Buoys & Markers

The traffic signs of the water, buoys and markers, are important information for the boater. These waterway signs help the boat operator identify danger areas and restricted zones.

Regulatory Markers

Regulatory markers are white with black letters and have orange, warning borders in different shapes.

Types of Regulatory Markers 









Restricted Area


Danger Area

Crossed Diamonds:

Prohibited Area

Mooring Buoys

 Mooring buoys are white with a blue horizontal band and can be anchored to in public waters. It is unlawful to moor, anchor or attach any boat to other buoys, beacons, light marker, stake, flag or other marker used as a navigational aids.

Lateral Markers

Lateral markers indicate the sides of channels. Safe passage can be found between pairs of green and red buoys.

buoy_green_2003.gif buoy_red_2003.gif

Green colors and lights should be on your right (starboard)side when traveling toward open waters

Red colors and lights should be on your right (starboard) side when traveling toward the channel. Remember: "Red-Right-Returning"

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buoy_redwhite_nh.gif Red and White vertically striped buoy markers, some topped with a white light or red top mark, indicate mid-channels or fairways. These markers may be passed on either side as long as other, safe navigation rules are followed.
buoy_redgreen_2003.gif Red and Green buoys and lights indicate primary channels. If the green horizontal band is on top, the primary channel is the right (starboard). If the red band is on the top, the primary channel is to the left (port) side. This marker indicates the primary channel is on the starboard.
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Shapes of buoys, numbers and letters play key roles in the lateral system. Generally, green port side buoys in the main and secondary channels are "can" or square-shaped markers and odd-numbered. Red starboard side buoys in these channels are "nun" or triangular-shaped markers and even-numbered.


Other Markers

buoy_obstructionmark_2003.gif Inland waters obstruction markers are white with black stripes. You should not pass between these buoys and the shore.

Navigational markers also may be black and/or white, red and/or white, numbered or lettered, indicating locally-placed or outdated navigational systems.

Yellow buoys indicate special markings such as traffic separations, international boundaries, anchorage areas, dredging, fish net area, etc.

Images courtesy Boat Ed, Inc. and used by permission.