Chapter 5: Navigation Rules

Using Sound Signals

Next let's learn about sound signals, an invaluable safety tool.

Sound signals are essential for communicating intent to fellow boaters. Whenever one is within a half mile of another powered vessel, one must use sound signals to make their intentions clear. Below is a list of different signals and what they mean. Remember, the initiating vessel communicates the intended direction and the responding vessel must agree or disagree.

1 short blast (1 second): I want to pass on my port side, so I am altering course to starboard.

2 short blasts: I want to pass on my starboard side, so I am altering course to port.

3 short blasts: Engine is currently in reverse.

5 short blasts: Danger/repeat. I do not understand intentions. Used for an approaching boat.

1 prolonged blast (4 to 6 seconds): Warning. Used for approaching an obstructed area, entering or exiting a blind turn, or exiting a dock or berth.

1 prolonged blast every 2 minutes: Power-driven vessel operating in low visibility.

1 prolonged blast and 2 short blasts every 2 minutes: Sailing vessel operating in low visibility.

To remember the signals for "passing on the port side" and "Passing on the starboard side," remember that "port" has one syllable and "starboard" has two. So, one short blast for the one syllable word "port" and two short blasts for the two syllable word "starboard."