Tips Using The Virtual VSC

Idea Exchange: I have found that if you print out the virtual VSC pages on the main page of, it makes a great quick reference guide for doing a VSC. It is also great to put up for boaters to see so they will be ready for their safety check. It would be fantastic to get this in pamphlet form.

I am seeing a very high number of boaters who have the newer radios with the red 'help' button on them. We need to STRESS to the boater that the button is of no use unless they get the MMSI number entered into the radio. The MMSI number is free and can be obtained at: They can also register on-line to receive their number. I print out the forms to give to all boaters who have the new radios. Once the MMSI is entered, there will be a record of boat name, size, contact info, etc to be used in finding the vessel. If the radio is NOT hooked to a GPS receiver, the float plan will be of major help in trying to locate the boat. When it IS hooked up to the GPS, it can give other boaters in the area a location to search.

Critical points to stress:

  • The USCG is not yet monitoring channel 70 for these distress signals in many areas.
  • Without the MMSI number, the button will not work.
  • With the MMSI number entered, but no GPS connected, we know WHO is in distress but not WHERE (The float plan will help narrow it down).
  • With the MMSI entered AND GPS connected, we know who AND where (if monitoring).
  • Once the button is pressed, the radio automatically resends the mayday until it looses power or is turned off.

Float plan forms can be downloaded from the following site:

Submitted by: Bill Martin, VFC, FSO-RBSVP, FSO-VE from 11N/08/06

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