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It's the Law

Sound-Producing Devices

Sound producing devices

A sound-producing device is required on all state and federally controlled waters. It is essential during periods of reduced visibility or whenever a vessel operator needs to signal his or her intentions or position.

If on State Waters
Less than 26 feet long (includes PWCs) Mouth-, hand-, or power-operated whistle or horn, or some other means to make an efficient sound signal audible for at least one-half mile required
26 feet long or longer Whistle or horn, and a bell audible for at least one-half mile required
If on Federally Controlled Waters
Less than 65.6 feet long (includes PWCs) Whistle or horn audible for at least one-half mile required
65.6 feet long or longer Whistle or horn and a bell audible for at least one mile required

Sound Signals

Some common sound signals that you should be familiar with as a recreational boater are as follows.

Changing Direction

  • One short blast tells other boaters, “I intend to pass you on my port (left) side.”
  • Two short blasts tell other boaters, “I intend to pass you on my starboard (right) side.”
  • Three short blasts tell other boaters, “I am operating astern propulsion.” For some vessels, this tells other operators, “I am backing up.”

Restricted Visibility

  • One prolonged blast at intervals of not more than two minutes is the signal used by power-driven vessels when underway.
  • One prolonged blast plus two short blasts at intervals of not more than two minutes is the signal used by sailing vessels.

Warning

  • One prolonged blast is a warning signal (for example, used when coming around a blind bend or exiting a slip).
  • Five (or more) short, rapid blasts signal danger or signal that you do not understand or that you disagree with the other boater’s intentions.