Skip to main content

Course Outline

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 PWC, 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) to 65.6 feet (20 meters) are required to carry on board a whistle or horn.
  • 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 39.4 feet (12 meters) in length, 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-signaling 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.
  • Unit 4 of 6
  • Topic 11 of 19
  • Page 5 of 6