Website Update Log

Courtesy Flags for the Pacific

Some crews place a lot of importance on the size, quality and longevity of the courtesy flags they fly when visiting a foreign country, others much less so.  To stereotype just a bit, Americans tend to focus on this because we're very keen to know the rules and be in compliance (more so than most nationalities that spring to my mind).  The British tend to emphasize it because of its propriety.  Some nationalities tend to ignore it or use tiny 4” x 6” flags that are cheap but unreadable from any distance and vaporize in the first blow.  There are lots of choices at play here, with some folks using painted sheets of thin plywood or even aluminum sheet, others getting out the crayons and white ripstop cloth, and so forth.

 I don't think this is one of those 'important' topics but, since we changed our own practice of making all our own courtesy flags and decided instead to do some research and buy inexpensive versions, I'll pass along a bit of what we learned.

One common source of international flags in the popular 12” x 18” size is the U.S. Flag Store  -  These are sometimes referred to as 'flag on a stick'  flags, they are only a few dollars apiece and they reportedly manage to last about as long as a stay at the island nation being visited (a few weeks or so). There are two reasons I didn't use this vendor.  First, I noticed that, for a typical South Pacific Milk Run from Panama to Australia, a majority of the likely destinations - both independent island nations and island groups with 'free association' status and their own unique flag - are not represented in this vendor's collection.  Onward from Oz, the same seems to apply. So perhaps this vendor is great for cruising in the USA's back yard (Caribbean) and Europe but less so if planning for more distant destinations.  The second reason is that I found their on-line data base of stocked flags was a bit time consuming to use.

A different vendor, offering a much easier country data base to work from, is International Flags at ... rices.html  They offer a greater variety of flags for island nations and almost always in 3 sizes, including 12"x18" (tho' perhaps a dollar more per flag than the above vendor).  Using multiple vendors – seeking the lower price of some flags but needing to use a different supplier for the balance of the flags – wasn't cost effective due to multiple shipping costs.  And besides, ordering everything I needed from this one single vendor simplified things.  You can request that the flags be sent without their 'sticks'.

These are very inexpensive, silk-screened flags that have no grommets nor hoist webbing to support grommets (tho' you can certainly add that if you wish).  To fly them, most folks  run a piece of small stuff through the hem (where the stick would have been), terminate each end with a bowline, and run some stitching or safety pins thru the small stuff and hem at the flags top & bottom so the flag's hoist doesn't 'gather' when flying.  Bottom line:  This is an inexpensive and non-time consuming way to stock your boat with courtesy flags...but don't expect to have much in the way of souvenirs left by the time you leave each of the island nations as these will wear quickly.  And if planning an extended stay in some of the larger island groups like Tonga or Fiji, initially using a flag like this will buy you time to shop around and find something local that is longer lasting.

NB:  Many flags will incorporate in their design some obvious clues about which is the 'right side up'...but not all.  Best to consult a reference when you first get the flags – the on-line CIA Fact Book is one good source – so you can put an → UP → label on the hoist of the flags which might otherwise confuse you during the rush of arrival events.


Jack Tyler ©

WHOOSH, lying Ortega River, Florida

September, 2009