Adventures in Boating Washington Handbook
The Official Boating Handbook of the Washington State Parks - Web Version
Table of Contents
A sound-producing device is required on all waters. It is essential during periods of reduced visibility.
The sound-producing device must be audible for one-half mile.
- Vessels less than 65.6 feet in length (including PWC, sailboats, and manually powered vessels) are required to carry on board a mouth-, hand-, or power-operated whistle or horn, or some other means to make an efficient sound signal.
- Vessels 65.6 feet or more in length are required to carry on board a whistle or horn, and a bell.
No vessel may be equipped with a siren, except vessels used by law enforcement officers.
Some common sound signals that you should be familiar with as a recreational boater are as follows.
Sound Signal Duration
- Short blast—about one second in duration
- Prolonged blast—4–6 seconds in duration
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.