What is a Mayday relay?

Mayday relay calls are used to repeat a mayday call on the radio.

They are used when:

  1. You hear a Mayday that is not answered.
  2. When the distress vessel can’t transmit its own Mayday.
  3. On sighting a non radio distress signal (e.g. flares, flags etc).

Lets take a closer look at these examples then.

When a Mayday is not answered.

If you hear a mayday call in real life over the VHF radio it will usually be answered by the Coastguard. This is typical if you are boating in the UK.

It may not always be the case though. For example, the vessel transmitting the Mayday may be out of range of the coast. Their transmission may have only managed to reach your vessel. In this instance you would perform a Mayday relay.

When the distress vessel can’t transmit

An example of this scenario would be that you saw a motor cruiser explode. If this were the case, it would be unlikely that a Mayday message was sent. Time for a Mayday relay.

On sighting a non radio distress signal

If you see a distress signal and you haven’t heard a voice message relating to the situation on the VHF, it’s over to you again. There are a number of distress signals identified within the IRPCS. Take a look at the video to see what they are.

Mayday relay - flares

Distress signals could prompt a Mayday relay

Example of a Mayday Relay Message

Mayday Relay, Mayday Relay, Mayday Relay

All stations, all stations, all stations

This is Merlin, Merlin, Merlin, Call sign Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta 1

Mayday Yacht Bold Beagle, Call sign Mike, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel 2

There position is 190 degrees Playa Blanca, range 10 miles 

They have a fire on board. They are sinking

They require immediate assistance.

Total crew six


As you can see from the above example, there is a familiar MIPDANIO structure to the message.

The initial part of the message, highlighted in red, refers to you on your vessel. You are identifying yourself and addressing the message to everyone.

Then we are into the Mayday message on behalf of the unfortunate Bold Beagle. You can pick out the MIPDANIO structure here.