What To Do When In Trouble On The Manatee River
A lot of accidents can occur out on the Manatee River, but fortunately most are more annoying and embarrassing than anything else. When lives are in danger, however, you want every available resource dispatched to your vessel. A Mayday! call will alert that kind of help.
A Mayday should be transmitted, if possible, via marine-band VHF-FM radio Channel 16 or 2182 kHz MF/SSB. Emergencies rapidly progress from bad to worse, so try to relay a lot of information quickly. You should repeat the word “Mayday” three times, followed by the name and number of your vessel and its position in the water. Then, relate the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of your position, or state your distance and magnetic or true bearing from the closest navigational landmark.
Once you’ve made contact and given your information, Coast Guard Search and Rescue planners will give you an estimate of when rescue units will arrive. If you have a medical emergency, make sure someone is monitoring the radio. The Coast Guard will guide you to the nearest safe haven and advise you on what actions to take in the meantime.
When the Coast Guard receives your Mayday, the Mission Coordinator will determine your degree of danger by considering several factors: the nature of your situation, the emergency gear on board your vessel, your position, the tide, visibility, current and sea conditions, weather, age/health of those on board, whether you have reliable communications, and the potential for the situation to worsen.
If a helicopter is dispatched, be sure to secure all loose items on deck. Remember, never shine a light directly toward the helicopter, and never fire flares toward the helicopter. Wait for the rescuers to tell you what to do, and then do it. Listening is key.
Recently, the Coast Guard began implementing a new command, control and communications system (Rescue 21), which is now being installed in stages across the United States. It will significantly improve the Coast Guard’s ability to save lives. Employing advanced communications technology, this system will cover coastlines, navigable rivers and waterways in the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico. It will also help eliminate 88 known radio coverage gaps.
You don’t need any new equipment to benefit from Rescue 21, but you can help improve response time by upgrading to a Marine-Band VHF-FM radio equipped with digital selective calling (DSC). When properly registered with a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number and interfaced with GPS, the DSC radio signal transmits important vessel information with one push of a button.
The U.S. Coast Guard is always prepared to assist boaters facing extreme and imminent danger. Your best bet, however, is to decrease your risk of encountering an emergency in the first place. Keep your vessel’s equipment in top condition. At the start of the boating season, get a Vessel Safety Check. Take a basic seamanship course and additional instruction as necessary to ensure that your boating skills match the requirements of your vessel. Finally, make sure that everyone on board wears a life jacket at all times when on the Manatee River.