New York Consolidated Law
NYS Navigation Law - NAV
S 41. Pilot rules. The following rules shall be observed on all
mechanically propelled vessels on the navigable waters of the state and
all tidewaters bordering on or lying within the boundaries of Nassau and
Suffolk counties: 1. Signals. The signals for passing, by the blowing
of the whistle, shall at all times be given by the master as defined in
(a) One distinct blast of the whistle shall mean: "I direct my course
to starboard"; except when two vessels are approaching each other at
right angles or obliquely, when it shall signify the intention of the
vessel which is to starboard of the other to hold course and speed.
(b) Two distinct blasts of the whistle shall mean: "I direct my course
(c) Three distinct blasts of the whistle shall mean: "My engines are
going at full speed astern."
(d) Four distinct blasts of the whistle shall mean: "I am in distress
and need your assistance."
(e) Five or more distinct blasts of the whistle shall constitute the
(f) It shall be forbidden to use what has become technically known
among pilots as "cross-signals"; that is answering one whistle with two,
or two whistles with one.
(g) When a vessel is under way in a fog, mist, falling snow, or heavy
rain storm, it shall be the duty of the master to cause a long blast of
the whistle to be sounded at intervals not exceeding one minute. When
towing other vessels the long blast of the whistle shall be followed by
two short blasts. Such vessel shall proceed at a moderate speed and with
caution, having careful regard to the existing circumstances and
(h) The master of a vessel, when at anchor during a fog, mist, falling
snow or heavy rain storm, shall, at intervals of not more than one
minute, ring a bell rapidly or sound other warning signals for about
2. Positions. (a) When vessels are approaching each other "head and
head," that is, end on or nearly so, it shall be the duty of each to
pass on the port side of the other, and either vessel shall give, as a
signal of her intention, one distinct blast on her whistle, which the
other vessel shall answer promptly with one similar blast of her
(b) When vessels are approaching each other and the courses of such
vessels are so far to the starboard of each other as not to be
considered to be meeting head on or nearly so, either vessel shall
immediately give two distinct blasts of her whistle, which the other
shall answer promptly with two similar blasts of her whistle, and they
shall pass on the starboard side of each other.
(c) When vessels are approaching each other at "right angles or
obliquely" so as to involve risk of collision, the vessel which has the
other on her own port side shall hold her course and speed, and shall so
signify with one distinct blast of her whistle; and the vessel which has
the other on her own starboard side shall keep out of the way of the
other by directing her course to starboard so as to cross the stern of
the other vessel, or, if necessary to do so, shall slacken her speed, or
stop or reverse.
(d) When vessels are running in the same direction and the vessel
which is astern shall desire to pass on the starboard side of the vessel
ahead, she shall give one distinct blast of her whistle as the signal of
such desire, and if the vessel ahead answers with one similar blast of
her whistle, she shall pass to the starboard; or if the vessel astern
shall desire to pass on the port side of the vessel ahead, she shall
give two distinct blasts of her whistle as a signal of such desire, and,
if the vessel ahead answers with two similar blasts of the whistle, she
shall pass to the port; but if the vessel ahead does not think it safe
for the vessel astern to pass at that point, she shall immediately
signify the same by giving five or more rapid blasts of her whistle (the
danger signal), and under no circumstances shall the vessel astern
attempt to pass the vessel ahead until such time as they have reached a
point where it can be safely done, when said vessel ahead shall signify
her willingness by blowing the proper signal, which shall be answered by
the vessel astern. Neither vessel shall in any case attempt to cross the
bow or to crowd upon the course of the other vessel.
(e) If when vessels are approaching each other head and head, that is,
end on or nearly so, (as per subdivision (a) and (b)) or crossing each
other's courses, (as per subdivision (c)), or desire to pass each other
(as per subdivision (d)), either vessel fails to understand the course
or intention of the other, from any cause, the vessel so in doubt shall
immediately signify the same by giving five or more rapid blasts of her
whistle, (the danger signal), and both vessels shall immediately slow
their speed, or stop or reverse, as required to avoid collision, until
proper signals have been given, answered and understood, or until the
vessels have passed each other.
(f) When a mechanically propelled vessel shall meet a sailing vessel
proceeding in such direction as to involve risk of collision, the
sailing vessel shall have the right of way. It shall be incumbent on the
master of the sailing vessel to keep a vigilant lookout and change her
course, if necessary, to avoid any danger.
(g) In narrow channels, every vessel shall, when it is safe and
practicable, keep to that side of the fairway or mid-channel which lies
on the starboard side of such vessel.
3. Aid in distress. It shall be the duty of every master or pilot of
any vessel to render such assistance as he can possibly give to any
other vessel coming under his observation and being in distress on
account of accident, collision or otherwise.
4. Construing rules. In obeying and construing these rules, due regard
shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision, and to any
special circumstances which may render a departure from the above rules
necessary in order to avoid immediate danger.
5. Application. The rules of this section shall apply to all vessels,
public and pleasure, propelled by machinery on the navigable waters of
the state and all tidewaters bordering on or lying within the boundaries
of Nassau and Suffolk counties.
6. Commissioner may modify. The commissioner is hereby authorized to
modify, change or expand the pilot rules as set forth in this section if
necessary to make them comply or be uniform with the provisions of the
federal navigation law, or of the navigation rules and regulations made
by the United States coast guard.
7. A violation of any provision of this section shall constitute a
violation punishable as set forth in section seventy-three-c of this
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