Most boaters have been there.
It's night time, but channel markers are there to guide you back to your marina or boat ramp. The only obstacle, of course, is the large number of buoys marking No Wake zones that dot the path between the open bay and home port.
On a busy summer weekend, the buoys can sometimes cause stress as boaters try to navigate skinny channels in the nation's most densely populated state.
Boaters who equate the proliferation of buoy markers in waterways such as Barnegat Bay to a minefield of anchored obstacles will see some relief this summer, however, as the state will reduce the number of No Wake warning buoys up and down the coast.
The total number of buoys, which mark areas in which boaters must slow to near-idle speed and not create a wake, have risen from just 35 statewide in 1988 to more than 750 in Barnegat Bay alone during the summer of 2011.
State officials say the buoys have become so ubiquitous that they litter the state's waterways, and often mark off areas where existing laws already dictate that boats must slow down, such as bridge openings and areas very close to land.
Personnel from the New Jersey State Police Marine Services Bureau in Point Pleasant Borough are currently evaluating the areas where regulatory buoys have historically been placed in an effort to determine which buoys are no longer needed, said Trooper Christopher Kay in a statement released Friday.
"The buoys that will undergo the closest scrutiny are, for the most part, slow speed/no wake buoys that had been placed in the bay to warn mariners of a temporary slow speed/no wake area and are no longer required, and buoys that are placed in locations where it is clear, based on the existing laws and regulations that all mariners are expected to know, that vessels are required to slow down to no wake speed," Kay said.
Once identified, "unnecessary" buoys will not be placed in the bay for the 2012 boating season. The final determination as to whether a buoy will be eliminated or retained will be based on public safety and quality-of-life, officials said.
The state is currently investigating alternative markings for areas where extra notifications are needed. Such markings could include fixed signs informing boaters they are entering or exiting a No Wake zone.
The presence - or lack thereof - of buoys does not change existing state laws on boat speed. New Jersey law requires the speed of every vessel to be regulated so as to not cause danger or injury to persons or property, either directly or by the effect of the vessel's wake.
Additionally, there are several situations where state law requires all boats to be slowed to “slow speed/no wake” when passing. They include:
- A marina, pier, dock, wharf or abutment at a distance of 200 feet or less.
- Work barges, platforms or floats while actually engaged in work related activity.
- Through bridge openings of 400 feet or less.
- Through lagoons, canals and confined areas of less than 200 feet in width.
- Vessels not under command.
- Emergency vessels displaying sequential flashing or rotating blue lights.
- Vessels engaged in activities recognized by the Coast Guard displaying rotating or sequential flashing red and yellow lights.
Though state police officials say the reduction in the number of buoys is not a cost-savings measure, the state stands to save some cash this summer. The cost of each regulatory buoy with its corresponding anchor and chain is approximately $350, a figure which does not include the costs associated with placing and removing the buoy, relocating a buoy in the event that it is moved, and the annual maintenance cost associated with the upkeep of the buoy and its related gear.