Aids to Navigation

December 15, 2021
The USCG maintains the Aids to Navigation
What are Aids to Navigation?

Aids to Navigation can provide a boater with information similar to those which drivers get from street signs, stop signals, road barriers, detours, and traffic lights.  They are designed to assist boaters in navigating the waterways.  There is a book and booklet available for free from the United States Coast Guard.  These materials will give you, the recreational boater, the basic information you need about the U.S. Aids to Navigation System or otherwise known as USATONS.

Why do I need to know about them?

This information will help you recognize, understand, and navigate by the colors, shapes, numbers, and lights you will encounter on the water. It will also give you the basic tools you need to read a nautical chart.  In addition, you will find information on safety, the proper way to interact with other vessels, tips on boating at night, and how to handle special situations you might encounter, like bridges and locks.  With today’s education standard of a one-day class to obtain a boater’s license, it is impossible to go in depth with a topic like Aids to Navigation.  The full book is over two hundred pages.

Take some time to review this booklet, and keep it onboard your boat as a quick reference. Your understanding of the markers you see on the water will help ensure that you, your family, and your friends have fun, and safe, boating trips

Who is responsible for the Navigation system?

The United States Coast Guard takes care of the system.  They use vessels called Buoy Tenders that can lift a buoy out of the water so repairs can be made.  They can pick up an off-station buoy and bring it back to its proper position.  You can read about this in their free publication called Local Notice to Mariners.

Where will I see these Navigation Aids?

These aids appear all over our waterways.  You see them on lakes, rivers, and coastal waterways.  It is impossible to remember all of them but you will begin to grow your knowledge one marker at a time.  Becoming a good mariner takes time, patience, and experience.  It’s good to be curious out there and all of the resources are free.  There is more free resouces out there than one can learn in a lifetime.  Have at it my friends.

Always remember that there is no room for egos when passengers lives are in your hands!


Connecticut Boating Certificates is proud to tell you that this topic is taught in our live classes, and you can view what’s available on our Public Course Schedule Page

View the United States Coast Guards digital version by clicking here