Courtesy flags: more than a courtesy? - Candle Totem (2023)

I really didn't intend to study flag protocol. And yet, over time, the language of flags gained importance. I'll never learn the code signs, but the basics of proper flag etiquette show respect and are fairly easy to learn. Getting it wrong most of the time just makes you look silly, but it can also get you into trouble. Here are the basics to help you be polite, plus a few extra tips.

As the name suggests, flying is often a courtesy. There are some countries that require this and may have different regulations. For example in Indonesia it is mandatory and if you wear a badge (your national flag) it must be smaller and lower than your Indonesia courtesy flag. Regardless of what is required, it is good and respectful practice to pilot one when licensed as a foreign vessel.

courtesy flag procedure

  1. Se: Raise your yellow “Q” flag (Q = quarantine) when crossing international waters into territorial waters. You fly these (and only these, not the courtesy flag) until you have practice (official approval in that country).

  2. Wo: A flag halyard on the starboard side of the mainmast, towards the lower spreader, is the correct position.

  3. O: The courtesy flag replaces the Q flag only after authorization is complete. A courtesy flag should be free (alone) in the fall.

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Courtesy Signaling Protocol

Courtesy flags are posted 24 hours a day.

Other flags (foreign guest, private signal, etc.) fly on the port side.

Out of respect for our host country, we always fly a courtesy flag unless the only one we have is tattered enough to be offensive. We will try to get you a replacement when it shows the first signs of wear.

If your boat design challenges any of the basic concepts described,Check Chapman controls. A solid reference that has been gaining space on cruise ship shelves! For super geeky sign flag knowledge, grab theseInternational Code of Signals.

additional flag protocol

When the annual cruise fleet arrives in Mexico, there are more than a handful of errors that occur on the newer, docked cruise ships. The intentions are good! But poor execution can be embarrassing or even offensive.

An upside-down flag is offensive and, depending on the design of the flag, can be a surprisingly easy mistake. When we were in Comoros, we accidentally turned the Comorian flag upside down. Not in our books (rare cruise destination), and the flag didn't have a useful "up arrow" - I found myself studying the officers' lapels to see that the yellow stripe was up!

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If you want to fly a different flag (let's say you have a guest from Brazil on board, then you want to fly a Brazilian flag) this can be done on the port side: not with your courtesy flag, not astern (reserved for the requested country ). You are registered at). Note, however, that the relative size of the port ensigns must not overshadow the courtesy flag on the starboard halyard; this may be considered offensive.

When flags are stacked, the order represents hierarchy: the highest prizes go to the highest flag and downgrade from there. However, if flying multiple flags of foreign guests, alphabetical order is appropriate.

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Placing one nation's flag over another in the same box can be considered too offensive (or an act of war) to the inferior flag. Do you only have the starboard box? So just raise a courtesy flag and skip the others that were waiting for you.

Make sure you have the correct flag! A courtesy flag is usually the national flag of the country in which it is located. In some countries, like the Bahamas, they wear a badge; It's similar, but it's not the same. Harmless to be wrong, but nice to be right. We missed the memo and had a national flag on board instead of a flag and we wish we had known sooner.

Raising a 100% wrong flag might be a harmless mistake, but it might offend your host. Our friend was wondering why his Dominican Republic courtesy flag didn't look like the other ships that fly Dominica - oops!

When we arrived in New Caledonia, our friend Brian greeted us from his trawler,BesideWith a word of caution. Your flag supplier's package included the Kanak flag of New Caledonia, duly raised after shipment. This got him into a fight with very angry gendarmes threatening him with a fine! (Full story on his Furthur Adventures blog.) It's French territory and flying the separatist flag got him in trouble; his timing with an election was poor.

where do you get flags

It helps to buy flags in advance and prepare them for your route in advance. Flags might not be easy to find at your destination, and until you get them, it's not... polite!

I tend to buy ours from regional collections for convenience and value. We started in the last few yearsBuy our free flags from Yacht Flagslike well-made flags at a good price. They are printed on durable nylon with the crane reinforced and eyelet installed. And it's a small business owned by a sailor! I'm very happy to support this.

For most of our cruising years we used cheap nylon pole flags; usually just a few dollars per person. Slide in the dowel (or preferably ship without one!) and sew the loops onto the winch to secure it to a flag halyard. Conveniently, the size of these flags is 12" x 18", which is exactly what a complementary totem pole flag would match. The downside is that they only last a few months - made for a table or shelf, not the sun and wind! Still, sometimes that's more or less how long we'll stay in a country. If we stay longer, we can usually easily find a local flag. Still, I'm glad I have a more durable and affordable option (closer to $5 a flag).

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The most expensive place is usually a marine sail shop, which starts at around $20 and goes up from there. Sometimes, however, they can be improved upon: for example, Taylor's flags are made from strong nylon and have reinforced gussets at the end of the hoist and additional stitching at the bottom of the pant legs. There is also a way to get it.the flag of the Bahamas on the right.

Some people make their own flags. That's pretty ambitious for me, although we've done it where necessary, including painting a bird of paradise on the flag of Papua New Guinea, which I sewed from clothes I found on board that turned out to be the right colors.

We still want to make the most of a flag! Running a few lines of zigzag stitches on the fly (wide vertical length) of any flag will extend the life of these flags. Some cruisers sew on additional straps or drop fly (similar to turn signals) to dampen the wind.

How about an American flag?

The idea that flying the American flag will cause problems in other countries because Americans don't like ithas not developed in our experience. Never. We never hid our national identities and we never had any problems (I don't know of any cruise lines that do). We also rarely fly a US flag, but that's because UV rays wear them out very quickly and a new flag every six months is a luxury we didn't plan for.

A flag (like our US flag above, with an anchor instead of 50 stars) is for flying in the US only. The challenge we had? The flags regularly wore out! When we arrived in Malaysia, we had stayed with an ensign. Buying stable flags helps! The most durable on board is this oneGettysburg-Flagge "Battle Tough"-Flaggen.

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Seeing the length of our courtesy flags stretched out was a powerful feeling! And every time we set foot on a new land, we have another memory. Our tough old quarantine flag is full of sentimental values. Dating back to the mid-1980s, Jamie's plan was to sail his Sparkman & Stephens-designed Sailmaster 22 to the Bahamas and beyond. Frosty weather and empty pockets shattered his dream at the time, but his Q flag is nearly 40 years old and has been part of the process of releasing totem poles in 47 countries and territories and continues its story on the water.


What is the point of a courtesy flag? ›

A courtesy flag (or courtesy ensign) is flown by a visiting ship in foreign waters as a token of respect.

Are courtesy flags required? ›

There is no legal requirement to fly a courtesy flag. It is simply a gesture of courtesy that a visiting vessel should fly the foreign nation's ensign when they enter and operate in its waters.

How large should a courtesy flag be? ›

Courtesy flags are normally 12" x 18" with mounting grommets.

What does the Bahamas courtesy flag look like? ›

The civil ensign is a red ensign with a white cross throughout and the national flag in the upper-hoist corner. This sign is also known as the Merchant Marine Bahamas Courtesy Flag. A visitor flag is normally not hoisted until the vessel is properly cleared by customs and immigration.

What are 3 things one should never do out of respect to the flag? ›

Other Things Not to Do with the Flag

let the flag touch anything beneath it: ground, floor, water, merchandise. carry it horizontally, but always aloft. fasten or display it in a way that will permit it to be damaged or soiled. place anything on the flag, including letters, insignia, or designs of any kind.

How do you use a courtesy flag? ›

A nation's courtesy flag should be flown by all vessels when entering a nation's territorial waters for the first time (and for the duration of the stay in that country's territorial waters). The flag should be flown from the starboard spreader in a position above any other flag.

Can an HOA prevent you from displaying an American flag? ›

When it comes to flag rules, associations must abide by the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005. HOAs and other real estate management organizations cannot prohibit its members from displaying the American flag on private property.

What are five things not allowed under the flag code? ›

The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature. The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

What are the four rules for displaying the U.S. flag? ›

The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free. The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.

Does the size of the flag matter? ›

When flying 1 flag on a single flagpole the length of the flag should be at least one quarter the height of the pole. For example, a 40-foot pole requires at minimum a 6'x10' flag with max being 8'x12'. The chart below is a good guide for determining the proper size flag for your pole.

What size flag is too big? ›

The General Rule of Thumb is: The Length of your Flag should be at least 1/4 the Height of your Flagpole. For example, a 12ft Flagpole would require a 2ft x 3ft Flag and a 20ft Flagpole a 3ft x 5ft Flag. Most Residential (Porch Style) Flagpoles are 5ft or 6ft in Length and made for a 2ft x 3ft or 3ft x 5ft Nylon Flag .

Can a flag be too big for pole? ›

A flag that is too large for the pole will put unnecessary stress on the pole that can lead to problems as time goes on. Below is an image showing both a 3'x5' flag and a 4'x6' flag on the same 20' pole… both are perfectly acceptable. These guides can be of assistance as you contemplate the flag size you need.

Where do you put courtesy flag? ›

A courtesy flag should be flown – typically at the starboard spreader – to show respect to the country whose waters you are operating in. It is smaller, but flys higher than the national flag.

Which side do you fly a courtesy flag on? ›

The courtesy flag is flown at the boat's starboard spreader, whether the ensign is at the stern staff, or flown from the leech. If there is more than one mast, the courtesy flag is flown from the starboard spreader of the forward mast.

What does a yellow flag on a cruise ship mean? ›

: a yellow flag hoisted by all ships to request pratique on entering a harbor, by a ship to show that it has contagious or infectious disease aboard, or by a ship that has been quarantined. called also yellow flag, yellow jack.

What is the backwards U.S. flag? ›

The American Flag in Battle

Back in the days of the Civil War, flag bearers were common military positions within the greater infantry and cavalry units. As the flag bearers stormed into battle, the American flag would sway behind them with the momentum, making it look like the flag was backwards as it flew.

What are the things that are disrespectful to the flag? ›

To mutilate, deface, trample on, cast contempt, or commit any act or ommission casting dishonor or ridicule upon the National Flag or over its surface; To dip the National flag to any person or object by way of compliment or salute; To use the National Flag: 1.

Can the U.S. flag be flown in the rain? ›

The United States Flag Code states:

"The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all weather flag is displayed."

Where do you put a flag in your front yard? ›

If possible, pick an area where the flag will get wind from multiple directions so it will wave in the wind regularly. Most people pick an area in a central part of their yard where the flag is at least partially open to the wind, gets ample natural light, and acts as a focal point of the property.

How do you show respect to flags? ›

As a sign of respect, all persons shall stand at attention and face the Philippine flag, if there is one displayed. If none, they shall face the band or conductor. At the first note, all persons shall execute a salute by placing their right palms over their left chests.

How do you respect and display the flag? ›

Salute the flag whenever it is paraded, when the Pledge of Allegiance is said, or when the National Anthem is played. Those not in uniform should salute the flag by standing at attention, tall and straight, with the left arm at the side, and placing the right hand over the heart.

Can your HOA prohibit you from flying your favorite flag? ›

Your right to display the United States flag is protected by federal law. The "Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005" makes it illegal for an HOA to restrict owners from displaying a U.S. flag.

Can I fly any flag I want? ›

What are the rules for flying a foreign flag on its own in the USA? You are absolutely allowed to do this as well. You don't have to fly the U.S. flag if you want to fly your own country's flag. There are no specific rules in the Flag Code for flying your own country's flag!

Can you hang an American flag outside your house? ›

Traditionally, the flag is to be displayed outdoors only from sunrise to sunset, but it can stay there 24 hours a day if it's properly illuminated.

What color is not used in any flag? ›

There are 196 countries in the world today and virtually none of them have purple on their national flag. So what's wrong with purple? After Skool explains how the color was worth more than gold.

What color is not allowed on flags? ›

Product Description. There are 196 countries on earth and none of them use purple on their national flag! What's wrong with purple? It's such a popular color today.

Can the American flag be flown at night without a light? ›

The Flag Code states it is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flag staffs in the open. However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.

How do you display multiple flags? ›

When you fly multiple flags on one flag pole, that means the American flag should always be the top flag. Other flags go below Old Glory. If you have each flag on its own pole, the American flag should still have the highest positioning. Ensure that no other flags on the other flag poles are displayed higher.

Can you place anything on the flag? ›

(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature. (h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

What are the three rules that we must follow regarding our National Flag? ›

3.18 The Flag shall not be used to cover a speaker's desk nor shall it be draped over a speaker's platform. 3.19 The Flag shall not be displayed with the "saffron" down. 3.20 The Flag shall not be allowed to touch the ground or the floor or trail in water. 3.22 The Flag shall not be used as a drapery in any form.

What size flag is best for house? ›

What Size American Flag for House. The most common dimensions for a house flag are 3'x5′. Usually, these flags fly from a 15” pole. If your pole is 20′ in length or more, you should probably increase your flag to 4'x6′.

Should a flag be tight or loose? ›

Pull the rope to hoist the flag until it's tight.

Keep the halyard nice and taut so the flag stays close to the pole. Make sure there isn't any slack in the halyard.

Which is better nylon or polyester flags? ›

It is most appropriate for moderate weather conditions. Nylon flags should only be used if flying from a pole mounted to a home or building. Polyester flags are best for high-wind areas and unpredictable weather conditions.

When flying two flags should they be the same size? ›

Section 7g of the Flag Code states: "When flags of two or more nations are displayed, they are to be flown from separate staffs of the same height. The flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace."

Can you fly a flag the same size as the American flag? ›

The U.S. flag should be raised first and lowered last. Other flags being displayed may be the same size and flown at the same height, but never higher nor larger than the American flag.

What is the average flag size for a house? ›

Flag size 3'x5' is the most popular size flag for residential display. The size is appropriate for display with a pole and mounting bracket on your home or with a ground set flagpole 18 to 20 feet tall. Some prefer a slightly smaller size, 2-1/2'x4.

Can you hang a flag on a tree? ›

Q: Is it legal to hang a U.S. flag from a tree? A: It's a no-no to fly an American flag from a tree, says First Lt. Kenneth Toole, a public affairs officer at the Minnesota National Guard's Camp Ripley. The U.S. Flag Code states that the flag needs to be displayed from a permanent structure, he said.

How deep does a flag pole need to be buried? ›

Make sure the hole is at least 2 feet deep and four to six times the diameter of the pole to accommodate the ground sleeve. It should be included with the purchase of your flagpole.

Do you salute a flag on a flagpole? ›

This salute is presented at several important times: When the Flag is being raised or lowered from the flag pole. When the Flag is passing by, as in a parade or Flag ceremony. When reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

Do civilians have to follow flag code? ›

Although this is a U.S. federal law, the code is not mandatory: it uses non-binding language like "should" and "custom" throughout and does not prescribe any penalties for failure to follow the guidelines.

What does holding a white flag mean? ›

The white flag is an internationally recognized protective sign of truce or ceasefire, and for negotiation. It is also used to symbolize surrender, since it is often the weaker party which requests the negotiation. It is also flown on ships serving as cartels.

Is the flag code for civilians? ›

The “flag code” is the federal law that sets forth guidelines for the appearance and display of the U.S. flag (“flag”) by private citizens. These guidelines specify times and conditions for display of the flag, manners and methods of display, and buildings where such display should occur.

Which shoulder do you carry a flag on? ›

For longer parades, the flag should be carried 'at the slope' - the flag leant on the right shoulder - rather than upright - but if others are carrying the flag upright you would follow suit. Flags should be stored in their cases when not in use, with the flag carefully rolled neatly around the poles to avoid wrinkles.

Is flag always to the right? ›

The US flag should always be on its right, as shown in this picture. The POW/MIA or other flag flies on its left, which is the viewer's right, facing the motorcycle. When flying just the US flag or several flags, the US flag can be at the center, flying higher than the others.

What are five things not allowed under the Flag Code? ›

The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature. The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

Is it a crime to let the American flag touch the ground? ›

However, you are not required to destroy the flag if it touches the ground. As long as the flag remains suitable for display, even if washing or dry-cleaning (which is an acceptable practice) is required, the flag may continue to be displayed.

Is it illegal to fly a ripped flag? ›

If people become lazy about replacing their worn-down flags, it's not something punishable in a legal sense, but it's seen as a moral offense.

What color flag means surrender? ›

In more recent history, the white flag has become an internationally recognized symbol not only for surrender but also for the wish to initiate ceasefires and conduct battlefield negotiations.

What does black flagged mean? ›

: to signal (a race-car driver) to go immediately to the pits.

What does a green flag mean? ›

So, what are green flags? They're the things that you want from relationships. They're always positive and are based in mutual-respect and appreciation.

Can I fly an American flag on my truck? ›

Q: Is it OK to fly a flag on a truck? A: As long as it doesn't interfere with the driver's field of view or obstruct the vehicle operation in any other way. Note that it's only acceptable to fly the U.S. flag mounted either in the center or on the passenger side of the vehicle.

What is the white flag law? ›

An individual is considered a parlementaire who is authorized by one of the belligerents to enter into communication with the other, and who carries a white flag. He has a right to inviolability, as well as the trumpeter, bugler, or drummer, the flag-bearer, and the interpreter who may accompany him.

What are the 3 types of U.S. flags? ›

American symbolism goes beyond just the national ensign. There are many flags that have been created and used to represent all kinds of American organizations.
There are three types of American military flags today:
  • Service Flags.
  • Maritime Flag.
  • Personal Flags.


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