6 Different Types Of Buoys

types of buoys

Buoy is a generic term for something used to indicate direction or position. The shape and color of a buoy vary according to its intended use. Buoys come in many different shapes and colors and can be made of many different materials. They are usually constructed with an opening in the top for filling with water, and ropes or chains attached to the outside which helps keep the buoy upright in the water. 

There are many different uses for buoys, such as to mark the location of shipwrecks, to navigate waterways, to mark dangerous underwater obstacles, and much more. This guide will give you an idea of what types of buoys there are and describe how they are used.

Port-Hand Buoys

Port-Hand Buoys

A port-hand buoy is a small floating device used by boaters to mark the location of their vessel in a body of water. It has a white plastic sphere on top with a black plastic handle sticking up out of it. The handle is long enough to allow you to grasp it with your “port hand” and hold it above the surface of the water.

The sphere is large enough so you can see it from the deck of another boat, yet it is small enough to be seen as a white dot against the blue of the water. You can use a port-hand buoy to mark the location of your boat or the location of some other object in the water.

They are usually painted bright orange to make them more visible and are sometimes marked with a black flag to indicate they are a safety device.

If you’re interested in buying a new or used boat, a port-hand buoy is a must-have. You can get them at almost any boat store. They’re only $10 apiece and you can get a box of 100 for less than $100.

Port Bifurcation Buoys

Port Bifurcation Buoys

A port bifurcation buoy is a small floating object attached to a line that extends out from a larger boat. It looks like a large, white, softball. The purpose of the buoy is to help direct the boat to a specific area. The line is attached to the buoy with a very strong “knot” or loop. This type of knot is used so you can untangle it quickly if you need to back away from the buoy. The buoy has a floatation device on the bottom to keep it afloat.

You attach the line to the buoy with an easily untangled knot. Then, you attach the other end of the line to the bow of your boat. When you are ready to steer your boat, you simply pull on the line to turn the boat in the direction you want to go. 

To stop the boat, you let go of the line. That releases the tension in the line and allows the boat to go where it wants to go without you having to constantly fight the line to keep it from dragging on the bottom or sides of the boat.

These buoys are used to mark the centerline of a channel or body of water. They consist of two orange or yellow balls connected by a black band. The buoy is attached to a float with a long pole sticking out of the top. When you see one of these buoys, you know that there is a ship or boat of some kind located directly beneath it.

Buoy lines attach to the top of the buoy and run down to the sides of your boat. As the boat moves up and down with the waves, the line will move back and forth too. When the line is taut, that means that your boat is centered over the channel or body of water.

Starboard-Hand buoys

Starboard-Hand buoys

Also known as A-hand buoys or “starboard hand” buoys, this is the most common type of buoy used by boaters. It is generally triangular in shape with rounded corners. The pointy end is toward the stern of the boat. The flat side faces forward. There’s a small hole in the top of the buoy, which allows water to drain off. There’s also a loop attached to the bottom of the buoy, which is used to attach a line to the buoy. The loop is shaped like a capital “L” hook.

Buoying up with a starboard-hand buoy keeps the boat closer to the center of the boat channel. This reduces the chances of hitting the walls of the boat channel. It also makes it easier for other boats to see you and pass you safely. You should only use this type of buoy in an area where there are no hazards to the left or right of the boat channel. 

This is the most common type of buoy used by boaters because it is easy to handle and install. It is also very effective. This type of buoy is usually made of plastic and is painted a bright color such as orange, red or yellow.

A starboard-hand buoy is a type of life ring that is attached to a float with a long rope attached to it. This type of buoy has a long rope attached to the side of the float that allows a person to grasp it with their “starboard hand” (the one on the right when you are standing behind the driver of a boat). The idea is that if someone falls overboard, they can use this buoy to get back into the boat.

Starboard Bifurcation Buoys

Starboard Bifurcation Buoys

Starboard bifurcation buoys are designed to help you find the center of the channel. This is especially important when you are sailing in an area with currents and winds that are not from a fixed direction. The red line represents the current, and the yellow line represents the wind. The green area shows you where the water is calm and currents are minimal. 

You want to be in this area. However, if the currents are running counter-clockwise (red arrow), then you want to be as far to the right as possible. Conversely, if the currents are running clockwise (yellow arrow), then you want to be as far to the left as possible.

A starboard bifurcation buoy helps you determine which direction the current is running and which way the winds are blowing so you can position your boat in the area of the least resistance.

These are used by fishermen to help them locate their boats in the middle of a large body of water. A starboard bifurcation buoy has a white top and bottom with a black stripe running across the middle. The buoy is attached to a 16-foot length of rope with a tag end (a short piece of rope that is attached to the buoy).

The reason the buoy is attached to a 16-foot rope is so the fisherman can attach a smaller one to his boat and use it as a marker to find his way back to the boat. This makes it easy to locate because the buoy will always be visible above the surface of the water.

Fairway Buoys

Fairway Buoys

The fairway buoys are designed to keep the floating exercise equipment within a certain distance of the boat. This helps prevent the user from losing his or her workout because they get distracted by all of the activity on the water.

Fairway buoys are usually painted a bright yellow or orange color and they have a white stripe around the perimeter to make them more visible. They are usually tethered to the bottom with chains or an anchor.

Fairway buoys are usually about 2-1/2 feet long and have an octagonal floatation device (they look like an ice cream cone) on the bottom. They are usually made of plastic and are painted or marked to match the color of the water in which they are going to be used. 

They are usually attached to a short rope that is tied to a stake or other immovable object on the shoreline. The stake or other immovable object keeps the buoy from drifting away when winds are not present.

Isolated Danger Buoys

Isolated Danger Buoys

The idea is to give boaters a heads up so they are aware of the potential hazards and can adjust their course accordingly. The danger buoy is usually color coordinated with the surrounding area and is easily spotted by all boaters.

An isolated danger buoy is a small floating object with a red flag attached to it. It is used to mark areas of danger at sea or lakes. These buoys are usually attached to a floatation device such as a cork or a rubber ball.

The red flag stands out against the white background and black lettering, which makes it easy for boaters to see this marker. This marker is used to warn boaters of hidden dangers that might not be apparent to them. These dangers could be rocks or coral reefs that extend far below the surface or thin underwater areas that cannot support a boat’s weight.

Buoy markers are placed at intervals along a body of water to indicate the location of submerged objects such as sunken boats and other hazards. They consist of a floatation device (usually a buoy) with an attached rope or chain. The floatation device is usually tethered to the water line or to a fixed point on the shoreline by a rope or chain. 

When a person or object comes into contact with the marker, the buoy becomes detached from its anchor and is then carried by the current or wind toward the nearest land or other object that is stationary.


How are buoys identified?

Buoys are marked with a number on top of a cone-shaped top. The number identifies the type of buoy, and the shape of the top identifies its use. Buoys are also marked on the side with a unique serial number.

This number is used for identification purposes only and has no commercial value whatsoever. A commercial diver needs to be aware of the different types of buoys so he knows what to look for when he is diving.

What were buoys made of?

Most buoys were made of steel until the early 1970s when aluminum became the material of choice. Today, buoys are made of aluminum, fiberglass, or a combination of both materials.

Regardless of the material used to make the buoy, it is important that it be as light weight as possible without becoming so flimsy that it will sink like a rock if it is hit by a boat or ship.

What keeps a buoy in place?

Buoyancy is the key. Buoys are filled with air, and that keeps them bobbing on the surface. This is why they’re called FLOATING. There is a special kind of anchor called a mooring buoy that keeps a boat in place.

It looks like a large mushroom with a stem sticking out of the water and with a rubber band around the top of the stem. The stem has a hook on the end that goes into the boat.

How does a buoy stay in place?

Buoys are anchored to the bottom of the water by a chain and a weight. The chain is attached to the bottom of the buoy and, in turn, the buoy is attached to the weight. The weight and chain keep the buoy in place.

If you were to untie the chain, drop the weight and let go of the buoy, the buoy would rise to the surface because it is lighter than water. A floatation device is usually attached to the top of the buoy.


Buoys are very useful items that are used for marine navigation. Buoys come in different shapes and sizes. Some of them are really round, while some others have a square or rectangular shape. Knowing how to identify all these shapes is very important. Otherwise, if you don’t pay attention to details, you might end up using the wrong type of buoy for the purpose you need it.

We hope that after reading this article, you will be able to easily identify all these types of buoys. This will save you a lot of time and energy.

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