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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. For example, sound signals are required when meeting head-on, crossing, or overtaking. The sound-producing device may be a whistle, horn, or bell that is audible for one-half mile. The device must be readily accessible to the operator of the boat or the passengers.

  • The following requirements apply to vessels operating on Pennsylvania state waters.
    • Power-driven vessels less than 39.4 feet (12 meters) in length, which includes PWCs, are required to carry on board some mechanical means of making a sound signal audible for one-half mile to signal intentions or position. It may be hand-, mouth-, or power-operated. An athletic coach’s whistle is acceptable.
    • Power-driven vessels that are 39.4 feet (12 meters) or more in length are required to carry on board a whistle or horn, and a bell.
    • Unpowered vessels are required to have some means of making a prolonged blast for 4 to 6 seconds that could be heard by another vessel operator in time to avoid collision. An athletic coach’s whistle is acceptable.
  • These requirements apply to vessels operating on federally controlled waters.
    • 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.