Chet Aero Marine

The wings of flight in an age of adventure…and much more.

Aids to Navigation


Aids to navigation are an old favourite of ours. It’s obviously important for those designing ports and harbours, and it’s certainly interesting for those who navigate them.

There are three personal reasons why we find this subject of interest:

I’ve also included some navigational “classics” on this page.

Unless otherwise noted, all of these documents are taken from the United States Coast Guard’s Aids to Navigation manual.

The American Practical Navigator

Nathaniel Bowditch

2002 Bicentennial Edition of the classic reference on navigation.

Coatings and Color Manual

January 2014

We also have a previous version, Coatings and Colors Manual M10360.3B, 12 June 2001 (not in Aids to Navigation Manual)

The Coatings and Color Manual, COMDTINST M10360.3 (series), is published to promulgate Coast Guard coating and color policy and selected procedures for all vessels, buildings, structures, fixed equipment, and aids to navigation. While the Coatings and Color Manual, COMDTINST M10360.3B, does authorize different coating systems from revision A, implementation of this Manual does not constitute a significant change in Coast Guard policy. Accordingly, this Manual qualifies for Categorical Exclusion 33 under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and therefore does not require NEPA analysis.

Lighthouse Maintenance Management Manual M16500.6A, 12 August 1993 (not in Aids to Navigation Manual)

Courtesy of the Church of God Chaplains Commission.

This manual provides information, principles, policies, and requirements for district commanders, group commanders, and aids to navigation teams to maintain lighthouses, which are part of the Short Range Aids to Navigation Program.

Loran-C User Handbook Commendant Publication P16562.5, 1990 (not in Aids to Navigation Manual)

The purpose of this book is to provide general information about the Loran-C Radionavigation System and to present an introduction to its use. This revision reflects major changes in: the Loran-C system, Coast Guard operational technology, and Loran receivers. The book also includes information for aviators and terrestrial users.

Since the Loran system is pretty much done with, this is strictly for historical purposes.  You can find out more about its history here.

Positioning M16500.1C, 26 March 1996

The purpose of this manual is to ensure aids to navigation are properly positioned in order to assist mariners to determine the position of their vessels, a safe course from that position, and to warn them of dangers or obstructions to their safe passage.

Radionavigation M16500.13, 3 January 1989

The Marine Radiobeacon System provides all weather navigation information to enable vessels fitted with direction-finding equipment to take a bearing or to take several consecutive bearings which will provide a fix. Radiobeacon service is available in most important navigational areas.

Aids to Navigation Manual: Short Range Aids to Navigation Servicing Guide

18 April 2011

We also have the earlier document Short Range Aids to Navigation Servicing Guide M16500.19A, 24 November 1998

This guide provides servicing personnel the information needed to install, maintain and troubleshoot 12-volt minor aids to navigation. Aids to navigation must be properly maintained to ensure proper performance. The team leader must identify what equipment is used at the aid and what service is required. Each chapter details each piece of equipment and what maintenance is required. In general, most minor aids consist of a single solar panel, one or more secondary batteries, a lantern and associated hardware. These aids will have the following maintenance performed either annually, biennially or triennially.

Aids to Navigation Manual: Seamanship

March 2016

We also have the earlier document Seamanship M16500.21, 8 May 1997

Specialized Aids to Navigation seamanship plays an important part in safe and efficient aids to navigation operations both afloat and ashore. While local conditions will govern which methods of achieving certain operations are best, there are certain basic principles that form a firm background of good seamanship. The purpose of this manual is to explain good seamanship standards in aids to navigation operations. These standards include historical facts, theories and techniques learned over time by skilled mariners. Above all, it is the goal of this manual to provide the safest methods and guidance possible so our personnel will be doing what may be the most dangerous task in the Coast Guard in the safest environment possible.

Aids to Navigation Manual: Structures

November 2005

Structures M16500.25, September 2004

Aids to navigation (ATON) structures support visual and audible signal equipment in a fixed location and at a design elevation that establishes the geographical range of the aid. Structures are built in a variety of configurations according to the unique geological and environmental conditions of a given location, as well as the specific nature of the signal required. They can range from simple and inexpensive daybeacons to complex and costly offshore lights. Design work, particularly for complex structures, is normally performed by the Civil Engineering Units (CEUs) or via CEU-administered contracts. Construction is carried out via CEU-administered commercial contracts, or in the case of many minor structures, by Coast Guard units such as construction tenders (WLICs), Aids to Navigation Teams (ANTs), or Integrated Support Command (ISC) industrial forces. Design, construction, and maintenance of ATON structures are functions of the Shore Facilities Program, and are funded via the AC&I Waterways program or the AFC-43 program, depending on the nature of the work involved. Guidance for these funding methods is provided in the Civil Engineering Manual, COMDTINST M11000.11 (series) and the Financial Resource Management Manual, COMDTINST M7100.3 (series).

Tower Manual M11000.4A, January 2002

This Manual defines Coast Guard policy and criteria for the preservation of towers and prescribes minimum inspection and maintenance standards for use as a guide in organizing and managing a comprehensive tower inspection and maintenance program. The primary objectives of such a program are to keep critical antenna and navigation systems operational to the maximum possible extent, and to protect the Government’s investment by economically maintaining the towers. This Manual shall be utilized for all Coast Guard towers to the maximum feasible extent. Towers are defined as any permanent structure that is more vertical than horizontal, that is energized or non-energized, guyed or free standing, and exceeds 20 feet in height. Tall towers are those 300ft in height or greater. Small towers are those less than 300ft in height. The safety requirements in Chapter Two of this Manual are applicable to all towers and elevated structures including monopoles, ATON structures, and communications support structures.

Visual Signal Design Manual M16510.2A, 14 October 2002

Coast Guard personnel use information from a series of documents to select optical systems for lighted aids to navigation. This manual collects and collates into one reference the latest scientific theory and methods involved with the generation of visual light signals, the transmission of these signals through the atmosphere, and the detection of these signals by mariners. This manual:

  • Discusses the theory of visual signaling;
  • Explains how to select optics for lighted aids to navigation;
  • Explains how to evaluate the performance of existing optical systems;
  • Explains methods of calculating effective intensity; and
  • Provides example calculations to demonstrate the processes discussed.
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