For the new boater, looking at a paper chart or chart plotter for the first time and matching it up with what you see on the water can be a humbling experience. Without a chart, just knowing what those navaids mean can be confusing. Listed below are three basic Day Marks. Day marks are on pilings stuck in the mud, and are used in shallow water. These navigational aids are universal throughout North and South America. For Europe, and other parts of the world, you will find that the colors and how you pass the marks will be reversed.
Lateral Buoyage System
Red and green day marks are part of the Lateral Buoyage System. That means their function is to tell the boater where the lateral edge of the channel is. These marks are the only marks that are numbered. So, when you see a number on a mark, match that number up with your charting tools to know exactly where you are. The numbers should increase as you move up the channel, and decrease heading out towards open water. If you find that the numbers are not increasing or decreasing in order, don’t panic. Stop the boat and retrace your course. Chances are you followed a red or green day mark for another channel. Always check your number sequence.
Red Day Mark
Red Right Returning is the way to remember this mark. Pass it on your right – starboard — side heading from open water into a harbor or river. These marks are a red triangle, with even numbers, and the numbers increase numerically as you follow the channel to your upstream destination. “2”-“4”-“6”-“8”. “2” will be the first red day mark going into a channel.
Green Day Mark
Green Day Marks indicate the other side of the channel. Keep them on your left – port – side going upstream. They are always green, square, and have odd numbers, starting with “1”, and increasing going upstream, or from open water into a harbor or channel. “1”-“3”-“5”-“7”. “1” will be the first mark you will encounter heading into a channel.
Preferred Channel Marker
As you head towards your destination, you’ll arrive at a split in the waterway. In the middle, you’ll see a mark with no number — but possibly with letters — that can’t seem to make up its mind whether it’s red or green. No worries. It’s called a Preferred Channel Marker, and it’s giving you a choice of which way to go. On this marker, the green band on top indicates that the preferable waterway is to starboard, leaving this mark to port. You could also take the other waterway, but it is not as Preferred. In this case, “SC” stands for Sunset Creek, the non-preferred channel. To go to Sunset Creek, leave this mark to starboard. To take the preferred channel, leave this mark to port. Either color band, red or green, might be on top. Honor the mark based on the band color on top.
Plan Your Boat Outing Ahead of Time
Before you head out on your water adventure, review the chart for your boat outing so you will have an idea of what you’ll be seeing. Check the weather report, and let someone know where you are going, and when you’ll be back.
These are the most basic navigational aids you might see on the water. As you gain more experience, even on your local waters, you’ll realize there is much more to learn about navigation. The safe boater will know about a lot more than lateral and preferred marks.
Having said that, red and green day marks, and preferred channel markers are a good place to start. Stay tuned to GetMyBoat and “Starboard Thoughts” for more posts about fun and safe boating.