Nautical Alphabet Flags

Mar 9th, 2017

Nautical flags are used to communicate with other vessels. The practice originated as a means for communication among ships during military engagements. The communication system evolved into an international signaling system that is used by military and non-military vessels.

 

There are 26 flags representing the alphabet, 10 representing numbers, 1 answering and 3 substitutes. The flags are variations of the colors black, blue, red, white and yellow. Following are the 25 alphabet flags and what they mean. Note that R:Romeo is not included since it does not have a meaning by itself:

 

Affirmative - C: Charlie

 

 

This flag means yes, affirmative. It can be used to answer a question from another vessel.

 

Altering Course to Port – I: India

 

 

Vessel is altering its course to port side.

 

Altering Course to Starboard – E: Echo

 

 

Vessel is altering its course to the starboard side.

 

Anchor Dragging – Y: Yankee

 

 

 

The vessel is dragging its anchor

 

Assistance – V: Victor

 

 

The vessel is letting others know that it needs assistance.

 

Assistance – Medical – W:Whiskey

 

 

The vessel is indicating that someone onboard requires medical assistance.

 

Communication Requested – K:Kilo

 

 

Vessel wants a nearby vessel to communicate with it.

 

Danger – U: Uniform

 

 

This flag is used to notify another vessel that it is heading into danger.

 

Dangerous Cargo – B: Bravo

 

 

Vessel has dangerous cargo onboard.

 

Disabled – F: Foxtrot

 

 

Vessel is disabled and needs someone to communicate with them.

 

Diver Down – A: Alpha

 

 

This flag means a diver is in the water and other vessels should keep clear of the area.

 

Engines going astern – S: Sierra

 

 

Vessel is indicating that its engines are going astern. This occurs when engine reverses thrust to slow it down.

 

Enter Port – Q: Quebec

 

 

Vessel is requesting admission to the port, and captain is promising that there are no contagious diseases onboard.

 

Fire – J: Juliet

 

 

Vessel is on fire and is carrying dangerous cargo. Other vessels should keep clear.

 

Keep Clear – D: Delta and T: Tango

 

 

 

The vessel is having trouble maneuvering – other vessels should keep clear.

 

Man Overboard – O: Oscar

 

 

Man is overboard and is in need of rescue. The person is not necessarily a man, but the “Man Overboard” distress signal has been used for centuries. Historically, it was used to indicate that someone manning the ship had fallen overboard.

 

No – N: November

 

 

Negative, or no.

 

Pilot – G: Golf

 

 

The vessel needs a pilot.

 

Pilot Onboard – H: Hotel

 

 

The vessel has a pilot onboard.

 

Setting Sail – P: Papa

 

 

Communicates that everyone should report onboard. The vessel is getting ready to sail.

 

Stop – L: Lima

 

 

Demand for another vessel to stop. When used while vessel is in harbor, it means that it is under quarantine.

 

Stop Intentions – X: X-Ray

 

 

Demanding that another vessel stop its intentions and watch for additional signals.

 

Stopped – M: Mike

 

 

Vessel is stopped in the water.

 

Tug Needed – Z: Zulu

 

 

Vessel needs a tug

 

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