"What Color are Safe Water Markers?” and Other Buoy Questions

By Debbie Hanson

Aug 14, 2019

Important safety information is provided by buoys and markers. Here are several types of markers to help with safe boating.

When driving, you have to follow the rules of the road. But what if there is no road and it looks like you can go anywhere? If there are any signs and you are driving any means of transportations such as a boat, pay attention to the information they provide.

Signs on the water are in the form of navigation buoys and markers. Before hitting the water, learn the answer to “what color are safe water markers,” to keep you and others from well, hitting the water in an unexpected manner. For information about buoys not covered here, study the United States Coast Guard’s publication of official navigation rules.

Safety should always remain a priority for you, your passengers, and other boaters. So, when you see a buoy, any buoy, pay close attention to what it means because there is information there that can affect everyone’s safety. In particular, diamond-shaped navigation buoys and markers are signaling dangerous conditions. This could be due to dams, rapids, rocks, or even to warn of swimming areas.

When answering “what color are safe water markers” boaters also must follow information provided by channel markers. According to my Pennsylvania boating handbook, for green channel markers, put the buoy on port side when facing upstream. For red channel markers, keeps the buoy on starboard side facing upstream. So, which is port again? Left. That means starboard is right. The handbook shared the handy phrase of “Red, right, return” to help keep it straight.

Even the white buoy with blue band, which is the mooring buoy, says “watch out” for a vessel anchoring chain nearby. A no wake buoy or even fishing habitat structure buoys can affect other boat movements and traffic patterns.

Pay attention to all of the signs floating on the water. Someone has been there before you and discovered, perhaps the hard way, that it was important to warn about this water area or condition. Pay attention to every buoy to avoid an accident and saying “phooey.” Or worse!

In addition to learning about navigation buoys and markers, make sure that you have valid boat registration paperwork aboard before you head off.

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit shefishes2.com or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.