance of the PanPan, you would already have given your vessel name, position, and nature of the problem, and the answering body would have asked for a description of the vessel, and with the upgrade to a Mayday, they would speed up their operations.
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Old 10-11-2014, 13:06   #10
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re: What Justifies a "MAYDAY"?

Quote:
MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, Name of Vessel, position of vessel, nature of emergency.

4 keys things you need to get across in a MAYDAY

* The name of the boat
* The position of the boat
* The nature of your distress
* the number of people on board.

After that not much else matters. technically whether you issue one or a dozen maydays is of little real matter.
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Old 10-11-2014, 13:47   #11
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re: What Justifies a "MAYDAY"?

Quote:
Originally posted by Stumble: A man overboard in reasonably benign conditions is a pan-pan. And the CG is likely to start diverting resources to assist.
A man overboard in any conditions would warrant an immediate SOS if the crew has time.

Kidney stones can lead to projectile vomiting all day and severe dehydration (ask me how I know). How are you going to predict that it will pass even if you are a doctor? How can you even diagnose it without diagnostic tools? Mayday.

A boat sinking? Very dangerous situation and you can not paddle a life raft to shore. Many people have died thinking that they could swim to shore.

Fire on the boat is a serious risk of sever injury or death. Mayday.
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Old 10-11-2014, 14:03   #12
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re: What Justifies a "MAYDAY"?

I did a stint in the USCG as a radio operator/AT on C-130 and HU-16 aircraft.

I responded to a number of Mayday call but never recieved one, until being a reservist in Atlantic City. Very odd circumstances, charter boat off Montauk, and we were the only station to hear the call. Boat was taking on water and he was going to abandon the boat. We got him to stay onboard and a helo eventually picked him off.

Then a few years ago I was working on the boat late one night in Sydny (NS) harbor. A man called mayday, local fisherman, boat on fire, he was abandoning the boat. Just that one call. The Newfoundland ferry recovered the fishing boat, the fire had burned out, the fisherman was never found.

Both times hearing those words "Mayday" sent a immediate and powerful rush of adrenalin through my body. Like the proverbial lightning bolt. Both times were appropriate.

These are words not meant to be used lightly.

I would suggest that if you can establish communications with the Coast Guard, then do so and discuss the situation. If you declare a "Mayday" you are making it official that you feel life is at jeapordy.

To pick up a mic and start saying "Mayday, Mayday" is the equivalent of screaming FIRE! to every one within earshot. It says that they should immediately drop what they are doing and come to your aid, RIGHT NOW DAMN IT! If appropriate, do it, don't hesitate. If you have time to establish communications through channels, then do that.

I hope this makes sense.
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Old 10-11-2014, 14:18   #13
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re: What Justifies a "MAYDAY"?

Quote:
Originally Posted by WindLove View Post
I am confused about when you would actually call a MAYDAY. Obviously is is for a life-threatening emergency, but it still seems vague.

1.) Crew member is having a Heart attack, kidney stone, appendicitis

2) The boat is without steerage, but otherwise seaworthy.

3) Dismasted, but still floating and not in mediate jeapordy but you want to be rescued and leave the boat.

4) A fire on the boat that is not immediately threatening the boat but could become worse.

I am curious in what case there's would use MAYDAY calls over PanPan.
Just my view, but in situation 4 I say your priority should be fighting the fire, not calling for help.

I'd only start looking at the radio when it was becoming apparent that I couldn't stop the fire. And it would be a MAYDAY.
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Old 10-11-2014, 14:20   #14
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re: What Justifies a "MAYDAY"?

Good advice and great stories.

In listening to CH16 and other CG working channels, one should obtain a fairly good handle on what should be required to initiate a mayday call, although altogether too many are incorrect for starters.

Last Friday, the CG reported a hazard to navigation, only giving it's coordinates, nothing to indicate it may have been 1/2 mile south of Point XYZ.

Works both ways.
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Old 10-11-2014, 14:49   #15
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re: What Justifies a "MAYDAY"?

Heed this advice, you could be sinking, burning, probed by aliens etc, calling Mayday or Pan Pan on the radio does not guaranty they are going to try to save you or even get to you in time. Its amazing how many people drown or die in situations that could have been prevented. Wearing a wrist lanyard to the kill switch, especially on a dinghy, wearing a pfd if you cant swim, and above all else practice survival skills, mob drills and know first aid, CPR. The cg isn't coming out cause you cut yourself or someone is not in imminent

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