Little Buc's Adventures: Decoding Abbreviations On A Nautical Chart

Little Buc

Ahoy, Followers -

Do you enjoy puzzles?  I sure do!  Last night, I walked up to the Bridge and discovered the ultimate challenge – decoding the abbreviations on a nautical chart! 

For cadets majoring in Marine Transportation, it’s easy!  They’ve taken classes, completed hours of studying, learned from crew members, and stood watch on the Bridge.   For this pirate, it was a different story! 

little buc on nautical chart

At first, I was full of guesses.  When I saw Co, I immediately shouted out, “Colorado!”  I am pretty sure that I saw a 4/C cadet roll his eyes as he reminded me that Colorado is a landlocked state in the middle of the United States and would not appear on a nautical chart on the TS Kennedy.  After that, I didn’t dare suggest that PA represented Pennsylvania.

Little buc on  chart

Most of the cadets on watch were sympathetic to my confusion.  Cadet Chief Mate Michael Clapp from Metairie, Louisiana explained that sometimes a single letter can have more than one meaning.  For example, m can represent meter (meters)minutes of time, or medium (in relation to sand).  Navigators have to look carefully and observe whether an abbreviation is written with lowercase letters, capital letters, or a combination of the two.  

Cadet Chief Mate Clapp pointed out that while the lowercase letters rd represent roads, the capital letters RD means Directional Radiobeacon

Here a few of the abbreviation that had me scratching my head.  Can you predict what the letter or letters represent? 

I have given you a few hints.

I will tell you in the final paragraph.  Don't look until you have made a guess for each abbreviation.

1.   DZ                         
(HINT: In this case, DZ does not mean dozen!)

2.   G
(HINT: What is the arrow pointing to?  The name has four letters and begins with G.)

gulf of mexico

3.   S               
(HINT: What is this 4-letter word?)

pile of sand

4.   Pyl
(HINT: What is this a picture of?  Remember, it begins with the letter P.)

pylon in ocean

5.   Spk       

6.   Mon                     

(HINT: No, we’re not talking about a day of the week!)

7.   Obs

8.   unev
(HINT: How would you describe the ocean floor?)

ocean floor

9.   Fl             
(HINT: Look at this picture?  What is the light doing?)

flashing light

10. Le 

11. sy             

12. V Qk Fl       
(HINT: Yes, this abbreviation represents three words.)

13. PA

14. Co
(HINT: What is this?)


15. Racon                   
(HINT:  Sorry, it is not an animal with a mask-like face.  This is a tough one.  Do you know what this is?)

radar beacon

Have you made your fifteen predictions?  Before you look at the answers below, talk about your guesses with a classmate or family member. 

What do you think?  Are you as stumped as I was?  Do you have a few figured out?  If so, you’re a better navigator than I am! 

don't look symbol

Here are the answers:

DZ stands for Danger Zone
G stands for Gulf.
S stands for Sand.
Pyl stands for Pylon.
Spk stands for Speckled.
Mon stands for Monument.
unv stands for Uneven
Obs stands for Obstruction.
Fl stands for Flashing.
Le represents Ledge.
Sy represents Sticky.
V QK Fl represents Very Quick Flash.
PA represents Position Approximate.
Co represents Coral.
Racon represents Radar Transponder Beacon


Before leaving the Bridge, I gave out handshakes and high-fives to every cadet on watch.  I am very impressed with all of the abbreviations they have mastered. 

The cadets make chart reading and navigation look easy, but as I quickly learned, it is certainly NOT.

Your favorite puzzle-loving pirate,

Little Buc