I was boating with a friend of mine the other day. We came across a sign on the bank, and he asked me what it meant? Honestly, I did not know. That got me thinking, “What do the markers in water mean?”
Curiosity got the best of me, and I dug deep into this topic. What I found out is pretty interesting. In short, the purpose of the traffic signal is pretty much the same as markers in the water that is to guide the boats or ships safely along the waterway.
The purpose of the markings is to pass information to the mariners. In terms of tools used, buoys and beacons are the primary tools. It does not make a whole lot of sense till now. But tag along, and at the end of the article, you will be able to decipher the markers like a champ.
What Do The Markers In The Water Mean?
Different types of buoys are used as markers in the water to deliver specific information to the mariners.
The Lateral Buoys System
The lateral buoy system is used to mark the two sides of the channel as portside(left) and starboard side (right) based on whether we are going upstream or downstream.
- Portside Buoys
Portside buoy indicates the left edge of a channel. You can identify a portside buoy from its unique green color. The shape and the size of a portside buoy may vary, but the color will always be green regardless.
The message that a portside buoy relay is, “this is the leftmost edge you can go. Further to the left from this point is obstacles.”
- Starboard Side Buoys
Similar to the portside buoy, the starboard buoy is the rightmost point you can safely venture. The red color and the cone-shaped structure indicates the starboard side buoy. It may or may not have a red-colored light on top for the night.
- Bifurcation Buoys
If you face a channel divided into branches, just look for the bifurcation buoy. It will help you find the wider, deeper, and safer channel. You may pass through from either side of this buoy.
Its purpose is to help you find the main channel. It’s colored with red and green bands, and the main channel will be indicated by the color of the top band.
- Day Beacon – Junction
It marks a junction point and indicates if you should proceed from the portside or from the starboard side. It’s diamond-shaped with a red borderline. Day beacons are mostly visible at day time, indicating that the channel is not the safest route during the night.
- Day Beacon – Portside
It’s similar to the portside buoy as you should avoid passing it through the left side while going upstream. It is square shaped with a green reflective border, while its center contains a black or green square symbol. As it’s without a light signal, thus you can only see it in daylight.
- Day Beacon – Starboard Side
You may find it similar to starboard side buoy as the purpose of both is similar. It indicates the right side of the channel when you should avoid passing through it when you are going upstream. It has no lights, so it is not visible at night. Therefore, you should probably try to take an alternative route during the night.
It refers to the four cardinal directions (east. west, north, and south) along with the area of the danger. For example, the south buoy points out that the area in the south of these buoys is the safest. It has two types of color (yellow and black) and a different flashing white color light on the top.
- North Cardinal Buoy
If you come across a north cardinal buoy, remember that the north side of the buoy is the safe water. You will know a buoy is a north cardinal buoy if the lower half is painted yellow and the top half is painted black. If it is carrying a light, it will be spar-shaped; otherwise, it will be a cone-shaped or flat top cylinder.
- South Cardinal Buoy
In the case of the south cardinal buoy, the south side of the buoy will be the safe water. The upper part of this buoy is painted yellow, and the lower part is painted black.
- East Cardinal Buoy
Safe water will be on the east side of the buoy. The yellow color in the middle and the top, as well as the bottom, is painted black that indicates that it is an east buoy.
- West Cardinal Buoy
Safe water is located on the west side of the buoy. It is color-coded in the opposite way of the east cardinal buoy. The black color is in the middle, and the yellow is at the top and the bottom.
There are a few buoys that are used for special purposes. You should pay extra attention to these buoys as they carry some specific messages. They are as follows:
- Isolated Danger Buoy
An isolated danger buoy is used to isolate a dangerous area in the middle of safe water. The potential hazard can be unsafe water, hidden rock underwater, a sunken ship, etc. It is colored in black with a red horizontal stripe.
- Cautionary Buoy
A yellow-colored buoy is used to mark an area dangerous for boaters. If there is any additional information, there should be a notice board hanging on it. Otherwise, simply approach cautiously if you notice one.
- Information Buoy
It will display information or symbols which are important to the mariners. It is white-colored and has two horizontal orange bands and an orange square on two opposite sides between the bands. There is usually a sign or symbol at the center that tells the kind of danger you should be aware of.
- Control Buoys
A control buoy is used to mark an area to control boating. It is white colored and has two yellow-colored bands and a circle between them. Inside the circle, there will be a black figure or a symbol that will indicate the restrictions implied around the area. It may carry yellow colored light that flashes every 4 seconds.
- Anchorage Buoys
The safe anchoring place for vessels is an anchorage, and the whole area is marked by an anchorage buoy. It is colored yellow with a black anchor painted on it. So, it is easy to identify. If it has a light, then it will be yellow-colored, and it will flash every 4 seconds.
- Mooring Buoys
It is not permitted to tie a boat with a buoy. But what if you have to? Can you do it legally? The answer is yes; you can, but only with a mooring buoy. It is used to secure vessels.
- Scientific Buoy
The name “Scientific buoy” Sounds pretty cool, right? It marks the area used for research and collecting marine data. It is an important tool for marine scientists.
Buoys and beacons are common signs to come across when traveling via waterways. Beacons are mostly seen inland and around rivers and tunnels, whereas buoys are pretty much the only way to pass deep water information. Regardless, they work in the same manner and carry out the same purpose.
As long as you know their meaning, you can navigate through any water like a pro. Trust me, even in the areas where google maps are not well established, you can make your way simple based on the buoys’ signs. Hopefully, now you know what the markers in the water mean.