How do boaters keep away from hazards? What to find out about markers, buoys and different warning indicators


View of channel marker #15 in the Intracoastal, site of a deadly boat crash on Sept. 4.

View of channel marker #15 within the Intracoastal, website of a lethal boat crash on Sept. 4.

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Just like visitors lights and indicators assist drivers on the street, boaters have buoys and indicators to information them to and from shore safely.

What you’ll see out on the water is determined by the place you boat. In the United States, the vast majority of American waterways use the U.S. Aids to Navigation System or IALA-B, though the Intracoastal Waterway has its personal system.

Buoys, beacons and channel markers function the visitors indicators of the water.

They can present instructions or alert boaters if they should decelerate, or if there are hazards within the space equivalent to sand bars.

Some of those navigational markers could also be inexperienced or have inexperienced lights, whereas others could also be crimson or have crimson lights.

Over Labor Day weekend, the motive force of a ship crashed right into a channel marker off the Florida Keys killing a highschool senior and throwing all 14 folks aboard into the water.

READ MORE: Clues at Marker 15? Debris, injury point out Keys boat could have veered exterior channel

Here are a few of the security markers you may see in South Florida waters:

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These are a few of the navigational aids boaters will see within the water. Screenshot of U.S. Coast Guard U.S. Aids to Navigation System handbook

Red, Right, Returning

If you’re touring alongside a well-defined waterway, you’ll see navigational aids that mark junctions, forks or splits within the channel, in addition to the place the boat ought to journey to securely go. The following inforation is usually known as “Red, Right, Returning.”

“Green colors and lights should be on your right (starboard) side when traveling toward open waters (seaward)“ and will always use odd numbers, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s “U.S. Aids to Navigation System” guidebook . The numbers ought to lower as you head to the open water.

“Red colors and lights should be on your right (starboard) side when traveling from open waters (shoreward),” and can all the time use even numbers, the guidebook states. The numbers ought to enhance as you head to land.

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Green navigational aids will all the time have odd numbers and crimson navigational aids will all the time have even numbers. Screenshot of U.S. Coast Guard U.S. Aids to Navigation System handbook

READ MORE: Do boats have capability limits? Are life jackets required? What to find out about security

What about on the Intracoastal Waterway?

The Intracoastal Waterway runs alongside the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the U.S. The navigation help system used on this waterway is just like “Red, Right, Returning,” besides it is advisable use yellow symbols.

If following the waterway from New Jersey to Texas, maintain the yellow triangles on the correct aspect of the boat (starboard) and the yellow squares in your port, no matter what shade the navigational help is, in keeping with the U.S. Coast Guard’s guidebook.


This is as a result of a few of the beacons, buoys and different navigational aids you’ll see on the water are utilized by Intracoastal Waterway and non-Intracoastal Waterway routes. That means boaters may “travel next to each other in opposing directions — and share the same aids,” the guidebook states. “Thus, when following the ICW, navigate by yellow symbols; otherwise, navigate by the color of the Aid itself.”

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If boating on the Intracoastal Waterway, depend on the yellow symbols. Screenshot of U.S. Coast Guard U.S. Aids to Navigation System handbook

You may also see yellow horizontal reflector bands on indicators whereas touring alongside the Intracoastal Waterway. The yellow band simply marks the navigational help as being a part of the Intracoastal Waterway route.

Hazards and different indicators

While touring by boat, it’s possible you’ll discover different indicators, equivalent to:

Diamond-shaped dayboards, which assist boaters know the place they’re. The U.S. Coast Guard says these indicators are the “nautical equivalent of “You Are Here” markers. You’ll nonetheless want to make use of a nautical chart to determine the place you might be.

Sometimes you’ll see orange-and-white navigational aids with numerous symbols on them. If it has a diamond form image, it means there’s a hazard forward, equivalent to a submerged rock or that it’s a shallow space. A circle means the boat is getting into a “controlled area” equivalent to manatee protection zones, for instance, which might require boaters to decelerate to a sure velocity to maintain the ocean cows protected. Or maybe you see an indication that claims “Idle Speed – No Wake,” and meaning the boat operator must go on the minimal velocity wanted to steer.

If the orange-and-white navigational help has a sq., you’ll possible discover useful information, equivalent to instructions, distances and areas to the marina entrance for a state park, for instance. If you see a diamond form with a cross, get out of there. No boats allowed.

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There are quite a lot of navigational aids you’ll see within the water. Screenshot of U.S. Coast Guard U.S. Aids to Navigation System handbook

What about at night time?

The U.S. Coast Guard says navigational aids can solely be recognized by their gentle traits at night time. This contains:

The shade you see. Is it crimson, inexperienced, white or yellow?

The sequence of flashes and/or the time it takes for the help to undergo one sequence of flashes

If the help is supplied with retroreflective materials

Boaters are additionally required to make use of lights from sundown to dawn or when it’s onerous to see, equivalent to in rain or fog, to assist different boaters work out how far-off every of the vessels are from one another and the place the boats are going. Make certain to show off all different lights in your boat that will intervene, or trigger confusion, with navigation lights.

Another tip:

“Whenever you see a red navigation light from another vessel, give way. It is the stand-on vessel … it has the right of way,” in keeping with the guidebook.

“If you see both the red and green sidelights of another boat, it is coming straight toward you. You should take action to change course in order to avoid a collision.”

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This chart reveals the navigations lights boats could have at night time or in sure situations equivalent to wet or foggy days from numerous angles. Screenshot of U.S. Coast Guard U.S. Aids to Navigation System handbook

What different navigational aids ought to I find out about?

There are plenty of guidelines boaters have to know, although the “Rules of the Road” can differ relying on whether or not you’re boating inland or on worldwide waters. The guidelines additionally embrace find out how to deal with frequent conditions equivalent to overtaking, assembly head on and crossing the bow of one other boat.

Similarly, there plenty of different navigational aids boaters may see out on the water. To discover extra details about markers and the principles of the water, go to For a abstract of Florida’s boating legal guidelines, go to

There’s by no means a uninteresting second in Florida — and Michelle covers it as a Real Time/Breaking News Reporter for the Miami Herald. She graduated with honors from Florida International University, the place she served because the editor-in-chief of Student Media PantherNOW. Previously, she labored as a news author at WSVN Channel 7 and was a 2020-2021 Poynter-Koch Media & Journalism fellow.


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