Getting to grips with boating and sailing is an exciting journey, but one which can get a little confusing at times – especially when we consider the wide range of systems and symbols which are crucial for helping us to stay safe on the water.
Non-lateral markers are an area which many aspiring maritime workers struggle with, but they are easy to pick up in just a few short steps. Looking to learn more about markers, or just wondering what on earth they all mean? Then read on for everything you need to know.
What Are Markers?
Before we take a closer look at non-lateral markers, it is worth gaining an overview of markers in general – these are an important element to boating. The basic purpose of markers is to help keep boaters and water users safe and to aid navigation.
When it comes to the latter, there are two main types of marker: buoys and beacons. Both use shape, sound, color, or light to provide important navigational information.
Buoys are a common sight across rivers and coastlines, and these are aids that are designed to be moored to the bottom of the body of water, such as the sea or river bed while floating on top of the water so that they can be clearly seen.
Some will have lights attached, improving visibility, and there are two main types of buoy.
Those with conical tops and cylindrical bodies are known as “nuns”, while those with flat tops and cylindrical bodies are referred to as “cans”.
While a buoy can be moved as and when needed, beacons are fixed, and remain in one permanent spot – usually the bottom or bed of the water that they are placed in.
Beacons with lights attached are simply referred to as “lights” – that one is easy to remember – while those without are referred to as “dayboards”. Different types of buoys and beacons offer different functions and are designed to provide different services to boaters.
Lateral And Non Lateral Markers
In addition to learning the different types of markers, it is also useful to understand the differences between lateral and non-lateral markers. In the simplest terms, lateral markers are used to mark out and indicate the edges of a boundary in channels and different waterways.
They are typically used in a group or pairs, and you can usually identify them by their clear, defined purpose and positioning in a body of water.
Non-lateral markers tend to be a little tricker, as there are a number of different meanings, purposes, and functions, and these tend to be placed pretty much anywhere in the water, rather than in a predetermined pattern or specific, identifiable group.
They are extremely important, as they are typically used to help report and convey information about potential hazards and dangers in the area, and the issues that you can expect to encounter during your trip.
Learning to identify the information and meaning of different non-lateral markers is absolutely vital and, in many cases, could even save your life.
In the majority of cases, non-lateral markers will be set out and displayed on buoys, as this allows them to be moved around from place to place more easily.
Often, non-lateral markers will be white, and bear orange markings alongside black letters, which refers more specifically to the issue that the marker is trying to warn you about.
This could be a warning about the type of terrain you should expect up ahead, or informing you about a change in speed limits or restrictions.
As we have mentioned, getting to grips with the different types of markers is an important task, and we have compiled a list of the most important markers to recognize and identify – once you know them, you will be able to spot them a mile off!
As the name suggests, the purpose of information markers is to alert water users and boaters to specific, important information.
They can be identified by their orange bands and squares on a white body, as well as black text in the middle of the square to offer more information on the information that you need to absorb and observe.
Always make sure that you take the time to read and understand the information, and act on any advice or warnings.
The main purposes of control markers are to inform boaters about specific restrictions that have been placed on certain areas of the water, such as limitations on the wake that can be produced by specific vessels, restrictions on activities that can take place in that area, or warnings about the restrictions on speed that may currently be in place.
Control markers can be identified by an orange circle and black lettering, conveying the message, on a white background. There will also be two orange bands above and below the central circle.
Hazard markers are another important non-lateral marker to pay close attention to – these are in place to warn you about dangers that may be present in the area you are entering.
This may include a potentially hazardous object below the surface, such as a shipwreck, debris or rocks, or a potential danger that may be in the water. When you spot a hazard marker, it is safer to treat the entire area as a potential danger, rather than just the spot that the marker is in.
You can identify a hazard marker thanks to the bright orange diamond, black lettering, and white background. The word “Danger” will also be printed inside the diamond shape.
As the name suggests, a keep-out marker means that you should not be entering a certain space, and indicating that the area is off-limits to boats and vessels. You will see a white body, with an orange diamond and horizontal bands at the top and bottom.
There will also be a large cross shape in the diamond, and this will be above working to offer you more information, usually about the type of area that you will encounter – one of the most common options is a swimming area, followed by a dam.
Safe Water Marker
If you see a white marker with red vertical stripes, rather than the standard orange, it can be tempting to assume that danger is close by – after all, this is a color that we associate with “stop” and “go back” in our daily lives.
Somewhat confusingly, however, the opposite is the case when it comes to non-lateral markers.
If you see one of these buoys bobbing about in the water, it means that this area, and the water surrounding it, are all perfectly safe for boats and that there are no restrictions, dangers, or concerns present.
You will most commonly see these in the center of dedicated channels or waterways, and the boundary of the area will be set out by lateral markers.
If safe water markers are designed to tell you that everything is ok, obstruction markers play the opposite role.
Seeing black stripes on a white background means that there are some obstructions, such as shallow water, rocks, debris, or animals, located in between the shore and the spot that the marker has been placed.
This means that you run the risk of your boat running aground, or being involved in a collision.
Whenever you see an obstruction marker, be sensible – add the extra time to your journey, and go around the area as widely as possible. There is no point in taking unnecessary risks, so just be prepared for a detour.
If you see a marker that is entirely white in color, this is an indication that the area marked out is reserved for swimming only – water vessels are not permitted to be in this area.
In some cases, you may encounter a keep-out marker initially, informing you that the area ahead is off-limits, and then white swimming markers may be used to designate the specific area that has been reserved for swimmers.
Mooring buoys or markers are one of the most common non-lateral markers you will see, and these tend to be white, with either blue or yellow bands.
This tells you that the area ahead has been reserved for mooring, allowing larger vessels to slow down and stop before they run aground. Mooring markers also help to reduce the use of anchors, which can cause serious damage to sea beds, coral reefs, and local wildlife.
It can seem as though there is a lot to get your head around, but non-lateral markers are a topic that you will soon get the hang of with a little practice, study, and research.
Understanding the purpose of markers, and being able to identify the different types of markers and what they are trying to indicate is absolutely crucial, and you should have this information to hand before you climb on board your craft.
This is one of the first steps in water safety, and should be a number one priority for anyone who is planning to hit the high seas – or the smaller lakes and rivers!