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Channels of deeper water, free of underwater dangers are marked out by red or green buoys or stakes called Lateral marks. Some Lateral marks are lit by night with a flashing red or green light.

diagram of a channel

Using a Channel

Keep in between the red and green marks, but stay over to the right hand side, keep an eye out for ships and give them plenty of space. If you are motoring, you'll have to give way to someone sailing, paddling or rowing as normal. Don't anchor in a channel.

Some channels have Lateral marks on one side only. To know which side the channel is on, find out which direction the flood tide flows using a chart or tide table.

diagram of a channel

Crossing a Channel

Before you cross, check you won't be creating a risk of collision. Larger vessels might not of spotted you, even if you have been spotted, they might not be able to steer around you or stop. When it is safe to cross, spend as little time in the channel as possible, cross it directly, not at an angle.

Test Yourself

Drag the lateral marks to the correct side of the channel.



Channels Quiz

red stake marker

Travelling against an incoming tide you see this red marker. You should:

keep to the left of it

keep to the right of it

When using a channel, where should you position your vessel?

to the left

to the right

stay in the middle

not important

diagram of channel crossing routes

To cross the channel shown, you should go via:

route 1, the shortest route to your destination

route 2, the shortest route across the channel

green starboard lateral buoy

Travelling with an Ebb tide, you see this green buoy, you should:

pass to the left of it

pass to the right of it

You are sailing a small dinghy and about to cross a channel, a large passenger ferry is approaching in the channel under power. You should:

hold your course, sailing vessels have right of way

get across in front of the ferry as quickly as possible

adjust your course to cross behind the ferry


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