Flag Etiquette

I am currently sailing a “Tallship” and occasionally get a comment on the placement of our flags.

By tradition the national flag is flown from the peak of the mizzen or attached to the leech of the mizzen sail. And ours is flown from the peak. We also fly the state flag, currently Washington from the main truck.

So on occasion we get comments about flying the Stars and Stripes lower than the state flag. I know we are correct, but cannot find any written protocol on this. Anyone know more or have any sources?

technically you are correct in my experience: stars & stripes from the from either the leech of the mizzen or close to. can also fly from top of after most mast, the mizzen.
in any event, perception counts more then reality, so why don’t you move the state flag forward & the US flag up?
fair winds,

Hmmmm. Never realized that the American Flag can be topped by anything, and only evenly topped with other flags at the United Nations building. I come from a family of soldiers that would consider that blasphemy - and I would hope flag etiquette to start with those that have died to make putting it on mizzen possible.

For what it is worth, section 7 of the Flag Code, found in 4 USC states that in part that: “No other flag or pennant should be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the flag of the United States of America, except during church services conducted by naval chaplains at sea, when the church pennant may be flown above the flag during church services for the personnel of the Navy.”

From NTP 13b, Naval Telecommunication Procedures

  1. VESSEL UNDERWAY
    a. During peacetime, the national ensign shall be displayed during daylight
    hours from the gaff (or from the triatic stay in the case of those ships with mast
    mounted booms and stays which would interfere with the hoisting, lowering, or
    flying of the national ensign) under the following circumstances, unless otherwise
    directed by the senior officer present:
    (1) Getting underway or mooring/anchoring
    (2) Falling in with other ships
    (3) Cruising near land
    (4) When engaged in battle
    b. When cruising under wartime conditions, it is customary to fly the
    national ensign continuously at sea, since battle action may be regarded as always
    imminent.
    c. If a vessel is not equipped with a gaff, the national ensign shall be
    displayed from the after masthead or, in the case of a single-masted ship, from
    the mainmast.

[QUOTE=CaptAndrew;35256]I am currently sailing a “Tallship” and occasionally get a comment on the placement of our flags.

By tradition the national flag is flown from the peak of the mizzen or attached to the leech of the mizzen sail. And ours is flown from the peak. We also fly the state flag, currently Washington from the main truck.

So on occasion we get comments about flying the Stars and Stripes lower than the state flag. I know we are correct, but cannot find any written protocol on this. Anyone know more or have any sources?[/QUOTE]

When dipping the flag, from such a height, do you bring it half way down or perhaps just until it is hidden by the sails…(and maybe count to 10)? Just curious how it works on a tall ship.

for some more confusion:

http://flagorder.com/positionetiquette.html

OK I think I am just as confused as before. Thanks for all the answers. But I still don’t have any more guidance on where the State flag should fly. There are numerous so called “Official” versions of etiquette and most agree on the basic points, including some flags which fly higher than the ensign. However most are also relating to Yachts and club burgees etc. Then there are the ones that relate to land. I am not going to disrespect the ensign, but I am also going to at least try to follow protocol.

Why don’t you move the state flag forward & the US flag up?

If the ensign flies correctly from the gaff, it will always be lower than other flags except the “Spreaders”

When dipping the flag, from such a height, do you bring it half way down or perhaps just until it is hidden by the sails…(and maybe count to 10)? Just curious how it works on a tall ship.

We just bring it down half way. It is sometimes partially hidden but it is the gesture that is more important. And often entertaining. There are a lot of military ships in Puget Sound and I have a Mate who loves to dip the flag. It gains a response about 50% of the time.

[QUOTE=CaptAndrew;35365]

And often entertaining. There are a lot of military ships in Puget Sound and I have a Mate who loves to dip the flag. It gains a response about 50% of the time.[/QUOTE]

I have seen more than one OOD on a Navy ship get very flustered by that very thing…It’s was entertaining to us enlisted guys as well…

Dipping the ensign in salute to another vessel doesn’t require half mast, just a visible gesture. You return your ensign to ‘full’ mast when you are saluted in return. If those sig’s aren’t responding, they are a bunch of slack ass skivvy wavers. But, then you are on the west coast. SM2

Norfolk, VA was always a memorable place for this activity and on many occasions often with little interest from either them or us. A couple that come to mind on different occasions though: The USS Enterprise, after getting no response initially, I brought the flag back up and down a couple of times to get their attention. It worked as they dipped twice following me…or so I fondly like to think. It could have been sheer coincidence and another vessel on their other side which I could not see.

The other was HMS Bristol and boy, did she look smart coming into town. The Captain was extremely keen to make sure we got this right. When she was abeam, I lowered, she lowered, she raised and I raised…probably in about 10 secs overall. In fact, you could hear the command on their tannoy to dip so I suspect they had a dedicated team just to watch for dipping flags. The problem was that when I got back [enthusiastically] to the bridge, the Captain started laying into me that I screwed it up, they never dipped etc. Because it happened so quickly he never saw it, but fortunately the 2nd Mate did and stepped in to my defense.

Although I am not an authority on the subject, having perused several web sites:

The ‘yachting’ marine application of some of the previous mentioned is not applicable. Most seem to be related to military or land based regulations.

On non military vessels the ‘position of superiority’ is the aft taff rail, or the fan tail rail. Since most ‘tall ships’ are rigged with a long boom, extending out past the taff rail (and the boom or the sheets could/would foul and bring down the flag and flagmast) the next position is hoisted upon the leech of the aft sail. Usually this is done using a halyard running through one of the reef cringles.

The subject of the other flags being higher is moot, since regardless of height they are not in the ‘position of superiority.’

However you mention the flag being flown on the mizzen. If this is a yawl or ketch rig, then that is NOT the superior mast. the Main truck is the superior position in this case. If this is a schooner, then the mizzen IS the main mast, and is indeed the correct place (if it is decided to not use the taff rail, or leech positions.) Now to make it even more confusing… When you drop sails, it IS supposed to be flown either the taff rail, or the main truck. So It sounds like you would have to change positions if you dont use the taff rail while at anchor/moored or steaming

You need to clarify what rig the vessel has. That would help clarify the situation.

You need to clarify what rig the vessel has. That would help clarify the situation

The 2 vessels sailing together are Square Topsail Ketch and a Brig. I run the Ketch. My ensign is on the gaff peak, which is I believe the position of superiority. The state flag is run up a pig stick on the main or forward mast. The Brig does the same except the main is the aftermost mast and that is where she flies the state flag.

The most recent comments came from a WSF captain who can’t decide which is the stern and has an Ensign flying from both masts of his ship. :confused:

It sounds like you’re correct on the placement of the ensign. ON the brig the State flag should be on the foremast, though.

The ketch is correct, flying it from the peak of the gaff (or anywhere on the mizzen leech.) But NOT from the mizzen truck at any time.

On the ketch the flag on the leech of the sail makes it superior to the state flag on the main truck (or pigstick)

When at anchor I have seen some sailing vessels flying the ensign from the end of the main boom, extending out over the water, with a HEAVY weight on the bottom to keep the flag upright though.

sorry… whats WSF

[B]Display in Maritime Setting[/B]
For the most part, the provisions of the Flag Code are manifest in the traditions and customs for the display of the U.S. Ensign (flag) by seamen. The following provisions are made for the display of the flag on a mast located on yacht club grounds. ([I]Chapman Piloting: Seamanship and Small Boat Handling[/I], American Book-Stratford Press, Inc., New York, NY)

[B]1. Single Mast (no Yard or Gaff)[/B]
• U.S. Ensign (flag) is flown at the truck ([B]#1[/B]).
• All other flags are pennants flown below U.S. Ensign.

[B]2. Mast with Yard:[/B]
• U.S. Ensign (flag) is flown at the truck ([B]#1[/B]).
• Club burgee (flag) is flown at the starboard (right) yard arm ([B]#3[/B]).

[B]3. Mast with a Yard and Gaff:[/B]
• U.S. Ensign (flag) is flown at the gaff ([B]#2[/B]).
• Club burgee (flag) is flown at the truck ([B]#1[/B]).
• Flags at [B]#3[/B] and [B]#4[/B] vary depending on the activity at the club.

It is display [B]#3[/B] which causes the most confusion. This puts the club burgee in a higher position physically, but not above that of the U.S. Ensign (flag) symbolically. By the normal Flag Code provisions, this would seem to be an incorrect display. [B]The tradition of the seas, however, is to hold the gaff as the position of honor; thus, the intent of this tradition and display is to give proper respect to the flag.[/B]

Where a yard is involved, rules provide that when a foreign ensign is displayed, the U.S. Ensign (flag) is flown at [B]#3[/B]; the foreign ensign at [B]#4[/B]; the club burgee at [B]#1[/B]; and other flags at [B]#2[/B].

The gaff extends aft (to the rear), and a mast on yacht club grounds is faced seaward. Therefore the gaff will (or should) be directed toward the land. The observation point then becomes a point somewhere on the sea side of the mast. This then makes the placement of the U.S. Ensign (flag) in regard to the foreign ensign conform to Flag Code provisions.

Sounds like Chieftain and Lady. Am I right?

sorry… whats WSF
Washington State Ferries.

Sounds like Chieftain and Lady. Am I right?
That would be us.

I have found that the gaff is “The superior” position even if it is not actually higher. That is the information I needed. It has taken a few days to come up with an actual answer as opposed to hearsay, but in part thanks to this Forum I am once again well informed.

a. NTP 13(B), FLAGS, PENNANTS, AND CUSTOMS, supports and amplifies U.S.
Navy Regulations and [B]incorporates information from public laws, executive orders
and other directives.[/B] NTP 13(B) contains information and instructions regarding
the description, dimension and display of flags and pennants, bow insignia,
flagstaff ornaments and other related material.

When I was in the Navy (80s), signalmen were responsible for all honors and ceremony’s. NTP 13b is the bible of such things. In my previuos post, the gaff was pointed out as the superior position. Tons of other info regarding the flag. Check it out. More stuff than the boy scouts teach.

the gaff on a military and non sail commercial vessel is different in location and function than a sailing vessel. on most sailing vessels they don’t even have a gaff. typically a marconi rigged sailing vessel gaff is the small removable staff in the taff rail.

The sailing vessels in this discussion have a ‘gaff’ which is an integral part of the sail (when hoisted) and thus the problem. when the sail is lowered the gaff is stowed, and is unavailable. This is in relation to my earlier comment about moving the flag from the Truck (or gaff) to the taff rail when transitioning from one form of propulsion to another (or anchor.)

Fortunately our gaff is fixed and the sail is “Brailled” to take it in, so the ensign can be hoisted there at all times. This arrangement is more typical of square riggers. Schooners on the other hand usually have an adjustable gaff and your comments about moving the ensign would be valid.

In another week I will not be to worried in any case. I will be heading home and looking for a real job again. My relief is already aboard.