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As a recreational boater or paddleboarder, you should be familiar with the common sound signals. Some signals used by power-driven and sailing vessels 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 boaters, “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.