Aug 19, 2021
When we were children, seeing a ship change its flag to one with a skull and bones would set our heart racing, as we knew pirates were on their way. Even if we have learnt about the existence of flags through movies, not everyone knows all the nautical flags used in the marine world and how to interpret them.
Nautical flags come in different shapes, sizes and colours. They can represent alphabet flags or numerical pennants, and combined they convey different meanings. If you are interested in the meaning behind nautical flags and would like to understand them, keep reading!
Despite all sorts of electronic navigation and communication gear aboard vessels, mariners still use nautical flags for communication in situations that require speed.
Nautical flags are most common in the forms of squares, but you can also see pendants (triangular with a flat tip). There are 26 square nautical flags representing the letters of the alphabet. There are also 10 numbered pendants, one answering pendant and three substitutes.
On occasions you can see substitutes, which are triangles. However these are less common. Also, the only colours you will find in signal flags are black, blue, red, yellow and white. This is because these colors stand out well and can be seen with your own eyes on the horizon or through binoculars.
(Image from Discover Boating)
The international code of signals for the letters of the alphabet are as follow: