Boating Tips

  • Kaylee Jerez posted an article
    Knowing how to make a ‘Mayday’ call is as important as any other safety training or skill. see more

    Taking the Stress Out of Distress Calls


    Knowing how to make a ‘Mayday’ call is as important as any other safety training or skill - says Norm Dyck -  it’s critical to make sure you keep a cool head, and to make sure you, or someone else, is rescued as quickly as possible.

    And Norm should know. Active in the boating industry for decades and a recipient of the Queen´s Golden Jubilee Medal, he’s held leadership positions with Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary (now known as the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue  (RCM – SAR), Transport Canada's Pacific Regional Recreational Boating Advisory Council, and Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons (CPS). Currently, he’s the CPA’s Chair, Maritime Radio course, and he talked us through the steps of how to be safe, and to make the call.

    An ounce of prevention

    “I’m fortunate. I’ve never had to make a distress call in over 70 years on the water,” says Norm. “If you make vessel maintenance a high priority, and take safety courses and precautions, it’s unlikely to find yourself in a serious situation.”

    With that preventive approach in mind, we asked Norm to help us take the ‘stress out of distress’ – just in case the need does arise.

    Before you leave the dock

    • Review safety and emergency procedures with everyone on board
    • Show passengers where to find flares and life jackets. Stow them where they are easily accessible and labeled – not hidden in a corner of the hold. Ideally everyone should wear a life jacket while on board, particularly in adverse weather
    • Instruct guests on how to make a radio distress call, and tape instructions near the radio for what to do and say (see below)
    • Check your supply of flares to ensure you have the correct number, that they are current, with both red and smoke (visible in daylight) options.

    In case of emergency

    • Stay calm
    • Make sure everyone on board is wearing a life jacket
    • Assess the situation to determine the nature of the distress (and the type of call you need to make)
    • Pump or bail if you are taking on water.

    Making the call

    Distress calls go out to all vessels in the area, including the Coast Guard, who will respond, and rebroadcast the call to dispatch others to help.

    On VHF DSC radios (Very High Frequency Digital Select Calling) push the automatic red “DISTRESS” button, or manually transmit the call on channel 16, while you have power. If your radio is hooked up to GPS, the button will automatically transmit the position of the vessel. All boats with a VHF DSC radio will receive an alarm signal.

    • MAYDAY If you are faced with serious distress: fire or explosion, immediate or imminent life-threatening injury, illness or danger of losing your vessel; people overboard, or threat from pirates,
      • Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!
      • This is (Name of boat three times) and Ship Station License call sign
      • Mayday (name of the vessel)!
      • My position is (Latitude and Longitude), or distance/bearing from landmark
      • We are (describe the emergency)
      • We require (describe nature of assistance needed)
      • We have (number of people aboard, and age and condition if relevant)
      • 'Vessel Name' is (length, sail/power, design type, hull color, trim color)
    • Repeat if there is no response after a few moments.
    • Say ‘Mayday Relay’ if you are calling for another vessel in distress, giving the name of vessel, and its position.


    • Pan Pan! Pan Pan! Pan Pan! for urgent, non life-threatening situations such as illness or injury, or damage to your vessel.
      • Pan-Pan! Pan-Pan! Pan-Pan!
      • Steps as above


    • Sécurité (Say-cure-i-TAY three times) when you have a safety or hazard message for other vessels, such as a navigation or extreme weather warning. Format as above.


    • Seelonce Feenee (Silence Fini) by vessel in distress, to cancel a Mayday call. You must cancel a Mayday if you no longer need help:
      • Mayday
      • All Stations, All Stations, All Stations
      • This is 'Vessel Name' and call sign
      • The time is __
      • “Seelonce Feenee” to cancel May Day call
      • Out


    • Do not rely on your cell phone to make a distress call. Mobile phones are limited in range (vs. 30+ km. for VHF radios), and their calls cannot be heard by other vessels.
    • When you hear a distress call, keep Channel 16 clear until the incident is resolved.
    • Radio Operator’s Certificate (ROC-M) - available after taking an Industry Canada-designated course from Canadian Power and Sails Squadron - is mandatory to operate a marine radio.


    If you hear a Mayday call

    A distress call triggers an alarm on your DSC radio, and it automatically switches to Channel 16, and displays the calling station’s MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity number), latitude, longitude and time of call.

    • Write down all the information so that you don’t have to rely on your memory
    • Call the Coast Guard with a ‘Mayday Relay’ only if you don’t hear a response from Coast Guard within two minutes
    • Stand by to follow any Coast Guard instructions, and assist, if possible
    • Keep Channel 16 free of routine calls.

    Did you know?

    • ‘Mayday’ - used internationally to signal life-threatening distress – comes from the French term "venez m'aider", which means, "come help me".
    • ‘Pan’ comes from the French ‘panne’ which means a mechanical breakdown, and is a backronym for ‘possible assistance needed’ or ‘pay attention now’.
    • The Canadian Power Squadron and Sails Squadron and the Coast Guard offer free, voluntary boat safety inspections that take as little as 15 minutes.


  • Lisa Geddes posted an article
    Safe and green refueling tips for boaters. see more



    Almost 700,000 people in BC enjoy recreational boating today. With more joining in every year, it becomes even more important to minimize our marine footprint, and to protect the sensitive creatures that call water home. It starts with safe and careful refueling.

    We talked to Mike Short, CMM, owner of Vancouver based False Creek Fuels, Marina Manager at Clean Marine BC Certified Vancouver Marina, and Boating BC Board member – about what every boater can do be safe and green when refueling. Marinas certified by the Georgia Strait Alliance's Clean Marine BC Program are committed to adopting environmentally sound management principles and operating practices like eliminating the release of contaminants into the ocean, minimizing pollutants and adopting waste reduction and recycling strategies.

    “Just a half litre of spilled oil can cover an acre of surface water,” says Mike. “Owners are responsible for fueling their own boats, so it’s important to know how to refuel properly, and to follow all the regulations posted at marinas.”

    According to Mike the most common mistakes boaters make - especially new ones - include not knowing which is the right port for fuel. their fuel tank capacity, and the flow rate their boat can accept. Most pumps accommodate the faster flow rates required to fill commercial vessels, and “kickback” or “burping” is a major source of fuel spills - so it’s important to go slowly. If it’s your first time refueling, review the rules, and ask the attendant for help.

    He also emphasizes the importance of closing all doors and hatches to keep explosive fumes from blowing into the bilge, and making sure you get the correct type of fuel - to double verify - before you put it into your boat.

    Clean Up

    When you do have a spill - even a dribble - clean up it immediately and thoroughly. Most marinas have containment equipment such as hydrocarbon absorbing spill pads handy. Just make sure you dispose of any used spill materials as hazardous waste. And never use soap to clean up a spill: it is illegal, doesn’t work and is toxic to marine life.

    Mike’s final word? Mistakes happen so pay attention, don’t rush through the process – and keep yourself and your marine environment safe.

    For more tips on being a green boater, click here.

    Safe Refueling Tips


    • Tie your boat securely to the fuel dock, and ask all passengers to go ashore
    • Turn off your engine, and close all hatches, doors and windows
    • Turn off all electrical equipment, and extinguish all flames (propane equipment, diesel furnaces, etc.)
    • Keep an absorbent rag, spill pad or fuel collar ready to catch any drips
    • Locate and select your fuel fill port (versus others like water and waste)
    • Double check: the type of fuel you need, and the capacity of your boat.


    • Start fueling slowly - fuel can dispense at rates too fast for your boat
    • Keep the fuel nozzle in contact with the fill port (or risk a static spark)
    • Listen: Once your fuel is near capacity, you will hear a change in sound, or a gurgling
    • Do not “top off” the tank, or risk a spill
    • Clean up any drops or spills immediately.


    • Start your blower, open the engine hatch to sniff for fumes, and check the bilge
    • Once the boat is safe and free of any explosive fumes, ask your passengers to reboard.

    Note: Make sure you are on the shore when filling portable tanks, and when transferring fuel between tanks. Carry reserve fuel in a container that connects to your engine.

    Did you know?

    • If every one of the 200,000 boats on the coast spilled just a half litre, the oil slick would cover over 800 square kilometres!
    • There have been studies in recent years suggesting that the small spills at marine fuel pumps result in as much - if not more - fuel residue in the waters than the commercial boating sector.
    • Chemicals present in fuel
 react with sunlight to become up to 50,000 
times more toxic.
    • Source: The Georgia Strait Alliance