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I would like to place an American Flag on my boat. What are the rules for this ? bow or stern, port or starboard and the size of the staff ...
  1. #1
    kevin58 Guest

    Default Flag displayed on a boat?

    I would like to place an American Flag on my boat. What are the rules for this ?
    bow or stern, port or starboard and the size of the staff in relation to the size of the flag. I also will be flying a yacht club flag on another staff how would that be flown in relation to the U.S. Flag.

  2. #2
    Peter Ansoff is offline USA Flag Site Admin
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    Default Re: Flag displayed on a boat?

    Hi, Kevin!

    I would like to place an American Flag on my boat. What are the rules for this ? bow or stern, port or starboard

    The general custom is that the national flag is displayed at the stern, which is the place of honor on a vessel. (This custom goes back at least to Roman times. Roman ships carried a religious icon or statue at the stern, which was called the "pupus" -- I believe that this is why the raised after deck is sometimes called the "poop." A more practical reason is that the stern was usually the captain's station.)

    The national flag is normally flown from a staff at the stern, unless this would interfere with some aspect of the vessel's operation (for example, a sailing vessel with a boom that extends over the stern). In this case, the flag is flown from the aftermost mast, typically from a gaff. On some sailing vessels, it's flown from the backstay of the aftermost mast, or even from the luff of the sail itself. There are many variations; for example, many large merchant ships fly the ensign from a staff located in the after part of the superstructure, even though it's well forward of the stern.

    the size of the staff in relation to the size of the flag.

    I don't think that there are any real rules for this -- whatever is practical and looks good.

    I also will be flying a yacht club flag on another staff how would that be flown in relation to the U.S. Flag.

    I've seen yacht club flags flown at the bow, at the masthead, and on the starboard stays. I'm not sure that there is any standard, other than the regulations of the yacht clubs themselves.

    BTW, the subject of flag display on vessels is not covered at all in the flag code. This is probably because the code was originally based on Army regulations which didn't deal with boat-type stuff. This gets tricky when the US flag is flown from a nautical-style flagpole on shore: Should the US flag be at the peak of the gaff (maritime usage) or at the masthead (land usage)? If they ever decide to revise the flag code, this is something that should be fixed.

    Also, all of the above deals with civilian usage. In the Navy, the national flag is flown at the stern when the ship is moored, and from the gaff on the mast when the ship is underway. When coming into port, "shift colors" is supposed to happen when the first mooring line hits the pier.

    Peter Ansoff

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Flag displayed on a boat?

    ^^^ dont argue wit da man!! he knows what hes talkin about!!... or at least SOUNDS like he knows what hes talkin about... lol

  4. #4
    Peter Ansoff is offline USA Flag Site Admin
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    Default Re: Flag displayed on a boat?

    ^^^ dont argue wit da man!! he knows what hes talkin about!!... or at least SOUNDS like he knows what hes talkin about... lol

    Hah! Fooled you again, eh?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Flag displayed on a boat?

    lol i dunno u tell me!!! i havemt done much research about flags on boats... im still at point of researching flags as objects on their own..and only national flags and state flags of USA.

    that cudda all been a big crock of ____ but i wuddent know if it was cos it does sound very convincing!

  6. #6
    YCHistorian is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Flag displayed on a boat?

    Kevin,

    A general rule of thumb on the proper size of flag to fly from your boat is one inch on the fly for every foot of boat length. Thus, a 30ft boat should fly a US Ensign or US Yacht Ensign at least 30 inches on the fly. Always err on the larger side when buying standard-sized flags. If you have a sailboat, the preferred placement for the yacht club burgee is at the masthead, using a "pigstick" if possible to get the burgee above any anemometer or wind vane at the masthead. The next preferred placement is from the starboard spreader. If you have a powerboat, the preferred placement is from a bow staff or, alternatively, from any antenna or short mast. As for the choice of US Ensign or Yacht Ensign, you may fly either in US territorial waters. Outside of the US, recreational vessls must fly the US Ensign, since the Yacht Ensign is not recognized outside of the US.

  7. #7
    YCHistorian is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Flag displayed on a boat?

    Quote Originally Posted by kevin58 View Post
    I would like to place an American Flag on my boat. What are the rules for this ?
    bow or stern, port or starboard and the size of the staff in relation to the size of the flag. I also will be flying a yacht club flag on another staff how would that be flown in relation to the U.S. Flag.
    Kevin,
    The general rule of thumb for sizing a US Flag (US Ensign or US Yacht Ensign) is one inch on the fly for every foot of boat length. Thus, a 30-ft boat would fly a 20x30 or 24x36 US Flag from a stern flagstaff. The flagstaff should be about 1.5 times the hoist of the flag, so a 24" hoist flag would fly on a 36" flagstaff. As to the yacht club burgee, if you have a sailboat the preferred location is at the masthead, preferably on a pigstick, so as to clear the masthead instruments. Alternatively, you can fly it from a halyard on the starboard spreader. If you have a powerboat, the burgee is flown from a bow staff. Alternatively, it can be flown from a midships light mast or radio antenna. As to choice of US Ensign or Yacht Ensign, it is up to you. If you will be outside of US terriorial waters, you must fly the US Ensign since the Yacht Ensign is only recognized within the US.

  8. #8
    Peter Ansoff is offline USA Flag Site Admin
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    Default Re: Flag displayed on a boat?

    Great information, YC! What is the source of these rules of thumb? They sound like good common sense, but are they documented anywhere?

    Best,

    Peter Ansoff

  9. #9
    YCHistorian is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Flag displayed on a boat?

    Peter,

    There are several published sources of information on the proper display of flags from yachts and yacht clubs, yacht routine, etc. Chapmans is perhaps the best known (Chapmans Piloting and Seamanship -65th edition), which has a chapter on flag usage. My personal favorite is Joseph A. Tringali's "Yachting Customs and Courtesies", which contains a history of the origin of the Yacht Ensign and discusses its usage today. It is available through this website:
    Yachting Customs and Courtesies Revised Second Edition

    Regards,

    YCH

  10. #10
    NAGAS260 is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Flag displayed on a boat?

    Hello,
    Reading your posts, still unsure if I'm flying right.
    I have an 18' gas-powered pontoon boat. Currently flying the U.S. flag only.
    A small version, maybe about 12" x 15". I have the "stick" of the flag
    cemented inside a 1" diameter PVC pipe about 5' tall. We fly it in the front
    near the front gate. All other pontoons in our area that fly the flag, have them mounted on the stern light pole. This is typically on top of the bimini
    bows. Who is correct? Or are both versions proper and acceptable?

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