PADDLERsmart! Canada Knowledge Base

Module 05 - Markers and Buoys


A buoy is a floating marker or signal which provides boaters with instructions, or directions on the water. Buoys are either affixed to the bottom of the waterway (these are called floating buoys), or mounted on a land feature of the waterways, such as an island.

Buoys have three main purposes:

  • To provide warnings and information to boaters
  • To mark underwater hazards
  • To provide a system for navigation

Floating Buoys 

There are a few different styles of floating buoys that can be found on Canadian waterways, these include:

Pillar Buoys: Typically the largest of all floating buoys, pillar buoys will sometimes have a lighted top and tend to be narrower than Can and Nun buoys

Spar Buoys: Common on smaller waterways, spar buoys are cylinder shaped and are typically smaller than buoys that are lighted on top.

Can Buoys: These buoys are wider than spar buoys, and are always green in colour. They should be kept on the port (left) side of your boat when heading upstream.

Nun Buoys: This buoy type is cone shaped, and wider than spar buoys. They are always red in colour and should be kept on the right (starboard) side when heading upstream. 


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