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The difference between a gong and a bell is that a gong has more than one tone (pitch) while a bell has only a single tone. A groaner is also called a whistle buoy (and is so designated on charts). For all you want to know about buoys and more, see: http://chartmaker.ncd.noaa.gov/mcd/chart1/aids/Q.pdf


Ah, then my picture is a bell (there's just one bell there.) There's a real gong later in the series.


So if bells can be tall and cylindrical, does that mean gongs can be wide and conical? Am I imagining that bells and gongs are a different shape? Or are they both a different shape and have two pitches of sound?


As it happens, both photos (bell and gong) show tall, cylindrical buoys. The bell is red and the gong is green, but I think that has more to do with their location than their relative bell-ness or gong-ness.

I do remember seeing tapered sound-buoys (that is, not nuns) but I don't think the shape of the structure is particular to the message it's communicating. (I could be wrong, of course; I already have been.)

As I recall, a buoy's color, number, bellness/gongness, and shape are all related to whether the buoy marks the left or right side of the channel. Thus, for instance, in IALA B (the US) buoys on the starboard side of the channel returning are:

Color: Red
Shape: Cone (nun), Pillar, or Spar
Topmark: Conical
Light: Red

The port side is as follows:
Color: Green
Shape: Can, pillar, or spar
Topmark: Cylindar

In IALA A (just about everywhere else), the colors are reversed (red LEFT returning).

Green buoys are always odd numbered, red buoys are always even.

Above from the IALA standard and COLREGS. I can't seem to find a reference for whether gongs or bells go on the port or starboard, but distinctly remember learning something along those lines in my navigation class.


Heh. It hadn't occurred to me until now to consider any more details about a bell or gong than the immediate, "Stay well clear, there's a ledge around here somewhere."

This uncle has an unfortunate habit of finding ledges with his propeller (it would be unkind of me to share our speculation about the causes) so one of the subtexts of this particular cruise was showing him what to stay clear of before he found out for himself.

I think I learned "red right returning" before I learned "right turn on red after stop."

Ms. Feverish

I think I also learned "red right returning" before I could drive. And then shortly thereafter realized that unless you have a chart, its pretty hard to tell what's returning and what's not...

In my mind, nav. buoys of all kinds always signaled "get out the charts!" :)

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All 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have allowed right turns on red since January 1, 1980, unless a sign otherwise prohibits this, such as "No Turn On Red".

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