Here are lists and discussions of the flags Heartsong III carried during the circumnavigation.
Primary Flag — Stars and Stripes
According to international maritime law, a yacht must fly from the stern an easily visible flag of the country in which it is registered. We, of course, fly the Stars and Stripes. Because of fraying and fading, we have found we must install a new one approximately every six months.
In international waters, flying the colors of one’s country identifies a vessel as subject only to the jurisdiction of its home country. Boarding a properly flagged, lawful vessel at sea requires permission of the captain, or else is an act of war or piracy (except of course if boarding is by a government or law enforcement vessel of one’s own country). A vessel that declines to fly colors, or that flies false colors (of a country other than its registration), is subject to boarding at will and to the jurisdiction of the country of the boarding vessel.
When a vessel sails into the territorial waters of another country, the vessel subjects itself to the law of that country, regardless of the flag the vessel flies.
According to international flag etiquette, a visiting yacht should fly near the starboard spreader a small flag of the country in whose waters it is sailing. Until the yacht clears customs, the courtesy flag should be flown beneath a yellow quarantine flag. After customs is cleared, the quarantine flag should be lowered and the courtesy flag flown alone.
If the yacht’s captain or owner is from a different country than the one in which the yacht is registered, courtesy may be shown to the captain or owner by flying near the port spreader a small flag of his or her nationality. For example, we often fly from our portside flag halyard the Lone Star of Texas.
Here is a list of the courtesy flags necessary for our circumnavigation itinerary. Average cost of a courtesy flag is about US$15, and they last about four months flown daily. Voyagers talented in sewing or drawing (not us, I’m afraid) often make their own.
- British Virgin Islands
- Canary Islands
- French Polynesia
- Great Britain
- Netherland Antilles
- New Zealand
- Puerto Rico
- Saudi Arabia
- Sri Lanka
- St. Kitts & Nevis
- St. Lucia
- St. Vincent
- Trinidad & Tobago
Here are some other flags we kept aboard.
- Distress flag
- International — bright orange
- Quarantine flag
- Flown at starboard spreader when entering a country’s waters, before checking in
- Dive flag
- Flown above dive sites while divers are down
- US version (red)
- International version (blue)
- Dress ship flags & streamers (4 sets)
- SSCA Commodore’s burgee
- Seven Seas Cruising Association