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What are ATON's?

The waters of the United States and its territories are marked to assist navigation by the U.S. Aids to Navigation System. ATON for short. This system employs a simple arrangement of colors, shapes, numbers and light characteristics to mark navigable channels, waterways and obstructions adjacent to these.

The U.S. Aids to Navigation System is intended for use with Nautical Charts. Charts are one of the most important tools used by boaters for planning trips and safely navigating waterways. Charts show the nature and shape of the coast, buoys and beacons, depths of water, land features, directional information, marine hazards and other pertinent information. This valuable information cannot be obtained from other sources, such as a road map or atlas.

If you are going to use a boat in the waters in and around Fort Myers Beach we encourage you to be familiar with the ATON system. One of the best ways to obtain a basic understanding of the ATON system is to take a safe boating course such as Boating Skills and Seamanship. This program will provide you basic navigation skills and familiarize yourself with the ATON system. More advanced classes such as Basic Coastal Navigation and Advanced Coastal Navigation are also available. Remember, ATONS are merely an AID to navigation and do not replace navigation charts, a proper look out and common sense. It is easy to run aground in the "skinny" water in the area. You must also be aware that due to hurricanes some ATONS may be destroyed or off position or showing improper characteristics. The Coast Guard Local Notice to Mariners reports these descrepancies if they are aware of them. Always have a designated lookout.

Here are some helpful links to learn more. They are no substitute for a hands on structured classroom but does provide a good overview.


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