PADDLERsmart! USA Knowledge Base

Module 04 - Safe Boat Operation



United States Aids to Navigation (USATONS) are the ‘road signs’ of the water and they help all boaters navigate safely from place to place. These buoys and markers are particularly useful to paddlers in identifying known hazards such as low-head dams and in marking channels that are frequently used by larger boats.

What is a Buoy?   

A buoy is a floating marker or symbol. Buoys are usually attached to the bottom of a waterway but they may also be mounted on a feature of the waterway (such as an island). They serve four main functions:  

1: To provide warnings.

2: To provide information.

3: To mark underwater hazards.

4: To provide a system for navigation.

 Buoy/Marker Shapes

The buoys and markers you encounter on the water will be one of the following two shapes:

‘Nun’: Any buoy with a pointed top. 
‘Can’: Any buoy with a flat top. 


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