Navigation Notes To Keep You On Course

Everyone knows the navigation slogan – Red Right Return. Really? Return from where? What if I’ve never been there before?

Red Right Return means the red buoy or day marker should be on the right/starboard side of your boat when you are cruising from a larger body of water into a smaller body of water. For instance, coming in from the ocean to an inlet or a small bay or river you should see the reds on your right.

Another easy way to remember which side to keep the reds on is this: Red Right Rising which means keep the Red on the Right side of the boat when the numbers are going up 2, 4, 6, 8. If the numbers are lowering 24, 22, 20, 18, 16 then red should be on your left.

Why not GIRL? Green Is Right Leaving. Leaving from/to where? This helps you remember to keep the green Navigation Aids on your right when you are leaving the marina or harbor into the larger body.

So far, you’ve read buoy, channel marker, day marker, navigation aid and they all are correct. And we haven’t even touched on range markers. There are a few other words often used to describe the tools we need to stay in a marked channel. Be sure you know what each means before you head out beyond your local knowledge.

Do you know about RENT, SONG, Yellow Decals or two colored daymarkers and buoys? How do you know to look for a buoy or a triangle or square atop a stick/piling? Is it lighted or not? Does it make a sound? Will it show up on my RADAR?

If you understand all this then you might just find your next channel marker or NavAid. Be sure you are on the correct side and in the deep water of the marked channel.

Next step, open water. So you want to go the the Bahamas, up the Chesapeake or across the Gulf of Mexico from Clearwater FL to Panama City FL. These courses have a lot of open water and fewer channel markers. Keep an eye to your depth sounder and watch for trends as compared to what you should expect from looking at your charts.

Cruising comfortably and staying in the channel is a good thing but not everything! What is that noise? Why is someone blowing their horn? I wonder what that means. Are they whistling at me?

Watch this video of the ferry boat and guess why he is blowing his horn and the code he is using. Ask Captain Chris or send him an email to see if you have the right answer.

It’s not rocket science but there is some knowledge and skill required to owning and cruising on a boat. Join a class to learn about boat handling, navigation and trip planning. Try your local US Power Squadron , Coast Guard Auxiliary or Ask Captain Chris at a Cruising 101 seminar.

Can’t attend a seminar in person? Then check out our Navigation Made Easy video seminar from Vimeo.