navigational marks

navigation marks are supposed to stop this sort of thing!

It is rare that model railways show sufficient navigable water to include many navigational marks. Sadly, all too often though, when modelled, they are often wrong. This is a brief round-up of the rules. For further information, go to my website Yachting Life where it is explained to a level of utter tedium!

Needless to say, there is no world wide standardisation, largely because the Americans must have had a dyslexic administrator. I shall describe what happens in most of the world. For the Americas, just reverse everything (red goes green, green goes red).

small creeks

One of the oldest ways to mark a channel in a creek is by 'withy'. These are just willow branches stuck into the mud. They can still be found in places like the Blackwater Estuary in Essex.

On larger channels, the marks may be made using more substantial poles (beacons)

a modern starboard beacon

rivers and estuaries (lateral system)

In Europe, port (red - can) and starboard (green - conical) are laid in the direction of the tide when it comes in.

Floating buoys were usually made of riveted iron but are now welded structures. They are anchored into position by chain and anchor/weight. Sufficient 'scope' (length of chain) is provided to allow for the rise and fall of the tides. There is no standard method of construction. Some may have a counter balance weight below and some are just oversized biscuit tins.

A bit further out to sea, may may have most interesting lattice structures. These would normally never be seen 'in situ' but may be modelled when recovered for maintenance and painting. Inshore, the buoys may not be lit, but once in busy channels, lighting is provided and each buoy flashes in a distinctive way, allowing them to be identified at night. They may also be provided with a bell, which is contained within the lattice structure.

a port lateral buoy

a middle ground buoy (marking a sandbank) from the East UK coast (contains a bell)

a starboard lateral buoy

cardinal system

Since the war, a new system has also been brought into use. The old lateral system is still used for much of inshore navigation though. These mark a danger and the striping and top shape denotes where the danger is. This system is universal.

Modern buoyage is provided with a radar reflector which is very distinctive.

The entrance to harbours is also marked with either beacons or light towers. Again, in Europe, the left would be port (red) and the right starboard (green)

Glenthorne port channel marker No 3 out for maintenance. The buoy is tipped in that way because the lower body is ballasted. The green Ulva algae on the waterline bleaches to a grey green very quickly when removed from water