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Buoys and Beacons

Knowing what the marker in front means may make the difference between continuing on your way in safety, or making a Mayday call, sitting embarrassingly high on a fast drying rock as the tide ebbs.

These are the road signs on the water. The meaning of each navigational buoy, or beacon, is found in its shape, symbol on the top (topmark) and its colours.

Take time to study the buoys to familiarise yourself with their meanings.

 

Channel Markers

These show well-established channels and indicate port (left) and starboard (right) sides of the channels. One of the following maybe used;

Port Mark
A red can shape. At night, a red flashing light may be shown.


 

Starboard Mark
A green conical shape. At night, a green flashing light may be shown.


Coming In Rule
Upon entering harbour the red port mark should be kept on the boat's port (left) side and the green mark on the boat's starboard (right) side.


Going Out Rule
When leaving harbour the red port mark should be kept on the boat's starboard (right) side and the green mark on the boat's port (left) side.

 

Cardinal Marks

Coloured yellow and black.  Each indicates where there is deep/safe water close to a danger and they show this relative to the compass.

At night the white light will flash relative to a clock face:

  • a North cardinal mark white light will flash quick or very quick
  • an East cardinal mark white light will flash three (3) times quick or very quick
  • a South cardinal mark white light will flash six (6) times quick or very quick
  • a West cardinal mark white light will flash nine (9) times quick or very quick


 

Isolated Danger Marks

Indicates an isolated danger, such as a submerged rock and so tells you not to pass too close. Coloured black with one or more horizontal red bands. If lit at night, it shows a group of two white flashes. The top mark has two black spheres.


 

Special Marks

Indicates a special area and you should beware. Coloured yellow. If lit at night, it shows a flashing yellow light. The top mark is a single yellow cross. Check your chart to identify what is special in that area.


 

Safe Water Marks

These are indicated by vertical white and red stripes. A safe water marker identifies that safe, navigable water is all around.


 

For further information, refer to the Maritime Safety Authority book, System of Buoyage and Beaconage for New Zealand.