Colors, Shapes and Navigation

Red is an Even Numbered Triangle.

We are trainers of new boat owners and we’d like to open your eyes to the importance of color & shapes in navigation.

Why Color Matters

A few years back there was a TV report on red/green color blind concerns during a NY Jets vs Buffalo Bills football game. So how does this relate to navigation?

The uniform colors were solid, no white jerseys. NY was all Green- jersey and pants. Buffalo was all Red- jersey and pants.

Aside from the quarterback having difficulty telling the difference between his receiver and his defender- both twenty, thirty or forty yards downfield- the TV audience had problems seeing the difference too! Why? Because many of us are color blind and may not even know it. According to the National Eye Institute possibly 8% of our male population have difficulty telling the difference between red and green.

Why Color & Shape Matters in Navigation

Fast forward to boaters and aids to navigation or ATONS. This red/green confusion mentioned above is the exact reason our ATONS are specific shapes and colors. RED is an even numbered TRIANGLE and GREEN is an odd numbered SQUARE.

The sunshine reflecting off the water drills into your eyes and causes fatigue in addition to just plain makes things difficult to see. If you are at least able to spot the piling and day board of an ATON you may not see the color. Because of sun glare or shading in the late evening you can always see the shape, SQUARE or TRIANGLE.

Seminars Can Help

Learn more at a 2-day Cruising 101 FUNdamentals seminar held in Vero Beach FL. We can help build your cruising confidence and sharpen your navigation skills.

Learn your shapes because colors are not always visible in all types of weather. And if you have a question about navigation, just Ask Captain Chris! Check out our latest Navigation Made Easy Video seminar on Vimeo. Rent or own and learn more about Navigation.



1. On the highway in the U.S. what color and signal is an OCTAGONAL sign?

2. How about the color and signal of an upside down TRIANGLE?

(Scroll down for answers but….Don’t Cheat!!)


1. RED and it is a STOP sign. Two points for you!

2. If you said YELLOW YIELD sign…….uh-oh….look again. The YIELD sign color changed to Red and White in 1972.