How do you know what all those markers mean? Keep this downloadable PDF next to the helm and you'll be able to quickly find anything!

What’s That Marker?

Here’s a free guide that’s really good to have at hand any time you’re on the water. I print out a copy and keep it where I can easily grab it whenever I’m uncertain or just to double-check that I’m remembering things correctly.

While we may know the common markers, sounds and lights that we see, there are always times that we run into something unusual . . . or maybe we are now in a new area (say, going up the ICW after cruising the Bahamas).

  • What does a short-long-short horn mean? What does it mean that he just said he’ll pass me on the two-horn side?
  • Are the reds on the east or west side on the ICW?
  • Does that mean “danger – stay away” or “here’s the channel”?

Other times, we’re looking at the chart and wondering what the symbol there will look like on the water. That’s when this page comes in handy:

How do you know what all those markers mean? Keep this downloadable PDF next to the helm and you'll be able to quickly find anything!

Very nicely, the US Coast Guard has made this info into a free brochure that you can download. Below is taken directly from the Coast Guard site, so the brochure should be the most recent one published.

Click here to view the PDF.  Right-click this link to download (PDF, 6.7 mb)

NOTE: If you prefer a pre-printed plastic guide to have at the helm, Davis Instruments makes several useful ones, all available on Amazon — but not free, of course:

How do you know what all those markers mean? Keep this downloadable PDF next to the helm and you'll be able to quickly find anything!

I'd like to know about...

Explore more

Want weekly tidbits of cruising information? Sign up for The Boat Galley's free weekly newsletter. You'll get the newest articles and podcasts as well as a few relevant older articles that you may have missed.

Do you find The Boat Galley useful? You can support the site when you buy from Amazon by using the links on this site or clicking below. No extra cost for you!

8 Comments
  • Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor
    Posted at 05 July 2014 Reply

    Thanks for the link Carolyn. This will really come in handy!

  • C.E. Jones
    Posted at 10 July 2014 Reply

    Nice info, but one small point.

    The reds on the ICW are on the MAINLAND side. On the Florida west coat, they’ll be on the east side, on the Texas and Louisiana ,Alabama, Mississippi coasts, they are on the NORTH side.

  • Mark Bertsche
    Posted at 23 July 2015 Reply

    Hey all my boating buddies – you know who you are. Download and save this one.

  • Billeona Alderman
    Posted at 18 March 2016 Reply

    Jimmy Alderman

  • David Anderson
    Posted at 18 March 2016 Reply

    Red Nun Bouy

  • Ernest Lorimer
    Posted at 02 August 2016 Reply

    There is a lock on the Thames in Oxford with a sign that says “Keep left of the little red floaty things”

  • Craig Deline III
    Posted at 27 September 2017 Reply

    If you don’t know this, you shouldn’t be out there, it just makes it very dangerous for the rest of us… as I’ve said for years, “they’ll sell anyone a key”

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 28 September 2017 Reply

      There are many markers that most of us see only rarely. It’s ALWAYS good to have a reference onboard.

Post A Comment