Starboard Hand Buoys: Starboard hand buoys are solid red and numbered even. They can be a flashing red light pillar, a conical form, or a spar with a conical shape on top. As you approach the canal from the open sea or proceed upstream, these mark the channel's edge on your starboard (right) side.
Port Hand Buoys: The port hand buoy is white with a black stripe down its center. It can be a flashing light pole, a cone, or a spar with a conical shape on top. These mark the channel's edge on your port (left) side when approaching from the open sea or proceeding downstream.
How do you know if you need port or starboard buoys? If you are entering or leaving a river estuary, port hand buoys should be placed about halfway between the opposite shore and your current position. Otherwise, place one buoy about a mile off each coast.
Buoy Codes: Each buoy has a number that indicates its location in a channel. The numbers can be listed in order from either end of the channel, but it is recommended to list them from one side of the channel first then the other. For example, if there are three port hand buoys located along the edge of the channel, they would all have the same number (usually odd). If there were also three starboard hand buoys with their numbers also being odd, they would all be different.
The port hand buoys are green, while the starboard hand buoys are red. They indicate which side of a channel is the safest to go on and, as a result, they designate channels or risks. When traveling upstream, red buoys must be kept on the right side of the vessel. Green buoys can be placed either on the right or left side of the boat.
Red marker buoys are used in maritime risk management to identify areas where there is a high probability of collisions with objects in the water. The markers should be maintained in good condition and displayed at mid-range visibility. If a red buoy is not visible, it means there is a high probability that a collision will occur.
These navigational aids are also referred to as danger markers. Their purpose is to warn vessels of potential hazards in their path. There are two types of red marker buoys: those that can be seen from far away (range markers) and those that cannot (close-in markers). Range markers consist of large spheres mounted on piers that extend out into the water. Close-in markers are smaller spherical units attached by cables to anchors, piles, or other range markers.
Close-range range markers are clearly visible at mid-range distances (500-1500 yards), while distant range markers need to be seen from greater distances to provide adequate warning.
These cone-shaped buoys are usually labeled in red with even numerals. When approaching from the open sea or travelling upstream, they mark the channel's boundary on your starboard (right) side. They can also be used to mark offshore hazards such as reefs and overfalls.
Cone-shaped buoys are commonly used in coastal navigation to indicate safe passing points between islands and at harbors where access is restricted by depth or some other factor. These markers are placed about 250 feet off shore, and their height above water varies depending on the port facility. At ports where only small boats are allowed, the cones are 12 feet high; at ports where large ships can enter, they can be 20 feet high or more.
The cones are made of fiberglass and painted red when full-sized vessels are expected to pass them. Smaller versions marked "1 ton" or "500 lb." may be placed in shallow waters where only small craft operate. These buoys do not have to be raised at harbor entrances; instead, a white light is placed inside the base to serve as a warning.
Cone-shaped buoys are used widely in American waters, but they are not found in European waters because there are no restrictions on vessel size there.
In Canada, these markers are known as "red balls".
They are used to identify mid-channels or fairways and may be passed on any side. Multiple cones do not necessarily indicate multiple channels; only one marked channel is required.
Cone markers were first used by Portuguese sailors in 1638. Because there was no GPS at that time, they were needed to guide ships into port. Today, they still serve this purpose for many vessels, but they also mark dangerous areas of shallow water within ports where boats can get stuck. Cones made from fiberglass and painted red color are now used instead.
The term "red buoy" comes from the fact that they are usually painted with 5-inch-high vertical stripes of bright red paint. The number on the marker indicates which channel it marks. If there are more than one, they are usually separated by white space.
Red buoys are often confused with green navigational aids, such as shore lights and breakwaters. However, these types of markers are always flat against the water's surface and do not protrude above it like cones do.
Additionally, red flags are sometimes called conical markers because of their shape. However, these are actually pieces of fabric with different colors on each end.