Anyone who has been on a boat trip will have seen buoys and markers in the water, usually quite close to the shore. The purpose of these differs but close attention should be paid to all man-made objects that have been placed in the proximity of boaters, canoeists and swimmers. Paying attention to their presence could be the difference between life and death.
Lobster pot and mooring buoys
The word "buoy" tends mainly to be used to reference large colored floats that are used either at sea or in large lakes. Shrimp, crab and lobster fishermen use them to mark where their pots are anchored. Within harbors and bays, you will also see mooring buoys, which mark where a yacht or other boat is tied when not out at sea.
These floating buoys will be attached to rope that goes down to the bottom, where there will be a weight or anchor. Care needs to be taken in proximity to these buoys as your boats propeller could become entangled in the rope, causing damage. Where the buoys belong to fishermen, it's also worth bearing in mind that their pots represent their way of earning a living, so be respectful when navigating your boat around their lines.
Navigational and hazard buoys and markers
There are often hidden dangers when on water that can catch the unwary. A lot more people would get into difficulty if it wasn't for the extensive usage of navigational and hazard buoys and markers. Sometimes, these markers will be large brightly colored floating objects, which are anchored to the sea bottom. Other times, they will be fixed objects that are cemented into an under the surface rock.
Sometimes the marker will indicate that it's only safe to navigate a boat on one side of the marker. This warning is often achieved by using the color red to indicate danger and white to indicate the area that is safe to navigate.
Learning about buoys and markers before setting off
If you are new to boating or unfamiliar with a particular location, it pays to ask locals what various markers and buoys mean. If in doubt, the general advice would be to exercise caution anytime that you come into their proximity. For example, if a marker is close to the shore, you may be wise to keep your boat towards the center of the channel where the water might be expected to be deeper.
Taking risks on water is never a good idea. Even if you are a strong swimmer, there can be powerful currents or other unseen dangers, not to mention the high financial cost that may arise if you prang your boat on a hidden obstruction.