Many boaters know that “Mayday” means grave or imminent danger to human life or the vessel, but what does “Pan Pan” (repeated three times in succession) mean? It indicates an urgent situation that is not as serious as a Mayday. Examples of where a Pan Pan call may be used include a non-life-threatening medical emergency, a vessel aground or dragging anchor (but not in immediate danger), loss of engine power in a shipping channel, etc. The purpose of a Pan Pan call is to alert the Coast Guard and other listening stations that a vessel is in difficulty and requires or may require assistance. It’s better to issue a Pan Pan and cancel it if you resolve the problem, than wait until you’ve got a Mayday situation on your hands. See Mariner’s Guide pp. 298-299 for advice on how to make and cancel a radiotelephone Pan Pan call.
Priscilla Travis spends more than 110 days each year on the water, takes photos, and writes about nautical topics.