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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Helsinki, Finland
    Posts
    168

    Question Which British flag as guest flag or courtesy flag?

    I was discussing flag etiquette today at the Helsinki Boat Show with a flag expert from the Finnish yachting association. They have a new book on yacht flags and flag etiquette, and in it they show an example of a British flag being flown at the port spreader when a Finnish yacht has a British guest aboard.

    The British flag shown is a small red ensign. I'd always understood that the red ensign is only used as the yacht's main ensign at the stern, and that as a guest flag or a courtesy flag (when a foreign yacht visits the UK) you should use a small union flag (shouldn't call it a union jack unless it's flown at a jackstaff).

    So which is right, small red ensign or small union flag? Opinions welcome, but authoritative references even more so, as I promised to report back to him.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Argyll
    Posts
    6,207

    Default Re: Which British flag as guest flag or courtesy flag?

    Many of the European boats that come through the canal here fly a saltire but some fly a small red ensign, I have occasionally seen a union flag but it is rare. But you could tell your friend that if it was Scotland he was coming too he could fly any flegs he likes.
    My Finngulf came with a Finnish flag, full size, I flew it a few times because of all the cheery waves I got from other yachts, must look it out.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Norfolk
    Posts
    1,346

    Default Re: Which British flag as guest flag or courtesy flag?

    Small red ensign.

    "Although a custom rather than a legal requirement, most countries expect that a courtesy flag (a small version of the country's maritime ensign) should be hoisted by foreign flagged vessels as a signal, acknowledging that they are in foreign territorial waters." - RYA

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Helsinki, Finland
    Posts
    168

    Default Re: Which British flag as guest flag or courtesy flag?

    Thanks. I found the same answer for courtesy flags here: https://www.rya.org.uk/SiteCollectio...20PART%20I.pdf (middle of page 2): "The Red Ensign is the correct courtesy flag for all foreign vessels visiting UK territorial waters."

    But no mention of flying a national flag at the port spreader for a foreign guest. Is this just a Finnish custom?
    Last edited by davidaprice; 09-02-19 at 20:38. Reason: non-nautical terminology, oops

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Northern summers aboard Ningaloo otherwise Perth WA
    Posts
    126

    Default Re: Which British flag as guest flag or courtesy flag?

    I'm not sure that such a "visitor" flag follows the same rules as a courtesy flag for foreign vessels.
    I own a British registered yacht and hold Australian citizenship so fly an Australian national flag from my port spreader. The Australian maritime flag also has a red background, but I fly the more familiar blue flag as I feel this is more recognisable.
    I should say that I rarely see any leisure vessels flying a maritime flag in Australia. The national flag is more frequently used, especially on Australia Day!
    Ningaloo - Hanse 385

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    Me - Zumerzet Boat - Wareham
    Posts
    11,971

    Default Re: Which British flag as guest flag or courtesy flag?

    Quote Originally Posted by davidaprice View Post
    But no mention of flying a national flag at the left spreader for a foreign guest. Is this just a Finnish custom?
    I wouldn't do it, it seems a bit pretentious. Plus if I had any Scandinavians visiting I wouldn't have any of their flags on board.
    MontyMariner.co.uk
    Facilitated by AWESEM WP Agency

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2001
    Location
    UK - Solent region
    Posts
    37,617

    Default Re: Which British flag as guest flag or courtesy flag?

    Quote Originally Posted by Quandary View Post
    Many of the European boats that come through the canal here fly a saltire but some fly a small red ensign, I have occasionally seen a union flag but it is rare. But you could tell your friend that if it was Scotland he was coming too he could fly any flegs he likes.
    My Finngulf came with a Finnish flag, full size, I flew it a few times because of all the cheery waves I got from other yachts, must look it out.
    Quite often in Southampton & Poole, foreign ships fly the Union flag as a courtesy flag, particularly East Eurpoean/Russian vessels.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Helsinki, Finland
    Posts
    168

    Default Re: Which British flag as guest flag or courtesy flag?

    Quote Originally Posted by LadyInBed View Post
    I wouldn't do it, it seems a bit pretentious. Plus if I had any Scandinavians visiting I wouldn't have any of their flags on board.
    I don't do it either, except very occasionally just for fun when we take a new foreign friend for a sail. But it's why I carry an Austrian courtesy flag, despite the risk of mixing it up with my Latvian courtesy flag.

    I'm really just curious what the pedantically correct British guest flag is, and whether the Finnish experts got it right. You're anyway out of luck if you have two different foreigners aboard, since you don't want to fly one flag in a senior position to the other.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    2,760

    Default Re: Which British flag as guest flag or courtesy flag?

    Quote Originally Posted by LadyInBed View Post
    I wouldn't do it, it seems a bit pretentious. Plus if I had any Scandinavians visiting I wouldn't have any of their flags on board.
    Not pretentious at all. We see loads of charter boats in the Med flying "guests on board" flags from the port spreaders, often two or three different ones. This is a great help if for example you are from Sweden and you see a Swedish flag on port side, you have good reason to nip over and meet your fellow countrymen (or women). Very sociable, good custom.
    Of course the starboard side should be kept for official ship's business.
    And in our club burgees should be flown from the masthead, but that is I admit a bit pretentious.
    Peter

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Essex
    Posts
    21,819

    Default Re: Which British flag as guest flag or courtesy flag?

    It's a new one on me, but it seems to be a rather charming addition to the cruising repertoire.

    The union flag/jack is always an abomination on board yachts, so I hope not to see its use creep in by default. I have come across one or two foreign boats that have been wrongly advised before leaving their home shores, so we have to be kind to them as we direct them to the rarest chandlery.
    Far away is near at hand in images of elsewhere

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