By Capt. Carl Kelly
Red and green channel markers line both sides of the safely navigable water in passes and the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW). Green marks are always square and odd numbered (1, 3, 5, etc.); red marks are always triangular and even numbered.
In passes, when you are returning from the Gulf the red marks will be on your right and the numbers will increase as you enter. The memory device is RRR, Red Right Returning. That leaves all the greens on the left.
But, you need to know whether you are returning in or going out. That may seem easy to know, but it isn’t always intuitive.
Take the Marco River, for example. You can return from the Gulf by the Marco River at the north end of Marco Island or from south of Goodland. That’s because Marco really is an island. At both ends, as you come in the red marks will be on you right.
So, if you enter the Marco River at Goodland, keeping the red marks on your right (RRR) and travel north to Marco Pass, somewhere in the middle you change from returning in to going out. The red marks will change from right side to left side, and the green marks from left to right.
You have to know where that happens. Otherwise you pass a mark keeping it on your right when it actually should be on your left. More than one boater has grounded making that mistake.
In the Marco River the switch happens at the Jolley Bridge. When you pass under the bridge the reds switch from your right to your left side. This kind of switch also happens in other places. So, if you are traveling to other ports check the charts carefully before you go.