What Do Lateral Markers And Buoys Indicate?

If you're ever out on the open water and see some strange objects bobbing in the waves, it's important to know what they are and what they mean. These objects are called lateral markers, and they indicate important features of the waterway, such as channels, bends, and hazards. In this article, we'll explain what lateral markers are and what they indicate for boaters. Stay safe on the water by knowing how to read these markers!

What are lateral markers, and what do they indicate?

Lateral markers are buoys or other objects that are placed along the waterways to mark the boundaries of a channel. They are used to help vessels navigate safely through narrow or shallow areas. Lateral markers are usually brightly colored and easy to see, and they are often equipped with lights so they can be seen at night.  

There are three types of lateral markers: the water port side, starboard, and bifurcation. 

Port hand buoys

The water portside marker is a buoy used to indicate the edge of the navigable channel on the vessel's side where the water is deepest. In other words, it shows boaters where the safe channel is located. It is positioned on the side of the vessel closest to the shore. The water portside marker is usually red and has a reflective orange tape bottom. This buoy is sometimes called a lateral marker. Water portside markers are important for navigation and should be respected by all boaters. 

Starboard hand buoys

One of the most common is the starboard marker buoy. As its name suggests, this type of buoy is used to mark the edge of the navigable channel on the side of the vessel where it is safest to operate. It is important to note that the starboard marker is always positioned on the side of the vessel furthest from shore. This ensures that vessels have plenty of room to maneuver when passing by. In addition to its primary function, the starboard marker may also be equipped with a light or other visual aid to help mariners identify it in low visibility conditions. Whether you are a seasoned sailor or a weekend boater, it is important to be aware of the different types of buoys that you may encounter while out on the water.

Bifurcation buoys

The bifurcation marker is a type of nautical aid that is used to indicate the point where two channels meet. It is usually a buoy or pole that is placed in the water at the junction of the two channels. Bifurcation markers are used by vessels traveling in either direction, as they can help to identify the safe passage through the junction. When approaching a bifurcation marker, it is important to pay attention to the markings and signals that are associated with it. These will vary depending on the location of the marker and the local regulations. In some cases, vessels may need to give way to traffic traveling in the other channel. Bifurcation markers can be found in many different waterways, such as rivers, lakes, and canals. They are an essential part of navigation and help to ensure safe passage for all vessels.

Fairway buoys 

For any sailor, one of the most important things to know is how to navigate using buoys. There are many different types of buoys, but one of the most common is the fairway buoy. Fairway buoys are used to mark the edges of shipping channels and other navigable waters. They are usually red, green, or white, and they are typically equipped with a light that can be seen for several miles. When sailing in unfamiliar waters, it is important to keep an eye out for fairway buoys and other navigational aids. By doing so, you can avoid running aground or colliding with other vessels.

The three kinds of lateral markers besides buoys are poles, chains, and lights.

There are a few different types of lateral water markers besides buoys. These include poles, chains, and lights. Each type of marker has a specific purpose and should be treated with caution.

Poles are a common sight along roadsides and in parking lots. They are often used to mark the edge of a channel or the beginning of a restricted area. Poles are usually painted with a black and white diagonal stripe pattern. This pattern is known as warning markings and is used to warn motorists of potential hazards ahead. When driving, it is important to be aware of these markings and take them into account when planning your route. Failure to do so could result in an accident.

Chains are another type of marker that is often used to delineate the boundaries of a shipping lane or other navigable waterway. They are usually made of metal and can be quite heavy. Chains are typically anchored to the bottom of a body of water and are spaced at intervals of 100 feet or more. While they are not as visible as buoys, they are still effective at indicating the boundaries of a shipping lane. In addition, chains can also be used to mark the location of underwater hazards. By clearly delineating the boundaries of a shipping lane, chains help to ensure the safe navigation of vessels.

When navigating through unfamiliar waters, it is important to be able to identify different types of markers. While buoys and poles are the most common, you may also encounter a lighted marker. These are typically used as lateral markers, meaning they indicate the side on which you should keep to safely pass through the area. As you approach a lighted marker, pay attention to the sequence of the flashes. This will help you identify the safe passage through the area. For example, if the marker is flashing red and green alternately, you should keep it on your red right when passing. If you cannot determine the sequence of the flashes, or if there is no safe passage indicated, it is best to give the marker a wide berth. By being aware of the different types of markers and how to interpret them, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable journey on the water.

Lights are sometimes used as lateral markers, but they are not as common as buoys or poles. When approaching a lighted marker, it is important to pay attention to the sequence of the flashes. This will help you identify the safe passage through the area.

Conclusion

Lateral markers are an essential part of navigation and should be respected by all boaters. There are a few different lateral markers, each with its specific purpose. By understanding the different types of lateral markers, you can help to ensure safe passage for all vessels. If you are ever unsure about the meaning of a lateral marker, it is always best to give it a wide berth. By exercising caution and paying attention to your surroundings, you can help to make your time on the water enjoyable for all. Thank you for reading! I hope this article was informative and helped you to understand the different types of lateral markers.

F.A.Q. 

How should you approach a lighted marker?

When navigating through a body of water, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to any markers that may be present. Lighted markers are often used to identify safe passage through an area, and it is important to observe the sequence of the flashes in order to determine the best way to proceed. For example, if a marker is flashing green and red, it indicates that you should pass on the green side. If a marker is flashing red and white, it indicates that you should pass on the red side. By paying attention to the sequence of flashes, you can ensure that you are making the safest possible choice when navigating through an area.

What should you do if you are unsure about the meaning of a lateral marker?

While most boaters know to stay clear of buoys with orange stripes, they may not be as familiar with lateral markers. These markers are used to indicate the edges of shipping channels and areas that are off-limits to recreational boaters. Lateral markers are usually green, red, or white, and they are always placed in pairs. If you see a single marker, it is called an isolated danger mark and indicates a hazard that is surrounded by deep water.

What should you do when you see a red buoy?

A cone-shaped nun buoy is a type of red marker used to indicate the presence of a channel. This channel may divide into two channels, each of which is colored or illuminated in a different hue of light. To continue along the chosen channel, boaters must keep the buoy on their left if the color green is on top. If the color red is on top, they must keep the buoy on their right. By following this simple rule, boaters can avoid running aground or colliding with other vessels.

Which side do you pass a green buoy on? 

When boating, it's important to be aware of buoys and what they signify. Green buoys are often used to mark the right side of a channel, meaning that you should keep the green buoy on your right-hand side when going upstream or against the current. Green buoys may also be used to mark safe anchorage areas. In general, when in doubt, you should always keep the green buoy on your right-hand side.