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What is an Anchor Buoy?

J.T. Gale
J.T. Gale

In nautical terms, an anchor buoy is a floating object that is attached to an anchor. There are two main types of anchor buoys. An anchor retrieval buoy is object that aids in the raising of an anchor. A mooring anchor buoy is a floating device that is secured to the ocean floor and is used as a mooring tie-off for boats. Anchor buoys can be as large as an SUV or as small as a jug of milk. Materials for an anchor buoy range from steel to foam to plastic balls. Unlike other navigation devices, there is no internationally agreed upon color scheme or shape that designates an anchor buoy. Most are painted in vivid colors to help boaters see them in the water, regardless of the size, shape and material used.

An anchor retrieval buoy is a simple device that mostly consists of a floating object with a length of rope tied to the bottom of the buoy and has a ring tied on the other end. The anchor rope passes through ring before it is thrown into the water. Once the anchor has a bite on the bottom of the ocean, the buoy generally floats over the spot where the anchor is secured.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

To retrieve the anchor, a boater drives upstream, or up current, and slowly passes the buoy. The rope will then be pulled through the buoy's ring causing the anchor to rise. As the anchor rises, the buoy will sink below the surface from the weight of the rising anchor. The steep angle of the rope between the anchor and the buoy provides a more direct rise for the anchor, helping to eliminate the possibility of it becoming lodged again on the bottom. Once the anchor reaches the ring, the anchor buoy will once again float to the surface, generally making it easier for the boater to pull in the anchor after coming to a stop.

A mooring anchor buoy can look the same as an anchor retrieval buoy, but it is different in that it is a more permanent solution. Usually the buoy has a length of rope or chain secured to the bottom of the buoy. The other end is secured to an anchor or ring that is permanently attached to the ocean floor. Mostly, these types of anchor buoys are used in bays or harbors where numerous craft are moored to prevent collisions between unoccupied boats. Also, these buoys are used in diving areas, mostly over reefs. In these cases, the buoys not only help reduce the anchor damage to the surrounding nature, but to also protect divers.

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