Let’s light up the night

Navigating our area waterways can be confusing enough during the daylight hours.
Aug 26, 2013

Sure, the buoys do a fine job of marking the safe paths through what can be a treacherous stretch of the Grand River from where it empties into Lake Michigan all the way upstream past Riverside Park and beyond.

There’s an easy little alliteration to help you remember how to handle the red and green buoys you encounter — red, right, return. When you’re returning from the Big Lake toward where you launched, keep the red buoys to your right.

But what happens when you’re heading back to your launching spot after dark, and those red and green buoys are swallowed up by the gloom? You should have an adequate spotlight involved, and the reflectors on the navigational markers should help you keep your course.

But it could be easier.

Some of the buoys in the channel between Lake Michigan and East Grand River Park are topped with solar-powered lights. This begs the question: Why aren’t all buoys — especially in high-traffic areas such as the busy stretch from the mouth of Spring Lake out to Lake Michigan — topped with these lights?

There’s plenty to worry about when boating in the dark, including keeping an eye out for unlit vessels and watching for floating debris. Boaters shouldn’t have to work to see the buoys marking safe passage through a river with plenty of shallow water.

Topping these buoys with solar lights seems like a fairly inexpensive yet efficient way to make navigating our waterways after dark a little bit safer.

Lights such as these vary in price from $200 up to more than $1,000, depending on the size and the distance at which they can be seen.

For this application, it would seem that a lower-priced option would suffice, and the benefits this adds to our popular waterway would far outweigh the cost.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.



The buoys from Lake Michigan to the railroad bridge are "Lighted Buoys" for commercial vessels. The Buoys from the bascule bridge upriver are known as "Cans" and "Nuns." Cans are flat on the top and are green with an odd number (can be related to a can of 7up). Nuns are cone shaped and red, with an even number. I believe the buoys near East Grand River Park are not registered with the USCG and are not shown as ATON (Aids to Navitagion) on NOAA Charts. I believe these are owned and installed by Coastal Zone Marina.

By the way, why did the Tribune choose to show a picture of a yellow ATON. Yellow means it's a special area for anchoring, traffic separation, fishnet area, cables or pipeline, military area and jettles. We don't see many of these in SL/GH.


I understand the river is in constant change, however..... some of the placing of the nuns and cans are amazingly incorrect. Yes, I would love to see lighted marks for night navigation. Though, more importantly, I would like to not see them on the shallowest part of the waterway(ie just east of Riverside Park). Currently, obeying the ATONs cause confusion in relation to local knowledge running the river IMHO. Light them yes, proper positioning definently!

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