Originally Posted by Tayana42
Jim, we fly our US flag on a flag halyard
from the starboard spreader. When we were about even with the Boxer’s bridge we lowered our flag about 1/4 of the height of the spreader and then without delay raised it again. We did this twice to be sure they had a chance to see us. I’m not at all sure we followed proper etiquette but they responded nicely.
I did a quick look and came up with these two items. The first quote is on a U.S. Coast Guard forum:
"This time honored tradition is a way for ships to salute each other at sea. The National Ensign of one ship is dipped to approximately half-staff and held until the other ship dips then two-blocks the Ensign. The initiating ship then follows the two-blocking of the Ensign to complete the salute. During this process all personnel topside man the rail
to the passing side and salute the passing vessel until the flag is again two-blocked (carry on)."
In case anyone is unfamiliar with the phrase Two-block, it means to raise to the top of the mast
The second quote is from Wikipedia:
The position of honour on a ship is the quarterdeck at the stern
of the ship, and thus ensigns are traditionally flown either from an ensign staff at the ship's stern, or from a gaff rigged over the stern.
The usual rule[citation needed
] that no flag should be flown higher than the national flag does not apply on board a ship: a flag flown at the stern
is always in a superior position to a flag flown elsewhere on the ship, even if the latter is higher up.
The priority of hoisting locations depends on the rig of the vessel. With sloops, ketches and schooners the starboard yardarm or spreader of the highest or main mast
is the second most honoured position. (That is, after the ensign at the stern.) Next after the starboard spreader is the port spreader. House flags (those defining the owner) are usually flown from the mainmast truck. When a club burgee is flown, it will normally be hoisted to the truck of the most forward mast. On a sloop
, then, not having a foremast, the house flag could be moved to the port spreader if the starboard spreader was in use, and a burgee was being flown. On a ketch
, the house flag would be moved to the mizzen.
When in port, the ensign should always be flown from the staff at the stern. This is traditional, because in former times the gaff was then lowered along with the mizzen sail. The only ensign ever flown from the starboard spreader or yardarm is that of a nation being visited. This is known as a courtesy hoisting of a courtesy Flag.
At sea, it used to be that the ensign was flown from the mizzen gaff. When Bermudian sails
came into general use, some skippers started to fly the ensign from two-thirds the way up the main-sail leech. Many consider this an affectation with the past. Others have taken to flying the ensign from a backstay. These are not good locations because the flag does not fly out well when hoisted raked forward.
The Canadian Heritage web page states:
“ whenever possible, the proper place for a vessel to display the national colours is at the stern, except that when at sea, the flag may be flown from a gaff; when in harbour the flag should be hoisted at 0800 hours and lowered at sunset.
” Another recent custom has been to fly a burgee and/or a cruising or power squadron flag from the starboard spreader. This custom has arisen because many sailboats today place a racing
flag or wind
indicator at the masthead.
boats without masts should always fly the ensign from an ensign staff at the stern. Conventionally, courtesy flags
are flown from the jackstaff at the bow. This seems to some landsmen as being a reversal of priorities. However, a boat
is steered by the stern and this gives it pride of place.
Nautical etiquette requires that merchant vessels dip their ensigns in salute to passing warships, which acknowledge the salute by dipping their ensigns in return. Contrary to popular belief the United States Navy
does dip the Stars and Stripes
in acknowledgement of salutes rendered to it. Merchant vessels traditionally fly the ensign of the nation in whose territorial waters they are sailing at the starboard yard-arm. This is known as a courtesy flag, as for yachts.
The flying of two ensigns of two different countries, one above the other, on the same staff is a sign that the vessel concerned has been captured or has surrendered during wartime. The ensign flying in the inferior, or lower, position is that of the country the ship has been captured from: conversely, the ensign flying in the superior, or upper position, is that of the country that has captured the ship.
Interesting stuff. Thanks to all who brought this up. I was aware of some but not all of this and I always appreciate a chance to learn. Thanks again.