Emergency Channel 16 exists for solely that reason. Emergencies. Yet all too often the VHF radio distress channel is being blocked, which Solent Coastguard says is potentially putting lives at risk.
If a transmitter is left on, there is a danger that other signals will be drowned out and not get through to be heard by vessels who may be close by and could provide vital assistance.
Coastguard watch officer Gary Hall says the increase in people mounting VHF radios on the cockpit of yachts and on the fence consoles of a powerboat means they are where people sit.
A button can be pressed accidentally and prevent other sailors from using Channel 16 for May Day calls.
Last month a small boat blocked Channel 16 during the Round the Island Race in which the coastguard dealt with 77 incidents in 10 hours.
We urge all sailors to take this problem seriously. Because one day it might be you who desperately needs to use the channel, only to find it is being blocked by somebody else who may be oblivious to the fact.
Perhaps the simplest solution is to ensure that radios are fitted where nobody can knock into them.
As we head into the height of summer, traditionally the busiest time of year in the Solent, it is vital that all those out on the water act responsibly.
Because if they don’t, they may endanger the lives of others.
The difficulty comes in taking action against those whose carelessness could prove so costly. We appreciate it would be difficult to impose some sort of licensing system for sailors, but maybe it’s time to consider a kind of aquatic version of the ASBO.
Those who behave in an irresponsible manner, whether through blocking Channel 16, drinking and sailing or not being in proper control of their vessel, could be banned for a certain period.
It may seem an extreme measure. But we believe it would certainly get the message across that bad behaviour at sea is not to be tolerated.