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Visual Distress Signals
Flags

Flags serve a variety of purposes in the marine environment. There is no legislation governing the flying of any flag on numbered, undocumented or licensed vessels. However, there is a proper etiquette involved when displaying flags.

Recreational boaters may fly flags to display boating affiliations. For example, many
yacht clubs provide triangular shaped burgees to members. And, members of the U.S. Power Squadrons and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary fly flags to identify themselves.
Boaters also fly flags to identify their home state or nationality.

Flags are also used for specific boating activities and navigational purposes. For example, boats with scuba divers must fly a "diver down" flag when divers are in the water. There are two types of diver down flags and both are appropriate to display. They are a red flag with a white diagonal stripe and a rigid replica of an "alfa" flag.

Another example is the flags used by committee members and participants of events sponsored by the
US Sailing, the governing body of sailboat racing.

Flags are also used to signal your need for help. When in distress, a boat should fly an orange flag with a
black square and black ball. A man overboard flag, consisting of the letter "O", can be fixed to a staff which
is in turn fixed to a life ring.


ALFA
DIVER DOWN
JULIETTE
KEEP CLEAR
SIERRA
ENGINES GOING ASTERN
BRAVO
DANGEROUS CARGO
KILO
DESIRE TO COMMUNICATE
TANGO
KEEP CLEAR OF ME
CHARLIE
YEST
LIMA
STOP INSTANTLY
UNIFORM
DELTA
KEEP CLEAR
MIKE
I AM STOPPED
REQUIRE ASSISTANCE
ECHO
ALTERING TO STARBOARD
NOVEMBER
NO
WHISKEY
NEED MEDICAL ASSISTANCE
FOXTROT
DISABLED
OSCAR
MAN OVERBOARD
XRAY
GOLF
WANT A PILOT

PAPA
ABOUT TO SAIL

YANKEE
DRAGGING ANCHOR
HOTEL
PILOT ON BOARD
QUEBEC ZULU
REQUIRE TUG
INDIA
ALTERING TO PORT
ROMEO