Even the most experienced skippers in the most seaworthy vessels can find themselves in need of help when sailing, so it’s important to understand and recognise the internationally accepted distress signals.

If you were in a distress situation on the water, would you know how to raise the alarm and get help?

The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGs) list 17 internationally recognised distress signals, any of which can be used on their own or in combination to summon help when needed. The full list is published in COLREGs rule 37.

You can learn what they are by watching our short sail training theory video on YouTube. The animated film is available in Polish and English. Just click the appropriate image below to watch it in whichever language you choose.

Watch in PolishWatch in English

When you’ve watched the film, you can download a free, printable revision sheet here, which also lists all the internationally-recognised distress signals from COLREGs rule 37.

Even if you never need to use one of these signals yourself, make sure that you do understand them. After all, there may be a situation in which you are able to offer assistance to someone else.

And don’t forget, you must never use any of these distress signals unless it is an emergency. If you do, you are likely to be prosecuted.

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