Monday, October 5, 2009

Handy place to stow horn

It's not always easy to predict when you might need the horn so it should be stowed at hand. I keep mine beneath the lazarette hatch, just aft of the tiller:

The holder is made from a notched section of PVC, screwed to the hatch. I sanded the PVC flat where it lies against the hatch, so it is a little more secure. The strap is nylon and it has velcro on it, and of course there is velcro on the PVC as well. The velcro has adhesive but the adhesive will not hold, so I sewed it to the strap, and I sewed it to the PVC as well, through little holes I drilled. The set up has lasted for years.

Whistle signals are one of those salty practices that recreational boaters have let go, it appears to me, and that is unfortunate. One year I was running out the river under power and big, expensive J boat, 50 feet or so, was coming up river going pretty fast and also under power. We were both in the dredged channel and there was no room for error or uncertainty, so I grabbbed the horn and gave him one short bast, for a port to port passage. There was no response from him, which didn't surprise me, but that I had properly signaled my intentions made me feel better and we passed without incident. Maybe the short blast at least prompted him to review the whistle signals he had probably learned in some boating course; I hope it did.

I get the horn out when I am in a narrow channel, or in some channel, such as the Cape Cod Canal or tide-swept Woods Hole, where boats have a hard time maneuvering and you might need to make your intentions clear on very short notice.

Here are the whistle signals. I use only the first two, and very occasionaly the "danger signal."

One short blast: I am turning to starboard (or "will pass port to port"). Two short blasts: I am turning to port (or "will pass starboard to starboard"). Three short blasts: "I am backing down." Five or more short blasts: Danger signal, or "I do not understand your intentions." One long blast: The "bend signal", for a vessel coming around a pier where it may surprise another ship, or sometimes used by a larger vessel leaving a berth.

I use whistle signals rarely, maybe two or three times a season, but it's useful and necessary to know them.

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