What You Need To Know Before Going Out To Sea

Going out into the open waters and feeling the ocean breeze in your hair, there are many things that make boating a fun experience. But, it can also be a slightly precarious experience; it’s easy to get lost at sea. While GPS is a godsend, it’s not infallible to dead batteries, lost signal, or jamming. You also need to be able to navigate the old-fashioned way, with buoys, beacons, lights, and charts.

When you’re out at sea, you’ll notice, as you look back to shore, that there are many different markers trying to convey different information. Beacons are the fixed structures like poles and lighthouses. Buoys are colorful floating structures, usually numbered and moored to the bottom. And then there are the lights on top of some of those buoys and beacons.

Most buoys will need the help of a chart in order to understand what they mean or refer to. There are two standard buoys, green cylindrical “cans” that are odd numbered and red triangular “nuns” that are even numbered. These are used to hint which way your vessel is headed. As your vessel leaves the marina, the first two buoys you’ll usually see are a green-can buoy on the left-port side labeled #1 and a red-nun buoy on your right-starboard side labeled #2. The numbers will increase as you head out farther to sea. Other buoys to keep an eye out for are red-green-striped buoys that indicate junctions, yellow buoys that mean caution, black and red buoys that indicate danger, and red-white-vertical-striped buoys that mean you’ve reached safe open waters.

Like buoys, you’ll need to reference your charts to understand them. There are (F1) flashing lights that have short regularly-timed flashes, (F1(2)) group flashes with two short flashes close together, (Oc) occulting with longer regularly-timed flashes, (ISO) isophase with flashes in increments equal to darkness, and (Q) quick with rapidly flashing lights to name a few.

Learning to navigate the coast with just buoys, beacons, lights, and a chart is not something that can be done overnight. It takes a while. But in the meantime, you can rely on us at Purchasing 3Sixty, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, for all your marine equipment and GPS needs. We have everything from boat engines and navigational systems to buoys and beacons, both new and obsolete. Email us at sales@purchasing3sixty.com to get started on a quote.


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