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What is the appropriate call on Marine VHF in these situations?

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba Discussions' started by Crazy Fingers, Feb 17, 2007.

  1. Crazy Fingers

    Crazy Fingers Barracuda

    I just got a marine VHF radio for my kayak. I dive a few miles offshore with it and wanted to be able to have more reliable contact with others than a cell phone in a plastic bag. I have no experience with it, and I don't want to be the jerk who doesn't follow etiquette or proper practice.

    Situation 1: My buddy, in his kayak, comes up and appears to be bent. He is concious and talking, but in great pain. He cannot paddle, and I am afraid to paddle-tow both of us back because it is strenuous and we dove similar profiles. (mayday?)

    Situation 2: Same as Situation 1, but buddy is unconcious. (mayday?)

    Situation 3: Buddy didn't surface after the dive. It's been 5 minutes and I can't find him anywhere. Looked under surface and couldn't find him in view. (mayday? I would be worried to get everyone out there if he's just being a goofball or chasing some lobster... but the consequences of not doing anything might be worse)

    Situation 4: Buddy isn't bent, but passes out for some other reason and can not paddle back. He's breathing and regains conciousness after a few seconds. (pan-pan medico to put them on alert in case he gets worse? or no call at all?)
  2. Diver Dennis

    Diver Dennis Solo Diver

    Very good question. I'm interested to find out too.
  3. Cacia

    Cacia Divemaster

    If you were here in Hawaii, I would say call 911....the Fire department would be there and take him to the hospital promptly. They would not call the Coast Guard unless they needed their resources.

    If you don't have a cell phone or coverage, request they call.

    Also...get to know the people/ departments you will be calling. Find the non-emergency number and call up with these questions, it will be very useful for your emergency plan. The resources (heli's, boats) vary from area to area.
  4. Crazy Fingers

    Crazy Fingers Barracuda

    Well, remember, we're 3 miles offshore. Iit would be very difficult for me to paddle both of us back. Remember, I'd be paddling my kayak and his kayak tied together.
    Especially if I am administering oxygen or CPR. (Yay, rescue diver in a few weeks!!)

    If I could do it, I suspect it would take me about an hour and a half to paddle back, and the strain of it might give me a hit too.

    Now if there was an ambulance boat (do they even exist?) or a Sheriff's vessel in the area, that would be fine. But if not, who else to call?
  5. EastEndDiver

    EastEndDiver Captain

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Long Island NY
    Mayday.There is imminent danger to the diver who is bent ,whether conscious or un-conscious.If you can NOT safely get him to help then it is MAYDAY. for 1 thru 3 in your scenario.I would also issue a mayday for number 4 let the Coast guard/marine patrol tell you what the best action is ,unless you know better than them(not being facetious) under the circumstances.
  6. Cacia

    Cacia Divemaster

    Here, they would come and get you up to three miles out and even there they are not rigid about "rules".

    On channel 16, you could call a mayday. I wouldn't worry about the wording too m uch, the main thing is to switch to another station once your contact has been established, when they request it. (Or if hailed by another boater, name the channel yourself)

    Other boats in your area might also render assistance. Again, in some areas, the Fire department is set up for these emergencies. Here, the Fire Department will be there to assist you and the Coast Guard will get there much later with paperwork. I would recomend you talk to other boaters in your locality and get reports of the conventional wisdom about who is most helpful. I would be more concerned with calling 911, myself.

    Of course, the Coast Guard should do that for you if you cannot get coverage.

    I stress that you should call the authorities in your area. I spoke with our Fire Chief just yesterday about these types of questions for about 30 minutes and he was very helpful with all kinds of pointers.

    I also encourage you to listen to channel 16 to familiarize yourself with how various emergencies are responded to and the timelines of responses.

    You will hear which agency sends a helicopter, who wants reports filled out, what the sense of urgency is, etc.

    Another pointer is..always know the correct terms for parks, ramps, boat docks, and know your visual line-ups from shore before you enter the water, if you do not have a GPS. (you probably should, if you don't, get one)

    If you will be searching for a diver, know current and tide conditions also, it will effect the search direction.

    If I am boating FAR from shore, I try and get a radio check with the USCG.
    I get a response about half the time.

    You are a perfect candidate for an EPIRB too.
  7. String

    String Master Instructor

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Grand Cayman
    MAYDAY in theory should be for imminent danger of life. "PAN PAN" for non threatening emergency. "Pan Medico" has now been phased out.

    In reality though, better off sending a mayday and the coastguard will then judge whether to downgrade it to a PAN or keep as is - if its a genuinely emergency they arent going to complain about someone getting a pan vs mayday call incorrect. They both upgrade and downgrade situations depending on circumstances.

    Even for situation 4 they can phone patch through to a doctor who can advise and again they'll classify the call as needed.

    Doesn't matter where you are on the sea if you're in distress then coastguards and other vessels are obliged to assist if at all possible. Doesnt matter if its 300 yards or 300 miles. International maritime laws cut in.

    No no no no ! Thats the worst possible thing to do. Once you have made the call and are in contact with the coastguard its their call - you do what they say. If THEY tell you to change channel then do so but under no circumstances decide to do it yourself. Channel 16 is a distress and calling channel - its main purpose is to handle emergencies on that frequency.
    From the coastguard side of things, the LAST thing they want is having heard a distress call is to risk losing contact or fully lose contact with someone by changing frequencies.

    Also, on the sea your first choice of communication should be vhf not mobile phone. Firstly phone signals are unreliable signal wise and dont like water. But mainly the coastguard are listening on VHF, they can triangulate position if needed, other vessels in the area are also alerted and on the channel, you can get instructions off the coastguard and so can they. Everyone is in one place able to communicate to co-ordinate. If its a medical call they can patch through a doctor. Using a phone just takes time while they contact the coastguard and cause big delays relaying everything to all those involved.
    If at sea, always look for VHF first - its what the thing was designed for.
  8. Tavi

    Tavi NAUI Instructor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Rochester, NY
    Start by finding a buddy that's less accident prone!! :wink:
  9. Crazy Fingers

    Crazy Fingers Barracuda

    Y do u think i am getting rescue+ VHF???? I am sick of him constantly get bent and i dunno what 2 do.

  10. wedivebc

    wedivebc CCR Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    I am pretty sure if you radio PAN PAN on ch16, coast guard radio will respond even if it is non life threating. In fact if you sing "jingle bells" on ch16 you will hear from the coast guard real soon. At least up here it works that way.
    PAN PAN for emergency MAYDAY for life threatening is the general rule.

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