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Home » Product & Planning Guide » External / Cruising » Horns for Canal Boats & Narrowboats


An essential piece of cruising equipment to warn others of danger or simply that you are approaching a blind bend or bridge in your canal boat or narrowboat

Canal boat horns are available from all good chandlers. Being, usually, 12V they are also available from car accessory dealers and the good old internet.

The principle consideration when specifying a horn for your boat is voltage drop. The return wiring can be over 40m on larger boats and has to be sized correctly to avoid over heating and fire. You need to work out the maximum draw the horn will make and size switches, contacts and wiring accordingly.
In automotive applications, relays and low current command wiring are used to activate high draw equipment. For canal boat installations, the introduction of costly additional wiring runs and the addition of potentially weak components into the wiring systems is traditionally eschewed in favour of simplicity and reliability. Best practise consists of speciftying a suitably high quality and rated switch and wiring combination and keeping the runs neat and simple.

The International Regulations For Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) apply to horn signals on our waterways.
  1. One short blast means turning to starboard (right).
  2. Two short blasts means turning to port.
  3. Three short blasts means moving to astern or reverse.

The problem is that the person you are trying to signal may have absolutely no idea what you are on about. It’s highly unlikely that a one time holiday maker has even heard of COLREGS, and he or she may just think it’s another uppity boater getting his hair off.

So the time honored tradition of waving and shouting is probably with us for a while yet! Just try and do it with a smile because it may be us that’s made the mistake....
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