Coast Guard Lessons

The Mariner’s Needle

You are underway, in fog, when you hear a whistle signal of one prolonged blast followed by two short blasts. This signal could indicate a vessel…

SSN Los Angeles Class Attack Submarine

The October 2020 question was:

You are underway, in fog, when you hear a whistle signal of one prolonged blast followed by two short blasts. This signal could indicate a vessel

A             not under command.

B             being towed.

C             aground.

D             all of the above.

Maybe more interestingly, in what interval does one sound this signal, what else could this mean? As usual, this question should be answered with the Navigation Rules & Regulations Handbook.

November 2020 question is:


How do we know what the “new normal” looks like? Is it when we all wear masks in public, without thinking or complaining? Or is it when all restaurants, bars and public places have their seats 6 feet apart? Marinas, yacht clubs and boating organizations will adapt but there will be little need for boaters to behave much differently than before the pandemic. Let me know if you think I’m wrong. I hope that I will never get used to a life without close proximity to family, friends, handshakes, hugs and travel, so I still count on a COVID cure. My “new normal” has not yet arrived!

In my previous article we discussed a sound signal in the fog as fog is a common phenomenon at the southern California coast. I find it hard to remember all the sound signals and I have succumbed to carrying a cheat sheet on the boat, the Mariner’s Guide to Rules of the Road, which I purchased from the Maritime Institute in San Diego. So this was my question for last month: You are underway, in fog, when you hear a whistle signal of one prolonged blast followed by two short blasts. What vessel does this signal indicate? For the answer we go to part D – Sound and Light Signals. And since I mentioned fog we look at Restricted Visibility, Rule 35. As an aside, if a vessel is considered “underway” the signal interval should be no more than two minutes (not underway, like anchored or aground, not more than one minute). So the answer I was looking for – Rule 35 (c) – was A indicating an encumbered vessel like not under command. As far as answer B is concerned the Rules required a different signal for towing vs. being towed.

This month’s challenge pertains more to my readers in San Diego, dealing with US Navy submarines. I know that it is not your most common occurrence but it should still be of interest to the boating community. I have encountered submarines several times when sailing in San Diego bay and it was always a challenge. So here it is: an authorized light to assist in the identification of submarines operating at the surface is a/an

A             blue rotating light.

B             intermittent flashing amber (yellow) light.

C             flashing white light.

D             flashing sidelight.

I believe this is one of the more difficult answers to find in the Navigation Rules. So let me ask you a bonus question: name five vessels that never show masthead lights. If you write me an email I want to know the Rule that applies. For further information on our boating education in Oceanside please visit .

Be safe out there.

Captain Adriaan Veldhuisen

The answer to the November issue was discussed in the December 2020 issue:

Last month’s article dealt with US Navy submarines, operating at the surface. My point was not to say that you should remember every light possible, but rather that you should know where to quickly identify in the Rules what this light could be. At home you could type into your computer: “What kind of Navigation lights does a submarine have?” and it gives you some answer, but out on the water all you have is your copy of the CG Navigation Rules. So follow along if you like and look at Rule 1 (c) which ends in a footnote. Submarines may display, as a distinctive means of identification, an intermittent flashing amber (yellow) beacon. This is possibly one of the most obscure answers, even if you have read the Rules from beginning to end. So your answer was B, and my thanks to the readers who got back to me, though nobody knew where it could be found. Last month’s bonus question was: name five vessels that never show masthead lights. Nobody volunteered a response so here it is. Being Towed, Sailing, Fishing, Not Under Command and a Pilot Vessel.

Published by JPool


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