Being on a boat can seem like being in another world. All the different words, left isn’t left on the water it is port, and right is now starboard. There is a lot to learn and remember when you’re a boater. Aside from learning the lingo, you need to know all the different symbols out on the water. Many of these navigation buoys do not display words, just colors and shapes, so you need to study up and learn them. Here are a few common navigation buoys and what they mean to you.

(US army corps of engineers)

Diamond Shape

This shape alerts boaters to upcoming hazards. Some will have words in them indicating the danger ahead such as rocks.


A circle will indicate restricted operations in a certain stretch of water. This can include restricted speeds or no wake zones.

Diamond with a Cross

Be careful with this one. It means the area is prohibited for boats. This can be a swimming area or just a place boaters that are not allowed.


Squares provide helpful information. They can indicate a dock or gas station, boat ramps, directions, distances, and locations.

Mooring Buoys

These are not navigation aids, but they are worth knowing about. They are usually sphere or cylinder shaped in white with a blue horizontal band. These buoys are for mooring, though they usually are privately owned so you will need permission to use them.

Large Yellow Buoys

These special aids indicate special areas or features. These include fishnet areas, cables, pipelines, jetties, military areas, and anchoring. They come in a variety of shapes and may have a black letter on them.

Green Buoys

These are very common to see. They will indicate the left side of the channel when returning from the open sea.

Red Buoys
Similar to the green buoys (you will see them together), they indicate the right side of the channel when returning from the open sea. Just remember “red, right,return”.

Red and White Vertical Stripes
A buoy with red and white vertical stripes marks danger. It means you should not pass between the shore and that buoy. This is important to protect those swimming near shore and prevent you from running aground in shallow waters.

1809 Rochester Industrial Dr, Rochester Hills, MI 48309, USA


1809 Rochester Industrial Drive, Rochester Hills, MI 48309

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