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Q: Private ocean buoys and registration ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Private ocean buoys and registration
Category: Science > Earth Sciences
Asked by: oceanmark-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 29 May 2003 17:12 PDT
Expires: 28 Jun 2003 17:12 PDT
Question ID: 210485
This question is really twofold.  Within California Coastal waters,
there are many small, apparently private buoys anchored offshore. 
Some have identifying numbers on them, and others do not. I suspect
that many are for research purposes, but I am not too sure.  They are
bigger and deeper than those marking lobster traps. I am not
referring to large, well marked, navigation buoys, but small
inflatable ones -
maybe two feet in diameter or so. Today, I saw three in a row about
three miles offshore of San Diego. One had a six digit number on it,
and another a person's first name with a smeared number. The first
question is:  if I see such a buoy offshore and it has a number
written on it, how do I figure out who owns or controls the buoy?  The
second question is, if I want to place a buoy about three miles or so
off the California coast to mark a particular location, what legal
formalities, registration, regulations, etc. if any, are necessary to
keep it there legally?
Subject: Re: Private ocean buoys and registration
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 29 May 2003 18:08 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello Oceanmark-ga,

Thanks for your question -- it brings back memories of my earlier
career as an oceanographer.  Too bad I kept getting seasick!

Anyway, the buoys you are referring to are known as "private aids to
navigation" or PAtoNs, and there are, of course, regulations about
their use.  As far as government regs go, however, they're not
terribly onerous.

Just about everything you'll need to know -- and to apply for approval
-- can be found at the US Coast Guard's 11th District (which includes
California) PAtoN site at:

You should read the whole thing yourself, but here are the key points
regarding your questions, extracted verbatim from the site:

--There are two types of private aids, temporary and permanent.
Temporary aids are those that will be on station 6 months or less. An
application is not required for a temporary aid, however, plans for
any temporary aid should be submitted for review before it is
established. The Coast Guard will publish the location of these
temporary aids in the Local Notice to Mariners. Permanent aids require
a completed and approved application.

--A Private Aid to Navigation (PAtoN) is a buoy, light or daybeacon
owned and maintained by any individual or organization other than the
United States Coast Guard. These interests include private citizens,
marina and yacht clubs, municipal and state governments, construction
and dredging companies, research and non-profit organizations, beach
front associations, and large industrial concerns. Private aids to
navigation are designed to allow individuals or organizations to mark
privately owned marine obstructions or other similar hazards to
navigation, or to assist their own navigation operations. Private aids
to navigation are required to be maintained by the owner as stated on
the U. S. Coast Guard permit.

--Private aids on navigable waters regulated by the federal government
require a Coast Guard permit. The application for a permit, form
CG-2554, can be obtained by contacting the PAtoN Program Manager.

--The PAtoN Program Manager provides applicants with assistance in
processing their paperwork. Copies of federal regulations governing
aids to navigation and copies of previously issued permits are

--You may also obtain illustrations of standard markings used on
navigable waters in the Eleventh Coast Guard District under the U. S.
Aids to Navigation System.  Illustrations of mooring buoys and
regulatory markers used in the Uniform State Waterway Marking System
are also available.


It doesn't show up here, but many of the items in the text are
clickable -- for instance, you can click on the "Uniform State
Waterway Marking System"and the "U. S. Aids to Navigation System" to
see what the markings are all about.  You can also click on an email
link to the PAtoN progam manager at the Coast Guard to ask any
questions you might have about the identity or use of a particular

Hope this does the trick, but if not, just let me know through a
Request for Clarification how else I can assist you on this.

And of course, Happy Boating!

search strategy:  visited the Coast Guard site and searched on:  buoys

Request for Answer Clarification by oceanmark-ga on 29 May 2003 22:31 PDT
Dear pafalafa-ga,

Thank you for the good answer.  Having a former oceanographer answer
this one makes me feel very fortunate.  If the private bouy is within
California State waters, does any California agency get involved in
the approval process, or is it still in the hands of the Coast Guard?


Oceanmark - ga

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 30 May 2003 06:24 PDT
Hello again,

For a buoy three miles off shore, I'm pretty sure the Coast Guard has
sole jurisdiction.  I took a look at California state regulations to
see if there was anything regarding buoys for near-shore or inland
waters, but I didn't find anything.  My sense is that there are no
specific state requirements, but it would certainly pay to make sure. 
I would suggest checking with the PAtoN office at the Coast Guard, as
they would be familiar with any state requirements.

If you need me to do the checking, just let me know, and I'll put in
an inquiry with the Coast Guard.


Request for Answer Clarification by oceanmark-ga on 30 May 2003 09:01 PDT
Hello pafalafa-ga,

Thanks for the clarification.  I also looked at the California State
Lands Commission web site and could not figure out if they would be
involved. If you do not mind contacting on Coast Guard on this, that
would be great, that would be above and beyond the call of duty!  If
not, that is OK to.


Oceanmark - ga

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 30 May 2003 10:35 PDT
I'll check into it for you.  It may be a few days, though, before I
hear back from them, so hang tight.


Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 30 May 2003 11:01 PDT
Wow...didn't take very long at all.  The response from the Coast Guard
is below.  Bottom line -- there are California rules, as well, but
what they are depends an awful lot on which particular body of water
you're in.  Best bet would be to follow up with the Coast Guard and
the appropriate California folks directly.

Hope this does the trick.


From: "Aldrich, Brian " <>
 Fri, 30 May 2003 10:44:30 -0700 

Yes there are [state rules], and I have had as much trouble getting
useful information off of their website as you have.  Here is a point
of contact:

Mary C. Hays
Public Land Management Specialist
California State Lands Commission
100 Howe Avenue, Suite 100 South
Sacramento, CA 95825-8202

(916) 574-1812
(916) 574-1925 FAX

Also if you can tell me more specifically where you would like to
place an aid, I can tell you if there are any other agencies
concerned, or if any agency overrides the State Lands Commision
Authority.  Such as federally designated mooring areas, where a local
harbormaster may have authority.

Brian Aldrich 
USCG District Eleven 
Private Aids to Navigation 
oceanmark-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
This was a very good answer, and could not have been answered more
completely without me adding more details to my question.  pafalfa
went beyond the call of duty by sending out an e-mail enquiry to get
clarification of the answer.  Thank you very much!


Subject: Re: Private ocean buoys and registration
From: pafalafa-ga on 30 May 2003 12:52 PDT
Thanks for your kind words and generousity -- it's much appreciated.


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