Thursday, January 11, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Busy Holiday period for VMR Whitsunday

With a few of our crew and skippers away, and 1 skipper confined with Covid, the last thing we needed was 3-4 activations a day on more than one occasion, with some lengthy ones included, but that is what we finished up with. Absolutely great commitment and dedication by the skippers, senior crew and crew that made themselves available over that period to provide the safety net for boaties and the islands over the holiday period. The VMRW volunteers excelled.  

What does that navigation mark mean?

A system of buoys, piles, and lights, known as IALA Buoyage System ‘A’, is used to assist safe navigation. These are the equivalent of road signs on highways. Each type of mark has a unique combination of colour, shape, top-mark and light. You must be able to recognise these and pass them safely on the correct side. Some of the more common ones are listed below.

Lateral marks

Port and starboard marks are referred to as lateral marks. They indicate the port-hand and starboard-hand sides of navigable waters (channels).  When both a port and starboard mark are placed near to each other, travel directly between them. On a pile beacon, look for the shape and colour of the top mark.

When going upstream (away from the sea) keep red (port-hand marks) on the left-hand side (to port) and keep green (starboard-hand marks) on the right-hand side (to starboard).

When going downstream (towards the sea) keep red (port-hand marks) on your right-hand side (to starboard) and keep green (starboard-hand marks) on your left-hand side (to port).

Often lateral marks are not placed in pairs. The safe side to pass a lateral mark is generally determined by the direction of travel to or from the sea, or a predetermined local direction of buoyage.

Cardinal marks

A cardinal mark indicates where the deepest and safest water can be found. It may also indicate the safe side on which to pass a danger and to draw attention to a feature in the channel such as a bend or junction. There are two triangular marks on each cardinal, which mean on of 4 things:

NORTH Safe water is to the north of the cardinal. Top-marks both point ‘up’ toward the NORTH for safest water. At night the frequency of the flashes are an uninterrupted quick flash.

SOUTH Safe water is to the south of the cardinal. Top-marks both point ‘down’ towards the SOUTH for safe water. The frequency of flashes is 6 quick flashes in a group followed by a long flash.

EAST Safe water is to the east of the cardinal. Top-marks are in the shape of an egg, pointing away from each other, so remember the e of egg is for safe water to the EAST. The frequency of the flashes is 3 quick flashes in a group.

WEST Safe water to the West of the cardinal. Top-marks, pointing towards each other, make the shape of a wine glass so remember the w of wine glass is for safe water to the WEST. The frequency of the flashes is 9 quick flashes in a group.

Low Rock Reef off Shute Harbour is one of just 2 places in Australia where all four cardinal marks are together.

VMRW membership is cheap insurance at just $90, you can join at

Contributed with thanks to VMR Whitsundays.

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