Life at the end of the road

November 12, 2012

Doing my homework :-)

Filed under: boats, daily doings, South Shields — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 8:59 pm

Well that’s it, back in the old Thomson Glenelg after the weekend in Barrhead with not a lot to report really and my head is so full of ‘mince’ that I can’t even make anything up Smile I didn’t get home until 21:30!!!!! HOME!!!! I’ve been here that long I’m calling it ‘home’ Sad smile Anyway only ten more nights and I will be home, or at least on the mainland close by at my parents whom I’ve not seen in months.

Today it was back to the ‘Marine Safety Training Centre’ for a few lectures on buoyage and bridge procedures and terms. All, unlike the operation of cargo derricks is highly relevant. It’s all stuff I’ve done before when I sat my Boatmasters exam, but that was some fifteen or so years ago and I’m a little rusty to say the least.


Tomorrow we’re up at the main college and I’ll really miss the view of the river and all it’s comings and goings


like the Tynemouth lifeboat ‘Spirit of Northumberland’ and the ferry ‘Spirit of the Tyne’ that was just heading back up the slip on the high tide.


No tomorrow it will be purple hair, numerous body piercings, trowel loads of make up, fancy dress and tattoos at the main college, that’s if I remember to go there Smile Still, the bridge simulator should be fun Smile

So I’m going to take the unusual and slightly bizarre method of revising on line Smile Now I know that this is going to be exceedingly boring for all you regular readers but it is ‘my’ blog Smile The thing is, I made plenty of notes but can’t read my writing so I figured that if I put it all down on here then at least I could find it when I wanted it. Also the spelling would be correct and the pictures in colour Smile



There are five types of buoyage,

Lateral, which means that you keep the buoy on the side as if you were travelling with the incoming tide. So if you were entering a harbour, loch, or going through a channel you would keep the red buoys on your left and the green ones on your right as you were going into the port. Upon leaving they would be the opposite way around.

Lateral system a mark.svg

Once out of port the system generally operates with the flow of the tide around Britain which is generally clockwise,

Direction of flood tide in Britain




though as you can see from  the diagram, not always. Raasay being a classic example where the tide flows around it in the opposite direction to everywhere else. Which is why you must consult your chart and look for the ‘general direction of buoyage’ symbols.

When fitted with lights the port buoys will be red and the starboard ones green.

And just to complicate matters further the Americans and Japanese do it the other way around Sad smile 


Cardinal, refers to how you pass a buoy relative to the points of the compass and is an internationally recognized system developed by the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) in 1980. Prior to that there were some 30 different buoyage systems in use throughout the world. 


It’s a very simple system as all the buoys are the same shape and differentiated by the colour and top mark during the day and different flashing lights at night.

North is BLACK over YELLOW with two triangles pointing ‘up the way’, think ‘north up’ and a continuous quick or very quick flash.

East is BLACK, YELLOW, BLACK with two triangles pointing ‘out the way’, think ‘egg shaped for east and three quick or very quick flashes, think 3:00 on a clock.

South is YELLOW over BLACK with two triangles pointing ‘down the way’ think ‘south down’ and six quick or very quick flashes followed by a long one. Again thing 6:00 on a clock, the long one is just so as you don’t get confused with the 9:00 of west.

West is YELLOW, BLACK, YELLOW with two triangles ‘pointing together’ think wine glass Smile and west, the light being nine quick or very quick flashes.

Isolated danger

This a red and black buoy and means ‘just what it says on the tin’

black and red stripes with two round balls on the top. The light being white with two flashes.

Special Marks

Special mark buoys are always yellow and usually with a cross on the top, usually used to mark things like sewage outfalls, fish farms, historic wrecks and as a warning not to drop your anchor there. If fitted with a light it will be yellow.


special marks buoy

Safe water

Again ‘just what it says on the tin’, this may be found after an isolated danger mark or once clear of an estuary and is unique in having vertical stripes, or at least it was until the sinking of the ‘Tricolor’ in 2002, but more of that later.


 Safe water

The lights on these are usually ‘isophase’ or ‘occulting’ white in a calm and unhurried fashion, isophase meaning long flashes of equal length and occulting means that the dark (occult) phase is longer.

The wreck of the Tricolor

The Norwegian flagged 50,000 ton car carrier was notable for being involved in three collisions in the English Channel in three weeks, the last one sending her to the bottom Sad smile Full of BMW’s, Volvo’s and Saab’s she sat barely below the surface in just 30m of water in one of the worlds busiest shipping lanes. Consequently, and despite several buoys being deployed, guard ships stationed and warnings broadcast she was struck three times by ships on passage Smile Eventually the ship was cut up into 3000 ton sections using wire and removed in nine bits but it did get IALA thinking about an ‘Emergency Wreck Buoy’.


Here you can clearly see the wire between the two ‘spud leg barges’ cutting her up like a cheese with wire.

  Emergency Wreck-Marking Buoy

The International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) recommendation O-133 details the specification of the Emergency Wreck-Marking Buoy (pictured below).
Emergency Wreck-Marking Buoy
The Emergency Wreck-Marking Buoy is designed to provide high visual and radio aid to navigation recognition. It is placed as close to the wreck as possible, or in a pattern around the wreck, and within any other marks that may be subsequently deployed.
THV Alert, delivered in 2006, is Trinity House’s Rapid Intervention Vessel, deployed primarily to cover the southeast coast of the UK where she will be able to respond rapidly to any maritime incident – including marking wrecks.
The Emergency Wreck-Marking Buoy is maintained in position until:

  • The wreck is well known and has been promulgated in nautical publications;
  • The wreck has been fully surveyed and exact details such as position and least depth above the wreck are known;
  • A permanent form of marking of the wreck has been carried out.

I know, it’s boring Smile


  1. Paul,
    Wow this is a heavy read for a non nautical chap. I shall return to this in the morning and try and work out my compass points ! ! !
    Keep up the with the revision it will soon all be over.


    Comment by Arthur T Bomber Harris — November 12, 2012 @ 9:08 pm

  2. Very interesting Paul, not being one who knows anything about Buoys it has given me some insight into your world!

    Comment by Thomson Caravans — November 12, 2012 @ 9:16 pm

  3. not in the least boring … fascinanting

    Comment by cazinatutu — November 12, 2012 @ 10:03 pm

    • Hi Caz, do you really find it interesting 🙂 or are you just saying that to make me feel good 🙂

      Thanks, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 13, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

      • no, I really do find it fascinating … so many times I see things and I know vaguely what they are, but am baffled by the specifics and either don’t know where to start to find out more or too lazy to research it … here you’ve laid it out for me in a way I can understand … OK by the next time I see any buoys (let’s face it, they’re a bit thin on the ground in north London) I’ll have forgotten the different tops but at least now I’ll understand why they’re not all the same … I must admit my eyes glaze over when you’re working on your Landy but I grew up with motorbike engines being stripped down on the kitchen table by dad and brother, and I rapidly learned to keep out of the way

        Comment by cazinatutu — November 14, 2012 @ 7:57 am

      • Well I’m really glad your enjoying being at college with me Caz 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 14, 2012 @ 4:30 pm

  4. Oh buoy oh buoy oh buoy… what a lot to learn!

    Comment by ecobodger — November 12, 2012 @ 10:12 pm

    • Oh buoy oh buoy oh buoy… what a lot to learn!

      Oh house oh house… what a lot to learn 🙂 good luck AC

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 13, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

  5. Didn’t realise you we’re Trainning for deep sea Paul. Have you told the O/H.

    Comment by Polite Scouser — November 12, 2012 @ 11:38 pm

  6. Brilliant Paul I think I might be able to remember those, what a clear explanation. How about teaching us the rest of the course :):):)

    Comment by finniedog — November 13, 2012 @ 8:30 am

  7. Thanks for a good read.
    Its nice to know when I’m on your ship with an Adr tanker you can do far more than make good soup!

    Roy ex calor

    Comment by Roy Cleary — November 13, 2012 @ 9:48 am

    • Hi Roy and welcome aboard, how I wish I was making soup on the Loch Strive and not smoked salmon in South Shields 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 13, 2012 @ 10:02 pm

  8. Long time ago when I was coastal cruising regularly, I splashed out on a new set of Helly Hansen ‘coastal’ gear (at that time bands of dark blue and red). By the cringe did I get some ribbing from the rest of the crew – the most polite of which was “Oh look, our very own isolated danger marker!”

    I leave you to imagine the others gibes, but you might guess the lads had a great time with fast-fire quips if it was my turn to work on the fore deck in heavy weather!

    Useful stuff Paul.

    Comment by Carrie — November 13, 2012 @ 10:09 am

    • Glad you enjoyed it Carrie, I certainly did, made me laugh thinking of you in an ‘isolated danger’ suit 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 13, 2012 @ 10:01 pm

  9. Thanks for the ‘refresher’ on buoyage Paul – it’s a long time since I did the courses. I’d forgotten I knew words like ‘isophase’ and ‘occulting’ and about ‘eggs’, ‘wineglasses’ etc ….but it all came flooding back, A refresher on signals next maybe?

    Comment by Irena Krasinska-Lobban — November 13, 2012 @ 10:52 am

    • Hi Irena and welcome aboard, I too had forgotten all those words 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 13, 2012 @ 9:56 pm

  10. But enough about buoys, lets learn more about gulls!

    Comment by drgeo — November 13, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

    • All the ‘gulls’ here seem to come with half a fathom of makeup ‘troweled’ on 🙂 Apparently South Shields is joint second with Wigan as the chlamydia capital of Europe 😦

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 13, 2012 @ 9:52 pm

  11. Crack this one and you will be well and truly `bouyed` up 🙂

    Comment by Andy — November 13, 2012 @ 8:23 pm

    • Hi Andy, I’ll be ‘buoyed up’ once I’m back home with wife, child, dug and pigs 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 13, 2012 @ 9:48 pm

      • Too true. I think we are all missing life at the end of Calum`s road

        Comment by Andy — November 13, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

      • Only just over a week to go now Andy and I’ll be back at ‘the end of the road’ you have no idea how much I miss it, it brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it 😦

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 13, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

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