Complete Guide to Buoys

The Complete Guide to Buoys 

Whether you're piloting your pontoon, skippering your sailboat or somewhere in between, knowing the different types of buoy markers and how to read them can help you navigate safely. This complete guide to buoys aims to give you a better understanding of how buoys and maritime markers are used to navigate, moor and regulate, why they're important and what the colors really mean.

Buoys - What are They Used For?

A buoy is a buoyant device that floats on the water’s surface, commonly used to help boaters navigate safely from place to place. Some buoys give you a sense of direction, like what side of the channel you’re on, while others communicate no wake zones, shallow water, bottom hazards and so on. Buoys can also be used to mark areas of interest, such as national parks or swimming areas

Nun Buoys & Can Buoys

What is a nun buoy?What is a nun buoy?

Nun and can buoys exist for the sole purpose of communicating information related to direction. A green can buoy marks the port (left) side of a channel while a red nun buoy marks the starboard (right) side of the channel when navigating in the upstream direction. If you see a buoy marked with three bands of alternating green and red, it is a bifurcation buoy. This type of buoy marks the junction point of a divided channel.

Mooring Buoys

What is a mooring buoy?What is a mooring buoy?

Used by boaters to secure their vessels, mooring buoys are often used in place of traditional anchors so as not to damage fragile marine ecosystems or seabeds. Additionally, mooring buoys help give boaters a visual guide when docking alongside others, minimizing the possibility of collisions. By way of heavyweight chains or ropes, a sinker is attached to the buoy and placed on the seabed, keeping the vessel in one place.

Regulatory Buoys

What is a regulatory buoy?What is a regulatory buoy?

Like road signs on the highway, regulatory buoys communicate rules and alert boaters to hazards ahead. These buoys are a critical maritime tool that keep people safe while navigating open water. Often, regulatory buoys are white with orange bands or symbols and display a cautionary message for boaters. You might see these markers indicate things like no wake zones, no swimming, PWC areas, speed limits and more. Sometimes, they will have flashing lights to draw extra attention.

Commercial & Low-Drag Buoys

What is a low-drag buoy?What is a low-drag buoy?

Specially designed for the commercial fishing industry, low-drag buoys make the retrieval of crab pots faster and safer. Low-drag buoys ease the strain on both the crew and gear, a much needed advantage in what is commonly considered the most dangerous job in the world.

Meteorological Buoys

What is a weather buoy?What is a weather buoy?

Commonly found in oceans and lakes, these high-tech buoys measure and monitor things such as air temperature, wind speed and direction, wave height and more. The buoys then transmit the data collected to satellites for real time data analysis.

Life Buoys

What is a life buoy?What is a life buoy?

A life buoy, sometimes referred to as a life ring, is a flotation device that can be thrown or dropped to someone in the water. The line attached is then used to pull the person to safety. This life-saving device adds buoyancy to the distressed individual, preventing drowning.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What colors appear on a mooring buoy?

A: Mooring buoys are white with a blue horizontal band.

Q: What does a green can-shaped buoy mark?

A: Cylindrical can-shaped buoys mark the edge of the channel on your port side (left) when entering from the open sea or heading upstream.

Q: What does a red cone-shaped buoy mark?

A: Also known as Nun buoys, red cone-shaped buoys mark the edge of the channel on your starboard (right) side when entering from the open sea or heading upstream.

Q: What does a regulatory buoy with a diamond symbol indicate?

A: Watch out! This buoy signifies danger, marking areas that are hazardous for boaters. You may find these boat buoys in areas of submerged rocks or shoals.

Q: What is the area between a red and green buoy?

A: The area between red and green navigational buoys is safe for passage!

Shopping for Buoys

Buoys are an important part of boat safety and need to be durable and visible. Lippert supplies marinas, municipalities and private harbors with regulatory floats and markers that feature rotationally molded, high-density poly shells that stand up to the toughest applications. Plus, we offer a three-year flotation warranty on our hard skin options.

Equip your boat with our marker buoys to create a water ski racecourse, or to communicate with other boaters about no wake zones, or potential hazards. Made to last, our products feature a uniform wall thickness and do not crack over time. They have an extremely strong shell and take on the toughest applications.

So, there you have it, the complete guide to buoys. Hopefully after reading this post, you have a thorough understanding of the most common types of buoys, their meanings and their applications.