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Recognized distress signals for boaters

The operator of a pleasure craft shall recognize, use or display the following signals to show distress and need of assistance. KNOW AND RECOGNIZE THEM!

  • Arm signal: outstretch your arms on each side and do slow repetitive gestures from top to bottom. (Do not use this technique near a helicopter because this gesture does not mean the same thing to a helicopter pilot);

Arm signal

  • Emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRB): this is used to signal an emergency location;
  • Signal transmitted by radiotelephony or by any other signal system
  • S O S (…---…) in Morse code or possibly using a flashlight;

Distress signal flashlight

  • shot gun or other explosive signal may be fired at intervals of about 1 minute;
  • continuous sound with any fog-signalling device;
  • Rockets or shells that shoot up red stars one at a time at short intervals;
  • Use distress flags N and C from the International Code of Signals;

Distress flags N and C

  • A rocket parachute flare or hand flare shoots up a red light;

Rocket parachute flare

  • smoke signal that gives off orange coloured smoke;


Smoke signal

  • piece of orange canvas with a black square and a black circle;

Distress signal

  • dye marker;
  • square shape;
  • high intensity white light flashed at regular intervals of 50 to 70 times per minute;
  • signal consisting of a square flag with a ball or anything resembling a ball.

Square flag with a ball

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