Flags-Maritime,Jacks,Burgees and more


I decided to do this post for information on the different kinds of flags and a short definition of each.  There are lots of flags that are used with boats,ships and yachts.

Maritime flag
Flag designated for use on boats and other watercraft. Naval flags are considered important at sea and regulations for the flying of flags are strictly enforced.


Ensigns are usually required to be flown when entering and leaving harbour, when sailing through foreign waters, and when the ship is signalled to do so by a warship. Warships usually fly their ensigns between the morning colours ceremony and sunset, when underway, and at all times when engaged in battle


Jacks are additional national flags flown by warships (and certain other vessels) at the head of the ship. These are usually flown while not underway and when the ship is dressed on special occasions. Jacks in the Royal NavyRoyal Navy

The Royal Navy of the United Kingdom is the oldest of the British armed services ….
must be run up when the first line is ashore when coming alongside.


A pennon or pennant is one of the principal varieties of flags carried during the Middle Ages. It is a long narrow flag which conveys different meanings depending on its design and use.
Specific pennants might include:

  1. Commissioning pennant, or masthead
  2. Church Pennants
  3. Senior Offier Present afloat pennant
  4. Gin Pennant

House Flag

Some ships fly a house or company flag that indicates the company that they belong to. This was formerly flown from the main mast but is now usually flown from a short mast at the bow.

Yacht Club Burgee

Members belonging to a Yacht club

A yacht club is a sports club specifically related to sailing and yachting….
or sailing organization may fly their club’s unique triangular burgee both while underway and at anchor (however, not while racing). Traditionally, the burgee was flown from the main masthead, however it may also be flown from a small pole on the bow pulpit, or even the starboard rigging beneath the lowest starboard spreader on a flag halyard.

Traditionally, the first time a member of one club visits another, there is an exchange of burgees. Exchanged burgees are then often displayed on the premise of each, such as at a club office or bar.

Signal Flags

There is a system of International maritime signal flagsfor each numeral and letter of the alphabet. Each flag or pennant has an additional meaning when flown individually.

Unit Citations

Warships of various navies may be awarded a unit citation, for which a burgee (tapering flag with swallow-tail fly) is flown when in port.

Ships of the United States Navy:
Presidential Unit Citation – yellow with blue stripe on top and red stripe at the bottom.
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation – green with four yellow stripes divided by two blue and one red stripes at the centre.
Navy Unit Commendation – symmetrical colouring from the centre: green, red, yellow, blue.
IB Designs, USA


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