Ferry horn signals

Home Forums Open Discussion Ferry horn signals

  • This topic is empty.
Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • Author
  • #817911


    Wondering the meaning of the different ferry boat horn blasts, without any luck searching the web. Does anyone know, or have a link to the info?



    My mom told me when I was a kid it’s for coming and going. It’s been a few years since I worked downtown so I forget which pattern is which one.



    Probably a lot more here than you want to know…

    Here’s an excerpt from http://www.safeboatingcard.com/Manual/Chapter5/Chapter5_4.jsp

    Sound Signals

    To let the other vessels know which way you will be heading, you signal them with either a short or long blast of your horn (or other sound signal device) or a combination of short and/or long blasts. A short blast lasts about 1 second, and a long blast lasts 4 to 6 seconds.

    If you are the give-way vessel, you will give the proper signal, and if you are the stand-on vessel, you will repeat the signal to let the other vessel know you understand their intentions. If both vessels are the give-way vessel, either one can initiate the signal.

    If you are ever unsure of the intentions of the other vessel or if there is danger ahead, sound five or more short blasts.

    The following table lists the navigation situations and the appropriate sound signals.

    Sound Signals

    One short blast:

    I intend to leave you on my port side (I intend to turn to the right and pass you on your port side)

    Two short blasts:

    I intend to leave you on my starboard side (I intend to turn to the left and pass you on my starboard side)

    Three short blasts:

    I am operating astern propulsion (astern propulsion is used to slow a ship by applying a force in the direction of the stern of the ship, instead of the bow), which means you are slowing down or even moving backward.

    Five or more short blasts:

    I don’t understand your intentions or there is danger.

    One prolonged blast:

    I’m coming to a bend or obstruction and you may not be able to see me.

    One prolonged blast every two minutes:

    I am in a power boat. Visibility is reduced (because of fog, for example), and you may not be able to see me.

    One prolonged blast plus two short blasts every two minutes:

    I am in a vessel constrained by her draft or restricted in her ability to maneuver, a sailing vessel, a vessel engaged in commercial fishing, or a vessel engaged in towing or pushing another vessel. Visibility is reduced, and you may not be able to see me.

    Two prolonged blasts followed by one short blast:

    I am in International Waters in a narrow channel or fairway and I intend to overtake you on your starboard side.

    Two prolonged blasts followed by two short blasts:

    I am in International Waters in a narrow channel or fairway and I intend to overtake you on your port side.

    One prolonged, one short, one prolonged and one short blast:

    I am in International Waters in a narrow channel or fairway and I understand your intentions to overtake me.

    Hope that helps…




    Thank you — it is the long-plus-two-shorts that I hear most often, which is discussed in that historylink article.



    and which is the one that says “get the hell out of my way, you’re in the wrong place?” lol



    That would be the 5 short blasts Jan. As a sailor in Elliott Bay its an obstacle course avoiding cargo ships and ferries and unfortunately I’ve been schooled by a ferry at least once…no fun.



    Funny that this topic popped up last night. I had just gotten back from a Lincoln Park sunset walk and as is usually the case, there’s a woman who kayaks from south of the ferry dock up to the end of the park and then back down.

    Last night she was just out off the back of the ferry when he looked ready to pull back out and he gave two short blasts and she backed up a bit north and he went left/south. So it sounds like she knew how to interpret those signals just fine. And now I do too. Thanks!



    Duskey Violet…living in Admiral, and ferry horns sounds traveling up the hill, like the sea lions barks…I have heard those 5 on occasion…and I can lie in bed, and know how foggy it is in the fall, without looking.

    I can’t imagine navigating in Elliot Bay…and if boaters are anything like our drivers at times? Look out !



    In general overlooking the sound, 4 short blasts means “Wake Up” I will hit you. I could swear they were the right number or maybe I lost count…The point being is pay attention…I often hear the horns and look to find the potential offender.



    it’s funny what I can hear up here by Safeway….besides the water craft and animals…the comforting sounds of the trains in the train yard at 3am, 4am….some people hate that…it reminds me of my childhood, and the coal regions of PA, and my grandma, grandpa

Viewing 11 posts - 1 through 11 (of 11 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.