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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 described in Chapter 3 are examples of when sound signals are required. 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.

Requirements for 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 an efficient oral or mechanical sound that could be heard by another vessel operator in time to avoid collision.
Requirements for Federally Controlled Waters

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.