Today we have two-way radio, satellite phones, and sophisticated GPS equipment, but in the 18th century, ships at sea communicated with each other via signal flags. Even with all our modern gear, sometimes low-tech is the way to go, and the flags are still used in conjunction with these newer communication technologies. Each flag stands for a letter and can be used to spell out words, but each flag also stands for a full message. For example the “C” flag can also mean “affirmative,” and the “U” flag can be a signal to an approaching ship that it is running into danger. The flags have still more meanings when used in yacht racing.
Specify your initials and artisans in New England will create silver-plate and resin cufflinks showing the corresponding flags, letting you show your nautical flair. Click here for a list of initials and their corresponding flags, or click on the Flag Meanings tab to see what phrase each flag symbolizes in the International Code of Symbols.
Please note: Personalized items cannot be returned unless damaged or defective. Please check your order carefully; once placed, your order for this item cannot be canceled. Not available for shipment outside of the U.S. Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery to the continental U.S. and 4-6 weeks for delivery to Alaska and Hawaii.
Made in the U.S. 3/4" diam.
International maritime signal flags and their meanings These are the meanings of each signal flag in the International Code of Signals, with alternate meanings that are specific to the U.S. Navy or to sailing regattas.
A: I have a diver down; keep well clear at slow speed.
B: I am taking in, discharging, or carrying dangerous cargo.
C: Yes, or affirmative (Regatta: Change of course)
D: I am maneuvering with difficulty; keep clear.
E: I am directing my course to starboard.
F: I am disabled; communicate with me. (Navy, when displayed on aircraft carriers: Flight operations underway)
G: I require a pilot.
H: I have a pilot on board.
I: I am directing my course to port. (Navy: Coming alongside; Regatta: Round the ends starting rule)
J: I am on fire and have dangerous cargo; keep clear.
K: I wish to communicate with you.
L: When displayed at sea, usually accompanied by four numerals that indicate latitude: You should stop your vessel immediately. When at port: The ship is quarantined. (Regatta: Come within hail or follow me.)
M: My vessel is stopped; making no way. (Regatta: Mark missingthe vessel displaying this flag is a replacement for the missing course marker)
N: No or negative (Regatta: All races are abandoned; return for new start.)
O: Man overboard.
P: When displayed at sea, used by fishing vessels to indicate that nets are caught on an obstruction. When displayed at port: All personnel return to ship; proceeding to sea.
Q: Ship meets health regulations; request clearance to port. (Navy, when displayed on an aircraft carrier: All boats return to ship.)
R: No ICS meaning. Was previously used to mean, “The way is off my ship.” (Navy: Preparing to replenish)