Which symbol on a regulatory marker is used to mark a swimming area?

If you decide to take your boat out for a swim, you should always be familiar with the regulatory markers in the area.

No matter where you boat or the size of your boat, always keep in touch with the US coastal guard to make sure you are safe to head out into the open water. You’ll need to check this in case any markers have changed, moved or if there are any safety warnings issued due to weather.

In this article I will be explaining the types of regulatory markers, what they mean and the ones you should be paying extra close attention to.

1. What is a Regulatory Marker?

A regulatory marker is a white sign with orange symbols and black writing. They are a reflective material so they can be seen in the dark. Their orange symbol indicates one meaning while their black writing will elaborate where necessary.

Regulatory markers are commonly found on buoys in open water. This could include, the sea, wide rivers or lakes.

There are 4 types of regulatory markers used within the US:

• Danger: an orange diamond.
• Controlled Area: an orange circle which may include a speed limit in black writing.
• Boat Exclusion Area: an orange diamond with a cross through the centre.
• Information: an orange square or rectangle.

But, there are other waterway markers that boaters should be aware of:

• A white circular buoy with a blue horizontal stripe indicates a mooring place for boats.
• A white buoy with black vertical stripes indicates an obstruction in the area and boats should not pass through.
• A white buoy with red vertical stripes and a solid red ball on top indicates unobstructed water where boats can pass in either direction.
• A yellow buoy with ‘Milfoil’ written vertically in black indicates a milfoil area and that boats should steer clear.
• A red flag with a diagonal white line indicates divers in the area and caution should be taken by boaters while remaining at a distance of at least 150 clicks.
• Solid red and green markers indicate the channel.

2. Which Symbol Means Swimming Area?

Where there is a swimming area, it will be clearly marked with exclusion zone buoys.

Boaters will see a buoy with a white marker that has an orange diamond with an orange cross through the centre.

As this marker simply means that boats are not allowed within this zone, it could be for a number of reasons. With this, there will be black text under the crossed diamond that states ‘swim zone’ to clearly indicate that the reason boats are not allowed within a particular area is because it is a safe zone for swimmers.

There may be other occasions where the same symbol is accompanied with black writing such as ‘dam’ or ‘rapids’ which mean that boats are not allowed in that area simply due to the dangers to everyone on board and in the surrounding areas.

3. What Does a Regulatory Buoy with a Diamond Symbol Indicate?

If you are a boater and you see a buoy with a white regulatory marker that includes an orange diamond without an orange cross in the centre, it means that the area is dangerous. Boats may pass but are not recommended as the water could damage the boat causing harm to those on board and in surrounding areas.

As with the exclusion zone regulatory marker, boaters will typically find black writing under the symbol which explains why that marker is in place. Examples of this writing include ‘rock’, ‘wreck’, ‘shoal’, ‘ice hazard’ and ‘dam’.

If you’re a sailor, captain or boating enthusiast, familiarize yourself with your regulatory markers so as to not intrude on an exclusion zone, or anchor in an area that is unsafe. I highly recommend checking with the US coastal guard on regular occasions to ask if there have been any changes or weather warnings in the area.

However, I also recommend swimmers to familiarize themselves with these regulatory markers, that way they can be sure that they remain within a safe zone.

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