The mysteries of flag etiquette explained

Do you ever feel second-bested because you don’t understand the rules about flags where they apply to boats and yachts? Do you perhaps feel that its just another way that the world has found of finding fault, and judging you to be wrong in yet another way? Do you think that it’s an area that exists purely for the entertainment of certain fastidious personality types that can safely be ignored? Is it just quaint and fun? Or is it important – so important that others who get it wrong MUST BE TOLD FIRMLY and should SEE DEMONSTRATIONS IMMEDIATELY?

I guess all four points of view may apply at times, though for me the first three come more naturally to an egalitarian, liberal kind of mind, and the last can be either fun or just tiresome, depending.

For the benefit of those who don’t really ‘get’ flags but like to fly the Red Ensign every now and again, here is an explanation of what you’re supposed to know so that you need never again feel at a loss. And it comes complete with a nice story or two…




1900 edition of Dixon Kemp’s classic boating manual is online

Dixon Kemp online  Dixon Kemp online

If you’re wondering what to do this weekend, the 1900 edition of Dixon Kemp’s classic A Manual of Yacht and Boat Sailing is online at the Internet Archive, and will keep a boat nut with a sense of history busy for quite a while.

As you read, it’s interesting to note how much is still true – and how many of the craft in the beautiful drawings are still inspiring boat and yacht owners, builders and designers today.

Kindly digitised by the University of Pittsburgh, it’s available in a variety of forms: there’s HTML for online browsing, PDF and Kindle for those who prefer, and, wonderfully, the Daisy audio form for those unable to see well enough to read.

My thanks to reader Paul Mullings for letting me know about this!

Projects at Stirling and Son, autumn 2011

Stirling and Son 14ft dinghy ashore in the mud Stirling and Son 14ft dinghy with one reef

Stirling and Son Victorian Yacht Hull Planking Complete and Faired Stirling and Son 14ft dinghy with All Plain Sail Stirling and Son 14ft dinghy Sailing Twice Reefed Down

Stirling and Son Mast Making Stirling and Son Lock Gate - Tenon Measuring Stirling and son Lock Gate Timbers

Click on the thumbnails for bigger images

Those busy folks at Stirling and Son have been getting on with an amazing range of projects. Building and marketing beautiful small traditional clinker-built dinghies is one thing, rowing to Magnetic North Pole is another, but how about building lock gates or appearing in adverts for soap? All this and a regular round of repair and restoration jobs are all in a day’s work for those Stirlings…

  • As the photo above shows (click on the thumbnail for a much larger image) the hull of the Stirling & Son Victorian yacht named Integrity is complete, and the rudder has been hung. The mast has also been hewn from a tree selected in a local forest. I say Integrity looks amazing and I believe she is available for sale.
  • Will has taken the 14ft sailing dinghy out for a trial. It was fairly windy, so he began with two reefs, and later shook them out as the wind fell and sailed under all plain sail. He reports that it was so much fun they kept sailing on past high tide – and it was a pretty muddy business getting her back out…
  • In a surprise non-boat project, Stirling and Son are building a new lock gate and cantilever bridge in oak for the Tavistock Canal. Due to the size of the timbers and the poor access, both have to be assembled in the shed, dismantled and then taken to the site in order to rebuild them in position. I guess it makes sense, for there’s no doubt that anyone who can build a Victorian-style yacht knows something about working with oak.
  • And what about the soap? From the Stirling & Son newsletter I gather the makers of Dove soap products decided that Will should be the subject of a shower product advert, and so their ad agency visited with a film crew.

Stirling & Son is based at TavistockDevon and can be contacted via the website at or by ‘phone on 01822 614259.