Boating Basics Online - Basic Boating Safety Course
Chapter 6 - Operations
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Aids to Navigation

Intracoastal Waterway System

The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) runs parallel to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts from Manasquan Inlet on the New Jersey shore to Brownsville, Texas at the Mexican border. Aids to navigation marking these waterways have some portion of them marked with yellow. Otherwise, the colors and numbering of buoys, day marks and lights follow the same system as that observed in all other waterways.

Red, right, returning also applies to the ICW markers. However, how do you know which way is returning? Generally south, from New Jersey to Brownsville, Texas is considered returning. So, going generally south on the ICW you would have red right. There are some areas of the ICW such as the West Coast of Florida where you are actually going north. Still, if you are going from New Jersey to Texas you are returning.

Aids to navigation marking the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) display unique yellow symbols to distinguish them from aids marking other waters. Yellow triangles indicate aids should be passed by keeping them on the starboard side of the vessel. Yellow squares indicate aids should be passed by keeping them on the port side of the vessel. A yellow horizontal band has no lateral significance, but simply identifies aids as marking the ICW.

Bouys on the intracoastal waterway

Dual Purpose Markings

Red Buoy with yellow square -- marks left side of channel when traveling the intracoastal waterway (south), but right side of channel when coming in from sea.

Green Buoy with yellow triangle -- marks right side of channel when traveling the intracoastal waterway (south), but left side of channel when coming in from sea.

Red Buoy with yellow triangle -- marks right side of channel when traveling the intracoastal waterway (south), and right side of channel when coming in from sea.

Green Buoy with yellow square -- marks left side of the channel when traveling the intracoastal waterway (south), and left side of channel when coming in from sea.

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