3.3 Navigation Buoys

Bifurcation Buoys

Bifurcation buoys are lateral system buoys that indicate the junction of channels. They have three alternating stripes of red and green and the top stripe indicates the location of the preferred, or main, channel.

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In the diagram on page 22, the bifurcation buoy has a red top. Using the rule, Red Right Returning, that means if you wish to follow the preferred channel in this case, the bifurcation buoy should pass you on the right.

Fairway Buoys

Fairway buoys have one vertical red stripe and one vertical white stripe. The red stripe is on the side of the channel where you would find the red buoys.

Day Beacons


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Day Beacons use the same colours as the Lateral System, but in one case may substitute black for green. They can be channel and danger markers or bifurcation markers, but are usually channel, or danger markers.


They are not lighted and are for day-time use only.

A port hand day beacon, which has a black or green square, centred on a white background with a green reflective border, marks the port hand side of the channel or a danger and must be kept on the port side when proceeding upstream. If numbered, the number will be odd and of a reflective material.


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A starboard hand day beacon, which has a red triangle centred on a white background with a red reflective border, marks the starboard hand side of the channel or a danger and must be kept on the starboard side when proceeding upstream.


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Ranges consist of two markers, upside down to each other with one well in front of the other. The front marker is lower than the rear marker.

They provide a recommended track for navigators when both marks are in line. The operator will see one marker on top of the other.


Special Purpose Buoys

There are a number of special purpose buoys that mark everything from anchorages to swimming areas to no-wake zones and danger areas.

Pleasure craft operators must learn to identify these buoys and know what they mean.

They are depicted and explained in the diagrams that follow.

Keep Out Buoys


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Keep Out Buoys mark an area where boating is prohibited. They are white with two horizontal orange bands and an orange cross inside an orange diamond on two opposite sides. If they carry a light, the light is a yellow flashing(Fl) four seconds, light.


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Control Buoys mark an area where boating is restricted. They may indicate such things as speed limits. They are white with two horizontal orange bands and an orange circle on two opposite sides. Inside the orange circles will be a black figure or symbol indicating the restriction. If they carry a light, the light is a yellow flashing (Fl) four seconds, light.


Hazard Buoys mark random hazards such as rocks and shoals. They are white with two horizontal orange bands and an orange diamond on two opposite sides. If they carry a light, the light is a yellow flashing (Fl) four seconds, light.


Information Buoys contain information, by words or symbols, of interest to mariners, such as directions to marinas. They are white with two horizontal orang bands and an orange square on two opposite sides. If they carry a light, the light is a yellow flashing (Fl) four seconds, light.


Swimming Buoys mark th perimeter of a swimming area. They are white. If they carry a light, the light is a yellow flashing (Fl) four seconds, light.


Posted Command Signs may be encountered from time to time. They will include warnings such as No Wake Zones, No Anchorage Signs, Speed Limit Signs, Low Head Dam Signs, Power Line Hazards and Pipe Line Hazards.


Cautionary Buoys are used to warn mariners of dangers such as firing ranges, race courses, seaplane bases, traffic separations, underwater structures and areas where no safe through channel exists. Yellow in colour they carry an identification mark, or letter. If they have a topmark, it is a single yellow "X" shape. If lighted, the light a yellow flashing (Fl) four seconds light.


The International Code Flag A (Alpha) is a Blue and White flag displayed from the boat or dock from which diving activity is taking place.


The exact location of the diver is marked with a white buoy carrying a red flag of not less than 50 cm square with a white diagonal stripe extending from the tip of the hoist to the bottom of the fly. If it is lighted, it has a yellow flashing (Fl) (four seconds), light.


All vessel operators must stay clear and pass slowly.

Pleasure craft operators must take early and substantial action to avoid areas where these buoys are displayed.


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