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Old 03-31-2012, 06:00 PM   #21
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As a rule, the only horn signaling I do is a prolonged blast when entering or leaving the breakwater entrance on a real low tide, where my visibility of what's around the corner is limited, and of course other boats view of me is limited.

I have used five short blasts to warn another vessel of their dangerous move.

My understanding of horn announcements when backing out is to use three short blasts, however, one prolonged blast is also technically correct, as it indicates a vessel maneuvering.

The short answer to the original post is that myself and other boaters in our area rarely use horn signaling, and my suspicion is that 99% would not know what the signals imply.
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Old 03-31-2012, 06:31 PM   #22
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Larry B,

I have been in the approach to the Friday Harbor Customs dock and been surprised by the ferry leaving the dock and speeding up without any horn signal. I think since the signal is not required if the ferry is announcing their departure on the Traffic Control channel VHF 5A, it must be up to the Captain to judge small boat traffic and sound the horn as he/she deems necessary.
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Old 03-31-2012, 06:46 PM   #23
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These are the international signals, inland signals are slightly different. International signals are sounded to inform the other vessel of your action. Inland signals require a response from the other vessel prior to commencing the action.

The applicable rule is Colregs, Part D Rule 34g (found here: Navigation Rules Online )

(g) When a power-driven vessel is leaving a dock or berth, she shall sound one prolonged blast.

Once underway, the following apply: Also part D rule 34


(a) When vessels are in sight of one another, a power-driven vessel underway, when maneuvering as authorized or required by these Rules, shall indicate that maneuver by the following signals on her whistle:
  • (i) one short blast to mean "I am altering my course to starboard";
    (ii) two short blasts to mean "I am altering my course to port";
    (iii) three short blasts to mean "I am operating astern propulsion
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Old 03-31-2012, 06:47 PM   #24
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I noticed that too, at night on the late run, they don't signal their leaving Friday Harbor either, I'm assuming that must be to keep the sleeping locals and the marina full of tourist happy.

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Old 03-31-2012, 06:59 PM   #25
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Huge difference between using restricted visibility signals and manuevering signals when talking small craft
I would agree, BUT, Nav rule 34 "Sound and light signals" says "when power driven vessels are in sight of one another and MEETING or CROSSING within 1/2 mile .......shall (not "may")_indicate that maneuver......

It also says, "A vessel nearing a bend...or area where another vessel may be be obscured by an intervening obstruction shall (not "may") sound one prolonged blast"

No mention of smaller vessels being exempt from the rule. Rule 33 which addresses "equipment for sound signals" does take into account size though.

It's worth noting that the rules also say "A vessel that reaches agreement with another vessel ....by using the radio telephone...is not obliged to sound the whistle signals, but may do so.

Again, there are real world practices, and the letter of the law. I am only trying to point out that should you have an accident, your amount of fault ( $$$$ liability) will be closely calculated by how you followed ALL the rules regardless of local custom. Make no mistake, you will be at least partly at fault because if you had followed Rule 2 Responsibility" (or the general prudential rule, or the rule of good seamanship) you would never have had the accident in the first place, so by default your at least partly at fault because you did have an accident.

To summarize rule 2, it says that if you are following all the rules and there still exists the possibility of a collision, you MUST depart from those rules in such a way that will prevent that collision. If you don't or can't, you better hope your insurance is paid up. With all due respect........Arctic Traveller

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Old 03-31-2012, 07:10 PM   #26
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I noticed that too, at night on the late run, they don't signal their leaving Friday Harbor either, I'm assuming that must be to keep the sleeping locals and the marina full of tourist happy.

Larry B
Interesting bit of trivia about the signals often heard from the Washington State Ferry's, but found nowhere in the Colregs:

For more than a century, ferryboat captains on Puget Sound have used a distinctive docking signal made up of a long blast on the boatís whistle followed by two short ones. In maritime terms, this is called a warp and two woofs. Still in use today, this method of sounding the vesselís arrival to land is not only unique to each boatís whistle, but also to each individual ferryboat captain and the techniques they use to sound the call.

During the first part of the twentieth century, the Puget Sound Navigation Companyís Black Ball Line was the largest operator of private ferries on Puget Sound. Black Ball captains began the tradition of sounding the warp and two woofs on their boat whistle as the vessel approached the dock. This was an alert to passengers that their transport was arriving, and it also acted as a warning to nearby craft. In deep fog, the distinctive signal let listeners know which ship was coming in to dock.

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Old 03-31-2012, 09:55 PM   #27
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I would agree, BUT, Nav rule 34 "Sound and light signals" says "when power driven vessels are in sight of one another and MEETING or CROSSING within 1/2 mile .......shall (not "may")_indicate that maneuver......

It also says, "A vessel nearing a bend...or area where another vessel may be be obscured by an intervening obstruction shall (not "may") sound one prolonged blast"

No mention of smaller vessels being exempt from the rule. Rule 33 which addresses "equipment for sound signals" does take into account size though.

It's worth noting that the rules also say "A vessel that reaches agreement with another vessel ....by using the radio telephone...is not obliged to sound the whistle signals, but may do so.

Again, there are real world practices, and the letter of the law. I am only trying to point out that should you have an accident, your amount of fault ( $$$$ liability) will be closely calculated by how you followed ALL the rules regardless of local custom. Make no mistake, you will be at least partly at fault because if you had followed Rule 2 Responsibility" (or the general prudential rule, or the rule of good seamanship) you would never have had the accident in the first place, so by default your at least partly at fault because you did have an accident.

To summarize rule 2, it says that if you are following all the rules and there still exists the possibility of a collision, you MUST depart from those rules in such a way that will prevent that collision. If you don't or can't, you better hope your insurance is paid up. With all due respect........Arctic Traveller

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My real point was to mark about the USCG not doing things according to the book...

If you sounded a horn every time it was required on a busy summer Saturday on the NJ Intracoastal...people would shoot at you for being a Dic*head.

Huge difference in the real world and the boating world of books, magazines and forums.

Now in other parts of the world, US and in many commercial situations...you bet...sound away!!
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Old 03-31-2012, 10:34 PM   #28
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When I'm underway at cruise speed you can't hear horns in the pilot house anyway, over the diesels pounding away. If you're on the flybridge you can hear freighter/tanker and ferry horns, but the average pleasure boat horn is only audible if they're right on top of you.

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Old 03-31-2012, 11:18 PM   #29
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Better to get a "real" horn producing at least 130 dB with a range of one mile with four times the power rather than the nominal recreational (pipsqueak) 120 dB horn with a range of only 0.5 miles.
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Old 04-01-2012, 07:35 AM   #30
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"When I'm underway at cruise speed you can't hear horns in the pilot house anyway, over the diesels pounding away."

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Old 04-01-2012, 08:43 AM   #31
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There's one set of rules that covers everything from the QE II to a seven foot dinghy with a 2 HP motor The rules are antiquated and ignored by many. In my area, the only time I hear ship horns is when it's foggy. The commercial ships contact each other by radio and use the terms "one whistle" and "two whistles".

Imagine a busy public boat ramp. Can you imagine each boater sounding three blasts of a horn as be backs off the trailer into the water?

So while we're on the subject of "rules", I imagine most of us use an anchor light while anchored at night, but how many of us display an anchor ball when anchored in the daytime?
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Old 04-01-2012, 10:55 AM   #32
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Our marina has a narrow S shaped fairway to navigate. It's only wide and deep enough for one boat at a time. The standard here is to NOT sound your horn while in the shed before backing out. A horn blasted in the 3-walled, covered shed would wake the dead. We do, however, sound a one-second blast at the blind turns, especially the last right exiting the marina near the restaurant public docks. I suspect half of the blasts are to say hi or bye to our friends and loved ones at the bar!!
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Old 04-01-2012, 12:03 PM   #33
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Good grief Flywright. I'll quit complaining about how tight our new docks are now. That's an obstacle course compared to our docks.
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Old 04-01-2012, 12:31 PM   #34
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Living in Friday Harbor for many years, I have seen the ferries use the "warp and woof" blasts, and none at all. I could never find the reason why - or why not.

We use a long blast when leaving a slip if there are other boats on the move, or if it's a large enough marina we can't see if there are any boats moving (or getting ready to move). We're especially aware of this when in an unfamiliar marina.

Our last marina was small enough we could easily see, thus didn't "need" to use the signal. But as a few have pointed out, I've always worried that should something happen, not having signaled intent could be a liability issue.

Last thing is we have a refillable air horn that uses a small pump to compress air. Works great, and can be pumped/filled very quickly (and lasts for many blasts).
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Old 04-01-2012, 12:41 PM   #35
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Yup, our labyrinth of a marina keeps out the riff raff (not that you're riff raff, Edelweiss!), along with the wind and the current. It can be blowing 25 kts on the water, but it's always dead calm in the fairway thanks to the protection of our trees and sheds. Every docking is in no wind, slack current conditions. I hate it.

And the trees and wildlife behind every slip kinda sucks, too. Blue herons, egrets, otters, turtles, fish...it's almost too much to take, but we suffer through it.
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Old 04-01-2012, 01:30 PM   #36
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?.. but how many of us display an anchor ball when anchored in the daytime?
I use a ball at anchor during the day. I look at it this way...if I'm hit by another boat while I'm at anchor I'll be part of the blame whether I deserve it or not. With the ball I'll be less at fault....theoretically! I don't want a starving attorney to have too much fun with me
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Old 04-01-2012, 07:23 PM   #37
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Ray, you're probably the only boater on the West Coast to display the anchor day shape.
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Old 04-02-2012, 06:14 AM   #38
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Perhaps I'm the only one on the East that does , along with a steamuing cone when power sailing our 90/90.
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Old 04-02-2012, 07:29 AM   #39
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The only loud signal I give is that I yell out at the top of my voice "Get out of the way I'm goin cruisin"

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Old 04-02-2012, 07:45 AM   #40
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I doubt 90% of the recreational boaters in the USA have any idea what the specific horn signals mean. 98% wouldn't know what ananchor ball or steaming cone is.

I have no anchor ball or steaming cone and no place to hang either. If I see a boat and see a wake behind it, I assume it's underway. If I see one with an anchor rode leading from the bow into the water, I assume it's anchored.

They don't use the passing or overtaking signals either, they just hit WOT and zoom on by.
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