Distress Signals

Where can I get a list of appropriate distress signals that I can print off and keep in the ship’s log where any crewmember can find and initiate?

Many thanks
Barry Humphrey – ‘Dreamweaver’

Angus replies:

COLREGS, the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea include a list of distress signals which can be exhibited together or separately to indicate distress and the need for assistance:

  • Gun or other explosive signal fired at intervals of about a minute;
  • Continuous sounding with any fog-signalling apparatus;
  • Rockets or shells, throwing red stars fired one at a time at short intervals;
  • SOS signal made by radiotelegraphy or by other signalling method consisting of the …—… (SOS) in the Morse Code
  • A signal sent by radiotelephony consisting of the spoken word “MAYDAY”;
  • the International Code Signal of distress indicated by:
  1. a signal consisting of a square flag having above or below it a ball or anything resembling a ball;
  1. flames on the vessel (as from a burning tar barrel, oil barrel, etc.);
  1. a rocket parachute flare or a hand-flare showing a red light;
  1. a smoke signal giving off orange-coloured smoke;
  1. slowly and repeatedly raising and lowering arms outstretched to each side;
  1. the radiotelegraph alarm signal;
  1. the radiotelephone alarm signal;
  1. signals transmitted by emergency positioning-indicating radio beacons;
  1. approved signals transmitted by radio communication systems, including survival craft radar transponders.
  • Piece of orange-coloured canvas with either a black-square and circle or other appropriate symbol (for identification from the air);
  • Dye marker.

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