Filed Under (Boating Safety) by Debbie on 19-05-2007

Years ago my hubby took several of his friends and our second boat, an 18-foot Seaswirl I/O to Yaquina Bay (Newport) to go fishing.  He’d loaded all his fishing gear and a cooler of food I’d packed for him and was about to go when the typical ‘wife’ question came.

“Did you pack the emergency radio?”
“Did you get new batteries?”
“Yep, see you about 6 o’clock.”

Off he and his buddies went, dreaming about the salmon they’d hook, the call of ‘fish on’ fading as the drove down the street.

About 7 PM my friend stopped by and as we chatted she ask, “Isn’t your hubby supposed to be back by now?”

Jokingly I said, “Humm…yeah they are. Maybe he sank the boat.”
“Oh, don’t say that!”
“Yeah, that’d be bad. They’re probably just hung up in traffic.”
About 30 minutes later they showed up…boat in tow. Although they did have quite the story when they came in and it had nothing to do with fish.

It seems they had some engine problems as the tide was going out. They had thrown out the anchor trying to keep away from the bar but couldn’t get it to hold on anything. In a panic they all grabbed life vests, although one guy had on a kids vest, which wouldn’t have helped much if he’d ended up in the water. Another boater in a small Aluminum boat threw them a line and was trying to pull them against the out going tide. Thankfully someone called the Coast Guard and they came to help.

Thank you US Coast Guard!

Of course, none of the guys really wanted to talk about what had happened but I did manage to get the above out of them. After everyone left I asked my hubby the ‘wife question’,
“Why didn’t you radio the Coast Guard right away?” (You knew that was the question, didn’t you?)

A lot of hemming and hawing came from my hubby but finally he admitted that he’d not packed the radio. Now, you might be thinking of using a cell phone but you have to remember this was about the time ‘brick’ mobile phones started becoming available. Needless to say, I was really glad someone out on the water had the correct equipment and knowledge to be of help.

When a cell phone is your only means of makings a distress call. It’s important to understand that a cell phone may not work, we all know the adage…can you hear me…plus there are additional problems with depending on only a cell phone. Geography may limit or block phone signal, making the phone unusable. Your location can’t be determined using radio direction finders. 911 calls from maritime locations are frequently routed to police or fire departments, which can cause delays. Other boaters can’t monitor your call. Your rescue boat or aircraft may not be able to contact you. If however, a cell is your only option, take the following precautions before leaving the dock or trailer.

When you call immediately give them your:

  • Cell phone number
  • Boat’s name and/or description
  • Position and/or location
  • Kind of emergency
  • Number of people on board
  • Repeat your phone number before you end the call

Speak slowly. In an emergency we all have a tendency to speak loudly and fast. Try to slow down. If you have a VHF radio, use CHANNEL 16. Have everyone put on a life jacket. Transmit “mayday, mayday, mayday this is (boat name), (boat name), (boat name).” Report your location. Latitude and longitude if you know it or 2 miles north of buoy 5 or just past Rooster Rock or some other reference point. Say the type of emergency, boat flooding, on fire, someone having a heart attack. Report the number of people on board, include yourself. Wait for a response for 10 seconds, and if there is none, repeat the message. Be ready to give this information:

Describe your boat and its seaworthiness (“Boat is a 25 foot red inboard with a black tower. Engine has stopped due to flooding and we are in danger of sinking.
Condition of any injured persons.  What assistance is needed, need to have grandpa removed from the boat and we need a pump and tow.

I hope no one ever needs to use this information but should the need arise, I hope you’ll be prepared. As I’ve said before, water is an unforgiving medium. Have fun, stay safe.

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