OCC Forums

Flag, Burgee & Pennant Etiquette

https://forum.oceancruisingclub.org/Topic1587.aspx

By DariaBlackwell - 20 Oct 2014

The OCC Flying Fish burgee helps us identify other members wherever we are in the world. OCC Members are asked to always fly their burgees, especially when entering an anchorage or harbour. Not only do other members and port officers identify us as part of the extended family of blue water cruisers, businesses identify us as eligible for special offers and discounts.

The RYA Flag Etiquette page details the rules and customs that prescribe display of flags, burgees, and courtesy flags for UK citizens. http://www.rya.org.uk/infoadvice/regssafety/flagetiquette/Pages/flagetiquette.aspx

It is a good article for British customs and regulations, some of which do not apply to other countries. For example, whereas the yacht ensign is the correct flag to fly for UK citizens throughout the world, the US yacht ensign may be flown only in US waters. The American flag must be flown outside US territory and by all US documented vessels in all waters. Here is a good overview of US flag etiquette as updated by the US Power Squadron with input from the NYYC and USCG. http://usps.org/f_stuff/etiquett.html

John Rousmaniere, respected author of the Annapolis Book of Seamanship and many other publications, has written extensively about flag etiquette from the US perspective. A good summary can be found here ...
http://www.sailnet.com/forums/seamanship-articles/19226-flying-flag.html

So, being a truly global organization, we should create a collection of respected articles on the flag etiquette of major nations reflecting the nationalities of our membership. A discussion associated with flag, burgee and pennant terminology and etiquette may also be useful.

Just to make things really interesting, here are the Australian customs and rules which offer three choices of ensign as well as a gin pennant. http://www.foxsportspulse.com/get_file.cgi?id=2741384

And here are the rules for New Zealand. Note choice of ensign or flag. http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/nz~yacht.html
http://www.nava.org/sites/default/files/NAVA_Raven_v17_2010_p047-062.pdf
By DariaBlackwell - 20 Oct 2014

Here is an article on the different conventions of different nations:
http://www.sail-world.com/UK/Flag-Etiquette-on-a-sailing-boat-today/102443

And a very funny article written by OCC Member George Curtis!
http://www.oceancruisingclub.org/index.php/publications/60-fftest2011/flying-fish-2005-1-with-pictures/61-flag-etiquette
By Alex_Blackwell - 21 Oct 2014

here is a discussion on burgee etiquette we wrote a few years ago from the American perspective:
http://www.coastalboating.net/Features/Editorials/2006/Burgees.html

here is one on flag etiquette in general:
http://cruising.coastalboating.net/Seamanship/Flags/FlagEtiquette.html
By bbalme - 22 Oct 2014

I love these flag etiquette discussions - primarily because I completely flaunt them! One of the first people I met after actually qualifying as an OCC member - we were in Sao Jorge in the Azores - let me know in the first sentence of our meeting, that the 'boat over there ' was flying the flags wrong. Since he was pointing to Toodle-oo! I thought I 'd best listen.

Well I guess I was committing the cardinal sin of flying more than one burgee. Indeed not one, but three! Yes folks I fly three association burgees - from the port spreader (might move to the starboard side next year since we 're sailing in home waters so no need of a courtesy flag). They are the OCC, the SSCA and CA - and they are ALL triangular (shock, horror, probe!). By flying all three I figure I have greater chance of meeting fellow cruisers who belong to one or more of these associations (with hopefully some alcohol involved in the meeting and not a flag etiquette lesson). What 's wrong with that??? OK I could buy house flags and achieve the same thing - but it 's more fun to watch people cringe as we sail by!

Just to add to our problem, I also fly the red duster (small courtesy version) under the burgees (stop the presses, he does what???) - to indicate there 's a Brit aboard this American flagged boat. I figure I 'm safe on this one though since I saw the commodore flying the South African flag in a similar location.

I did get called on the incorrect ensign - I was using the fouled anchor - completely inappropriate in foreign waters - so that particular error has been permanently remedied...

Next year, back in home waters, I 'll be joining a yacht club... that 's one more burgee up the rigging to confound everyone! ;-)


Bill Balme
s/v Toodle-oo!
www.toodleoo.com
By DariaBlackwell - 22 Oct 2014

Here are some points for the Republic of Ireland 's use of flags on vessels.

http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/ie~yens.html#lieu
By simoncurrin - 22 Oct 2014

Bill,
Good to see you are safely home. One thought. You could change the Red Duster to the Union Jack to maximise the cringe factor. :ohmy:
Simon
By DariaBlackwell - 22 Oct 2014

Tee hee. We have a Union Jack. We wondered why it was so hard to find. I guess we 'll have to get an ensign some day. :)
By simoncurrin - 22 Oct 2014

Oh dear Daria doesn 't that mean you have the Queen aboard?
By Alex_Blackwell - 22 Oct 2014

Actually, Simon, our Union Jack is still unflown. We did not need it in Scotland...
By bbalme - 29 May 2015

So, with all the recent turmoil about flying the burgee, I 'm considering putting up a pig stick...

Seems it 's not possible to buy one - so I have to make one or improvise... I found a very nice description of a pretty elaborate pig stick design on the web - but at a cost of parts amounting to over $200... That 's a bit rich! http://www.tartan3500.com/uploads/3/1/1/9/3119926/pigstickrev2.pdf

What do other people use?

Is an old fishing pole (rod) a viable candidate for improvising?
By DariaBlackwell - 29 May 2015

[quote="bbalme" post=2119]So, with all the recent turmoil about flying the burgee, I 'm considering putting up a pig stick...

What do other people use?

Is an old fishing pole (rod) a viable candidate for improvising?[/quote]


Yes, Alex made one from an old fishing rod. It was quite elegant. But it still caused problems with the electronics. We got it tangled up once and had to climb the mast. That was the last time we used it.
By David.Tyler - 29 May 2015

I 've been in USAnian and Canadian waters for quite a while, now, and I just love the way some of the local sailors fly their ensign at the starboard spreader! Presumably in imitation of the way we foreigners fly our courtesy flags. :dry:

Having an unstayed mast and no spreaders, I have to improvise a bit. The courtesy flag flies from a halyard running through a thimble seized on halfway up the topping lift. The burgee gets hoisted on a masthead halyard, a little way short of the masthead (of course, I should be flying a house flag). I 'd like to fly the burgee at the masthead, properly, but the OCC burgee is not supplied in a suitable form - the toggle has to be cut off and some arrangement made to mount it on a staff. I 've mentioned this to our Commodore, and something might be done about it. Particularly as he likes to fly his pennant in the proper place :lol:
By DariaBlackwell - 29 May 2015

David,
While in the Americas, you can get a burgee from OCC Member Greta Gustaffson that has grommets instead of toggle. It is also of very durable nylon.

http://www.im-embroidery.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=IE&Category_Code=B
By dcaukill - 30 May 2015

Here is a sketch of a simple tubular post attached at the mast head onto which we hoist our pig stick flying our pennant.

It means that each evening, when you strike the ensign, you can also strike your burgee without having to climb the mast. No, really you can....
By ER - 1 Jun 2015

The full extent of my vexillology lies in this little book I have: Reeds Maritime Flag Handbook edited by Miranda Delmar-Morgan and published by Adlard Coles / Bloomsbury. I think it covers all our situations, ensigns, courtesy flags, burgees and house flags. http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/reeds-maritime-flag-handbook-9781472907400/
By DariaBlackwell - 31 Jul 2019

Pursuant to the flag etiquette discussion, here's a document describing the rules for Australians. 
https://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Flag-etiquette.pdf
By DariaBlackwell - 31 Jul 2019

And a note about American flag etiquette from Scuttlebutt: 

Breaking the rules of yachting etiquette
Published on July 30th, 2019
by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
While I did not find it in the Racing Rules of Sailing, there seems to be a general consensus that I have been guilty of perhaps an even greater infringement. You see, when we race our Alerion 28, we display an ensign off a stern staff, and I never knew that was against yachting etiquette.

I knew how the flag display was only from 0800 until sunset, and that its length should be one inch for every one foot of boat length. I knew I had the option of either the usual 50-star national flag or a special flag called the yacht ensign that, in place of the 50 stars standing for the states, depicts a fouled anchor on a field of 13 stars.

However, I did not know that whenever a US boat is taken into international or foreign waters, the 50-star U.S. ensign is the proper flag to fly and the yacht ensign cannot be displayed.

I also did not know we had New York Yacht Club to thank for the second flag. It turns out that prior to the enactment of income tax laws in the early twentieth century, the US federal government obtained most of its operating funds from the collection of tariffs and customs duties levied on foreign goods entering American harbors.

All vessels were subject to inspection, including private yachts, and as the popularity of yachting increased, the burden of customs inspections became tiresome and unnecessary.

In 1847, NYYC Commodore Stevens proposed to the Secretary of the Treasury that private yachts not engaged in trade or commerce be exempt from inspection. The Secretary, fully aware of the manpower required to inspect each and every yacht entering a port, agreed to propose legislation that would allow the Treasury Department to license yachts and let such yachts carry a signal of the form, size and colors prescribed by the Secretary of the Navy.

At the Secretary of the Navy’s request, the New York Yacht Club recommended in January 1849, “The American Ensign with the addition of a foul anchor in the union be adopted….” Thus, the American yacht ensign was created, and it is still used today.

But most of all, I did not know how any ensign should not be displayed while the boat is racing. I did not find a definitive reason for this, other than perhaps to differentiate racers from daysailors. Regardless, I hold myself to a higher standard (when possible) and will seek to do better. Onward!

https://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/2019/07/30/breaking-the-rules-of-yachting-etiquette/
By Dick - 1 Aug 2019

Bill Balme - 5/29/2015
So, with all the recent turmoil about flying the burgee, I 'm considering putting up a pig stick...Seems it 's not possible to buy one - so I have to make one or improvise... I found a very nice description of a pretty elaborate pig stick design on the web - but at a cost of parts amounting to over $200... That 's a bit rich! http://www.tartan3500.com/uploads/3/1/1/9/3119926/pigstickrev2.pdfWhat do other people use?Is an old fishing pole (rod) a viable candidate for improvising?

Hi all,

Flags are a form of communication. Those that are dictated by international and national rules should be scrupulously followed and it is good to be reminded every now and again of their dictates, especially any particular national rules that might not be well advertised.

BTW, Daria, that was fascinating history: thanks for sharing.

Those “recreational” flags are governed by their own particular organizations with varying levels of implementing coherence, adherence and vehemence: sometimes allowing for comic relief when transgressions are aired.

A pet peeve of mine are those cruisers who allow their courtesy flags to get ratty: ok I also do not like an ensign to get ratty, but at least it is your own country. To me a courtesy flag allowed to get ratty is dis-courteous and should be remedied.

My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
By Dick - 1 Aug 2019

Dick - 8/1/2019
Bill Balme - 5/29/2015
So, with all the recent turmoil about flying the burgee, I 'm considering putting up a pig stick...Seems it 's not possible to buy one - so I have to make one or improvise... I found a very nice description of a pretty elaborate pig stick design on the web - but at a cost of parts amounting to over $200... That 's a bit rich! http://www.tartan3500.com/uploads/3/1/1/9/3119926/pigstickrev2.pdfWhat do other people use?Is an old fishing pole (rod) a viable candidate for improvising?

Hi all,

Flags are a form of communication. Those that are dictated by international and national rules should be scrupulously followed and it is good to be reminded every now and again of their dictates, especially any particular national rules that might not be well advertised.

BTW, Daria, that was fascinating history: thanks for sharing.

Those “recreational” flags are governed by their own particular organizations with varying levels of implementing coherence, adherence and vehemence: sometimes allowing for comic relief when transgressions are aired.

A pet peeve of mine are those cruisers who allow their courtesy flags to get ratty: ok I also do not like an ensign to get ratty, but at least it is your own country. To me a courtesy flag allowed to get ratty is dis-courteous and should be remedied.

My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Alchemy pig stick
Hi Bill
I took a square piece of teak of a length (make sure there are no knots or weak spots) that I wished and planed and sanded the edges till well blunted. I bought stainless steel rings to fit over the pole. I positioned the rings with turks heads about the distance apart that the hoist on the burgee dictates. The rings were free to rotate easily but limited in there up and down movement by the turks heads. I made shallow indents where I tie the flag halyard on with rolling hitches.
Attach the burgee and hoist away.
Total cost was far less than the burgee.
Be particularly careful of expensive and fragile equipment that may share area at the truck of the mast.
A few years ago John Franklin in one of the OCC communications had plans for a permanent install of a pigstick which may have appeal.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy