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KNOW YOUR CARDINAL MARKS

by September 7, 2021

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Cardinal marks show where the deepest and safest water is by using a compass. They can mark:

  • where to find the deepest water in an area
  • the safest side to pass a danger
  • a feature in a channel (for example, a bend, junction or the end of a shoal

Cardinal marks have black and yellow bands with black double cones on the top showing the different compass directions that identifies the safest and deepest water.

North cardinal mark

The top cones point up or North, showing there is safe water to the North of the mark.

West cardinal mark

The top cones are in the shape of an egg, showing there is safe water to the east of the mark. To remember this, think of “e” for egg and for East.

South cardinal mark

The top cones point down or South, showing there is safe water to the South of the mark.

West cardinal mark

The top cones make the shape of the wine glass, showing there is safe water to the west of the mark. To remember this, think of “w” for wine glass and for west.

At night each type of cardinal mark has a flashing white light with different groupings of flashes (continuous, or groups of 3, 6 or 9). To remember each type, think of a compass face with the numbers of a clock marked on it beside each direction:

  • 3 (quick or very quick) flashes for East
  • 6 (quick or very quick) flashes followed by a long flash for South
  • 9 (quick or very quick) flashes for West
  • continual (quick or very quick) flashes for North.