A Tragedy on the Delaware River

Back in January I posted an article titled The DUKW Then and Today. It was an essay about the history of the World War II amphibious vessel and how, although they are specially built replicas, they are in use today as tourist attractions.

In Philadelphia, these purpose-built vessels give tourists a land tour including moving around the city streets and pointing out historic points of interest and end with a splash into the Delaware River for a 20-30 minute “boat” trip along the waterfront.

Unfortunately, on Wednesday of this week there was a terrible accident. Apparently, one of the “Duck Boats” became disabled and before anyone could get there to assist, it was run over by a 250 foot  barge being pushed by a commercial tug. There were 35 passengers and 2 crew members onboard. Unfortunately, 2 passengers are still missing. (Update: Two bodies have been found in the river.)

The accident is still under investigation and at this time it is unclear if there was any radio contact between the “Duck” and the tug boat operator or the USCG. That said, I thought I should give a short tutorial on how to use the VHF radio to call for assistance.

Handheld VHF radioAlthough marine VHF radios are currently not a requirement for small recreational boats, this should be high on your list of equipment to carry. They are fairly inexpensive, don’t take up much room and could save your life. You should learn to properly use the radio and, during your passenger orientation, make sure at least one of your guests can also use the radio in case of emergency.

Distress is defined as a situation where you or your boat are threatened by grave danger with loss of life or of the watercraft being imminent. Running out of fuel, a dead battery or other mechanical problems are not distress situations.

Channel 16 on the marine radio is designated as a hailing and distress channel and as such is monitored 24 hours per day, seven days per week by not only the U.S. Coast Guard but by other vessels, merchant ships, coastal commercial stations and other stations both on shore and afloat. You may conduct non-emergency type of conversations on designated channels other than channel 16.

If you are in distress use the “MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY” call on the radio. Take the following steps when contacting the U.S. Coast Guard. If you are indeed in an emergency situation the first thing you should do is:

HAVE ALL PERSONS ONBOARD PUT ON LIFE JACKETS.

Simultaneously follow the steps below.

  1. MAKE SURE RADIO IS ON.
  2. SELECT CHANNEL 16
  3. PRESS/HOLD THE TRANSMIT BUTTON
  4. CLEARLY SAY: “MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY”
  5. ALSO GIVE :
    • Vessel name or description
    • Position or location
    • Nature of emergency
    • Number of people on board
  6. RELEASE TRANSMIT BUTTON
  7. WAIT FOR TEN SECONDS – IF NO RESPONSE REPEAT “MAYDAY” CALL.

I would suggest printing out the above procedure, laminating it and posting it somewhere near the helm station. In a panic, it may be hard to remember the steps in the correct order.

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1 Comment

Filed under Boat Operation, Boating News, Boating Safety

One response to “A Tragedy on the Delaware River

  1. Pingback: Proper Lookout « BoatSafe Blog

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