Vol. 27 Iss. 10 - January 17, 2011

Chapter 390
Final Regulation

Title of Regulation: 4VAC15-390. Watercraft: Safe and Reasonable Operation of Vessels (amending 4VAC15-390-130).

Statutory Authority: §§ 29.1-103, 29.1-501, 29.1-502, and 29.1-701 of the Code of Virginia.

Effective Date: January 1, 2011.

Agency Contact: Phil Smith, Regulatory Coordinator, Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 4016 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230, telephone (804) 367-8341 or email


The amendment repeals the requirement for vessels of less than 65.4 feet in length to have a bell on board.

4VAC15-390-130. Standard whistle and horn signals.

A. Whenever vessels are approaching in a meeting, crossing, or overtaking situation, and it appears desirable to the operator of one of the vessels to communicate his intentions to the operator of the other, the following standard whistle or horn signals will be used, and none other:

1. One short blast; meaning: "I am altering my course to the right"; except that in a crossing situation when this signal is initiated by the vessel to the right of the other it means, "I am holding my course and speed."

2. Two short blasts; meaning: "I am altering my course to the left."

3. Three short blasts; meaning: "I am stopping, or backing, by applying power astern."

4. Five or more short blasts in rapid succession; meaning: "DANGER"; or "I do not understand your intentions"; or "I do not concur in the maneuver indicated by your signal."

B. Whenever a motorboat less than 65.6 feet long receives one of the above signals from an approaching vessel, and if the operator understands the signal and concurs in the maneuver, he will answer with a similar signal. Whenever the intention of the approaching vessel is unclear, or if the proposed maneuver appears to involve risk of collision or other danger, the operator of the motorboat receiving the signal will answer with five or more short blasts in rapid succession, whereupon the operators of both vessels will slow, stop, or change course as necessary to avoid collision.

C. Signals in or near an area of restricted visibility or when the operator's vision is obscured by fog or other weather conditions shall be one prolonged blast of intervals of not more than two minutes for motorboats, and one prolonged plus two short blasts of intervals of not more than two minutes by sailboats under sail alone.

D. A vessel of 39.4 feet (12 meters) or more in length shall be provided with a whistle and a bell that meets U.S. Coast Guard requirements. The bell may be replaced by other equipment having the same respective sound characteristics, provided that manual sounding of the prescribed signals shall always be possible. A motorboat of less than 39.4 feet (12 meters) shall not be obligated to carry a whistle or bell as required above, but the operator shall have a whistle or other device intended to make audible signals capable of being heard 0.5 mile.

E. The operators of vessels not required to have sound-producing devices on board are not required to give or answer horn to whistle signals, but if they have sound-producing devices on board and elect to give or answer signals, the standard signals prescribed above shall be used, and none other.

VA.R. Doc. No. R11-2599; Filed December 30, 2010, 10:55 a.m.