Seamarks – Aids to Navigation

Photography 101 Day 7, Landmarks are everywhere: iconic places, meeting points, markers on a map. Today, consider a unique point of view as you photograph a landmark. These landmarks on a map can be famous and instantly recognizable, or sometimes they’re simple markers to help us navigate.




Sutil Point Starboard Light and Bell Buoy, Cortes Island, BC

A variant of a landmark is a seamark, a structure usually built intentionally to aid boaters navigating featureless coasts. These aids to navigation are very important for keeping furiends safe on the water. They are used to indicate channels, dangerous rocks or shoals, mooring positions, areas of speed limits, traffic separation schemes, submerged shipwrecks, and for a variety of other navigational purposes. Some are made to be visible in daylight only (daymarks), and others have some combination of lights, reflectors, bells, horns, whistles and radar reflectors to make them useful at night and in conditions of reduced visibility. Marks are shown on nautical charts, using symbols that indicate their colour, shape and light characteristic, and usually have a name or number identification.

Lateral buoys like the one pictured here are used to mark the edge of a channel or hazards. Until 1980 there had been 30 different buoyage systems. Meowee, how confusing that would have been.  Now, for historical reasons the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) combined them all into two different schemes used worldwide, differing primarily in their use of the colours red and green for two regions (A and B). Region B is the Americas (where I am), the Philippines, South Korea and Japan, and Region A is everywhere else (where Bailey Boat Cat is.)

In nautical terms,  humans call the left side of the boat “port”, and the right side “starboard”. The colours red and green also represent the sides of the boat. Red is starboard and green is port. When heading upstream (against the current) in Region B, green buoys must be passed on the left side of a boat and red buoys must be kept on the right side of a boat. In Region A, it is the opposite.

The Sutil Point light and bell buoy pictured here is almost a mile off shore near the extremity of the rocks and shoals that extend off the southwest end of Cortes Island. Getting up close to some of these buoys can prove interesting because many birds and other sea life like to rest or perch themselves on it.


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