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BUOYS and marine traffic rules Many kayakers are attracted onto the water because of the freedom it offers away from the traffic clogged dry land, but in order to keep life on the water safe and free, there are nevertheless some ‘rules of the road’ that need to be observed . Observing marine protocol includes understanding buoys, sound signals and the driving rules that apply when passing other vessels or travelling under the cover of darkness. Depending on where you are in the world, there’s a different set of rules to follow, These are ageed upon by IALA .The IALA buoyage system is split into 2 regions A and B. Region B is mostly areas of the world with American influence, Region A is mostly countries with United kingdom influence which we will concentrate on here . For information on IALA check International Association of Lighthouse Authorities.


Buoys Buoys are the road signs of the sea, directing water users along the safest course, around the threats of rocks, shoals and wrecks. There are four main buoy types –
Lateral markers
Cardinal markers,
Isolated /Danger buoys
 Safe water buoys.


LATERAL BUOYS Lateral markers are sea buoys used in maritime navigation to indicate the edge of a designated roadway-like channel for vessels. When entering a harbour or river mouth, lateral buoy markers are used to map out a safe route through the water. Lateral buoys indicate port (left hand side) and starboard (right hand side).  The port marker is coloured red, and the starboard marker is green. Upon entry the red can-shaped port buoys should remain on a driver’s left-hand side, whilst the green starboard buoys should be on the right. Upon exit this rule is naturally reversed. They mark safe passage into harbours and on the Solent also mark the commercial shipping channels.
    SAFETY FIRST! Keep clear of commercial shipping and large vessels such as ferries, it makes sense to wait for them to pass, they are bigger than us and more than likely unaware that kayaks are in their path...also they may be going faster than they appear!

    CARDINAL MARKS Cardinal marks are based on the points of a compass.  They indicate to water users that there is a danger (rocks, sandbar, shipwreck etc) and which way to navigate safely round it. For example, the North cardinal marker indicates, "There is danger south of me, stay on my north side!"Cardinal marks are recognizable by the 2 black cones at the top and are coloured black and yellow.     North Cardinal Cones point up, buoy coloured black above yellow.   West Cardinal Cones point towards each other, buoy is yellow with black band.     DANGER! East Cardinal Cones point away from each other and make an "E" shape, buoy is black with yellow band.   South Cardinal Cones point down, buoy coloured yellow above black.     HAZARD BUOYS ‘Dennis the Menace’ buoys are so-named because of their red and black striped design, which is used to indicate isolated danger.     SAFE WATER BUOYS Conversely the red and white striped safe water buoy is used to indicate that the surrounding water is safely navigable.    Rights of Passage and Sound Signals The one key rule of the waterways that everybody should know is that when two boats meet head-on on the water the traditional method of avoiding collision is for both vessels to pass port to port by altering their course to starboard, the right of the driver.  

Concessions for Small and Large Vessels Concessionary measures and alternative rules apply to non-motorised craft such as sailboats or kayaks. The main practice is that such vessels have the right of way over powerboats because they might have a much harder time changing course abruptly. It is also good manners to motorised vessels to slow down when passing small yachts and rowboats to avoid upsetting them with a strong wake.

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