Red Right Returning – Not!

Red Right Returning–Not! A warning against talking on the cell phone while piloting through rocky waters.


If you’re like us, you frequently use the saying “red right returning” to remember which side to take buoys when returning to harbor (keeping in mind that this is only true in the US and some related areas).

But as we’ve recently found out, this rule does not always hold true in Maine, and we now assume, probably in some other areas as well.

A couple of weeks ago we were head to the town of North Haven, from Pulpit harbor, on Vinylhaven island. We were heading through the Fox Island Thoroughfare, paying attention the the chart on the PC, and picking off the buoys on the computer as we went by them. BEOWULF was cruising under power at her usual 11 knots.

The cell phone rang and it was my Dad, calling from California. I was describing the area to him (he cruised Maine 50+ years ago on his schooner, CONSTELLATION), while dodging lobster pots.

Buoy 26 was about 50 feet off our starboard beam (red right returning) when I noticed some lumps of rock sticking out of the water. A quick glance at the chart showed “Cross Ledge” in the middle of the channel. BEOWULF was put into full reverse for an emergency stop as we watched the depthsounder display sink from 25 feet rapidly to ten feet.

With the boat stopped we took a closer look at the chart. Cross Ledge was not in the channel – we were on the wrong side of the red buoy. And then the light went on. The Fox Island Thoroughfare, has two entrances, so there is no way to tell which end is the entrance, and red right returning does not work here – or in a lot of other similar situations.

We’re paying a lot closer attention to the charts these days, and staying off the phone will maneuvering in restricted waters.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (September 14, 2001)

Comments are closed.