To the first time boater, all the rules and guidelines can be pretty intimidating. Boating is very different from driving a car: no road lines, no stoplights, but a lot more signs and markers and buoys that do not always have explanations written on them like highway signs. If you are renting a boat for the day you can be tempted to ignore these indicators, but do so can lead to accidents, confusion and getting lost. In this article I will break down the basic buoys of boating and how to use them.
Red buoy/nun: One of the most basic buoys on the waterways, the red nun helps guide boaters through channels, harbors and intracoastal waterways. To use it correctly, remember the three R’s: Red Right Return. When going inland, the red buoy should be to your right/starboard side. When going towards shore, think of the red buoy as the white line on the right side of road, you should be closest to it when you look to your right. When traveling toward open water, it should be to your left/port on the other side of the channel.
Green buoy/can: Like the red buoy, the green can marks the channel of travel in protected areas. When traveling inland, the green buoy should be to your left on the opposite side of the channel. When traveling toward open water, it should be to your right closest to you.
*Extra Tip: When navigating inland, the green buoy should be to you left and red to your right. Travel closer to the red and the boats heading toward open water will pass by on your left side. If you are doing this correctly, it will be just like driving a car in the United States.
No wake buoy: Whenever you see a no wake buoy, you must slow down immediately. A no wake buoy indicates you are entering a controlled area like a harbor. In these areas the speed limit is about 5-6 MPH. If you do not have a speedometer, slow your boat down so that you are not creating any waves (wake) behind your boat.
Danger buoy: Any type of buoy with a diamond on it indicates danger. The specific type of danger may not be listed and can be a number of things. The danger could be a rock, sandbar, jetty, wildlife, dangerous current, contaminated water, or obstacle. Whenever this type of buoy is seen, the area should be avoided.
Exclusion buoy: This type of buoy indicates an area of water that is prohibited for boats. Commonly, an exclusion buoy marks a swim area for a beach, but can also cover an area that contains boating hazards. By law, these areas must be avoided.