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All boats using coastal waters are required to carry USCG approved visual distress signals. Boats UNDER 16', plus all sailboats UNDER 26' with completely open construction and without propulsion machinery, plus all manually propelled boats must carry signals visible at NIGHT. All boats 16' OR MORE must carry signals visible both DAY and NIGHT.

Print Mayday Form          Alaska Office of Boating Safety

Any of the Following

Device Description

Accepted For Use
Number Required
Hand-Held Red Flare
Day & Night
Pistol-Projected Parachute Red Flare
Day & Night
Handheld Rocket-Propelled Parachute Red Flare
Day & Night
Aerial Pyrotechnic Red Flare
Day & Night
Floating Orange Smoke
Day Only
Handheld Orange Smoke
Day Only
Orange Flag 3' x 3'
Day Only
All Devices Must Be Coast Guard Approved

Other Important Signals
  • A short blast of the whistle should have a duration of about one second. A prolonged blast of the whistle should have a duration of four to six seconds.
  • One short blast to mean "I am altering my course to starboard".
  • Two short blasts to mean "I am altering my course to port".
  • Three short blasts to mean "my engines are operating astern propulsion".
  • A power driven vessel making way through the water except when fishing, under sail, towing or being towed, shall in restricted visibility sound one prolonged blast at intervals of not more than 2 minutes.
  • A vessel at anchor in restricted visibility shall ring the bell rapidly for about five seconds at intervals of not more than one minute.
  • A vessel not under command, a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver, a sailing vessel, a vessel constrained by her draft, a vessel fishing, a vessel engaged in towing or pushing shall sound at intervals of not more than 2 minutes, one prolonged blasts followed by two short blasts.
  • Sound 5 short rapid blasts if you fail to understand the intentions of the other vessel.

    For a complete set of International and Inland Rules of the Road, please get Coast Guard Navigation Rules COMDTINST M 16672.2A available from:

Government Book Store
Federal Building
915 Second Avenue
Seattle, WA 98174

SouthEast Alaska Pilots' Association
1621 Tongass Avenue, Suite 300
Ketchikan, Alaska 99901
ph. 907-225-9696
fax 907-247-9696



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