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Old 27-06-2009, 07:28   #1
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Flag Etiquette on Unusual Rig

On our 31 trailer-sailer, we normally do our 1-week trips in the northeast US flying no flags at all. Now Im contemplating a trip to the Bahamas, and it seems I need to fly a Bahamian courtesy flag, which if I do that Ill certainly fly an American flag as well.

Ive read a number of flag etiquette websites, but have trouble figuring exactly how to handle our situation. Id like to do it right, but our boat is a bit of an anomaly a duck-billed platypus among swans.

We have a lugsail yawl, with an unstayed mainmast in a tabernacle. No spreaders. The mizzensail does not raise and lower we spin the mizzenmast in its socket to wrap the sail around the mast.

I could fly the US flag from the leech of the mizzensail, but anytime we reefed by furling the sail around the mast we also do this at anchor the flag would wrap around the mast.

I can fly the Bahamian courtesy flag from a light halyard on the mainmast. But we sometimes lower the mainmast in its tabernacle, especially to damp rolling in an anchorage with any swell. What happens to the courtesy flag in that situation?

I could fly the Stars and Stripes from the leech of the mainsail. But what do I do with it when the sail is lowered?

I could add a flagstaff to the stern of the boat, but its awfully crowded back there already, what with mizzen, outboard, tiller, and swim ladder.

Which all gets me wondering are flags legally required in any way, or are they just polite and good form?

Thanks for any advice!

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Old 27-06-2009, 08:43   #2
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the combination of ensign and courtesy flag is not just good form, it is indeed a legal requirement. (On a boat, the flag of the country of origin is properly called an "ensign.")

realize that when you are in sight of land arriving at the Bahamas you must fly the Q flag until you clear in. Once you have cleared you fly the courtesy flag in place of Q. It lets the authorities know that you are in the country properly and that you agree to abide by their laws.

cruising is entirely about showing up--in boat shoes.
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Old 27-06-2009, 09:01   #3
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That is a really coool looking sailboat!
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Old 27-06-2009, 10:55   #4
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Many power boats put the Courtesy Flag on a whip antenna on the starboard side or on a jackstaff at the bow. You could put your US flag on a flagstaff off the starboard quarter. Remember to use the US Flag, not the US Yacht Ensign (with anchor and circular stars), as the US Yacht Ensign is approved for US waters only. As Bash said the flag is called an ensign, just don't confuse it with the US Yacht Ensign which was approved for US Yachts in the US.

Try not to put them on the same hoist or standard because nothing but the church pennant is ever flown over the US Flag, and other countries don't like it if the courtesy flag is in a second position.

Good luck

Joe S
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Old 27-06-2009, 11:20   #5
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Hey Garth -

Have a great time. I'm recreating your Wellfleet/Cape Cod Bay trip next week. Same boat designer -- much smaller boat (I'll be solo) (Mickalak AF3; 15.5 feet; balanced lug)

I hope you don't mind me posting this link to the story on Duckworks, with several more photos of the beautiful Sea Fever for members of this forum to enjoy:
Duckworks Magazine - Cormorant & Vole at Cape Cod

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Old 27-06-2009, 11:46   #6
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I suggest that when sailing, you fly the US ensign on a halyard run in a swivel at the head of the mizzenmast. When not sailing, you should fly the ensign on a staff at the transom.

Technically, you don't need spreaders for signal halyards . As proposed by Svquest2, you could fly the courtesy flag and the Q flag from almost any convenient position (avoid flying the courtesy flag from a broom).

When approaching a foreign country, you should fly the courtesy flag on the starboard side and the Q flag on the port side, until having cleared Customs. In those countries where you don't have to clear Customs, you don't have to fly the Q flag at all. Check before entering their territorial waters.

And when returning to the US, maybe you have to fly the Q flag again, if you have to clear Customs (depending on who and what is on board).

Regarding flag etiquette, I was in a French harbor the other day. A British yacht rafted alongside me. She had only one flag halyard (from the masthead) and flew the British Red Ensign over the French Tricolor , rather than on a proper staff at the stern. This kind of bad manners is very uncommon from our British neighbors but I preferred to keep my mouth shut.

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Old 27-06-2009, 13:31   #7
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Thanks for all the advice.

I was hoping to avoid adding yet more stuff to my boat, but it looks like a flagstaff at the stern will be necessary.

Unfortunately, the starboard quarter is already taken -- our off-center mizzenmast resides there. There's barely room to squeeze one in on the other side, but I'll do that. I can already foresee it becoming a handhold for kids coming up the swim ladder, so I better build it strong. . . .

I hope that flying the ensign on a flagstaff on the port quarter is acceptable. I believe I read in one or two places that the starboard quarter is "traditional" but not required. I am left-handed after all, so I should get special dispensation.

As for the courtesy flag, I think I'll hoist it up the mainmast -- when the mast is up. And I'll create a socket for a small flagstaff on the side of the tabernacle itself for times when we fold the mast down.

Not sure how I'll fly the Q flag and the courtesy flag at once, but I'll think of something. Luckily that will only need to last a few hours, I hope.

David -- have a great trip! An AF3 will be heaven there. Just keep a careful eye on winds and tides. If you get a chance on a nice day, go out to Stellwagen Bank and see the whales. It's about 5 miles NNW of Race Point. Also, if you troll a lure, even from a plywood handline, between Wellfleet and P-town, you can't help but catch a bluefish. We're going to be there in mid-July. Can't wait.

Thanks again to all.

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