|s/y Nine of Cups
Making Your Own Courtesy Flags
It is proper sailboat etiquette and customary
in foreign ports to fly a miniature version of
that country's national maritime ensign as a
courtesy flag at the starboard spreaders.
Courtesy flags should only be flown above
(superior) to any other flags on the same
halyard. Only one courtesy flag should
normally be flown.
Sometimes they're difficult to find in
advance and most times are quite expensive
($25-35 US). For the most part and
depending on the intricacy of the flag
design, we've found that simply making our
own is the easiest and most convenient way
to go. The results aren't always perfect, but
they pass the 20 foot visual test.
|Materials to have on board:
*Various colors of nylon flag material
*A flag reference book with good color
photos of each country's flag
*Various colors of sail tape
*Sturdy 1" webbing for the hoist (I use
*Grommets (and grommet tool) or small line
which can be run through the length of the
hoist for attaching to the flag halyard
*A sewing machine is easiest, but obviously
they can be made by hand stitching.
Note: SailRite has a good supply of flag
making materials and even kits for courtesy
flags and signal flags.
Marcie puts the finishing touches on the New
Zealand courtesy flag. For this flag, I used navy
nylon fabric. Since many courtesy flags use the
British ensign, I bought several small (3"x5") flags
for about $1/ea and then incorporated them into the
flag design of this and many other flags.
|What about the US Flag?
Too difficult and complex for me to make with all those stars
and stripes. I did some shopping, however, on Ebay and
found I could buy a quantity of US flags made of nylon for
about $3/each. These particular flags seem to hold up for
about 3-6 months (depending on the wind and weather).
placed here is
called a charge)
This little mini-book of
flags is great. It provides
color pictures, history
and symbolism of all the
flags of the world. We
also use it to identify
flags on foreign vessels
that we don't recognize
or get mixed up (e.g.
France & Netherlands).
|Some flag trivia....
- The study of flags and their history is called vexillology
- Flags have been in use for over 5000 years, first used
for identification in war and at sea.
- Most national flags are rectangular except for
Switzerland which is square and Nepal which is a
Tips I've learned along the way:
- For most flags, the "charge" is not
important, only the color
construction and overall design of
the flag itself..
- Ecuador, Venezuela &
Colombia's flags pretty much
look the same except for the
charge. I used the same flag for
all three countries...no charge.
- When nylon flag material is not
available for the color I need, I
use felt squares which hold up
surprisingly well in wind and
- All motifs on the flag (e.g. stars)
are cut out of colored sail tape
and stuck on.
- To make flags to scale, you'll
need to know the ratio of length
to width. Our little flag book
provides the width-length ratio
for all flags.
A new "Q" flag is
David pounds grommets into the
hoist of a newly made St. Kitts flag.