Click on the audio icon below to hear the mayday call from the captain of a charter fishing boat that sank off Maui in the Hawaiian Islands Monday with six people on board.
Piper, a “meticulously kept” 43-foot Bertram that charters out of Ma’alaea Harbor, was two miles off Kahoolawe when it began taking on water and sank in about 1,200 feet.
“I’ve got six people on board, including two crew,” the captain says on the mayday call. He provides his GPS coordinates before adding, “We’re going down fast.”
Wearing life jackets, everyone on board abandoned ship for the life raft.
Coast Guard Station Maui launched a 45-foot response boat and watchstanders issued an alert over VHF channel 16 to notify vessels in the area about the need for immediate assistance.
The Misti III responded, rescued the people from the raft and took them to Ma'alaea Harbor, where emergency medical personnel met them. No serious injuries were reported.
On Wednesday, the boat’s owner, Jeff Kahl, spoke by phone with television station KITV in Honolulu. He said his captain told him the boat ran over a partially submerged hawser, which wrapped around the prop, and the boat began to take on water. While the crew attempted to cut away the line and pump out the water, Piper lost power.
Local charter captains say they have seen an increase in debris related to the tsunami in Japan two years ago.
“No two cases are exactly the same, but in this case a lot of things were done right by the captain and crew,” Coast Guard spokesman Anthony Soto told Soundings, noting the VHF radio, life jackets and life raft on board.
Do you know the proper way to place a mayday call?
1. Tune your VHF radio to channel 16, press the push-to-talk button and say, “mayday, mayday, mayday” slowly and clearly.
2. “This is …” (give the boat name three times).
3. Repeat “mayday” and the name of boat one more time.
4. Give the position of the boat by latitude and longitude or the bearing (specify true or magnetic) and distance to a well-known landmark or navigational aid, or in any way that will help rescuers find you.
5. State the nature of your distress (sinking, heart attack, fire, etc.).
6. Define the kind of assistance required (pumps, firefighting equipment, medical).
7. Give the number of people on board, any injuries and an estimate of the time the boat has left afloat.
8. Describe the boat, including length, color, type (convertible, sloop, etc.) and any other information that will help rescuers.
9. Say “Over,” release the transmit button, and listen for a response. Repeat after 10 seconds if there is no response.
To place a mayday call on a DSC-equipped VHF, uncover the distress button and press it for five seconds. The radio will automatically switch to channel 70 — the DSC emergency channel — and transmit an all-ships alert. If your radio is connected to a GPS receiver (a must for fast response), it also will broadcast your lat/lon and the time.
On most models, you can enter the nature of the distress from a menu of options. Very important: You need to obtain and enter your nine-digit maritime mobile service identity number into the radio’s DSC memory before the unit can make a digital call.
If no acknowledgement is received, the radio automatically repeats the transmission in less than a minute. When a reply is received, it switches to channel 16 for voice communication.
Remember, a mayday call should be made only when the boat or crew is in immediate and grave danger. It shouldn’t be used for groundings, loss of power and the like. There are two other priority calls that can be made over channel 16: Pan and Security.
• Pan-Pan (pronounced pahn-pahn) should be used when there is a risk to the safety of crew and vessel, but that risk falls below the threshold of immediate and grave.
• Security (pronounced say-cur-i-tay) is the lowest-priority call and involves messages relating to safety and traffic, such as a serious hazard to navigation.