Does 3 short/1 long horn blasts have a special meaning?

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#1
McMurray, PA
5,767 Posts
Joined Aug 2001
Now that the Port Canaveral Webcam has audio, I've been thrilled to hear ships like the Monarch of the Seas sounding their horn as they passed by the webcam. I noticed that the past couple times I watched her, there were three short blasts followed by one long blast of the ship's horn.

I did some Google searching, but I couldn't find a specific definition for 3 short/1 long. The closest I could find was 3 short by itself which meant that the ship was going to start moving astern, which clearly doesn't apply to a ship heading forward to leave port.

Does anyone know if there is a special meaning for this combination? I'm figuring that it may be possible that it's not a standard combination and is being used as a greeting. In which case, I am thrilled that the Master of the ship is deciding to say hello to those of us on the webcam.

I haven't noticed it from other ships yet, just the Monarch of the Seas. She should be departing soon from Port Canaveral, so if you tune in right away, you might hear the horn on the webcam today.
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Marc

#2
Albany, New York
5,985 Posts
Joined May 2002
One short blast means 'I am changing course to starboard.'
Two short blasts mean 'I am changing course to port.'
Three short blasts mean 'I am operating astern.'
Two prolonged blasts followed by one short blast to mean 'I intend to overtake you on your starboard side';
Two prolonged blasts followed by two short blasts to mean 'I intend to over-take you on your port side.'
A long blast every two minutes is used when operating in fog.
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#3
Melbourne, FL
8,008 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
if a ship is departing a pier by going astern in US inland waters they will typically sound

one prolonged blast (4 to 6 seconds, rule 32c) indicating leaving dock or berth, rule 34g

then

three short (about 1 second, rule 32b) indicating my engines are operating astern . . .

when I was on one of the 1000 ton cutters there in PC, we left the pier by springing out the stern then backing away from the pier and the standard line as the engines were kicked into reverse and the last line taken in:
"quartermaster, sound one prolonged and three short blasts"

you are correct that when a ship like MONARCH passes FishLips - where the port cam is, neither of these situations apply and the whistle is being used technically - inappropraitely. Basically they are tooting the horn for fun and no one is going to do anything about that except in the rare case of a noise complaint.

One exception could happen .... if a ship sounding such sounds without reason and outside of the rules were to be involved in a collision with another vessel, the wrong sound signals could be a legal issue in a court attempting to determine who was at fault . . . rare but there is case law (according to the rather intense Rules of the Road course I took a long time ago where we studied the rules to pass the CG test for 20 hours, and case law for practical application for 20 hours!)
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Capt BJ

Costa (1982), Commodore, NCL, Windstar, Princess,
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USCG Captain, retired - 6 ships, 2 commands, 12 yrs @ sea
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#4
Portland, OR
430 Posts
Joined Jul 2009
Originally posted by Daghis
Now that the Port Canaveral Webcam has audio, I've been thrilled to hear ships like the Monarch of the Seas sounding their horn as they passed by the webcam. I noticed that the past couple times I watched her, there were three short blasts followed by one long blast of the ship's horn.
It means "It's time for you to haul yourself down here and take another cruise!"
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