Flags on board, how to place them correctly


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Flags on board. We revealed 13 general rules about flags on board, and told you how there are, as a rule, three flags: the national flag, the social flag and the owner’s flag. Added to these is the courtesy flag when sailing in a foreign state. Now it is good to go into the details of the position.

Flags on board, where to put them

The national flag goes aft on a flagpole so that it sagging touches the surface of the sea with one flap (see drawing below).

Flags on board – Above, flag at stern boom lapping the water; below, flag at mizzen boom, with sounder weight, lapping the water.

This rule applies to all boats stopped in port and inhabited (with crew or at least with the Master living on board). In the case of no crew all flags are to be removed except for the social guidon.

Another way to hoist the national flag aft is, for boats that have a boom that protrudes aft at least twenty centimeters, to tie the flag to the boom and keep the luff taut by applying a weight to it, normally using the
lead of a sounder (see drawing above).

Position of flags aboard a sloop in Italian waters.

Flags on board, the social guidon

The Social Guidon should also be hoisted with special pole at the top of the main mast (the taller one). A good compromise, since it is the only flag that remains nearly fixed, is to graft it onto the VHF antenna.

How to hoist the social guidon correctly

The courtesy flag

Courtesy flag. When entering the waters of a foreign state one must go immediately to a port of entry where to do entry paperwork. The journey from international waters and the port of entry should be accomplished by hoisting the letter Q (a yellow square) of the international code on the starboard cross of the mast; when the entry paperwork is completed, the Q is lowered and the flag of the host state is hoisted.

Flags on board, don’t get confused

Often in Italy, boats with French leases and therefore flying the French flag have the Italian commercial flag with the coats of arms of the Maritime Republics as a courtesy flag.

Error and horror in that it is the flag of the host state that should be hoisted, that is, the National flag without the four Republics.

Some clarifications should be made here; why do we hoist the Q which is an all-yellow flag? Because it no longer has the original meaning of plague on board but rather means “I am unharmed and ask for free practice.”

Position of flags in a ketch or yawl in Italian waters.

The second clarification is that the crosses on a sailboat also have a priority from the right cross of the main mast to the left cross of the minor mast and finally to the left.

Watch out for the right flag!

Finally, a final recommendation on flags on board. Pleasure boats must hoist the Italian flag reserved for the commercial navy, which features the emblem of the four maritime republics in the center with the symbol of the lion of St. Mark with an open book.

Merchant Navy flag (for pleasure boats)

Pay attention to the difference with the navy one, which also has a crown and the lion of St. Mark has a closed book.

Navy flag. Not good for pleasure boats!



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