Friday, May 12, 2017

FLASHBACK: The True Yachtsman Guide To Flag Etiquette for Opening Day

I wrote this story in 2007:



According to naval regulations, a flag officer is anyone who holds the rank of rear admiral and higher. Applying that reasoning to yacht clubs, only the commodore, vice commodore and the rear commodore have a clear claim to the title of flag officer. A past commodore has less of a claim, and a fleet captain, secretary and treasurer have no real claim at all.
Yachting and Customs and courtesies by Joseph Tringali.

When two boats are approaching the same gangway or landing stage, flag officers shall have the right of way in order of seniority.

Piloting seamanship and small boat handling “Chapman’s”











Distress: Though not official, flying the US Ensign upside down is universally recognized as a distress signal.




Transportation: Code flag “T” is used to call the club tender.

When cruising away from home waters, the wise yachtsman keeps a sharp eye out for local customs. It is a mark of courtesy to conform to local procedures and practices. While visiting at a yacht club of which you are not a member, observe the actions and routines of the local owner-members, and particularly the club officers. This is especially important with the respect to evening colors. Not all clubs strictly calculate the daily time of sunset, and some may be earlier than you would normally expect. If you will be off your boat at the time of evening colors be sure to take down your flags before you leave your boat.





SHIPS BELLS:
That pesky clock which no one ever seems fully to understand is based on the concept of watches: not wristwatches, but ship’s watches. The ship’s day is divided into six four-hour ‘watches’ beginning with the period from 8:00 P.M. to midnight, which is called the ‘first watch’. For the record, the names of the watches are:
8:00 Pm to midnight First watch
Midnight to 4 AM Midnight Watch 135
4:00 am to 8:00 Morning Watch
8:00 am to Noon Forenoon Watch
Noon to 4:00 pm Afternoon Watch
4:00 pm to 8:00pm Evening watch

Now for the bells: A junior member of the crew, usually a cabin boy, was assigned to the task of keeping track of the length of the ‘watch’ by turning a sand-filled hour glass and to make this just a little more complicated, the glass needed to be turned every thirty minutes. The boy was ordered to ring the bell once for each time he turned the glass. Thus, one bell repents 8:30pm two bells 9:00 pm, three bells 9:30. Etc. At eight bells, four hours, the watch changed, and a new cabin boy took over, ringing the bell once at thirty minutes after beginning of his watch and continuing as described through the entire four-hour period.

Absolute purists will note the 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm evening watch is usually dived into two ‘dogs’ known as the ‘first dog’ watch, from 4:00 PM to 6:00 pm and the second ‘dog watch”, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. The word ‘dog’ in this instance has nothing to do with a four-legged canine; rather, it is ‘dog’ in archaic sense that we might today use the word ‘jog’ or ‘skip’. ‘ Dogging’ the watch allowed the crew to eat their evening meal, which generally was the only full meal of the day, between the hours of 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm. One-half of the crew was at the table while the other half was at work. No special arrangement is made for the bells during the dogged watch: they continue as before, adding one bell every half hour until the watch ends at 8:00 pm
One final note on ship’s bell is recorded by Lieutenant Commander Lovette and provides an interesting idea for yacht club New Year’s Eve party:
An old custom, once strictly observed, was that of having the oldest man in the ship, be he the admiral or jack-of-the-dust, strike eight bells at midnight, on December thirty-first. This was immediately followed by eight bells for the New Year and always struck by the youngest boy on board. It was, of course, the only time of the year when sixteen bells were struck.

Piloting seamanship and small boat handling “Chapman’s”
Yachting and Customs and courtesies by Joseph Tringali.
Yachting Protocol Guidelines by SCYA



Most yacht clubs have an area set aside as a memorial for the club’s past commodores. Regardless of the form it takes, the purpose of the past commodore’s memorial is something more than feeding the egos of the select few by recognizing a group of individuals whom most people remember vaguely and whom new members may know not at all. It is in the nature of a yacht club to maintain a closer tie to its roots than almost any other kind of club. The memorial, past picture books, photographs, is a continuing link with the club’s past. It is one of the many traditions, which make a yacht club unique

In the past I have noticed visiting yacht club with more than half of the participants flying the wrong flags in the wrong places. Yacht clubs should also ask the visiting club’s to bring their flag so that we can fly the visiting clubs flag. Proper flag etiquette shows other clubs and yachtsman just what your club is all about. Final words, Flags are not flown for appearance; they convey definite and well-accepted meaning. There may be some debate on whether or when a particular flag should be flown, the byword must always be, “ Less is more”



Flag Time
With few exceptions vessels shall make colors only between the hours of 0800 and sunset. All colors should be struck at sundown, which includes yacht club burgees, fun flags, fish catch flags, code flags for dressing ship, etc. For our opening day chairs, all boats displaying colors, private signals, code flags, etc before 0800 on opening day should be noted and assumed that all colors were flown overnight.

Private Signal: The owner of the vessel designs a flag. Usually a tapered, swallowtail pennant, but sometimes a rectangle or triangle. The tradition of the private pennant signal, or "house flag," currently used dates back to the 18th and 19th century when the sailing ship lines were at their peak. Many line owners were yachtsmen and carried their "house flags" to their yachts. Many members of the older yacht clubs have "house flags" that have been passed down for generations. It is flown in place of the yacht club burgee, from the bow staff on mast less yachts, or from the top of the mainmast on sailing vessels. On todays racing yachts they are flown under the yacht club burgee on the starboard side. Many private signals, particularly those of recent vintage, show symbols which are particularly related to the owners life; someone in computers might be distinguished by a cursor, for example; while others a play on words: the name "Seals" could be represented by a seal or a sun rising.


It is accepted practice that never more than one private signal is displayed at a time.
If a member does not have a private signal, one is recommended that is both simple and timeless in design and easily recognized from a distance to insure its continued use for future generations. Traditionally, initials were not used. May be flown by day only or day and night.


Bose Private Signal
















FLAG INVENTORY

All true yachtsmen should have on board an inventory of the proper flags and signals. The following is a list of suggested flags.

ENSIGN (mandatory)
Congress established the Yacht Ensign of 13 stars encircling an anchor in 1849. Also, the national colors (traditional Stars and Stripes) may be displayed in lieu of the ensign, particularly in foreign waters.

UNION JACK (optional)
A rectangular of the union of 50 stars on a blue field.

YACHT CLUB BURGEE (mandatory)
Usually a triangular or swallow – tailed pennant, which represents the owner’s yacht club.

ASSOCIATION BURGEE (mandatory)
The Catalina Conservancy Burgee may be flown in place of the yacht club burgee or beneath a yacht club burgee. The design of the Association’s Burgee was created in 1996.

OFFICERS Flags (mandatory)
A rectangular flag which represents the rank of the yacht club or association officer. Four flags are generally recognized in yacht clubs: Commodore, Vice Commodore, Rear Commodore, and Fleet Captain.

The Commodore’s Flag consists of a field of dark blue with white fouled anchor surrounded by thirteen white stars.


The Vice Commodore’s Flag consists of a field of red with white stars with a fouled anchor surrounded by thirteen white stars.

The Rear Commodore’s flag consists of a field of white stars with a red stars with a fouled anchor.

The Fleet Captain’s flag consists of a field of white with a dark blue fouled anchor.
Fleet Captain Flag



PRIVATE SIGNAL (recommended)
Usually a tapered, swallowtail pennant, but sometimes a rectangle or triangle. The tradition of the private signal, or “house flag” currently used dates back to the 18th and 19th century when the sailing ship lines were at their peak. Many line owners were yachtsman and carried their “house flags” that have been passed down for generations. If a member does not have a private signal, one is recommended that both simple and timeless in design and easily recognized from a distance to insure its continued use for the future generations. Traditionally, initials were not used.

OTHER SIGNALS
Owners Absent (recommend): A dark blue rectangular signal. When hoisted, it can often save the frustration of rowing across the cove or harbor only to find the owner has gone ashore.

Owners Absent (recommended): A rectangular dark blue signal with a white diagonal stripe starting from the upper corner at the hoist.

Owners at Meal (optional): A white rectangular flag for those who care to dine understand. Also so known as a do not disturb sign.

Crews Meal ( optional) A red rectangular flag for that crew who care to dine understand. This is one of the only signals flown on the port side.

International Code Flags (optional)
A set of these signals is both practical for cruising and necessary for dressing ship. May be displayed for signaling using the “International code of Signals” for definition of the codes.


Racing Pennant (optional)
A distinctive pennant has been designed by the Sea Cliff (N.Y.) Yacht Club as an identifying signal for racing boats. The field is blue, with white fluorescent strip in the middle, and red anchor superimposed.




ROUTINE
The tradition for over the past 100 years in yachting is that the Club (Association) Burgee be displayed on the bow staff or the truck using a staff or “pig stick.” The reason for these locations is for maximum visibility under sail, as well as at anchor.
In recent years, yacht clubs have opted the starboard spreader as an alternative location for the Burgee to accommodate yachts whose trucks are encumbered with wind indicators and electronic gear. However, the Burgee must be hoisted to the spreader (or “two-blocked”). Other flags may be hosted beneath the club Burgee, in the following order: Association Burgee (if a yacht club Burgee is also being flown, Officer’s flag, owners Flag, other message flags. Yachts at anchor must display the Ensign on a staff placed in a socket located on the starboard stern rail or pulpit as close to the centerline as feasible.

SIZE OF FLAGES
All flags should be of proper size for recognition and identification.
YACHT ENSIGN OR NATIONAL COLORS.
The fly (horizontal direction) shall be a Minimum of one inch per foot of overall length of overall length of the yacht, with the hoist (vertical direction) equal to two-thirds of the fly. Length overall should include bow platforms for the better proportions.

BURGEE, PRIVATE SIGNAL, OWNER ABSENT, OWNER AT MEAL, GUEST, CREW AT MEAL AND INTERNATIONAL CODE FLAGS. The fly shall be a minimum of one-half- inch per foot of the height of the highest truck, measured from the waterline, and with the hoist two-thirds of the fly.


DRESSING SHIP
On the forth of July and other special occasions, yachts may dress ship when at anchor. The international Code Flags are displayed from the waterline forward to the waterline aft, using weights at the end in the following order arranged to the effect color patterns throughout: Starting forward:AB2 UJ1, KE3, GH6, LV5, FL4, DM7, PO 3rd repeater, RN 1st repeater, ST0, CX9, WQ8, ZY 2nd repeater.


NOW that you have read this what the hell do you do with this information? Keep this site bookmarked and refer back. Purchase the listed flags for the yachtsman that has everything. Show everyone next season that you’re a true yachtsman and take the time to fly the proper signals.

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