Originally Posted by Dockhead
My boat was built with a short flagstaff incapable of carrying an ensign appropriate to the size of the boat. I got tired of the stupid little ensign and bought a bigger one. Since it wouldn't fit the flagstaff, I tied it to the backstay. And that looked stupid in its own way, drooping on the deck
when there's no wind
But then I saw a Finnish boat with the ensign hauled half way up the backstay -- and I thought it looked terrific! So I hauled my ensign up on a halyard
, with a downhaul.
Is this permitted? I remember reading somewhere the permitted positions of the ensign on a single-masted yacht, but can't remember them, or where to find it.
Is this permitted? Yes and no. On your vessel, only a flagstaff on the stern will do. Install a longer flagstaff.
We (I know you're of the UK) take our flag etiquette from the Royal Navy
. Note that they fly the Ensign from a staff at the stern, case closed.
In the 1800s the New York
Yacht Club was in a quandry. They were embroiled in controversy about how to fly flags
(yachts of the period had long decksweeper mizzen booms and there was no convenient place for an Ensign), with all kinds of strong opinions and thread drift (sounds familiar, right?). So, considering that US law and protocol were based on British practice, they wrote to the Royal Navy
and asked them what their established practice was flying the Ensign on their ships. And the Royal Navy replied that they always flew the Ensign from the gaff of the mizzen on their ships.
Well, the Royal Navy knew its stuff. So the New York
Yacht Club, the senior yacht club in the US, decreed that protocol said that the proper place for the US Ensign was flying from the gaff of the aftermost sail. And all the yacht clubs in the US followed suit and adopted this protocol. And the dictum spread to other countries. Yachts all over the world flew their Ensigns from the gaff of the mizzen.
And when the marconi rig came in with its improved beating to windward, they continued the practice the way they had always done it, attaching the Ensign 2/3 of the way up the leech of the aftermost sail or backstay or something. And you see that all the time these days. And yacht clubs and authorities formally specify that it's OK to fly the ensign from the leech of the main if it's 2/3 of the way up. And that's why they do that.
But the catch is, when the New York Yacht Club asked the Royal Navy where protocol dictated that they fly their Ensigns on their ships, the Royal Navy had just switched from galleons(???) to pinnaces(???). On galleons, and just about every other kind of ship the Navy had, the aft deck
was clear and could take a flagstaff for the Ensign, and they put it there. The pinnace had a decksweeper mizzen that wouldn't let a flagstaff or anything else be installed on the stern, and they needed the flag to be seen, so they flew it from the gaff of the mizzen. And when they went on to thelr next series of ships, presumably steam powered, they could put the Ensign back in its proper place, where it had been for thousands of years--on a flagstaff on the stern.
The New York Yacht Club never asked about no galleons and pinnaces and steamboats, so the Navy didn't see any reason to go into that kind of detail.
You follow the protocol defined by the Royal Navy. No deviation! You fly your Ensign from a stern staff like the Navy flies its Ensigns from a stern staff--unless you can't because you have a deck sweeper mizzen boom or a sport fishing
boat that has fishing
lines trailing out of the back all the time or you're a tug who tows other ships or something.
There. Now you know something the New York Yacht Club doesn't know.
[Unix type disclaimer: That's true, that is, I read it somewhere. I can't provide a reference right now and I can't remember details like the exact year and the exact names of the types of Navy ships.]