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Nautical Flags and Their Meanings

The purpose of the International Code of Signals is to provide ways and means of communication in situations related essentially to safety of navigation and persons, especially when language difficulties arise, or because radio silence is required. Here are their names and meanings, both International and/or specific to the Navy, as well as meanings when used in a Sailing Regatta. There is also a signaling system called Semaphore which uses the position of the flags relative to a person to denote the letter. See Flag Etiquette for guidelines on proper display of flags.

Also try our Flag Translator and our Flag Test

International Code Flags (also see Multiple Flags Signal Codes)

Flag Name &
Phonetic Pronunciation
Meaning
Alfa

AL-fah

I have a diver down; keep well clear at slow speed.
Bravo

BRAH-voh

I am taking in, discharging, or carrying dangerous cargo.
Charlie

CHAR-lee

"Yes" or "affirmative".

Change of Course (Sailing Regatta)

Delta

DELL-tah

I am maneuvering with difficulty; keep clear.
Echo

ECK-oh

I am altering  my course to starboard.
Foxtrot

FOKS-trot

I am disabled; communicate with me.
On aircraft carriers: Flight Operations underway
Golf

GOLF

I require a pilot. When made by fishing vessels operating in close proximity on the fishing grounds it means: "I
am hauling nets"
Hotel

hoh-TELL

I have a pilot on board.
India

IN-dee-ah

I am altering  my course to port. (International)

Coming alongside. (Navy)

Round the Ends Starting Rule (Sailing Regatta)

Juliet

JEW-lee-ett

I am on fire and have dangerous cargo; keep well clear of me, or I am leaking dangerous cargo.
Kilo

KEY-loh

I wish to communicate with you.
Lima

LEE-mah

You should stop your vessel immediately.

Come Within Hail or Follow Me (Sailing Regatta)

Mike

MIKE

My vessel is stopped and making no way through the water..

Mark Missing (Sailing Regatta)

November

no-VEM-bur

No or negative.

Abandonment and Re-sail (Sailing Regatta)

Oscar

OSS-kur

Man overboard.
Papa

pah-PAH

In port: All personnel return to ship; the vessel is about to procede to sea.

At sea: It may be used by fishing vessels to mean: "My nets have come fast upon an obstruction".

Quebec

kay-BECK

Ship meets health regulations; request clearance into port. (International)

Boat recall; all boats return to ship. (Navy)

Romeo

ROH-me-oh

None. (International)

Preparing to replenish (At sea). Ready duty ship (In port). (Navy)

Sierra

see-AIR-ah

Moving astern. (International)

Conducting flag hoist drill. (Navy)

Shorten Course (Sailing Regatta)

Tango

TANG-go

Keep clear; engaged in trawling. (International)

Do not pass ahead of me. (Navy)

Uniform

YOU-nee-form

You are running into danger.
Victor

VIK-tah

I require assistance.
Whiskey

WISS-kee

I require medical assistance.
Xray

ECKS-ray

Stop carrying out your intentions and watch for my signals.

Individual Recall (Sailing Regatta)

Yankee

YANG-kee

I am dragging anchor. (International)

Ship has visual communications duty. (Navy)

Wear Life Jackets (Sailing Regatta)

Zulu

ZOO-loo

I require a tug.

20% Scoring Penalty (Sailing Regatta)

Code/Answer

Code or Answer

Message is understood. Also, numeric decimal point. (International)

Flag that follows is from the International Code of Signals. (Navy)

Postponement (Sailing Regatta)

First substitute
(First Repeater)

First sub

Substitute for the first flag in this hoist. (International)
Also "repeats" the first flag or series of flags in this hoist

Absence of flag officer or unit commander (In port). (Navy)

General Recall (Sailing Regatta)

Second substitute

Second sub

Substitute for the second flag in this hoist. (International)

Absence of chief of staff (In port). (Navy)

Third substitute

Third sub

Substitute for the third flag in this hoist. (International)

Absence of commanding officer (In port). (Navy)

Fourth substitute

Fourth Sub

None. (International)

Absence of civil or military official whose flag is flying on this ship. (Navy)

One

WUN

None. (International)

Numeral one. (Navy)

Two

TOO

None. (International)

Numeral two. (Navy)

Three

TREE

None. (International)

Numeral three. (Navy)

Four

FOW-er

None. (International)

Numeral four. (Navy)

Five

FIFE

None. (International)

Numeral five. (Navy)

Six

SICKS

None. (International)

Numeral six. (Navy)

Seven

SEV-en

None. (International)

Numeral seven. (Navy)

Eight

ATE

None. (International)

Numeral eight. (Navy)

Nine

NIN-er

None. (International)

Numeral nine. (Navy)

Zero

ZEE-roh

None. (International)

Numeral zero. (Navy)

Pennant one

PEN-ant WUN

Numeral one. (International)

Pennant one. (Navy)

Pennant two

PEN-ant TOO

Numeral two. (International)

Pennant two. (Navy)

Pennant three

PEN-ant TREE

Numeral three. (International)

Pennant three. (Navy)

Pennant four

PEN-ant FOW-er

Numeral four. (International)

Pennant four. (Navy)

Postponement (Sailing Regatta)

Pennant five

PEN-ant FIFE

Numeral five. (International)

Pennant five. (Navy)

Pennant six

PEN-ant SICKS

Numeral six. (International)

Pennant six. (Navy)

Pennant seven

PEN-ant SEV-en

Numeral seven. (International)

Pennant seven. (Navy)

Pennant eight

PEN-ant ATE

Numeral eight (International)

Pennant eight. (Navy)

Pennant Nine

PEN-ant NIN-er

Numeral nine (International)

Pennant nine. (Navy)

Pennant zero

PEN-ant ZEE-roh

Numeral zero (International)

Pennant zero. (Navy)

Special NATO Naval Flags
FL: Flotilla or Group Unit Indicator Flag - Used to either address or identify specific units when other flags are added to them. A Flotilla/Group may consist of two or more Squadrons.
SQ: Squadron Unit Indicator Flag - Used to either address or identify specific units when other flags are added to them. A Squadron may consist of two or more Divisions.
DI: Division Unit Indicator Flag - Used to either address or identify specific units when other flags are added to them. A Division may consist of two or more SubDivisions.
SU: Subdivision Unit Indicator Flag - Used to either address or identify specific units when other flags are added to them.
PR: Preparative Governing Pennant - Preparative
IN: Interrogative Governing Pennant - Interrogative
NE: Negative Governing Pennant - Negative
SC: Screen Maneuvering Flag - Ships are to form a protective screen.
FO: Formation Maneuvering Flag - Ships are to form in specified formation.
CO: Corpen Maneuvering Flag - Course Pennant, used to signal a course or alter the course of a group of ships.
TU: Turn Maneuvering Flag - Used in conjunction with Port or Starboard for ships to turn together.
SB: Starboard Maneuvering Flag - Port and Starboard may be used with Turn, Corpen, Formation and Station to indicate direction.
PO: Port Maneuvering Flag - Port and Starboard may be used with Turn, Corpen, Formation and Station to indicate direction.
SP: Speed Maneuvering Flag - Proceed at a specified speed
ST: Station Maneuvering Flag -  Ship(s) indicated are to take a specific station(s) or position.
EM: Emergency Action or information that requires immediate attention.
Designation The following is in plain language or is to be read in its literal sense.

Race Committee Flags

Flag/Shape Name Sounds Meaning
Postponement Signals
AP 2 when raised
1 when lowered
Races not started are postponed. The warning signal will be made 1 minute after removal unless at that time the race is postponed again or abandoned.

AP over H 2 when raised
1 when lowered
Races not started are postponed. Further signals ashore.

AP over A 2 when raised
1 when lowered
Races not started are postponed. No more racing today.

AP over Numeral Pennant 1 2 when raised
1 when lowered
Postponement of 1 hour from the scheduled starting time.
Other numeral pennants may also be used. - AP over a numeral pennant 1-6. Postponement of 1-6 hours from the scheduled starting time. See above for images of these numeral pennants.
Abandonment Signals
N 3 when raised
1 when lowered
All races that have started are abandoned. Return to the starting area. The warning signal will be made 1 minute after removal unless at that time the race is abandoned again or postponed.

N over H 3 when raised All races are abandoned. Further signals ashore.

N over A 3 when raised All races are abandoned. No more racing today.
Starting & Preparatory Signals
Class Flag Raised Warning 1 5 minutes to start

Black

Preparatory (or I or Z or Black Flag) Raised

I - Rule 30.1 is in effect.


Z - Rule 30.2 is in effect.


Black flag - Rule 30.3 is in effect.

1 4 minutes to start
Preparatory (or I or Z or Black Flag) Lowered 1 1 minute to start
Class Flag Lowered Start 1 Start
Recall Signals
X X 1 when raised Individual Recall
First Substitute 2 when raised
1 when lowered
General Recall. The warning signal will be made 1 minute after removal.
Changing the Next Leg
C Repetitive The position of the next mark has been changed:
with green triangle   to starboard
with red square   to port
- with minus symbol   to decrease the length of the leg
+ with plus symbol   to increase the length of the leg
Other Signals
S 2 when raised The course has been shortened. Rule 32.2 is in effect.
L 1 when raised Ashore: A notice to competitors has been posted.

Afloat: Come within hail or follow this boat.
M Repetitive The object displaying this signal replaces a missing mark.
Y 1 when raised Wear a personal flotation device.
Blue flag or shape. No sound This race committee boat is in position at the finishing line.

Yacht Club Race Committee
 
Yacht Club Race Committee Auxiliary Vessel

Yacht Club Officer Flags


Commodore

Vice Commodore

Past Commodore

Rear Commodore

Fleet Captain

Secretary

Treasurer

Commodore Emeritus

Miscellaneous Flags

warn.gif (1042 bytes)
Small Craft Warning
Up to 38 mph winds
warn.gif (1042 bytes)
warn.gif (1042 bytes)
Gale Warning
39-54 mph winds
storm.gif (1091 bytes)
Storm Warning
55-73 mph winds
storm.gif (1091 bytes)
storm.gif (1091 bytes)
Hurricane Warning
74+ mph winds

USCG Auxiliary Ensign



USCG Auxiliary Patrol Boat Ensign

 


United States Coast Guard



Union Jack (worn most often by government vessels)

 




U.S. Power Squadron

USPS District Flags

USPS Officer Flags


Canadian Power Squadron
 

Scuba Diving Flag (Diver down) - Common in the U.S.

Scuba Diving Flag (Diver down) - International
World Flag Database

Flags of All Countries

C.I.A. - Flags of the World

Yacht Club Burgees

Nautical Flag Translator

Flag Test

semaphore
Semaphore Flag
Signalling System

 

 

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