Marine Radio how to practice Distress messages

This is how you do it:

So - take this seriously!!!

Yes - it's a palm-sized pebble from the beach.

Do "push-to-talk" (and "release-to-listen"), and have the microphone (stone) always in the correct position close to but just to the side of your mouth.

You never get to practice Distress messages with a live radio.
You dare not even with a radio which is apparently turned off. What if someone came along and turned it on while you were called to attend to something, didn't notice and suddenly there's helicopters and lifeboats zooming around?!

Okay - at the training school where they do your "Short Range Certificate / SRC" (marine VHF radio operator's permit) they will have radios with the aerial output into a coax cable which actually goes into a computer and is passed to the examiner on an earphone.
They know what they are doing with this equipment...
(Why, when they can see and hear you? So they know you are pressing the push-to-talk button when intending to transmit radio messages and releasing the push-to-talk when you are listening for radio messages. You must get that right...!)
But anyway, that is nowhere near enough practice.

If you learn at all like me, you will find that it takes practice, consideration and learning as you time and time again try to get out Distress messages perfectly as if it were easy.

For example:
there is a standard order for the information you give in a Distress message.
There is a pronounceable acronym "MIPDANIO".
What I found is you keep that in reserve, but you must hold the full words:

IDENTITY of your vessel
POSITION - you are currently at
DISTRESS - what your Distress is
NUMBER of persons on-board
INFORMATION which will be helpful, partly dependent upon what the Distress is
OVER (you really really really want someone to hear your message and come back to you)

If you hold the acronym in your mind you will be repeatedly playing through it recalling what comes next and converting that letter into the intended word.

If you hold the words in your mind, I found the Distress messages will start to flow - smoothly; clearly; at a controlled slow pace so someone can be writing it down (and the sparser the message is the more chance your Distress message is correctly recorded); always sounding totally in-control so anyone listening feels in-control to; etc.

Practicing repeatedly, you may find that you understand that you give this information and only this information, in the sparsest form possible - otherwise as you try to be more informative it all goes wrong.

You will be refining your technique and "going through the learning curve", getting practice-perfect and getting deep understanding of why the Distress message format is as it is.

You could though...
give your POSITION in two formats

"2 miles South-East of Earmouth" might have instant meaning to a local seafarer who is well able to help you.

Additional note : give the bearing *from*, which is the reciprocal (180deg about) of the bearing you see over a compass *to* an object; and - do not do conversions. Say for example "123degrees Magnetic". Say the reciprocal of what you see over the compass; which is the Magnetic bearing. But say "Magnetic". They can convert for magnetic Variation from chart North. They are not in a boat filling with water, or whatever the Distress is.
A former lifeboat person emphatically said yes to that latter point.

Another aspect of the practice which worked for me : I took Distress situations I'd heard about or found on the Web, so the Distress and the message were not otherwise scripted.
I suggest have enough of those that you are going through different ones at every effort at a Distress message.

(R. Smith, 28Jul2022)