Getting dressed up

17 Jul

Flag etiquette, which is a combination of law (what you must do) and maritime tradition (expectations of behaviour within the sea faring community), is always guaranteed to provoke heated discussion and polarised opinions amongst yachties. Frankly, I think it’s all a load of old codswallop…but who am I to speak?

There seems to be a bit of a hierarchy going on with UK ensigns. Most civilian vessels wear an undefaced red ensign.
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However, there are a select few who wear a “privileged” ensign.
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Privileged ensigns are usually dark blue and defaced with a badge or emblem.
In rarer cases, the ensign may be white or defaced red. Only certain clubs and organisations are granted permission to issue warrants for these prized status symbols. These flags are viewed by some with great respect and even envy, by others with complete disdain and contempt. Apparently, a junior member of staff in an Italian marina once asked his boss why some British boats wore blue flags. “Ah! That’s because they are learner drivers”.

Since we started sailing 20 years ago we have always had a bog-standard red ensign. But the skipper has always secretly coveted something more eye-catching. Who knows quite why?

As a member of the Cruising Association, he could have applied for a dark blue ensign defaced with the CA white anchor on a red background but that would have involved send our original boat registration papers to London – a non-starter as we need to have the papers on board at all times. So instead he came up with another plan to obtain the Holy Grail.

Many moons ago PT served in the Royal Air Force and he discovered that he could join the RAF Sailing Association who, you’ve guessed it, are authorised to issue warrants for posh flags. Over several months, letter, emails and money changed hands. And finally, when our most recent visitor (my sister, Sara) arrived onboard a couple of weeks ago, PT was overjoyed to take delivery of his shiny new flag. Ah! But it’s not just any old blue ensign, just to be different it’s a fetching shade of RAF pale blue.

Don't tell the skipper, but baby blue is SOOO not his colour!

Don’t tell the skipper, but baby blue is SOOO not his colour!

Oh well, if the skipper’s happy, then I’m happy 🙂 , (though I was far more excited with the huge box of Weetabix that Sara brought all the way from Scotland!)

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