The short answer is when you feel threatened by conditions at hand and forecasted to continue to deteriorate. That isn’t necessarily a “may-day” situation, when you definitely will be needing the Coast Guard to get underway. How do you communicate a sense of impending disaster? Just say it.
You: “this is the motor vessel ‘Charlie’ calling the US Coast Guard. this is the motor vessel ‘Charlie’ calling the US Coast Guard. this is the motor vessel ‘Charlie’ calling the US Coast Guard.” If you can, now wait for the radio watch stander to reply.
USCG: “Vessel ‘Charlie’ hailing the US Coast Guard. This is the US Coast Guard.”
You: “Coast Guard, this is ‘Charlie.’ We are [fill in the blank: taking on water; fighting a losing battle against seas that are continuing to build; or/or/or.] Use plain English. Even if you’re out of fuel, just say it. The USCG won’t come running out with a gas can but they will issue a marine broadcast on ‘16’ that notes that you are out of fuel, where you are and adrift. Other skippers and certainly the commercial towers are obligated to monitor ‘16’ – as is any skipper with a radio aboard – and you will get help. If you being adrift will stand you into some imminent danger, the USCG will come to your rescue – just not to fill you up!
Commodore Vin Pica
BTW, if you are interested in being part of USCG Forces, email me at JoinUSCGAux@aol.com or go direct to the D1SR Human Resources department, who are in charge of new members matters, at DSO-HR and we will help you “get in this thing…”
We’d appreciate it!