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Sound Signal Devices

In periods of reduced visibility or whenever a vessel operator needs to signal his or her intentions or position, a sound-producing device is essential. The navigation rules for meeting head-on, crossing, and overtaking situations described in Unit 4 are examples of when sound signals are required.

The following requirements apply to vessels only when operating on federal waters; however, it is strongly recommended that all vessels always be equipped with a sound-producing device.

  • Vessels less than 65.6 feet (20 meters) in length, which includes PWC, are required to carry on board a whistle or horn or some other means to make an efficient sound signal audible for at least one-half mile.
  • Vessels that are 65.6 feet (20 meters) or more in length are required to carry on board a whistle or horn, and a bell that are audible for at least one mile.

No vessel may be equipped with a siren, except vessels used by law enforcement officers.

The only boat that may carry a siren is a government patrol vessel.