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!

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