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CCA Flag and Burgee Etiquette

Photo: Dick Enersen

Submitted by Fleet Captain Ernie Godshalk



  • Flags shall be flown properly or not at all.
  • Morning colors are made at 0800; evening colors at sunset.
  • When in foreign waters, evening colors may be made according to local custom.
  • When in high latitudes, evening colors may be observed at 2100 if sunset is later.
  • As used herein, “at anchor” means not underway; “may” means the routine is permissible; “shall” means the routine is required; “starboard spreader” means the lowest, forward-most starboard spreader.
  • Only one flag may be displayed in the position called for by the routine. Except as noted herein, any conflict shall be resolved by observing the following hierarchy:
    • Ensign
    • Race Committee flag while acting as committee boat
    • Commodore, Vice Commodore, Rear Commodore, Post Captain, Fleet Captain, in that order
    • Union jack
    • Club burgee
    • Private signal


As used herein, “ensign” means the national ensign or the traditional (circle of thirteen stars around fouled anchor in field) yacht ensign (if of U.S. registry).

A yacht in commission and manned shall display the ensign as follows:

  • At anchor, a yacht shall display the ensign at the stern between morning and evening colors, except that a yacht that will be unmanned at color time shall make evening colors beforehand.
  • Underway, a yacht shall display the ensign when there is sufficient light for identification.

a) A power yacht or a sailing yacht under power alone shall display the ensign at the gaff or, lacking a gaff, at the stern.

b) A yacht under sail, when not racing, shall display the ensign preferably at the gaff or upper leech of the aftermost sail, or at the stern. The ensign shall not be displayed when racing.

The traditional U.S. yacht ensign shall not be flown in international waters

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The Cruising Club of America Burgee

Burgee etiquette afloat: The Club burgee may be displayed only when a yacht is under the direct command of a Cruising Club of America member. The Club burgee shall be displayed at the bow staff of single-mast power yachts, at the foremost masthead of schooners and multi-masted power yachts and at the main masthead of other rigs. The Club burgee may be displayed at night.

Burgee etiquette ashore: “the speaker’s right”. When planning to display the Club burgee vertically on a wall or a podium, try using that phrase to remember that the top of the burgee (the crest of the wave) goes to the observer’s left, or the speaker’s right, as shown on the top of this page.

The Cruising Club of America Member Aboard Flag

A member may display the CCA Member Aboard flag at the starboard spreader when in command of a yacht lacking a masthead flag halyard or aboard a yacht as a guest. The CCA Member Aboard flag may be displayed at night.


Dressing Ship

On the appropriate occasions, a yacht may, when at anchor (or when underway in a marine parade), weather permitting, dress ship from morning to evening colors. Any sequence is acceptable, but the following will give the best mix of colors:   Starting from bow - AB2, UJ1, KE3, GH6, IV5, FL4, DM7, PO Third Repeater, RN First Repeater, STO (Zero), CX9, WQ8, ZY Second Repeater, Answering Pennant.

Private Signal

The private signal is normally displayed when the ensign is hoisted. It may be displayed at the mainmast truck of schooners and power yachts and at the mizzen truck of yawls and ketches. Cutters and sloops may display the private signal sewn to the leech of the mainsail, approximately two thirds of the length of the leech above the clew, or at the truck in lieu of the burgee except when at anchor. At anchor, they may display the private signal at the jack staff. The private signal may be displayed at night.

Flag Officers, Post Captains and Fleet Captain

  • Such flags shall be displayed day and night at the mizzen truck of yawls, ketches and similarly-rigged power yachts and at the main truck of cutters, sloops, schooners and single-masted power yachts.
  • When a flag officer uses a member’s yacht for official business, his flag shall replace the burgee. When a flag officer is aboard a member’s yacht on other than official business, his flag may be displayed at the starboard spreader.

Union Jack

  • The Union Jack (U.S.) may be displayed at the jackstaff between morning and evening colors only at anchor and only on Sundays and holidays (legal or traditional) or when dressing ship.

Circumnavigation and Transoceanic Pennants

  • These may be flown at the starboard spreader at Club rendezvous and other appropriate occasions, in accordance with the award rules.

Past Commodores

  • The past commodores’ flag may be flown at the starboard spreader at Club rendezvous and other appropriate occasions.

Foreign National Colors

  • Upon entering and remaining in foreign waters, the national colors of the host country shall be displayed at the starboard spreader whenever the yacht’s national ensign is displayed. When displaying foreign national colors at the starboard spreader, other flags, except a quarantine flag, that would otherwise be displayed at the starboard spreader, shall be displayed at the port spreader. On yachts with no spreaders, it shall be displayed at the masthead.

Starboard Spreader

  • The starboard spreader is not an acceptable alternative to other flag positions set forth above. Except as noted, its flag use is limited to foreign national colors of the host country, quarantine flag, flags of visiting flag officers on unofficial business, the member aboard flag, circumnavigation and transoceanic pennants, past commodores’ flag, and signals such as owner absent, code flag hoists and the like.

Size of Flags

    Sizes are optional, but the following is an acceptable standard:

       a)The ensign should approximate one inch on the fly per foot of overall length.

       b) The burgee, private signal, flag officers', post captains', fleet captain’s, and past commodores’ flags should approximate one half inch on the fly for each foot of height of highest truck above the water line on sailing yachts and for each foot of length of power yachts.

        c) Hoists should approximate two-thirds of the fly.