Friday, June 29, 2012

Flag Etiquette

Rules and regulations for the flying of flags on ships, boats and other watercraft are an important part of seamanship.  The usual rule that no flag should be flown higher than the national flag does not apply on board a ship and a flag flown on the stern is always in a superior position to a flags flown elsewhere. 

The Ensign:

Renegade a Panamanian Flag Vessel

An ensign is a national flag when used at sea and is flown in relation to the country of registration, so much so that the word “flag” is often used as a synonym for “country of registration.”  Ensigns are usually required to be flown when entering and leaving harbor, when sailing through foreign waters, and when the ship is signaled to do so by a warship.

Placement of flags on sailing vessels is dependent on the rigging of the ship.  Above is the normal position on a sloop rigged boat;

Whilst a ketch rigged boat flies its ensign at the top of the mizzen mast. 

The “Q” Flag:

The practice of flying the yellow quarantine flag or “Q” flag when entering a foreign harbor began in earlier times with laws enacted to stop the spread of deadly diseases.  Today it is flown indicating that the vessel and crew have not been “cleared” into the country by the authorities.  Regulations for customs and immigration clearance vary from country to country.  Seldom in the clearance process am I even asked about the health of myself or the crew, so I guess the Black Death was eradicated.

The Courtesy Flags:

Once clearance procedures are met, it is customary to remove the “Q” flag and fly the host country’s courtesy ensign as a token of respect by the visiting vessel.  It is often a small national maritime flag of the host country and is usually flown on the starboard side below the lower spreader on the foremast of sailing vessels.  On a mastless powerboat, the courtesy flag of another nation replaces any flag that is normally flown at the bow of the boat, or can be flown from any appropriate appendage available on the starboard side of the vessel. 

Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Turks & Cacaos & BVIs

Dominican Republic, French Islands, St. Lucia & Antigua/Barbuda

Mexico, Canada, & USVI

Over the years, we have collected a few flags.

Now we are flying the Grenada courtesy flag.

Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Florida,

and South Carolina (missing North Carolina)

Because our hailing port is Washington, DC, we are not officially part of the “real” 50 states.  Therefore, we usually fly the state’s flag when we are passing through.  It is all part of that issue about “Taxation Without Representation.”

Dressing Overall:

Nauticat Rendezvous

As a sign of celebration, ships in harbor may be “dressed overall” by stringing International Code flags (arranged at random) from stemhead to masthead and then down to the taffrail.  Ships may be dressed for occasions, anniversaries and events, whether national, local or personal.  A ship underway would not array herself with signal flags.

The Specialty Flags:

Seven Seas Cruising Association

Members belonging to a yacht club or sailing organization may fly their club's unique burgee both while underway and at anchor.  Sailing vessels may fly the burgee from the main masthead or from a lanyard under the starboard spreader on the mast (below the courtesy flag).  Power boats fly the burgee off a short staff on the bow.  We normally fly the SSCA burgee;

Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club

Unless we are pulling into a marina that might be giving a discount for members of the RMHYC.

Little Farmers Cay

When we are anchored off of Little Farmers Cay, Bahamas, we fly the “official” Little Farmers Cay flag.

During Regatta Week in George Town, Bahamas, one must fly a Regatta flag.  Pollie won the green pennant placing second in the kayak race (women’s division).

Staniel Cay Yacht Club

Traditionally, when the first time a member of one club visits another, there is an exchange of burgees. Exchanged burgees are then often displayed on the premises of each, such as in a club bar.

Diver Down Flag

We have accumulated two of these flags, and I like to place one on the front and one on the back of the boat when I am doing maintenance on the bottom.  We also stick one up when we are snorkeling off of the dinghy.
Gin Pennant

A Gin Pennant means that the wardroom is inviting officers from ships in company to drinks. The origins of the Gin Pennant are uncertain, but it seems to have been used since the 1940s and probably earlier.  Its color, size and position when hoisted were all significant as the aim was for the pennant to be as inconspicuous as possible, thereby having fewer ships sight it and subsequently accept the invitation for drinks. The Gin Pennant is still in regular use by Commonwealth Navies, such as the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Within the RAN it is common practice, whilst in port, for junior officers of one ship to attempt to raise the Gin Pennant on the halyard of another ship, thereby forcing that ship to put on free drinks for the officers of the ship that managed to raise the pennant. If, however the junior officers are caught raising the pennant, then it is their ship that must put on free drinks within their Wardroom. Usually this practice is restricted to Commonwealth Navies; however, prior to increased force protection, RAN officers have successfully raised the Gin Pennant on a number of units in the USN.
Source: Wikipedia, Maritime Flags

Jolly Roger

It is also appropriate to hoist the above flag up the mast of your Pirate loving friend’s boat.

(Actually, he disapproves of the glamorization of Pirates,
but I tricked him into dressing up like a Pirate, and sending me the picture.)

Happy Forth of July!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Med Moored

Two bow lines are connected to a small buoy (now submerged) and four lines are run to the concrete quay behind us.  We arrived during a small squall with rain and wind on the beam.  One of the marina workers in a dinghy attached the bow lines while two others took the stern lines from Pollie as I maneuvered the boat.  It was a success; we are safely here and did not scratch any fiberglass.

Our insurance requires us to be south of 12°40¢ North from 1 June to 15 November or we will be self-insuring for named or numbered storms.  Port Louis Marina, our home until October, lies at 12°04¢ North.

The insurance companies have slightly different views on what constitutes the Northern Tropical Storm Zone, and when the hurricane season officially starts and ends.  NOAA’s 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook indicates that a near normal season is most likely. Probably:
9-15 named storms,
4-8 could become hurricanes,
1-3 major hurricanes.

Port Louis is in a lagoon that is considered a “hurricane hole” and has a pretty good hurricane plan.  So, we will deal with it if something develops.  Last year we moved the boat from Florida to the Chesapeake to get out of the zone only to be hit by an earthquake followed by Hurricane Irene.

When we arrived, customs and immigration was quickly handled in the onsite office.

The Marina was completed in 2009; the landscaping is starting to fill in nicely.

There are onsite bars and restaurants a short walk from our boat.

At 12° North of the equator, the pool gets plenty of business.


We seem to have some nice neighbors.

All in all, it not too shabby.

When we get bored, we can cross over to Saint Georges or tour the rest of Grenada.  So, stay tuned, we may have the boat in “condo mode,” but the blog articles will still be coming.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Entrepreneurial Island

Photo courtesy of Kenmore Henville
As we approached Admirality Bay in Bequia, a crazy man in a dinghy started circling our boat.  He was standing up, jumping waves, driving with one hand, taking pictures with the other, and blowing a whistle to get our attention.  Soon he waved, and then took off to intercept the next boat.

Kenmore was just the first of many small boats that came by to offer us services from laundry to teak refinishing.  All were very polite and professional.  The morning after our arrival, Kenmore stopped by with a framed proof and USB drive with about 35 shots of our boat for our perusal.  He later dropped by to take our order.  We now have the photo for our Christmas cards.

Fuel, water and ice were available from other vendors. Frizy, on Phat Shag came by and collected money for the mooring ball. They would even take your garbage so you would never have to leave your boat.

Except, you must find this building to check in to the Grenadines with customs and immigration.

Then you are free to roam the island.

Bequia is a popular dive destination with many nearby sites to explore.

The hotels for the divers are fairly low key.

As well as the eateries.

Unfortunately, we never did find the Whaleboner Bar open.

I did my own diving while we were there, breaking out the compressor to clean the bottom and check the zincs.

Soon it was time to move on, so we moved on down the Grenadine chain of islands to Union Island to check out.  There we had to anchor in fairly deep water (27’) behind a reef.

Union Island does not have much to offer the cruiser, but we did have fun meeting Bill and Debra and having drinks on their great yacht Renegade.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fore Warned Is Fore Armed

Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

As we proceed south, security becomes more of an issue.  We rely on resources such as and Seven Seas Cruising Association (SSCA), for security information about countries.  One of the more succinct security advisories was published by the SSCA giving a “Caribbean Security Index” of 1-10 (10, safest) for the both anchoring out and marinas at various cruising destinations.  For example Haiti received a 5.8 while St. Barth’s received a 9.8.  Unfortunately, St. Lucia received a 9.6 for marinas and a 7.0 for anchoring out with this note. “…In harbor at marinas safe; anchoring out increasingly less safe.  The country has been ill managed in recent years….”

So we opted for the IGY Rodney Bay Marina.  Basically you are in a gated community with floating docks and a pool.  They had several restaurants and boat chandleries on site.  I asked Pollie why she didn’t take more pictures of Rodney Bay and she said that nothing caught her interest.  So, I guess you can say Rodney Bay was nice, but not all that exciting.
Even with the security, Gregory the fruit vendor made it to our boat.  We were able to buy fresh pineapple, papaya, avocados, and tomatoes from Gregory.  His prices were a little high, but it was worth it for the show.

Our next stop was Marigot Bay.  With a charter fleet stationed there, we figured it was probably fairly safe.

The marina offered moorings inside a well protected (from wind and waves), but active lagoon.

Transportation to the restaurants and the beach was provided by a couple of water taxies that operated from early morning and into the night.

We took advantage of the water taxies for breakfast at the Marina Village and dinners at Doolittle’sand The Rainforest Hideaway.

Banana Man
                                                                               Photo courtesy of Izzy St. Clair on Izzy R

This was the scariest dude we ran into while on St. Lucia, so we enjoyed the island.

The next big island is St. Vincent with a rating of 5.6 (ouch, worse than Haiti). The associated note said, “…Land and seascape beautiful and popular with cruisers, but crimes against cruisers are on the rise.  Grenadines are preferable.”  As we blew by St. Vincent for the Grenadines, I counted only 5 cruising boats at anchor on the whole island.