About the Study Guide

You are looking at a preview of what’s in the timed California Boat Ed Course. Feel free to look around, but you’ll need to register to begin progress toward getting your California Boater Card.

Learn More Register for the Course

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 are examples of when sound signals are required.

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. Navigation rules for meeting head-on, crossing and overtaking situations described in Chapter 3 are examples of when sound signals are required. The sound producing device may be a whistle, horn or bell that is audible for one-half mile.

If boating on California state waters, the requirements for sound devices are:

  • Vessels less than 39.4 ft. (12 meters) in length, which includes PWCs, are required to have some means to make an efficient sound signal, but are not required to carry a whistle or a bell.
  • Vessels that are 39.4 ft. or more in length are required to carry on board a whistle and a bell.

If boating on federally controlled waters, the requirements for sound producing devices are:

  • Vessels less than 39.4 feet (12 meters), which includes PWC, must have some way of making an efficient sound signal. Examples are a handheld air horn, an athletic whistle, an installed horn, etc. A human voice is not acceptable.
  • Vessels that are 39.4 feet (12 meters) or more in length must have a sound-producing device that can produce an efficient sound signal. The sound signal should be audible for one-half mile and should last for 4 to 6 seconds.