Flags Or Rags – Know Your Etiquette

In light of this past years national embarrassment, I would like to take a small tack away from the technical and discuss our most prized national symbol. Many of us graying baby boomers’ fathers fought in World War II when this nation was unified to fight a very real enemy. National pride was the paramount driving force in unifying the nation with sacrifice and hard work to protect and win back the liberties stolen from so many around the globe. Many made the ultimate sacrifice to raise the same standard our forefathers fought and died to protect and preserve.

As I travel around the marinas and marine facilities, all to often I see our national emblem improperly displayed, torn and tattered. Hanging from flagstaffs and back stays are the remnants of Old Glory, The Stars and Bars, The Flag of the United States of America, the symbol of freedom for so many around the globe.

Chapman Piloting, Seamanship and Small Boat Handling has an excellent chapter on where to and how to display Old Glory, the U.S. Ensign and other flags. This short piece is to help the boaters better know how to treat Old Glory.

I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Simple words known by most, understood by those who sacrificed or came to understand the deeper meaning behind the words. I must admit that my love of country and flag came from time spent in countries whose citizens did not enjoy our freedoms and liberties. The contrast forced me to have a deeper love for my birthplace and heritage. Those of us who reside here are truly blessed by those who struggled to form and preserve this nation.

I’m sorry to admit that the boaters who improperly display our national emblem are all too often sailboaters. I Suppose we have more rigging to fool around with. All too often I see Old Glory tattered and torn, rain or shine, day or night hanging limply or shredded from some sailors flag staff or back stay. If you wish to display our flag, do so in day light hours and only in fair weather. There are only a few places where the flag is allowed to fly at night and we boaters should strike our colors at dusk We have a canvas cover for our flag staff so Old Glory won’t be soiled while being stored.

If the flag becomes worn or faded, remove it and destroy it in a dignified way, preferably by burning. Our flag has been the funeral shroud for untold patriots and deserves our respect wherever we sail as wee men and women whose liberties have been purchased at a great price.

We have had much fun making and displaying courtesy flags from many Caribbean nations along our adventures. We always go to the fabric store and lay in a supply of basic colors, white, red, black, blue, green and yellow so we can make our own courtesy flags along the way. We carry a sail making sewing machine and with a little bit of creativity and indelible markers have been adequately successful at flag construction. A home sewing machine works better, but you can sew them by hand. After all Betsy Ross had no Singer, just a homespun love of country and liberty. And remember the Lord loves sailors.

© Neil K. Haynes March 1999

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