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Types of Boating Buoys and Markers and Their Meanings

November 1, 2021

Buoys are floating devices that are used to guide boat operators on the water and provide them with important information. There are many different types of boating buoys, and each has its own specific meaning. It’s important for boat operators to understand the information that’s being conveyed in order to navigate the waters safely.

In this article, find out what different types of boating buoys mean in Canada.

Lateral buoys

Lateral buoys are used to mark which side of a channel boat operators should use when going upstream in order to avoid collisions and hazards.

lateral-buoys

Port hand buoys

Port hand buoys are coloured green and marked with odd numbers. Boat operators should keep them on their port (left) side when traveling upstream.

Starboard hand buoys

Starboard hand buoys are coloured red and marked with even numbers. Boat operators should keep them on their starboard (right) side when going upstream.

Bifurcation buoys

Bifurcation buoys mark the point where a channel splits into two and indicates the preferred channel for boats heading upstream. Port bifurcation buoys are green with one horizontal red band and indicate that the preferred channel is on the starboard (right) side of the buoy. Starboard bifurcation buoys are red with one horizontal green band and indicate that the preferred channel is on the port (left) side of the buoy.

Fairway buoys

Fairway buoys have vertical red and white stripes and indicate safe water.

fairway-buoys

Isolated danger buoys

Isolated danger buoys mark a hazard surrounded by navigable water. They are black with one horizontal red band.

isolated-danger-buoys

Cardinal buoys

Cardinal buoys are black and yellow buoys that indicate the safest or deepest water using the cardinal points of a compass (north, south, east and west).

cardinal-buoy

Special buoys

Special buoys provide boat operators with specific information that is not usually related to navigation.

Anchorage buoys

Anchorage buoys are yellow with black anchor symbols. They mark the perimeter of an anchorage area.

Mooring buoys

Mooring buoys are used to secure vessels. Their top third is orange and the rest is white.

Cautionary buoys

Cautionary buoys are yellow buoys that mark danger areas (military exercise areas, underwater structures, areas with no safe channel, etc.)

Hazard buoys

Hazard buoys mark hazards such as rocks or turbulent waters. These buoys are white with orange bands and an orange diamond symbol.

Keep-out buoys

Keep-out buoys mark areas where boats are prohibited. These buoys are white with orange bands and an orange diamond containing a cross.

Control buoys

Control buoys mark areas where boats are restricted and must obey specific rules. These buoys are white with orange bands and an orange circle symbol.

Information buoys

Information buoys provide information for boat operators. These buoys are white with orange bands and an orange square symbol.

Diving buoys

Diving buoys mark areas where diving activities are currently underway. These buoys are white and sport a red flag with a diagonal white stripe.

Swimming buoys

Swimming buoys are white buoys that mark the perimeter of a swimming area.

Learn about boating with Drive a Boat Canada

There are many things boat operators need to know in order to be able to navigate safely on Canadian waters. That’s why aspiring boaters are required by law to take a boating course and pass an exam before getting out on the water. Go to Drive a Boat Canada today to get your official Canadian boating license online.