While navigating large waterways, one of the most crucial concerns to be seriously considered is your own safety.
Accidents caused by underwater objects, among other dangers, may be unavoidable if you are not aided with the appropriate safety measures. As a result, water markers are extremely important features that help these occurrences to be avoided.
Increasing your knowledge of navigational aids is critical for optimal boating safety, whether you are a mariner with expert-level skills or you simply enjoy venturing out into wide waters as a recreational pastime.
The Safe Water Marker is one of the most frequently sought buoys, yet one of the most difficult to detect. This article will teach you everything there is to know regarding these water marks, and how to safely recognise them from afar in times of need.
So, what does a Safe Water Marker look like? What are the recognizable attributes that put them apart from other forms of buoys found in the water?
We are here to help you. Continue reading to discover how you can instantly recognize a Safe Water Marker from its coloring, and overall appearance.
What Is The Purpose Of A Safe Water Marker?
So, let us start off with the basics: what is a Safe Water Marker, exactly?
Well, simply put, it is exactly what it sounds like: a Safe Water Marker is a marker, or a buoy, used in large bodies of water that signal that the water is safe to navigate through.
Often known as a ‘Sea Buoy,’ a ‘Fairway Buoy,’ or a ‘Mid Channel Buoy’ to many mariners, a Safe Water Marker was originally designed to signify safe water in either direction. When arriving from the sea, it is most commonly used to denote the start of a defined waterway.
They can also be used to identify the best water at each end or along the midline of any waterway. It is customary to keep them on your port hand: however, they can be passed on either side. The desired outcome is that you will always be on the right side of the waterway.
Safe Water Markers are incredibly helpful while navigating large bodies of water, aiding you to remain safe during your journeys.
There is an old saying that is popularly used whilst remembering what a Safe Water Marker is used for, and it may help you too: ‘Red, Right, Returning’. This statement means that the red colored buoys must be kept on the right (starboard) side of the boat when returning.
The Colors And Overall Appearance Of A Safe Water Marker
It is very important to be able to tell the differences between a Safe Water Marker and other forms of buoys found in large bodies of water.
Safe Water Markers will be brightly colored and easily visible, even when viewed from far away distances.
They come in a variety of shapes: a Combination Buoy, a Spherical Buoy, a Spar Buoy, or a Pillar Buoy are the four fundamental designs of the Safe Water mark.
While these four markers will have distinctly differently shaped exteriors, each of the four forms exhibit the same two colors.
A Safe Water Marker should always display vertically placed red and white stripes.
Every form of Safe Water Mark buoy will have a Topmark consisting of a solitary spherical ball, only excluding the Spherical Buoy, which, as I am sure you will have guessed from its name, is already shaped as a sphere. The ball atop the mark is always colored red.
It is important to mentally note and remember that Safe Water Marks will never have numbers engraved on them.
They are, however, frequently labelled with the initials of the river or port with which they are related to in the United States, whilst they are usually left unmarked in many other regions of the world.
These markers are sometimes inscribed and illuminated with additional sound or without, or they can be unlit with or without sound.
Markers with white lights commonly flash messages using Morse code: the rhythms are very important, being used for marking optimal passage points.
The beam’s phase can be Morse code ‘A’ (one brief flash followed by a longer one), Isophase, Long Flash, or Occulting every 10 seconds if illuminated at night or during the darker hours. Only a white light will be visible from the marker.
In the United States, Morse code ‘A’ is widely used, while the other light phases are used almost everywhere else across the world. Depending on where you are in the world, you should remember which form of Morse code will be used so that you will know what to look out for.
Markers with Similar Appearances (Watch Out!)
It is important not to get the Safe Water Markers confused with other types of buoys, as there can be certain types that look somewhat similar.
You will need to become familiar with the general appearance of each of the four forms of a Safe Water Marker so that you will never confuse them for anything else.
A marker that generally gets confused with a Safe Water Marker is a ‘Channel Marker’: these markers show the sides of a navigable channel.
Staying within the markers allows you to avoid sand bars and other hazards. They also illustrate where a channel forks or splits, as well as where it intersects with other channels.
Channel markers can signify the safe side to pass a hazardous area, while also indicating the safe centerline on large bodies of water.
The reason that Safe Water Markers and Channel Markers often get mixed up is most likely due to the bright, red coloring used on both. The most important feature to look out for, in order to be able to distinguish between the two, is the red, vertical lines placed on a white Safe Water Marker.
A floating Channel Marker is often just colored red: no red lines on a white background, or any colored lines, for that matter.
Another buoy that could be mistaken for a Safe Water Marker is a ‘Scuba Diver Surface Marker’, a buoy that will be used to mark an area in which divers are circulating the area below.
This marker is often colored red with a white, horizontal line, making it, visually, slightly more similar to the Safe Water Marker.
You will need to remember that the line on a Safe Water Marker is vertical, not horizontal.
Are Safe Water Markers Enough To Keep You Safe?
Is it enough to simply follow water markers while making your own way through large waterways, relying on them to keep you safe during your travels?
The short and simple answer is ‘no’.
While Safe Water Markers are incredibly useful whilst navigating large bodies of water, you should never solely depend on them to ensure your own safety.
These indicators may assist you in navigating an unfamiliar environment, but at times, they can be unreliable. It is important to have other means of assistance whilst travelling through water, as these markers cannot be used as a strict guide to follow alone.
One factor that may affect a Safe Water Marker’s ability to help you is that, through certain circumstances, they may moved from their original spot, or may have even been damaged, rendering the indicators ineffective.
Examine your graphs and maps after you have reviewed the markers; while using a boat to navigate waters, a GPS navigation system is an absolute must. You can clearly observe items underwater by using certain GPS systems to locate risks and check what each marker is indicating.
Another incredibly important factor that you should consider before taking off on any journey through water is the weather.
Always check the weather forecast before sailing into the open. It is so beneficial to be aware of any disruptions beforehand, such as rough, choppy waters due to particularly heavy winds.
This may be an obvious statement to make, but if a thunderstorm is being reported, stay out of the water until it has cleared up.
Final Thoughts On Safe Water Markers
Every sailor should know what each individual buoy or marker means before setting sail into the water, and this includes Safe Water Markers.
A white water marker with red vertical stripes will indicate that the coast is clear to enter. Most of these buoys will have a red sphere, unless it is already spherically shaped: these visual aids will indicate that there are no rocks or other hazardous risks that could cause your boat to crash.
A Safe Water Marker is just a singular buoyancy marker in an ever-expanding network, meaning that while reading this article will have broadened your knowledge in some ways, you should continue to educate yourself on the other signifiers that are used in the water.
Understanding whether you can pass a buoy on the port or starboard side will help boost your confidence while sailing across large bodies of water.
Spending time to examine the buoyancy system on a regular basis will guarantee that you are always informed of the appropriate actions to take while navigating in your boat. Keep the water, and yourself, safe by remembering the ‘Red, Right, Returning’ mantra.
Good luck, and happy sailing!