Lateral Marks

Remember that, when navigating in and around harbours, Lateral Marks are coloured as if you are approaching from the sea. That is, when entering port, you keep the port-hand marks on the port side of your vessel. When proceeding to seaward, you therefore leave them to starboard. This is known as the “Local Direction of Buoyage”. Sometimes they are used in pairs to mark each side of a channel, but often they appear as a single buoy. 

Click on the Port mark below to see it flash    Click on the Starboard Mark below to see it flash


The other method of positioning buoys is known as the “General Direction of Buoyage”, which operates when you are sailing around a coastline. It is based on the principle that all vessels follow a clockwise direction around the land mass. A continent is a large land mass, and it takes precedence over off-lying islands. Therefore islands may have a General Direction of Buoyage going anticlockwise to conform with the continental concept. The direction of buoyage is shown on Admiralty charts by magenta arrow symbols.

Port and starboard lateral marks use any light rhythm except (2 + 1) which is used for preferred channel marks. As mentioned previously, port hand lateral marks carry can-shaped topmarks. The starboard hand buoys carry conical topmarks. The spherical shape is reserved for “Safe Water Marks”.

Think of the Preferred Channel mark as having a single colour with a horizontal stripe through the middle. Thus a red (can) buoy with a green stripe in the centre is a port hand buoy which, as always, indicates that the channel is to starboard. The green stripe means that there is another, lesser, channel to port. So the main (preferred) channel is to starboard. As always with lateral buoys, this applies when entering port from seaward, or when following the General Direction of Buoyage. If proceeding in the opposite direction, the “preferred channel” would be to port. The retro-reflectors for Preferred Channel Marks are coloured for the main channel.

A preferred channel mark (as depicted in Figure 3) applies when there is a main and secondary channel. If two channels are of equal importance, cardinal marks are used 

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