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Boating Navigation Buoys and Markers

Boating Navigation Buoys And Markers Guide

Just like the rules on the road, there are specific rules on the water, which are according to the running government and may vary from country to country or area. These laws are controlled through the Markers on the water, which have different types of symbols and colors which represent them.

They are made for a specific purpose and are through proper means for the safety of boaters and even fishermen. In this article, we will discuss each aspect of these Markers and help you understand their meaning in specific cases. First of all, we will discuss the Navigation rules;

Images and content idea Reference to “U.S Aids to Navigation System” By U.S Coast Gaurd 


There are some Navigation rules which are called out by the boaters; these laws deal with the steering or the sailing of the boat according to the running government. These Rules are professionally or universally referred to as “The Rules of the Road.”

Rules of the Road:

The Navigation Rules are, therefore, simply referred to as the Rules of the Road that define the responsibilities and the roles that the operator of the vessel has to follow. The positive aspect of following these rules is that when they are followed, the number of accidents on the water body is decreased and avoided to their fullest.

The main reason or at least out the main reasons, the existence of Rules of Road, is to simply keep the boats safe from collision with other boats or with other objects as travelers of water know that the number one cause of accidents on the water is a collision with other boats. Therefore, the boaters should simply follow the rules given in the title “Rules of Road.”

There is another thing to keep in mind: the Rules of Road depend mainly on the Inland or the international waters. When you are on the international waters, the sound signals are referred to as the “signals of Action” while on the Inland, these sound signals are referred to as the “signals of Intent.”

So, let us get started with the Rules of Road;

  • Posting a Lookout: It is necessary that you should designate a person with you to look for the danger signs and can also guide you in direction or even warn you that something is in your way.
  • Safe Speed Maintenance: The Boaters already know this rule, that safe speed should be the primary factor when riding a board or driving one. But there are some cases when the waterways are marked with the signs of “No Wake” or even the “Slow Speed,” where you are on your own to judge what actually is the safest speed in that scenario. There are some factors that can be taken into consideration to measure the safest speed for that case like the ability of the boat to maneuver, Vessel Traffic, Visibility, and last but not least, the condition of weather.
  • Avoiding the Collision: Whenever you are on the water and encounter another body in your way, some actions are included in the “Rules of Road” for your own safety. It mainly depends on the situations while the most common amongst them are; meeting the other vessel head-on, overtaking them, and the other one is crossing the bow of another vessel. When it comes to these conditions, you are to be designated with the attitude of “Give way” to the other boat or vessel. Then there is a “Stand on” perspective given to the other vessel or boat, which is to maintain its speed and course.

The “Avoiding of Collision” is mainly depend on the situations and then their conditions which are discussed as follows;

a) The Overtaking Situation (According to the rule of Navigation 13):

Overtaking Situation

Actions: The vessel which is given the designation of “Give Way’ can pass on to the other side of the vessel given the “Stand on” designation.

Sound signals related to Inland: When passing the Portside, it required two short blasts of the horn (1second), signaling the boat with overtaking intentions. Then the two short blasts for the vessel with the “Stand On” designation resulting in agreement. So, passing to the starboard requires a short blast for the agreement and intent.

Sound signals related to International: When passing the Portside, it is required to have two prolonged of about four to six seconds and then two blasts for the boat having the intention of overtaking. Then two shorter blasts for the vessel designated with “stand on” command resulting in agreement. Passing towards the starboard required the prolonged two and on shorter blast for the vessel with intention. The signal for agreement is only required with the vessel is operating in a very narrow or small fairway or channel. Then the blast patterns like One Prolonged-One Short-One Prolonged-One short will signal the agreement.

b) Head on Head Situation (According to the rule of Navigation 14):

Head On head Situation Rule 14

There are two types when it comes to the Head on the situation: the Port to Port passing and the Starboard to Starboard Passing. The much-preferred way in comparison of two is the Port to Port Passing.

Actions: When it comes to the Head on, the Port to Port is preferred compared to the Starboard to Starboard. But there are some conditions when it is also necessary and will be accepted there.

Sound Signals: When it comes to Passing Port to Port, it requires a short blast of horn for the intention of signal and a short blast for the agreement. When passing to the starboard, it is required that you have two short blasts for each of the vessels.

c) Crossing Situation (According to the rule of Navigation 15):

Crossing Situation Rule 15

Actions: When it comes to the crossing situation, the vessel with “Give way” designation must act to avoid the collision. It can even alter its course to pass astern the “stand on” vessel or even to slow down. In this aspect, the “Stand On” vessel should and must maintain its speed and course.

In this aspect, the sound signal related to Inland, the vessel of “Give way” designation, must signal the vessel of “Stand on” designation with a short blast of the horn. The agreement of the “Stand On” vessel is with a single blast of the horn.

The sound signal related to International: In this aspect, the vessel of “Give way” designation must signal the vessel of “Stand on” designation with a short blast of the horn. There is no agreement required by the “Stand On” vessel.

When it comes to the contact between other boats, you should go for the early changes to your course. This will subsequently help the other operator or vessel to know your intentions. Therefore, making the decisions before entering the time of danger.

The Essential Markers Types (On the Chart and Water)

In terms of “aid to navigation,” there are many types of markers, but the main ones are beacons and buoys.

Essential Types Of Markers

1) The Buoys:

These are actually the aids that can float on the water and commonly found on the water body. Some have a light on their top, having the bottom part moored to the water, while some don’t have the lights on top of them.

The buoys with the cylindrical and a conical type top are called “nun.” On the other hand, the Buoy with the Cylindrical physical appearance and a flatter top is referred to as the “can.” Buoys can provide many types of navigation information concerning its shape, color, an audible signal, or the light.

2) Beacons:

They are aids that are locked onto the water body permanently or simply fixed on the bottom of a water body. They are two types of beacons.

one with the lights on them called the “light,” and then there are ones who have no lights on them, commonly referred to as the “Day beacon.” Beacons can provide many types of navigation information concerning its shape, color, an audible signal, or the light.

3) Dayboards:

These are the informative signboards on the water body.

4) Topmark:

This is a term that is referred to as the non-lighting element, like a sphere that could be fixed or joined on top of the Aids.

Understanding the Symbols:

The aids like Buoys, beacons, and other types have some kind of symbols that are used on the nautical charts. So, we will discuss then alongside the Nautical chart Symbols.

Nautical Charts:

It is essential that you know where you are going, which route you will take to get there, and in which area you are to go and which one to avoid before the beginning of the boating trip.

Nautical Charts are actually the equivalent of road maps when it comes to the Boating. The charts are indeed the Arial view of waterway with its own Aid to Navigation, bridges, landmarks, and the information about latitude, water depth, and the longitude. There is also much more navigational information mentioned in it.

  • There are some things which are most important to know before you go traveling over the body. First of all, you should have the latest and current navigation chart with you.
  • Secondly, even when you have the online or electronic chart system, you should consider having the paper chart on board too. It is for the case when the ECS or even the GPS system starts to malfunction; you will have the paper map as your backup.
  • Thirdly, it is essential to keep in mind that humans cause the most amount of errors. In this case, don’t ever let the electronic navigation device take your knowledge about the navigation rules.

What you see depends mainly on where you are boating:

the American Waterways are most commonly dealt with in the Aids to Navigation system so that it is also referred to as the IALA-B or US Aids to Navigation System.

There are also some private Aids to the Navigation that are the ones that are neither maintained by the US Coast Guard nor owned by them. These are just the same as we have discussed with the exception of “Priv” or the “Priv maintd” written on the nautical chart symbols.

Related post: What is most likely to cause someone to fall overboard. 


The Literal Aids to Navigation:

Lateral Aids To Navigation

For the well-defined channels, the literal aids to Navigation are used to indicate the route that is to be followed. The aids usually show the sides of the channels that can be navigated, junctions mark, and the splits or the forks in the channels, indicating the safer side to pass a hazard to the Navigation and to mark the safer centerlines on the vast bodies of water.

They are typically used in conjunction with the conventional direction of buoyage, which is a local direction of buoyage when approaching a harbor, waterway from the seaward, or the river estuary.

  • The Red, Right, Returning:

This here is a widespread phrase used with the waterways. The Red, Right, returning phrase or expression refers to the fact that when you are returning or entering a channel from the open sea or the proceeding upstream, a boater must and should keep the red aids on the right side of the boat (starboard).

These aids are to be in the even numbers, and when you proceed to the Inland, these numbers should start increasing.

When you are going towards the open water or called as the seaward side, then you should navigate so that the green aids are on the side of starboard.

In this case, you will start to see the odd numbers on the Aids, and then the numbers will start to decrease as you are going forwards towards the open water or called as the seaward side.

Markers And Bouys


In case there is no marked route, then you should navigate clockwise around the landmasses.

So, all in one, the Green color should be on the right side (starboard) when you are traveling to the open waters (seaward). The red colors should be on your right side (starboard) when traveling to the open waters (shoreward).

The green aids have odd numbers, square dashboards, Cans, and buoys. The Red has even numbers. It depends on the Red, Right, Returning, so when proceeding towards the upstream, you should keep the red aids to the starboards.

  • Characteristics:

IN CASE OF Portside; Beacons can have the green odd numbers while the buoys can have the white odd numbers. If the light is lit, then it will be in green color.

IN CASE OF Starboard side; Beacons can have the red even numbers while the buoys can have the white even numbers. If the light is lit, it will be in red color.

Preferred Channel Aids:

Preffered Channel Aids

Buoys and Beacons that have the bands horizontally of both the green and the red marks the junction of the channels that are navigable. The color on the top indicated that it is preferable or simply termed as the primary color or channel, compared to the one on the below side.

When you are returning or merely entering a channel from the open sea or the proceeding upstream side, then keep the Aids with the Red as the top color on the right side (starboard) side of the boat that will place the boater in its preferred channel or color, keeping those Aids on the side of the port will place the boater in the secondary channel.

On the other side, when you are proceeding towards the open water side (seaward), keep the Aids with the green color as the top color on the right side (starboard) of the board that will place the boater in the preferable channel, keeping the Aids on the port side will then place the boater in its Secondary Channel.

  • Characteristics:

In terms of Portside, it is on top and has a letter designated while the buoys feature a white letter.

In terms of the Starboard side, it is on the top will have letter designated while Boys will feature a white letter.

The Non-Lateral Aids to Navigation:

These are actually the version of the water signs, informational and regulatory found on the roads that are for the on-water passageways. The description to the signs is as follows;

  • Diamond Shaped Dayboards:

Diamond Shaped Dayboards

The Diamond-shaped Dayboards are used only to help the other determine the location. The markers referred to as the “You are Here” used on the roads are equivalent to these diamond-shaped dayboards that are used on the water bodies. By the way, the nautical charts are used to determine the exact locations.

  • Characteristics:

White with the green, red or the Black Diamonds,

They are usually lettered, and the letter can be matched well with the nautical charts to check their position.

There are NR, NG, and NB, which indicates the non-lethal red, non-lethal green, and non-lethal black. The charts symbols are present in the lower right side for an illustration that is “RW Bn” for the red and white beacon indication.

Safe Water Marks:

Markers And Bouys Guidelines

These are the aids used in marking the fairways, offshore approach points, or the mid channels. They have the water on all sides of them. The Buoy, unlighted, or the lighted ones may show the red top marks. Whereas, the appropriate nautical charts can be consulted to determine the position correctly.

  • Characteristics:

They have white and red striped verticals.

They have various verities of shapes.

They can also be lettered.

The Buoy can also have red top marks.

They are in the shape of MR, Spherical, and the Can.

Isolated Danger Marks:

Isolated Danger Marks

As the name suggests, the Aids indicate that there is isolated danger on all sides. So, it is vital that you approach with caution.

  • Characteristics:

Buoy with the black and the red horizontal bands.

They can also be lettered.

They are black; Double sphered top marks.

They come in lighted and nonlighted shaped.

Range Dayboards:

Markers And Buoys Explained

These are the aids that are usually the shore mounted and came in the form of pairs to help the boaters or the vessel operators in maintaining a much safer and straighter course provided within the channel that is navigable.

The member of the pair is on a bit of distance from the other one, and one of them is elevated, being the front shorter than the behind one. They indicate that when the vessel operator sees then vertically stacked, then they are moving in the line.

  • Front view:

Left of the range line; When the front or the bottom market is stacked to the right of the rear or the top one, then you are to the left of the range, and you should turn in the right direction (starboard) to get into the range of the line.

Right of the range line; When the front or the bottom marker is on the left of the read or the top one, then you are on the right side to the range. In this case, you should turn in the direction of the left side (port) to get into the line’s range.

On the Range line, when the two range markets are on the line, then it indicated that you are in the range of the line.

It is important to note that the colors provided on the Range dayboards have no impact on the Navigation. They are simply made and chosen based on the stand out from the background scenery.

  • Characteristics:

The Rectangular ones with the duel color arranged as three vertical stripes.

They can also be lettered.

When they are lit, the light near will be higher than the one front.

The characters of light can also vary depending on some things, like the rear or the upper light remains lit while the front or the lower light starts to flash.

Information and Regulatory Marks:

Regulatory Marks

These are the orange and white-colored Aids that are used to alert the Vessel operators towards a different type of warnings and regulations.

Danger; The diamond shape indicates boaters towards the hazards.

Restricted Operations; The circle indicated areas that have Regulated operations.

Exclusive; The diamond with a cross means that the boats are prohibited from entering into the area.

Information; The square marks the helpful information like distances, directions, and even the location.

  • Characteristics:

The white with the combination of orange horizontally band at the top and the bottom both.

The black text can be written within or around the orange square, diamond, or the circle or even the black text written outside the diamond with the orange cross.

It may be both the beacons or the buoys.

In the case of lit, the light will be the white, and it may also have a rhythm to it except the quick flashing or the two times flash or even the Morse code A.

It has its own Chart Symbol, which resembles the kite with a circle.

Special Aid:

Special Aids

There are even the particular types of Aids that indicate specific stuff or areas like the anchoring, the fishnet area, the traffic separation, the pipelines or the cables, the jetties, and the military exercise areas.

  • Characteristics:

They are yellow in color.

They come in various shapes.

They can even have one black letter.

State Waters Obstruction Mark:

State Water Obstruction

The Mark of State Water Obstruction is commonly an indication for a Vessel or a Boat operator that the obstruct to navigate extend from the closest part of the shore to the Buoy. It is crucial here to notice that you should not pass between the shore and the Buoy.

  • Characteristics:

They are Black and white striped Buoy that are vertical.

They do even show a white reflector or even the display of quick white light flashing.

Mooring Buoys:

Mooring Buoys

They are not the type of Navigational Aids; instead, they are something else but are worth the attention of knowledge. They are the only and unique types of buoys that have mooring permitted. They are typically the ones that are owned privately or ranted buoys. So, it means that permission is a must in order to use them.

  • Characteristics:

They are white with blue horizontal bands.

They come in different shapes of Sphere or the Cylinder.

They May even show a reflector in white color or display the yellow or the white light.

markers and Buoys
Visual Buoyage Guide Example

Buoys And Markers


Boating at night time is a whole different experience and topic as compared to Boating at the light time. It can even make the most familiar water and passageways feel as if you have never been there. There is the visual depth that has been lessened and other lights from the shored that are much more difficult to distinguish from the waters. That is why to make nighttime Boating safer and much easier, you should keep the following things in mind;

The Navigation Lights:

Navigation Lights

There are vessels that are required to show different navigations lights from the time of sunset towards the time of sunrise and the periods containing restricted visibility.

Understanding the display of lights will itself provide the information to the boaters as they can help the boaters or vessel operators determine the distance or even the length of other vessels.

It can also indicate the orientation of the boat and the direction in which it is headed or is heading. It is essential for the boat to have these lights functioning at the time of less visibility and are in their respective position or distance from which they are seen according to the regulation provided by federal.

So, it is vital that you know which navigational lights you will see from the boat in certain situations. It can even help you in determining if you are the one meeting, crossing, or overtaking. There are various angles that will help you see and know about different situations the boat is telling you about.

Boating At Night

The information is that when you see the red navigational lights from the other vessel, then you should give way. It is the vessel that stands on. According to the rules provided in the “Rules of Road,” it has a higher right of way. In case you see both of the green and the red sidelights of the other boat, then it means that it is coming to you straightly. Then you should take a bit of action and change the course to avoid the chances of a collision.

Essential things that you should keep in mind:

It is considered very risky when you rely mainly on the memory at the night time or even taking shortcuts on the water passageway at that time. So, stick only to the channel that is main. The chart is considered the best means to navigate and then identify the aids for Navigation.

Buoys And Markers Night Time

It is crucial that you are always familiar with the boat and its handling characteristics so that you can comfortably concentrate on the passageway and the Aids to Navigation.

At night time, you need to slow down. The distances at that time are more difficult to judge, and you will, therefore, need more time to distinguish the different types of light that are seen as the lights for aids, navigation lights, and even the shore lights.

You should keep your ears open and listen. There are certain sounds you can hear before the related objects or the different situations that need you to change your courses like the sound signals or the sound of the boat’s engine. It can even be the sound of Gond or the Aid’s bell or even the noises from the shore. It is knowledgeable to know that the sound travels on farther distances over the water body.

Nighttime requires you to turn the navigation lights on. But the correct time ranges from the sunset towards the sunrise and during the times, precisely when there is reduced visibility and conditions like the fog or rain.

You should also take care of any extra lights that can interfere with the Navigation lights or can even confuse some other operator. This is the essential point to take into account because many times, the accidents on the water at night time are because of it.

Aids to Navigate at Night:

At the night time, the Aids to Navigation can easily be identified by different light characteristics like;

Color of lights, red, white, green, and yellow.

The display of light either it is flesh or sequence.

The Period of light called the time it takes merely to go from one sequence of flash or flashes.

It could also be equipped with retroreflective materials.

These are the characteristics that can tell the boaters to differentiate different things in the dark. There are specific display characteristics that need to be held knowledge of like these given below;

Navigation At Night
Navigation At Night (light display characteristics)
  • F for the fixed; that shines continuously and then steadily under no dark phase.
  • Fl for the Flashing, that indicated the light blink under regular intervals, the duration of the light phases is way less as compared to the duration of the dark phase.
  • FI (2) for the Group Flashing; This indicates groups of two flashes which can be repeated several times in the Period of a minute.
  • FI (2+1) for the Composite Group Flashing; this indicated that a single group of two flashes would be followed by the single flash, the entire sequence is repeated several times in a period of a minute.
  • Iso for Isophase: this indicates that all the durations for the dark and the light are equal.
  • Mo (A) for Morse Code; indicates the short dots and the long dashes flashes of lights that are sued to represent the specific Morse code. Most usually, letter A indicates the flashes.
  • Oc for the Occulting; This indicates the light will go on at the regular intervals; the basic duration of the light phase is much greater than the duration of the phases in the dark.
  • Q for the Quick Flashing; This indicates that there is very quick or rapid flashing; it could be more than 60 flashes in a period of a minute.


The Western Rivers Marking System:

Buoys And Markers Explained

When you are on the Mississippi River, the tributaries above the Baton Rouge and even the several rivers other that flow from to the Gulf of Mexico. Then the boaters are to follow a specific system referred to as the Western Rivers Marking System. It is not completely changing, rather a variation to the US Aids to Navigation System.

  • Characteristics when Proceeding towards the Gulf of Mexico:

Portside; if it is lit, the light will be white or green and will flash.

Starboard Side; If it is lit, the light will be white or red, and it will also blink

  • In Case of the Western Rivers Marking system;

The Buoys are not numerically numbered.

The beacons are also not numbered but in normal conditions have a marker mile that indicates the length or distance from a fixed point, typically is the river mouth.

When crossing the Daybeacones, they are used to assist the river traffic by simply indicating where the channel is to change from one side of the river leading to the other side.

The Aids that are used in marking the channel change will be in the opposite direction of the riverside. In case encountered, then the operator of the vessel should always head towards the Aid and then use the color simply as the channel mark.

Typically, the Safe Water Marks and the Isolated Danger Marks are not used.

Name is given to the River Bands that are based on their direction of downstream. They can either be the right bank and the left bank or simply the right descending ban and the left descending bank.

The nature is temporary; that is why the Western River Buoys don’t have letters or the numbers and are not marked on the river charts because they drift due to the water level fluctuations, the shifting shoals, and the current speed of the water.

  • Characteristics:

With green as the top color and the primary color, the light will also be green and flash.

With Red as the top color and the primary color, the light will be red and flash.


Intercoastal Waterway:

ICW or called the Intercoastal Waterway goes from the Inland and parallel to the Atlantic or the Gulf Coasts from the Manasquan, the New Jersey towards the Border of Mexico. The ICW Aids to Navigation are the same as we have discussed with the red and the green buoys or the beacons.

In the ICW, the Aids color will be corresponding to the scheme of USATONS, which is Red, Right, Returning. The Yellow, triangles, squares, and the bands which are attached to the Aids are the ICW primary indicators. It is important that the Boaters understand the Markers for the safest Navigation in the ICW.

buoys and markers boating

  • So, there are usually three types of symbols which are;

Whenever you follow the ICW leading from the New Jersey going through Texas, keep the Triangle of yellow color on the starboard side during the Square of Yellow color on the Portside. It is even regardless of the color of the Aid that may be appearing.

There are Horizontal Yellow band reflectors that could be appearing or found on the Aids that are non-lateral. They are the identification for Aid as of ICW.

Navigation Aid Boating

The informative part is that the Arrows in the map don’t indicate the location of ICW; rather, they show the Aids are used in Navigation for the orientation in ICW.

The Buoys and the Beacons in the ICW are not in correspondence to the IALA-B color schemes because the Non-ICW and the ICW routes are completely next to each other, running in the opposite direction while sharing the completely same Aids. Therefore, whenever you are following the ICW ones, navigate by the symbols in Yellow, or you can simply navigate according to the Aid colors.

Uniform State Waterway Marking System:

The USWMS or the Uniform State Waterway Marking System was wholly discontinued and then was replaced with the USATONS, US Aids to Navigation System in the year 2003. It should not come in front of you, but for safety purposes, if one of them crosses your path, then you should follow the guide written below.

buoys and markers

  • Literal System USWMS; the Black 3 acts as the green can buoys in the USATONS while the Red 4 acts as the red nun Buoy in the USATONS. The Black or green is for incoming while the Red is for the ongoing.
  • Cardinal System USWMS; Cardinal system is the USWMS version of the old USATONS, which is preferred channel marker because they are the indication for the primary routes. They are named after the Cardinal buoys after the north, south, east, and the last west cardinal points present in the compass.
  • The USMWS System has white and red striped buoys that simply mean obstruction while in the USATONS, the white and red vertically striped Buoy means safe water.

Cardinal System boating navigation


Bridges & Lighting Systems:

Bridges are the special situation that is evenly lit to help the Vessel operators or boaters in Navigation under them from the time of sunset and towards the sunrise or during the time when there is less visibility.

So, in short, the red lights are an indication for the portions of the bridge that is unsafe for passage while the green lights indicate the areas of the passage.

  • A(red) means piers and supports
  • B(Green) means centerline of the navigable channel
  • C(white) Three white lights stacked in the direction of the vertical line is an indication for the preferred route. In case there is more than a single channel that is navigable.
  • D(red) It is used on some of the lift bridges for the indication of the lift that it is closed.
  • E(Green) It means that life is open to the traffic of vessels.
  • F(red) Double opening swing bridges are an indication that three red lights were closed.
  • G(Green) the double opening swing bridges in an indication for two green lights when open.

boat navigation Lighting System

Clearance Gauges:

When you are not sure that you can travel under a certain bridge or there is not enough vertical room for the boat to pass under it, you can always check the clearance gauge, which is usually on the right side of the bridge. This is actually the length between the low steel of the channel in the bridge span and the waterline, which is explicitly not the depth of the water under the bridge.

Clearance Gauges Boat Navigation Markers

  • Drawbridge opening Protocol:

Whenever the area under the open drawbridge is needed for traveling, then the boater or the vessel operator must request the drawbridge operator. There is a signal given by the boater to the drawbridge operator, which is acknowledged. The most common amongst them are;

  • VHF-FM:

The boater can always deal with the drawbridge operator on the 16 channel or the 13 channels. By the way, channel eight is used in Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. You can always use the 1-watt, low power input setting.

  • Sound Signals:

It is to be done when you are on the close draw; The signal for the bridge opening consists of one prolonged blast, which is from four to six seconds and then a short blast of about 1 second. The sound can be of the horn, the whistle, the hailer or the megaphone. The operator can also reply with the prolonged and then a short blast in case the draw is to be opened very shortly and immediately. The five shorter blasts rapidly used indicate that the operator can’t comply at that time.

It is to be done when you are on the open draw; in case the draw is opened, then a prolonged blast with a short one will give an opening signal. If there is no reply within the time of 30 seconds, then you can go with safety in mind. When there are five shorter blasts in a very quick session, then it means the operator is to close the draw, and you cannot proceed.

Controlled Accessed Areas:

For the sake of national security and public safety, the Coast Guards established a Controlled Access area that has the special navigational requirements and the operations. The Security Zones, the Regulated Navigation Areas, and the Safety Zones might be the ones that require the reduced speed in certain areas or radius of the operation like the access that is restricted near the high profile even or even a power plant. So, these areas are the ones that can be approached with caution or should be avoided at all costs.

In case you need to know for sure what actually are the Controlled Accessed Areas or the specific radius or parameters of each type. Then you must have the latest notice from the Mariners and the updates Nautical charts with you. You can also contact the local coast Guards or local law enforcement agencies for the details about these areas.

Generally, if you don’t have such privileges to contact them or have the latest charts with you, then the most common areas you should avoid are the dams, the commercial port operational areas, the power plants, and then the Military, petroleum faculties, and the cruise lines. These are the common areas that are to be looked at or simply avoided at all costs.

Naval Vessel Protection Zones:

These are the access areas that are permanently controlled. They are surrounded by US naval vessels. These are the clearest parameters; that does not come closer than the 100 yards to the vessel, and you should operate at the minimum speed possible for your boat within the 500 yards to the vessel.

Naval Vessel Protection Zone

It is essential to know about the rules and regulations or the distance you need to have while in contact with the naval vessel because you can have a fine of about 250,000 dollars or merely the possibility of the prison sentence.

In case you are not that much sure about whether you have entered a controlled access area or simply, you have accidentally entered one. It is most vital that you should have secure Navigation and then immediately contact the coast guard on the provided channel 16 VHF-FM.


Locks are the structures that are engineered, enabling the vessels to move in between the waterways of non-similar heights. Like when you are traveling under the drawbridges, there are some specific procedures for the Navigation through Locks. They do vary from region to region but generally;

You should stay between the green and the red buoys that have marked the navigational channel of rivers. You can also request an opening with the sound signal with one prolonged sound blast ranging from four to six seconds and one shorter one with 1 second that is within one-mile distance to the lock.

This can easily be made up by using the pull cord in Lock or the Whistle, hailer, horn, or the megaphone. You should always wait for the lock operator to give you the horn blasts. Additional signals can be the traffic lights or the flashing lights too.

In that case, you need to enter the lock at the reduced speed. Then you need to make sure that the passengers are to remain seated and have their lifejackets worn as well.

Tie the craft to the mooring devices after the entering Period. The recommended line is 50 feet in length, which can also be extended or reduced based on the choice and situation.

You can use the fenders for the damage avoiding that can be done to the vessel and even to lock the walls. When you have passed through, then you can wait for the signal from the operator, which can be the light or the horn, then you can leave the lock at the idlest speed.

At last, it is not vital to have the specific order of lock priority amongst the vessels. The commercial and the Military have a higher priority as compared to the recreational vessels.

Low Head Dams:

For various reasons, the Low head dams have been constructed to raise the level of streams or rivers. They are extremely dangerous sometimes to the smaller boats or even the swimmers. For that specific reason, you should always look out for them. The “Drowning Machine” title has been given to them for the particular purpose that they are known for drowning the smaller boats and even the swimmers.

Lowhead Dams

There is a type of circular motion called hydraulic of the dam, which is due to the fast-moving water. That is why the smaller boats can easily be caught in this while having the least chances of escaping them.

When it comes to their recognition, the Low Head Dams are known to be most difficult to recognize on the upstream side and from the point of vantage, other than that they also look harmless. So, for that specific reason, even the smallest of them can be the deadliest, taking care is your responsibility.

The informative thing here is that always portage around the dams that are low Head, which should be regardless of the approach direction. Then exit the water before the dam and return after.

Not all the low head dams are a sign of danger buoy or even the signage. So, it is vital to have knowledge about streams or rivers before traveling on any.

When you are traveling towards the downstream, then you should watch out for the smooth horizon line. These are the most subtly sign that you are near to the low head dams or even approaching one. The sign here is that the scenery next to the short head dams might look like the cut-off or shorten.

America’s Waterway Watch:

The waterway watch is a program developed by the Coast guard. It is made to catch the suspicious activities in case the boaters take notice of them. This is explicitly made to keep the waterways in America safe and most secure.

  • The things worth reporting include;

When someone takes the picture, take the video, make sketches of the bridges, faculties, ferry transport system, tunnel, power plants, or even the fuel docks. If someone is asking a strange series of questions about accessing the faculties, then you should report it when someone is fishing, anchoring, or even driving in an area, which is typically the ones used for the activity. There is an unattended vessel that is in unusual locations. Last but not least, there is an abnormal transport for transfer of person while underway, and you start seeking the hole in security fences around these facilities.

So, don’t take these types of matters into your own hand and simply talk with the coast guard on the Channel number 16 of VHF-FM. In the case of genuine emergencies, you can also call 911 or 877-24Watch.


The common cause of water fatalities is known to be Drowning. To tackle it, the number one way to prevent this fatality of drowning is to simply wear a life jacket. The Coast Guard requires the vessel to have the life jackets worn by each person riding the boat or vessel.

For security and safety purposes;

  • The life jackets should be approved by the Coast Guard
  • They should be in the proper size for the wearer, neither too short nor long.
  • The jacket should be in serviceable conditions or simply a good state to wear.
  • It should be properly stowed.

Children must also wear the Life Jackets:

The regulations from the Federal are that they should wear life jackets, and if not, then they should be below the decks or enclosed in the cabin. Whenever the vessel in on its way, then wearing the life jacket is a must, even for children.

Tips for fitting:

You should use the manufacturer’s label as the guide to choosing the life jacket for weight and size. The fit should be comfortable and snug.

The zippers, straps, and the ties when fastened securely, you should raise your arms over the head side. Then if it is perfect, it should remain in its position and not ride up.

When the arms are on your side, you should ask for someone’s help to lift the jacket up straight at the place of shoulders. In case it comes up a few inches, then it is an indication for a loose life jacket.

For the adults manufactured life jackets, they will never work on the children.

Surprisingly comfortable Life Jacket:

As of now, the lifejackets are incredibly light in weight and are very comfortable to move with. They are also available in different sizes and shapes and not to forget, also have unique features in them.


The Key to US Aids to Navigation System (Called as IALA-B):

The different terms related to them are;

markers and buoys guidelines


Term For
B Black
Bn Beacon
C Buoy
Fl Flashing
Fl (2) Group Flashing
Fl (2+1) Composite Group Flashing
G Green
Iso Isophase
Junction T or S Dayboard
M Safe Water, Octagonal
Mo (A)  The Morse Code Letter A
nun Buoy
Oc Occulting
Pri Private
Q Quick Flashing
R Red
S Square Dayboard
s Seconds
T Triangle Dayboard
W White
Y Yellow


Discussion on some critical topics:

In this article the concept of water markers has been thoroughly understood, now we will cover topics like, what color is a marker that indicates safe water on all sides? what colors appear on a mooring buoy?

You see a white marker with red vertical stripes. What type of marker is this? And What does this orange square non-lethal marker indicate? You see a white marker with black vertical stripes. What should you do?

These terms are not so hard to define, but hold importance when you need to know the short answer to a long and complex question. Stick to the article to know about these terms in detail.

What colors appear on a mooring buoy?

Mooring Buoys are used for securing vessels and are usually placed in the areas where the boats are given permission to anchor or simply place in the marinas. These are the only type of buoys that you can easily tie up to the legal Inland water obstruction markers.

So, what colors appear on a mooring buoy? To be honest, it mainly depends upon the purpose. When talking about the emergency Mooring in a white body with a blue horizontal band on them that is horizontally placed.

There are even the commercial ones that are in the combination of White with Orange stripe on them, which is for the licensed business entity that is meant for trading purposes.

There are also the Yellow ones, which are for the Private owners of Mooring Buoys, and then there are also the pink ones with the white body, which are used by the General Public on the basis of 24 hours.

Hence, the answer to what colors appear on a mooring buoy is not really bounded by a single one; rather, it depends on the purpose of Mooring buoys you are using for.

What color is a marker that indicates safe water on all sides?

There is a type of Buoy which is referred to as the Fairway Buoy that has recognizable White with the vertical Red Stripes and is an indication for unobstructed water on all the sides. Marking with them the fairways or called as the mid channels, they can also be passed on to either side.

So now, what color is a marker that indicates safe water on all sides? Red and White color markers are known to have been used as safe water markers.

There are no numbers printed on them; rather, they have letters that are stamped on for identification purposes. They are simply termed as the Navigational aids that all the boaters are to be aware of.

You see a white marker with black vertical stripes. What should you do?

There are inland water Obstruction markers, which are the sign of obstruction to Navigation. They are white markers with the black vertical stripes just as opposite to the safe water markers, that have white and red for no obstruction underwater.

So, in case, you see a white marker with black vertical stripes. What should you do? In this scenario, you should not be passing between these markers and the nearest shore.

You see a white marker with red vertical stripes. What type of marker is this?

There are even the white markers with the red vertical stripes that are used to mark the fairways or the mid channels and indicate the unobstructed water on all the sides.

So, when you see a white marker with red vertical stripes. What type of marker is this? As mentioned above, they are the safe water markers, because only the safe water markers have the white with red vertical stripes.

What does this orange square non-lateral marker indicate?

There are markers that are with the orange squares and are referred to as the non-literal markers. The square is typically used for the display of information, which is like a marina, GAS, food, Locality, and the campsite.

So actually, what does this orange square non-lateral marker indicate? They simply show or indicate the prohibited areas which are not to enter and are closed off. For example, the areas where you will find the fragile wildlife, areas made for a swim, or the areas which are not to enter without permission.

Images and content idea Reference to “U.S Aids to Navigation System” By U.S Coast Gaurd 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What actually is the meaning of markers in the water?

There are other markers that indicate the edges of the safer water areas, and then there are the lateral markers that are buoys. The red light is made for the edge of the channel on the right side or called as(starboard) while you are entering from the open sea or Heading upstream. The numbers typically go up on this side. While on the other side called as (port) or left side, the color is green and will have a decrease in number.

What does a singular light of white color mean on a boat?

All around a singular white light is an indication that the board is stationary and anchored. It could be that you are watching the real light from a very far away distance, but it is not the case, however, because you will see the starboard or the port nav lights that are reflecting off the water body.

What are those red and green lights found on other boats?

These are the sidelights and are also termed as the combination lights because they are used for the indication of another vessel that is approaching from the Head on or the side on. The Red is for the left side of the vessel (port) while the green is for the right side of the vessel (starboard).

What even does the colors of Buoy mean?

The buoys or the beacons that come with the horizontally places bands of both the green and the red color are to mark the junction of channels that are navigable. The color on the top is an indication for the primary or preferred, while the color on the bottom is for the secondary color.

What is the far-away distance of buoys from the shore?

Buoys for the swimming areas are typically looking very closely to the shore area, but to be honest, they are much farther away. The closest ones are around the 100m range. So, even if you are not the most professional or the confidant of swimmers, you can quickly get yourself out of there, panic is a cause of trouble at this distance. You can always swim away with others or simply paddle on the board.

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