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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 are examples of when sound signals are required.

On Montana state waters, the requirements for sound producing devices are:

  • Vessels less than 16 feet long are not required to have a sound-producing device, but it is strongly recommended that these vessels carry a horn or whistle on board.
  • Vessels 16 feet to 26 feet long are required to carry on board a whistle, horn, or other sound-producing device that is audible for at least one-half (1/2) mile.
  • Vessels longer than 26 feet are required to carry on board a bell and a whistle, or horn that is audible for at least one (1) mile.

On federally-controlled waters, the requirements for sound producing devices are:

  • Vessels less than 65.6 feet (20 meters) in length, which includes PWCs, 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.