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Buoys are floating objects moored to the bottom and used for mooring, or to mark a channel or navigational hazard. Only mooring buoys may be used for mooring. Mooring to a navigation buoy or other aid to navigation or regulatory marker is an infraction of state regulations.

The prototype Large Navigation Buoy was built in 1967 primarily as an aid to marine navigation, providing visual, audio, and electronic navigation services to shipping. As a secondary function, it is intended to serve also as an automatic oceanographic and meteorological data collection and telemetering platform. The large navigation buoy was placed on station in July 1967 off Sandy Hook, NJ. The buoy had been in continuous service since then except during periods of refueling and equipment additions. This inspection and report was requested by US Coast Guard Headquarters to determine the cause of certain problems associated with the energy conversion system on the buoy.

From 1989 through 1994 the Boston Approach B buoy was a large 40-foot discus buoy capable of supporting oceanographic instrumentation. In 1994, the 10-m Large Navigation Buoy (LNB) was discontinued and replaced with a smaller buoy that would not support deployment of such instrumentation.

Aids to Navigation

The waters of the United States are marked for safe navigation a system of buoyage. Buoys are anchored in the water and mark the channel limit and channel junctions, identify boating hazards, or provide other information. Aids to navigation used in the lateral system indicate to a vessel operator the preferred direction of travel for safe passage principally by defining the port or left-hand side and the starboard or right-hand side of a route to be followed. Buoys used in the cardinal system indicate to a vessel operator the preferred direction of travel for safe passage through distinct colors which have meaning in relation to the cardinal points of the compass, north, east, south, and west.

The system employs a simple arrangement of colors, shapes, numbers, and light characteristics to show the side on which a buoy should be passed when proceeding in a given direction. The characteristics are determined by the position of the buoy with respect to the navigable channels as the channels are entered from seaward.

The expression "red right returning" has long been used by the seafarer as a reminder that the red buoys are kept to the starboard (right) side when proceeding from the open sea into port (upstream). Likewise, green buoys are kept to the port (left) side. Conversely, when proceeding toward the sea or leaving port, red buoys are kept to port side and green buoys to the starboard side. Red buoys are always even numbered. Green buoys are odd numbered. Red and white vertically striped buoys mark the center of the channel.

On a well-defined channel including a river or other relatively narrow natural or improved waterway, an aid to navigation shall normally be a solid colored buoy. A buoy which marks the left side of the channel viewed looking upstream or toward the head of navigation shall be colored all black. A buoy which marks the right side of the channel viewed looking upstream or toward the head of navigation shall be colored all red. On a well defined channel, solid colored buoys shall be established in pairs, one on each side of the navigable channel which they mark, and opposite each other to inform the user that the channel lies between the buoys and that he or she should pass between the buoys.

On an irregularly defined channel, solid colored buoys may be used singly in staggered fashion on alternate sides of the channel provided they are spaced at sufficiently close intervals to inform the user that the channel lies between the buoys and that he or she should pass between the buoys.

Where there is no well-defined channel, or when a body of water is obstructed by objects whose nature or location is such that the obstruction can be approached by a vessel from more than one direction, supplemental aids to navigation having cardinal meaning may be used. The use of aids to navigation having cardinal meaning is discretionary provided that they are not used on waters considered navigable by the United States Coast Guard Commandant unless specifically permitted by the United States Coast Guard.

Most waterways used by boaters are located entirely within the boundaries of a state. Thus, the California Uniform State Waterway Marking System has been devised for the state's waters. The waterway marking system employs buoys and signs with distinctive standard shapes to show regulatory or advisory information. These markers are white with black letters and have orange borders. They signify speed zones, restricted areas, danger areas, and general information. Aids to navigation on state waters use red and green buoys to mark channel limits. Red and green buoys are generally used in pairs. The boat should pass between the red buoy and its companion green buoy.

Navigation lights flash red or green according to which bank they are located on. The old saying "red right returning" is a good way to remember that red lights, as well as buoys, are located on your right as you are returning upstream. By traveling in a straight line from one navigation light to the next, boaters can safely navigate the length of the river.

Daymarks and daybeacons serve the same purpose. Daymarks are located directly below navigation lights on the same structure. Daybeacons stand alone. On secondary channels, daybeacons are white because they do not designate left or right bank. They are used to indicate a clear channel line between two points.

Fingerboards are directional signs used in place of buoys to mark secondary channels where the water isn't deep enough for buoys and anchors.

Mooring Buoys

Mooring buoys are distinguished by the addition of a fitting to receive a ship's mooring chain or hawser. A mooring buoy typically consists of an anchor, a tether and a float marking the location of the anchoring system. Mooring buoys placed on state-owned aquatic lands include single buoys associated with a private residence, commercial buoys used for barge moorage, and buoy fields for temporary moorage near marinas, harbors and parks. Private buoys have become increasingly common due to a shortage of available moorage for recreational boaters.

There are four principal types of mooring buoys and anchoring mechanisms - mid-line float, all-rope, rope-to-chain, and all-chain designs, with the mid-line float and all-rope designs generally considered less destructive to aquatic habitats and organisms. The mid-line float design employs a floatation device between the anchor and buoy that prevents the anchor line from dragging on the bottom and negatively effecting aquatic habitats, although variants using additional weight and chains may increase the potential for drag effects. The all-rope design uses high-strength, buoyant nylon rope to connect the buoy to the anchor and prevent scour. Importantly, as moorage structures age they are more likely to fail. With mooring buoys this failure is typically in the rope or chain that connects the float to the anchor.

The rope to chain design adds a length of chain, negating the rope's buoyancy, with Betcher and Williams (1996) reporting that 86 percent of the mooring buoys using this design showing some level of disruption to marine vegetation as a result of the chain scour. The all-chain design uses a chain to connect the buoy with the anchor and the lack of floats allows the chain to scour the bottom. One study found that 93 percent of the mooring buoys using this design showed disruption to the marine vegetation and benthic habitats.

Commercial buoys are typically used for temporary moorage of a vessel that is awaiting transit, or loading or offloading. Often these vessels are barges. Recreational buoys are used as semi-permanent moorage for recreational vessels. The size of these vessels are typically between 4 and 12 meters in length, with smaller vessels moored on private tidelands or on shore and larger vessels moored in marinas.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:59:24 ZULU