Yacht was unaware of transmission

A helicopter had to be scrambled to stop a yacht in the English Channel from broadcasting on VHF Channel 16 on Sunday.

The yacht was unknowingly broadcasting continuously on VHF Channel 16, effectively jamming all emergency communications in mid Channel and affecting the ability of Portland Coastguard, Brixham Coastguard, Solent Coastguard, CROSS Jobourg (France) and Guernsey Coastguard to handle emergency traffic.

The approximate position of the yacht was found from Direction Finding bearings from both sides of the Channel. After an hour of jamming and attempts to contact the vessel, Portland Coastguard scrambled the Coastguard Helicopter 106 to find the yacht using its on-board direction finding equipment. The helicopter circled the yacht, attracted the skipper’s attention and eventually was able to make contact to stop him broadcasting on Channel 16.

Nic Lonsdale, Watch Officer at Portland Coastguard said “It is not only irritating to have the Maritime Distress Channel blocked, by what the yacht crew thought was a private conversation, but a danger to all other vessels. Eventually, we were forced to deploy a helicopter to silence the transmissions. Shortly afterwards a different vessel broadcast a Mayday, which would not have been heard had the yacht still been transmitting. All users are urged to be aware of this increasingly common problem. If you cannot hear any radio traffic in a busy area it is probably because you are continuously transmitting.”

Details of the incident have been passed to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency Enforcement Branch.