Red, Right, Returning

A buoy’s shape and color allows boaters to follow a safe course on the water. Many boaters are familiar with the saying, Red, Right, Returning, meaning the position of the red buoy should be on the right side of the boat (starboard) when returning from sea, or heading upstream or toward the origin or headwaters of a water body. By memorizing these simple words, boaters can navigate more safely and stay in the channel.

If the red buoys are on the right/starboard side of the boat, then the green buoys should be on the left/port side of the boat when heading upstream. The opposite is true when traveling downstream. Of course, this is fine if the boater can see the buoy color. However, if the color is not recognizable because of the position of the sun, lack of good light, color blindness or some other reason, boaters must rely on the shape of the buoy to determine safe navigation.

Thus, if we insert another word in the phrase, as in Red, Religious, Right, Returning, the word “religious” explains the shape of the buoy. Religious can be used to remember a “nun buoy” which is cone shaped on top, red in color, and marks the channel on the right when proceeding inland from sea. “Can buoys,” named because of their cylinder-like shape (green in color), mark the left side of the channel. It doesn’t matter what system you use to remember the meaning of buoys as long as it allows you to navigate safely!