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Buoys and their Numbers

On Duncan Press charts, buoys now have numbers to distinguish them, one from the other, like people and animals have names to tell them apart. Numbered Buoys always have had numbers on the buoys themselves (see the black Numbered Buoy with the "11" on it?), but all the rest of the buoys haven't. Now, all the buoys on the lakes Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam, Newfound, Ossipee, and Squam have buoy numbers on their Duncan Press charts.

Buoys, when used properly, prevent damage to boats and even, occasionally, save lives. This is especially true on Squam, Winnisquam and Winnipesaukee, where submerged islands, rocks in odd places, and even sand bars six feet deep or less spread out a quarter of a mile from shore. These are dangerous lakes, for all their beauty, especially when the weather turns rotten and you're out on the lake alone.

Nevertheless, only one of the buoy types have real, print numbers from which boaters can refer to them--and keep from getting lost: the Numbered Buoys. On Winnipesaukee, a boat operator can can spot a Numbered Buoy, see it's waypoint, and, with his chart, know exactly where he is. But what about those dozens of places on the lakes that don't have Numbered Buoys with their waypoints plainly visible to guide a pilot? This is a well-known problem, for example, to the boat operator who finds himself alone and out of gas. What if the lake he's talking about has nearly seven hundred buoys? And only seventy five have numbers?

The Numbered Buoys, which are present in most major lakes, have their waypoint printed on the actual spar of the buoy. The rest of the buoys are physically numberless. They were known simply as "the black-top buoy at the northeast end of Cow Island." No matter that there are TWO black-top buoys at the northeastern corner of Cow Island on Lake Winnipesaukee!

In the summer of 2002, Jim Beach of the Marine Patrol, acting on his own time with his own equipment but with permission of his superiors, decided to experiment with waypointing all the buoys in Lake Winnisquam. He gave the numbers and the latitude/longitude ("waypoints") to go with them to the Marine Patrol and to Sally Fichet, as mapmaker of the lake. In subsequent years the other lakes were added--Newfound, Ossipee, Winnipesaukee and finally Squam. In 2004 Sally published the buoy number charts of Newfound, Ossipee, and Winnisquam, and in 2005, Lake Winnipesaukee. In 2016, she published Squam.

Jim Beach gave the copyright to Sally Fichet in 2007.

Now, two of the adoption steps have been taken: all of the buoys on five of the major lakes have been numbered and located on the Duncan Press charts, and the boating public is beginning to use them.

To repeat: the buoy numbers ("waypoints") aren't on most of the buoys themselves, just on the charts.

Nonetheless, the fellow out of gas will be able to call his boatowner's service and, with his chart, simply say "I'm right around number eighty-three." The person on the other end will use his computer or GPS to look up the number (the name of the lake, Lake Winnipesaukee, is part of the number, as is the location and buoy-type), and, in seconds, land on the approximate coordinate of the "victim."



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Charting the New Hampshire Lakes Since 1967®
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Last modified 1 April 2018