How Are Nun Buoys Marked?

How Are Nun Buoys Marked?

The oceans of our world are famously untamable, but we humans do our best to provide some sort of structure to keep mariners safe, and one of the ways we do so is the use of buoys.

These handy floating objects are stationed at crucial points in the water in order to guide people or warn us of something. As there are a number of different dangers out there in the sea, it’s essential that the buoys we use communicate something specific about their location.

They are, in a sense, the language of the ocean, each colored, marked, shaped, and named differently, and today, we’ll be discussing “nun buoys”, covering topics such as their markings, shape, and, of course, what they mean.

What Color Are Nun Buoys?

Nun buoys – no matter where you are in the world – will always be red and easily observable from distance, even in poor weather conditions. And if the waters are used after dark, they should be fitted with a steady or blinking red light.

Why are nun buoys painted red? Well, it’s a matter of alliteration, making navigating the water easier for novice mariners, but we’ll get into the meaning of nun buoys in a moment.

How Are Nun Buoys Marked?

Nun buoys aren’t simply painted one block color; they’re also marked with numbers — even numbers to be precise. No other buoys in the nun buoy’s “jurisdiction” will use even numbers.

This way, mariners-in-training cannot mistake the meanings of the buoys they come across on the water. The question now is, what do the numbers mean?

What Do The Numbers On Nun Buoys Mean?

There are a number of ways regulating authorities could have applied numbers to buoys. For instance, it could be done by zone or location, with all buoys in the area sharing the same number, or the numbers applied could correspond to a unit of distance.

The latter is almost true, meaning each nun buoy in sequence has a different even number, and although said number does communicate spatial information, they’re not tied to any one unit of measurement.

Rather, it’s a more general numerical system. The higher the number on the buoy, the closer you are to a harbor. Conversely, the lower the number on the buoy, the closer you are to open water. A good way to remember this is to use rhyme — High means dry/Low means H2O.

How Are Nun Buoys Shaped?

How Are Nun Buoys Shaped?

Nun buoys work in conjunction with can buoys. To further distinguish them from one another, not only do they have their own colors and markings (can buoys are green and marked with odd numbers), they have distinct forms as well.

Can buoys are shaped exactly how you’d imagine… like cans. They’re cylindrical objects from top to bottom. Nun buoys, on the other hand, taper at the top and bottom, forming a profile similar to that of a nun’s habit, hence the name.

Nun buoys of old were literally just too tapering cones welded together at the base, but these days, the cones are more likely to be joined by a cylindrical bridging section.

What Do Nun Buoys Mean?

There are tons of things to learn before you can take to the seas with confidence on a boat, and it can all seem a little overwhelming, but the nun buoy/can buoy situation is incredibly easy to glean and remember.

Nun buoys mark out the starboard side of the channel as you approach inland. For the uninitiated, starboard means your right-hand side. So, if you’re charting a course for the harbor, when you look over the right-hand side of your vessel, you should see nun buoys — Simple, right?

Of course, if you’re heading in the opposite direction, hoping to eventually reach open water, you’ll want to see nun buoys on your port side, or for the uninitiated, your left-hand side.

If you’re returning to harbor but you’re too far over to the left side of the channel and can’t make out any nun buoys, you can always rely on the green can buoys being to your left, indicating that you’re headed in the right general direction.

Okay, But What Does The Color Red Have To Do With This?

As mentioned earlier, red was chosen for nun buoys for a reason. Not only is it highly visible against the blue wash of the ocean, but it also forms the alliterative “red, right, return” fail-safe navigation motto.

Most navigation is handled electronically these days, but if you’re in an older boat or the electronics are on the fritz, you can always rely on this triple R rule to get you back to the harbor safely.

Without this basic understanding of buoys, you might think you’re heading for land but actually be getting closer and closer to open water.

Can You Moor At A Nun Buoy?

Although nun buoys feature a loop at the zenith of their cones, mariners are not permitted to use it to moor their vessels. The only buoy you can use to moor is known as a mooring buoy.

These markers can be either can or ball-shaped, but they’re always distinguishable via a horizontal blue band above the water line.

If a buoy doesn’t have a horizontal blue band, it’s meant as a guidance marker exclusively, and you will have to press on until you reach a mooring buoy or indeed arrive at the harbor.

Final Thoughts

There you have it — Nun buoys are red and are marked with even numbers that indicate your position on the stretch of water that separates harbor from open ocean.

As these buoys are such essential markers for safe returns, the “red, right, return” motto is typically the very first thing that novice sailors learn, and now that you know the score, you’re officially on your way to mastering the seas.

There are, however, lots more buoys and markers to familiarize yourself with before you take your maiden voyage, so keep your nose to the grindstone, and you’ll be water-safe before you know it.

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