When selecting buoys for navigation or mooring, do your best to keep the system simple by using as few buoys and buoy types as possible. Some boaters have little knowledge of the purposes and meanings of buoys and marine aids to navigation.
By limiting the number of different types, shapes and sizes of buoys, and by selecting the more common types (such as lateral), the system is:
In small craft/low traffic areas, there is usually no need to use any private buoy other than the port (green), starboard (red) and cautionary (yellow) buoys for navigational purposes. Other popular types that may be used include hazard, swimming or information buoys, and those buoys prescribed under the VORR (for example, control, keep-out).
In uncharted waters or in lakes where identification of "upstream direction" may be a problem, it may be best to use cardinal buoys. Consult Transport Canada officials to determine the best option for your particular situation.
Lateral buoys indicate the side on which they may be safely passed. There are six types of lateral buoys: port hand, starboard hand, port bifurcation, starboard bifurcation, fairway, and isolated danger.
Cardinal buoys indicate the location of the safest or deepest water by reference to the cardinal points of the compass. There are four cardinal buoys: North, East, South and West.
Special buoys convey a variety of information to the mariner, which while important, is not primarily intended to help in navigation.
Any of these buoys can be privately owned. Examples of commonly used private buoys are shown in Figures 1 through 9, starting on page 17.
The PBR require that all private buoys meet minimum above-water dimensions of 15.25 cm (6 inches) in width and 30.5 cm (12 inches) in height. This buoy size is suitable only for very sheltered, low-traffic areas. Keeping in mind adverse weather conditions and varying sea states, a buoy should be large enough to be seen from the distance it takes a mariner to see, interpret and act upon its signal.
Transport Canada has the authority to require buoys to be larger than these minimum dimensions, be equipped with retroreflective material or be altered in any other way (for example, adding lights or sound appliances) - in the interest of marine safety and according to site conditions.
All private buoys must display, on two opposite sides, the capital letters "PRIV". These letters are to be as large as practical for the size of the buoy and contrasting in colour (white when the background colour is red, green or black, and black when the background colour is white or yellow).
In addition, the buoy owner’s current name, address and telephone number must be easy to read, in a permanent manner. Any additional numbers or letters the owner wishes to place on the buoy must not interfere or conflict with the letter and number system used by the CCG in the area - to prevent confusion between government-operated buoys and private buoys.
Information buoys: Specific information (e.g., DANGER - RAPIDS) may be placed inside the orange symbol.
The identification required by the PBR and the identification required by the VORR are to be on every control and keep out buoy (this includes the Transport Canada wordmark at the bottom of the sign).
Before placing a private buoy, determine what construction material would be best to use. Ideally, a buoy should be rugged enough to withstand weather and water conditions, be very visible, and yet be soft enough to absorb vessel impacts and reduce collision damage. Several types of commercially manufactured buoys meet these different needs. While most manufactured buoys provide the safest, most reliable and standardized option available, be aware that not all buoys meet the PBR standards.
There are "home-made" buoys that will meet PBR requirements and weather well. For example, rigid plastic foam and rigid molded plastic buoy types are strongly recommended because they are readily available, lightweight and easy to install and handle. Steel buoys are very rugged, but they can cause extensive damage and be difficult to handle.
NOTE: Do not use steel drums, barrels, propane cylinders, bleach bottles and jugs as buoys. Most of these do not conform to the PBR or CCG standards.
At night, the colour and flash characteristics of a buoy light tell boaters why it is there. Under the PBR, all private buoys equipped with lights must continuously display that light during the hours of darkness and during periods of poor visibility. You will find a complete listing of light colors and flash characteristics in Canadian Aids to Navigation System (TP 968).
If your private buoy is too small for a light or you are not required to place a lighted buoy, an unlighted buoy equipped with retroreflective material is a good and affordable idea. On a lighted private buoy, retroreflective material provides extra safety because it makes your buoy easier to see and interpret at night or if the light fails.
For all buoys other than "special buoys", retroreflective material must be the same colour as that of a light for that buoy. For example:
Transport Canada may require you to add retroreflective material where there is a need for increased visibility or better identification of your buoy.
Most retroreflective material on buoys or signs displays numbers, letters, backgrounds or horizontal bands. Where a horizontal band is used, it should be no less than 10 cm (4 inches) wide and should be placed around the buoy’s circumference.
Reflective properties of retroreflective material may be reduced by:
Since you may not notice less reflection during daytime, check your buoy’s level of performance with a light after dark. Any material that appears to be damaged should be replaced.