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.
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.”
The Specialty Flags:
Seven Seas Cruising Association
Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club
Little Farmers Cay
When we are anchored off of Little Farmers Cay, Bahamas, we fly the “official” Little Farmers Cay flag.
Staniel Cay Yacht Club
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.
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
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!