Hand Signals for Boaters

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Hand signals are good during times of adequate visibility, and are far less stressful than yelling from cockpit to bow. Here are a few commonly-accepted signals used not only on boats, but also cycling, diving, heavy equipment operation, and all sorts of activities.

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Slow Down

Palm facing down, move hand up and down.

Or, Point down for less throttle.

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Speed Up

Palm facing up, move hand up and down.

Pointing up can indicate more throttle.

Some people raise their right hand and then hold up fingers – one finger for every 500 rpm’s desired.

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Raise Anchor

Spiraling up with your index finger can indicate raise the anchor.

I’ve also seen a simple thumb up to signal to raise the anchor.

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Lower Anchor

Spiraling down would mean lower the anchor.

Thumb down also works.

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Hold or Neutral

A fist held up can mean either “hold,” or “neutral” depending on the desires of the captain.

Those actually are two totally separate actions.

“Hold” means hold at what you are doing.

“Neutral” means shift engine to neutral.

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Go Forward

Point toward the bow with index finger.

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Go in Reverse

Point toward the stern with index finger.

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

More Scope

More scope can be indicated by waving the peace sign of holding up two fingers “I need some pieces!” makes it easy to remember.

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Snub Rode

Open palm moving forward and back, like “stop.”

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Cleat the Rode

Make the letter “C” with fingers and thumb, adding a flick, for indicating it’s time to cleat a line.

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Anchor Direction and Angle

For weighing anchor, it’s good to have someone on the bow facing aft and indicating what direction around the compass from the boat the anchor rode lies. That’s direction.

Also, mimic the angle to the boat the rode falls toward the water. That allows the helmsperson to know whether to speed up or slow down or stop.

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Challenge and Reply

A good habit is “challenge and reply,” meaning someone issues the command, and the receiver mimics it to show they have understood.

That way, the sender is absolutely positive the message was received. Boating is no time for confusion!

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Turns Using Right Arm

Either point in the direction with the hand that lies in that direction, or, if you have to use the opposite hand, use that hand with palm open pointing up.

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Turns Using Left Arm

Hand palm open pointing down, either side, means stop.

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Cycling Hand Signals

Remember these? Pretty simple. Works on the water, too.

I hope you found these useful and usable on your own boat. If you have any additions or suggestions, please add them in the comments below! I’m always looking for a better way to communicate on board.

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

Wireless Communication

During restricted visibility vessel anchoring, headsets are a great way to communicate. The EARTEC UL2S UltraLITE Full Duplex Wireless Headsets are fantastic. One ear is open for audible cues, the other for listening to your captain or crew. And, they work in wind! Six hours of talk time, noise cancelling, and you can switch on which side you wear the microphone.

They are pricey enough that I would suggest adding a leash in case they get knocked off your head.

hand signals boaters, Hand Signals for Boaters

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