What Should You Do if You See a Buoy With Red and White Vertical Stripes After Entering a Harbor?

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

Boatgroot is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Buoyage or Bouy is a navigational system that aids in marking waterways, navigable channels, and potential hazards in water bodies, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Buoyage helps boaters and mariners dictate the way, navigate safely through troubles, and stay on the correct course.

Buoyages feature color-coded, numbered, or otherwise marked to convey specific information about the waterway to mariners. Today we are talking about a buoy with red and white vertical stripes.

In this article, I will talk about buoyage and how they are crucial in ensuring safe navigation in waterways. I will also explain the meaning of the buoy with red and white vertical stripes and what must be done when encountering one. 


What Is Buoy?

The buoyage system is enforced by local or national authorities to ensure safe travel through waterways. These safety measures can vary depending on your location. However, in most countries, the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) buoyage system is being followed.

This buoyage system is further categorized into two parts:

Region A – Red buoys are used to mark the port (left) side of the channel when returning from sea, while green buoys mark the starboard (right) side.

Region B – This is mainly used in North America. In this system, green buoys mark the port side, and red buoys mark the starboard side. 


Buoy With Red and White Vertical Stripes

A red and white vertically striped buoy marks the entrance to a harbor or other protected waters. As a mariner, this is the first buoy you will encounter when entering a port. The buoy is painted red and white in vertical stripes and may also feature a white light on top. 

A navigational buoy displaying vertical red and white stripes is known as an Inland Waters Obstruction Marker. It is used to indicate a potential danger in the waterway and serves as a warning to boaters. 

The presence of this buoy suggests that passing between the shore and the buoy is prohibited, and it is crucial to adhere to this warning to ensure the safety of both swimmers and the vessel itself. Additionally, avoiding such obstructions prevents the risk of running aground in shallow waters.


What Should You Do When You See a Red and White Vertically Striped Buoy?

When you encounter a red and white vertically striped buoy, you must take the following actions to ensure your vessel’s and surroundings’ safety:

1. Slow Down

After locating the vertically striped buoy, the first step is to slow down immediately. Not only will it ensure the craft’s safety, but also give you more time to assess the situation and think about the appropriate action to take. 

2. Inspect the Charts and Follow the Channel

After identifying the red and white buoy with vertical stripes, it is essential to consult your charts to confirm that you are navigating in the correct channel. It is also important to pay attention to the water depth to ensure your vessel has enough clearance. 

You should also keep a lookout for any obstructions or hazardous situations in the waterway before continuing to follow the channel. The red and white buoy with vertical stripes is typically positioned on the left side of the channel, indicating that you must stay on the right side of the buoy to avoid any potential hazards.

3. Pay Attention to Other Buoys

Another essential measure is to keep an eye out for other buoys in the water. These buoys can provide valuable information about the channel, speed limits, and potential dangers. 

If you come across any buoys, it is critical to note their location and characteristics to take appropriate action.

4. Keep Looking for Other Vessels

Always stay vigilant of other vessels and maintain a safe distance from them. Utilize your navigational tools to locate other boats and assess their speed, direction, and position to prevent collisions. 

If a vessel appears too close, carefully look for signals, hand gestures, and lights from other boats to ensure that you follow the correct passage and avoid any hazardous situations.

5. Maintain Safe Speed

To navigate safely in a harbor, it is essential to maintain a safe speed. First, carefully check the buoys to determine if there is a recommended speed limit. If information is not provided, you should determine the recommended speed for your vessel in hazardous situations.

Before venturing on your journey, it’s important to contact local authorities to know the safe speed of the location. This will help you to determine the recommended speed for your vessel in the area. If you don’t know the recommended speed, use your judgment to maintain a pace that allows you to navigate safely and avoid potential hazards.

Please refer to this video to learn more about different buoyages and their meaning and appropriate actions when encountering one:


Ensure Your Safety

Take the following steps to have safe navigation through the harbor:

  • Always obey posted speed limits and no-wake zones to avoid collisions with other boats and damage to structures or vessels in the harbor.
  • Look for other boats, especially smaller ones, as they may be challenging to locate. Be cautious when entering or exiting the harbor, and keep an eye out for ferries, tugboats, and other commercial vessels.
  • Use your VHF radio to monitor traffic and communicate with other boats and the harbormaster at regular intervals.
  • Use channel 16 to make a distress call if you need assistance or have an emergency.
  • Keep a safe distance from buoys, piers, and other fixed objects. Contact local authorities to find out the recommended safe speed in that location.
  • Assign the observation job to one of the crew members. This person will constantly monitor other boats, hazards, signals, and potential safety risks.
  • Before starting your journey, assess the weather conditions thoroughly.
  • Also, check out the rain possibility, tide intensity, and direction, as these factors can affect your boat’s maneuverability. Make sure you are well-equipped to face such conditions.
  • Be especially careful when navigating shallow or narrow channels.
  • Keep your navigation lights on at all times, especially in low-light conditions. This will increase your visibility; other boats can locate you and navigate accordingly.
  • If you are new to the harbor area, obtain a harbor chart or map to identify a safe navigation route. Alternatively, you can also use modern navigational tools such as GPS to assist you in navigating safely.
  • Make sure you are aware of the rules and regulations of the harbor. Follow them strictly to ensure your safety and protect yourself from legal trouble or penalties. 



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here