Nautical bon ton: the use of the flags

Nautical bon ton: the use of the flags

12. October, 2021
The Blue Blog

Nautical bon ton: the use of the flags

If the dress tells us who the monk is, for the boat the flag tells us who the sailor is, or captain of the same. Often, perhaps even too much, many boats cross with a sailing "style" not suitable if not completely disrespectful of the rules. In fact, the flag is not only a patriotic quirk, which can also be good, but actually identifies the country to which the boat belongs.

This obviously implies a whole series of links between boats and country, such as the territorial one, its laws and naval rules to be respected. This is why it is very important that the national flag is clearly visible and in good condition. It is part of language as a form of communication between boats and the dock, a sort of recognition at first sight. However, the national one is not the only one that must be hoisted, there are some others that refer to the International Code of Nautical Signals.

Good sailor's rules

The national flag, which indicates the country where the boat was registered, should be kept in order, well exposed to the stern and above all it must not be discolored or torn to shreds, as it is pretty common to see. This should be exposed from the morning starting at 8 am, at sunset when in port, obviously always exposed during navigation.

It is tradition then, and always in the rules of bon ton, that when the flag is hoisted or lowered, it must never touch the deck. When instead a military ship is crossed, the rule wants it to be slowly lowered to half height, leaving it in this status until the other ship has exposed its, then quickly brought back into position. Once past the ship, it can be hoisted up to bring it back into position.

The other flags

Other than the national flag there are others to take into account, like the courtesy flag, the banner of the foreign country of the waters in which you are navigating. This must be hoisted under the cross on the starboard side of the sailboat. Moreover, in some countries where autonomous policies are strong, for example Corsica, it is desirable to hoist the corsican flag and then the French one, as a sort of local hierarchy.

The yellow flag corresponds to the letter Q of the international code of signals, and is the one of free circulation; it must be hoisted to the left under the cross of the sailboat when one is about to enter national waters of a non-EU country. Its message tells the authorities that the boat is heading towards the nearest port where customs procedures can be carried out. In other times this signal was also a sort of declaration that the crew was in good health and therefore asked for permission to head to the mooring of a foreign port.

The flags contribute to the immediate identity of the boat, its crew and navigation intent. Today these bon ton rules are not taken with due consideration, however a good sailor puts them into practice, because those who love the sea are respectful of them and also follow their philosophy!

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