Rules & Regulations

General Safety Rules

  • The speed limit is five (5) knots within 100 yards of the club dock. Members, guests and children must obey all other posted speed limits when using club boats.
  • No horseplay or rough housing is permitted in the clubhouse, on the club dock or in the club boats.
  • No roller skating, rollerblading, skateboarding or bicycle riding is permitted in the clubhouse or on the club dock.
  • No swimming is permitted from the club dock.
  • No swimming is allowed near power boats in operation.
  • No running is permitted in the clubhouse or on the club dock. Shoes are required at all times.
  • No one may be thrown from the club dock.
  • Children of members and guests under the age of 21 may not consume or bring alcoholic beverages on the club premises or club boats.
  • All boats operated from the club dock, the beach or the moorings must carry a PFD (Personal Floatation Device) for every person on board.
  • Each club sailboat must be securely beached, unrigged and its gear properly stowed in the sail houses by the last person using it.
  • Children of members and guests using the club dock or club boats must be able to swim 25 yards unaided, unless accompanied by an adult.
  • No water skiing or unauthorized use is permitted using club boats.
  • The staff are under instruction to render assistance to persons and boats in difficulty to the best of their ability. Any member or guest, including their children, using the club or club equipment does so with the understanding and agreement that neither the club nor its officers, trustees or staff shall be liable for any harm to person or property resulting from the use of the club or club equipment or from the rendering of such assistance.
  • No personal watercraft, e.g., jet skis, etc. are permitted at the club.
  • The staff are under instruction to deny members, guests and children access to the club privileges whenever it appears reasonably necessary to protect the safety and well-being of persons and property at the club.
  • Club launches must be securely tied to the dock; their gear properly stowed after last use.
  • No dogs are permitted in the clubhouse and dogs in the club areas must be on leashes.

Clubhouse Policy

As is stated in its By-Laws, “The purpose of the Club is to encourage its members in the personal control and handling of their yachts in a safe and responsible manner, and to encourage sailing as a sport among the children of Quogue and the surrounding environs,” and empower the Board to “have general management of the Club.”

The extent to which the members of any club enjoy its facilities depends entirely upon each member’s understanding, cooperation and courtesy. In our club, the Shinnecock Yacht Club (the “Club”), to operate effectively, it is necessary to maintain certain rules and regulations so that you, your families and your guests may enjoy a club where the highest levels of conduct are maintained. Rules and regulations set forth here are intended to advise each member (“Member”) regarding the responsibility of his or her membership in the Club. All Members should be familiar with them and the important part they play in maintaining our Club.

Certain important topic areas within the Board’s purview are not intended to be addressed within this code of policies.  Those excluded areas concern laws and regulations of general applicability to all organizations, including employee relations, matters related to taxation, environmental protection regulations and similar issues.

The Club Manager is responsible for the enforcement of the rules and regulations and is not authorized to make exceptions. Infractions should be reported to the Club Steward for appropriate action. In the case of a serious infraction of rules or history of continual infractions, a Member may be fined, suspended or requested to resign in accordance with the Club Bylaws.

The following is a list of operational procedures that must be adhered to by all Members and guests attending or sponsoring Club events or private parties taking place at the Club, the Clubhouse and premises (the “Clubhouse”).

Member Code of Behavior
Members shall act in a courteous and proper manner towards staff and fellow Members. This will ensure a high level of camaraderie and friendship within the Club.

Alcohol policy
Any Member consuming alcoholic beverages shall do so in a safe and responsible manner. The Club reserves the right at any time for any reason to restrict the service of alcoholic beverages to any Member or guest of a Member. The Club will not serve alcoholic beverages of any type to any Member or guest under the age of twenty-one. No alcoholic beverages of any kind can be sold for Member consumption off-premises.

Smoking, Candles, Pyrotechnics
The Club does not permit smoking anywhere in the Clubhouse. Use of candles and pyrotechnics is strictly prohibited. 

No person other than a Member of the Club shall be admitted to the

Club unless accompanied by a Member. A Member is responsible for the actions and behavior of his or her guests.

Children under the age of sixteen (16) are not allowed in the Clubhouse without adult supervision. Children must be closely supervised and not be allowed to wander unattended throughout the Clubhouse or on the dock.  Parents should ensure that their children’s behavior does not negatively impact other Members or cause safety concerns.

Each member is responsible for keeping the grounds clean, to the extent of picking up their own debris, such as bottles, plastic cups, paper, etc.  Refuse should be put in the trash cans provided.  Any questions regarding the proper disposal of refuse should be addressed to the Club Steward.

Cell Phones

The use of cellular phones is not permitted in the Clubhouse.

Dogs are not allowed in the Clubhouse and on the Club premises.  Members bringing dogs onto Club property must be cognizant of the rights of others and must remove the pet if affects the comfort of other members or causes safety concerns.

The giving of gratuities to anyone in the service of the Club is prohibited.

Posted Notices
No notices, subscription paper or petition (except those that relate to Club affairs) shall be posted or circulated without the approval of the Board of Trustees.  All items to be posted shall be submitted to the Manager and Communications Chair.

Club Employees
No member shall request of any employee of the Club or call upon them for any service that takes them away from their duties unless there is an emergency.  All employees will be supervised by the Executive Committee, subject to the policies of the House Committee and Board of Trustees and will not take instruction inconsistent therewith from any other source.

No reprimand shall be given to employees by members.  Any member complaint about a Club employee shall be addressed in private to the Manager or member of the Executive Committee

Dress Code
The dress code is casual.  Footwear must be worn at all times in the Clubhouse and on dock.


Mooring Maintenance
Each member is responsible for his mooring and his yacht. Moorings will be inspected by the Waterfront Manager and any required changes for safety will be made and the member charged accordingly; normal waterway charges are assessed each year for space and service.

Vessel Identification
All boats requiring documentation form Federal, or State authorities be numbered in accordance with applicable regulations.

Safe Boating
No boat shall be operated in a dangerous manner or in such a way as to leave a wake in the harbor area. The Club reserves the right to police the harbor and take any action necessary to preserve boating safety. In the event of impending dangerous weather conditions, the Steward has the authority to close the waterfront; during a shutdown all club vessels, including the launches and the sailing fleet will be out of service.

Holding Tanks
No boat in the marina or mooring field shall use on-board toilet facilities unless holding tanks are employed. All of Shinnecock Bay is a designated No-Discharge Zone (NDZ) and holding tank discharge valves must be secured in the closed position at all times

No running, jogging, roller blades, skateboards or the use of other similar sports equipment is allowed on the piers or floats at any time.

No one shall swim from or near the floats or pier except under certain circumstances such as swim safety testing of the sailing programs. Diving off the pier or floating docks is prohibited.

Fishing is allowed only in a manner which does not inconvenience boat owners.

Juniors and Children
No Junior under 16 is allowed to use the launch unless he or she has a valid safe boater’s certificate. Parents are strongly encouraged to fit their children with life jackets at all times while on docks, launches and other waterways facilities.

Assistance by Club Employees
Assistance rendered by an employee to a member or guest will be on a “best effort” basis.  However, each owner is ultimately responsible for his own actions, boat, equipment, inspection, maintenance, and security. Each member/guest shall also hold the Club harmless from any liability arising out of his or her boat’s presence or use at the Club.

Personal Watercraft
Motorized personal watercraft such as jet-skis are prohibited.

Launch Service | Pickup Signals
The preferred method of requesting a launch pickup is to call “Shinnecock Launch” on VHF Channel 74. Members are strongly encouraged to have a working VHF radio on their vessels or in their possession when using Club sailboats. In the absence of a radio, a pickup may be requested by sounding three horn or whistle blasts.

Conduct in Launches
For their safety and that of others, passengers are requested to follow the directions of the launch operators. Smoking is not permitted on the launches.

Mooring Field Regulations
These rules and regulations for use of the mooring field in Pennimans Creek Bay by members of the Club have been adopted by the Board of Trustees and are in accordance with the Rules and Regulations for Shinnecock Bay and the Town of Southampton, Marine Division, as revised from time to time.

Fees and Charges
Fees and charges concerning the use of waterways facilities shall be determined and published by the Waterways Committee.

No dockage fee shall be charged to any member who does not maintain a slip or mooring at the Club who leaves their boat on the dock overnight following participation in a Club event, provided the boat is removed from the dock by 10:00am (1000 hours) the following morning.


Dry Land Storage
Limited storage outside the Clubhouse is available to Members. The Club Steward in conjunction with the Executive Committee are responsible for approving small watercraft or any other items for storage on dry land and for assigning the storage space. Should the Club Steward or Executive Committee determine that the storage is at capacity, members will be put on a waiting list and will be awarded a suitable space as it becomes available. The waiting list is managed by the Fleet Captain.

No watercraft or other dry storage item should be left on SYC property without notifying the Club Steward or the Fleet Captain. While efforts to contact its owner will be made, any unapproved or unidentified watercraft or other items may be removed from Club property at the owner’s expense. No jet skis or wave runners may be used in club waters or stored on SYC property.

Approved items may be stored at SYC between May 15th and October 15th ONLY; all items must be removed from the Club at the end of each season. There is no winter storage available.

Dry storage will be billed at a rate of $130 per item, per season.

Posted Notices
No notices, subscription paper or petition (except those that relate to Club affairs) shall be posted or circulated without the approval of the Board of Trustees.  All items to be posted shall be submitted to the Manager and Communications Chair.

Club Employees
No member shall request of any employee of the Club or call upon them for any service that takes them away from their duties unless there is an emergency.  All employees will be supervised by the Executive Committee, subject to the policies of the House Committee and Board of Trustees and will not take instruction inconsistent therewith from any other source.

No reprimand shall be given to employees by members.  Any member complaint about a Club employee shall be addressed in private to the Manager or member of the Executive Committee

Dress Code
The dress code is casual.  Footwear must be worn at all times in the Clubhouse and on dock.

Mooring and Dock Storage Policy

  1. This mooring policy covers both dock slips and anchored moorings and supersedes all previous policies. Reviewed and passed by the Shinnecock Yacht Club Officers [date]
    • The Club maintains the mooring facility pursuant to the rules and Regulations of the Board of Trustees of the Town of Southampton. The Bay Constable is responsible for ensuring the Club is compliant with those rules. The Club has enjoyed a longstanding understanding with the Bay Constable to allow the Club to manage the mooring field as one unit and as the Club sees appropriate.
    • The mooring policy of the Club is to manage a mooring field and dock slips for the Club members in a safe manner and in the best interests of the Club.
  3. SCOPE
    • The scope of this policy shall extend to all members of Shinnecock Yacht Club and their guests while on Club grounds or waters.
    • All mooring and dock slip privilege holders shall be a member of the Club and meet the standards required by the Town of Southampton to hold a mooring permit.
    • Mooring and dock slip privileges begin on May 15th and end on October 15th of each year. All vessels must be removed from docks slips and moorings by October 15th. Please see the Fleet Captain or Club Manager to request special exceptions for dock slips at their discretion.
    • The current mooring list shall be displayed within the Club such that the owner of each Vessel can be identified and contacted.
    • In the event that two or more owners share joint Vessel ownership,
      • Proof of ownership and appropriate registration by the member applying for a mooring or dock slip must be provided to the Fleet Captain.
      • Only those Vessel owners who are members of the Club may access the vessel while at the Club or have access to Club facilities except as guests accompanied by the member-owner
      • The member(s) with mooring privileges assumes full responsibility for the Vessel and passengers while at the Club
    • Mooring members shall be entitled to retain their mooring privileges to the following season, provided they are in good standing.
    • When a member has paid for and been assigned a mooring, but whose mooring is determined to be vacant, the Club reserves the right to assign the slip temporarily to a visitor or any member on a day-to-day basis.
    • Members whom have not paid their mooring fees by June 1st shall be in default and are no longer entitled to mooring privileges, and the slip or mooring may be permanently reassigned.
    • Any member, hereafter the “Host Member”, may request the short term, temporary mooring for a guest vessel.
    • Requests shall be made by the Host Member to the Fleet Captain or Club Manager.
    • Requests shall be made by the Host Member to the Fleet Captain or Club Manager.
    • The Host Member assumes responsibility for all aspects of the guest vessel, its captain and crew while in port including ensuring the captain and crew of the vessel adhere to the rules of the club and any charges and/or fees incurred during their time in port.
    • Visiting Vessels from other recognized Yacht Clubs and guests of members shall be granted 3 days of free mooring, if space is available. After three days, the mooring charge shall be $2.00 per linear foot per day unless waived by the Officers of the Club.
    • The Fleet Captain and/or Club Manager shall approve and assign visitors slips.
    • Special arrangements may be made for mooring Vessels of entrants to SYC sanctioned events with prior notice to the Fleet Captain or Club manager.
    • The Fleet Captain shall be responsible for all decisions regarding availability of moorings and slips and location of moorings. Such decisions shall be the result of what the Fleet Captain deems to be in the best interest of the Club and the best interest and safety of all Boaters/vessels.
    • Requests for a change of mooring shall be made in writing to the Fleet Captain giving reasons for the requested change.
    • Requests for a change of mooring shall be reviewed by the Fleet Captain in the order of date received at SYC office. The Fleet Captain shall consider the reason for the change, least disruption to other members and the best use of the facility in rendering of his decision.
    • In general, the decisions where to place vessels in the mooring field and the priorities given to those waiting for a mooring shall be made with consideration of the following principles:
      • mooring location shall be assigned with safety being the prime consideration
      • Mooring Placement. A vessel shall be placed where (a) waterside conditions and bottom configuration provide optimum safety for that vessel and for other vessels in the mooring field and (b) utilization of each slip and mooring to its maximum potential and (c) assignment of slips and moorings by Deferred List and Waitlist seniority.
    • Assignment of moorings and slips shall be conducted such that
      • top priority is given to returning mooring and slip holders and those who have deferred for a single season, and
      • next priority is given to mooring holders and slip holders who have changed vessels, and
      • next priority given to those on the Wait List.
    • The Club reserves the right to refuse any mooring or slip application on the basis of a visual inspection of the vessel by the Fleet Captain.
    • No more than one mooring or slip shall be assigned by the Club per membership.
    • Moorage assignment shall belong to only one member.
    • Moorage is non-transferable to Vessel owners.
    • Maximum size of a vessel on a mooring is any craft that is neither greater than 25 feet LOA or 5000 lbs. displacement (dry).
    • Maximum size of vessel with a dock slip is neither greater than 29 feet LOA with maximum beam for each slip to be determined by the Fleet Captain and Club Manager when a specific slip becomes available.
  7. A member who changes vessels must apply in writing to the Fleet Captain. This application will supersede any Wait Listed vessel for mooring placement/location if the new vessel can be accommodated.
  8. Owners not wishing to occupy their assigned moorings or slips for the season;
    • May, with the permission of the Fleet Captain, maintain their mooring privileges for a single season provided that they remain members in good standing. This single season deferral will only be granted to each member one time every 10 years.
    • Beyond this one year grace period, those wishing to return to SYC waters shall be treated as new mooring applicants.
    • The Fleet Captain may assign another vessel temporarily to that mooring until the occupying vessel returns or its mooring privileges have been terminated.
  9. A mooring permit holder must use his or her mooring for a minimum of thirty (30) days each season (from May 15thto October 15th) with the vessel listed on the permit. Failure to satisfy this requirement will result in revocation of mooring privileges unless the mooring holder has written authorization from the Fleet Captain.
  10. Mooring equipment is vessel specific and shall be assigned by the Club manager.
    • Mooring equipment must be inspected and approved by the Club manager prior to deployment.
  11. When ownership of a member’s Vessel passes to a member who has no Club moorage privileges:
    • Moorage privileges are not automatically retained for that Vessel.
    • The moored member may, in writing to the Fleet Captain, agree to the new owner keeping the Vessel in the assigned and paid for slip for the balance of the mooring year. In this event, no other moorage or slip will be assigned to the selling member for the balance of that moorage year.
    • If the selling member elects to place another vessel in the moorage and obtains approval from the Fleet Captain, and if there is no other moorage available to the new owner, the new owner must promptly remove their vessel from the Club.
    • At the end of that moorage year, the selling member may elect to;
      • Continue or resume moorage and submit a request for a replacement vessel or relinquish moorage.
      • as a club member with no assigned moorage, the new owner may at any time apply for moorage, be wait listed if necessary, and assigned moorage when available
  1. Vessels moored at the Club shall not be used as living quarters without the permission of the Club Manager or Fleet Captain and never for more than two consecutive nights or a total of 8 nights per year.
  2. From time to time, special events held at the Club may require moorage. Upon request of The Fleet Captain, a member’s Vessel may be moved to a temporary berth to accommodate a special event.
  3. Passengers and/or materials serving a commercial purpose shall not be embarked, disembarked, loaded or unloaded to or from a Vessel within the SYC marina. This section shall not be interpreted so as to prevent passengers or materials loading or unloading to or from either (a) Vessels engaged in Club authorized activity or (b) a Club member’s private Vessel being shown to prospective buyers by the member or the member’s agent.
    • In the event of a space becoming available for temporary assignment, on a one-year basis, the Fleet Captain will contact, in the date order of their application, members on the wait list.
    • Wait listed members who obtain a temporary assigned mooring from the Club must acknowledge that such mooring is granted on a temporary basis.
    • If such mooring space is unavailable for the subsequent year, members who received the temporary mooring shall be returned, in order, to their original position on the waiting list.
    • If, for reasons of lack of availability a new vessel cannot be immediately accommodated, that vessel shall be placed on the Waiting List. The Fleet Captain will contact that member when suitable space becomes available.
    • Two Waiting Lists shall be maintained by the Fleet Captain, one for each of dock slips and ball moorings.
    • The waiting list shall operate chronologically such that waitlist seniority is determined on a First In – First Out (FIFO) basis.
    • Waiting list preference shall not be bestowed upon any one type of vessel.
    • Members who have been offered a slip or mooring can defer receipt of the mooring or slip one time. The mooring or slip will be offered to the next member on the waitlist and the deferring member will remain next in line on the waitlist. A second deferral will result in member being removed from the waitlist.
  6. Under no circumstances are moored members permitted to make their own sub-leasing arrangements.
    • Members requesting a mooring or dock slip shall notify the Fleet Captain in writing of their desire. The notice shall contain a full description of the vessel or intended vessel.
    • Upon receipt of the notice, the Fleet Captain shall review it for eligibility with the standards set forth herein.
    • Eligible vessels will be placed on the appropriate waiting list until a mooring or slip becomes available.
    • Owners wishing to accept the mooring or slip being offered shall notify the Fleet Captain of their intentions and complete an application. Applications can be obtained from the Club Secretary. (Owners wishing to defer moorage, see [ 18.3 ].)
    • The completed application and all supporting documentation required therein is kept on file and provided to the Town.
    • Moorage privileges begin upon receipt of the permit from the Town.
    • Moorage fees will be set by the Officers and Trustees from time to time.
    • Moorage application forms must be returned with moorage payment in full no later than April 15th of each year to avoid late charges.
    • If the fees are not paid by April 15th a 15% penalty surcharge will be applied.
    • Where a member has not paid for moorage by June 1st,he is in default. The Fleet Captain may assign the mooring to another vessel and revoke mooring privileges.
    • Where a member has paid moorage for the year, then decides that that moorage is not required:
      • Upon written application to the Fleet Captain from the member stating that moorage is not required for the balance of that year, received at the Club office before April 15th, the member will be refunded the full moorage fee.
      • Full refund will not be paid to applications received on or after May 15th.
        • After May 15th, a written request for prorated refund of paid moorage fees, must be received at the Club office before June 30th, stating that the member has elected to cancel moorage for the balance of that year, Refunds will be calculated by dividing the members paid moorage fee by 4 to establish the monthly rate.
        • The member will be charged the monthly rate for each month, beginning May 1st, to and including the month in which the application is received, whether they placed their Vessel in the marina or not. The balance will be refunded.
      • A member will receive a prorated moorage refund only once and will be considered a deferral, and may apply for moorage in any subsequent year, treated as a new application.
      • Any refund will result in the member’s moorage privileges being considered deferred for the season. If the member does not occupy the mooring or slip the following season privileges will be revoked.
    • Vessels moored in a dock slip shall undergo and pass an annual vessel safety check (VSC) by a marine vessel safety authority such as the Police, Town Bay Constable, US Coast Guard and its Auxiliary or local Power Vessel Squadron.
      • Member’s whose vessels are not in compliance are no longer entitled to mooring privileges, and the slip may be re-assigned.
    • Any vessel, which, in the opinion of the Fleet Captain, is in danger of sinking, is badly neglected, or is a hazard to other vessels, or the premises, may be removed forthwith by the Club with all related expenses, losses and/or damages charged directly to the account of the vessel’s owner.
    • All Vessels, their contents and attachments, while at the Club, whether in land storage, in transit, or in the marina shall be entirely at the owner’s risk with respect to any loss or damage.
    • The Vessel owner shall be liable for any loss, damage, or destruction caused to the Club’s property or to any other Vessel by the owners Vessel whether under operation and/or care of the owner, and /or any other persons on board, both jointly and severally with other person.
    • All vessels under way within the marina shall proceed dead slow and in a cautious and seamanlike manner.
    • Outbound Vessels have right-of-way.
    • Vessel owners will be held responsible for maintenance and repair personnel who enter the Club on their behalf.
    • The pumping, pouring and leaking overboard of petroleum products or discharge of sewage is prohibited and may result in loss of moorage
    • No litter shall be thrown overboard or left on the docks.
    • Storage of flammable liquids must be in approved containers.
    • Reflective, flame, or oil-burning heaters shall not be used within the marina unless someone is in attendance at all times to supervise. The use of unprotected light bulbs is strictly prohibited.
    • Unauthorized persons are not allowed on the docks unless accompanied by a member.
    • Anyone having control of a Vessel within the marina must be at least 16 years old, be under the direct supervision of a responsible adult or hold a New York State Safe Boaters Certificate or its equivalent.
    • Overhang of the dock by the Vessel’s bow, bowsprit, anchor, anchor platform or the like is prohibited
    • Under normal circumstances access to the launch ramp may not to be blocked.
    • Owners shall be responsible for the safe mooring of their Vessels, supplying and maintaining dock lines, fenders, etc.
      • All items attached to docks must meet with approval of the Club Manager.
      • If a Vessel‘s docking lines are insufficient or damaged, the owner will be notified. If necessary the Club Manager will install adequate lines and materials will be charged to the member.




Flag Protocol

[Lifted directly from Yachting Customs and Courtesies by J.A. Tringali]

Yachts and yacht clubs are great users of flags. They are colorful, festive and informative. Every yacht owner should be familiar with the customs that apply to all the types of flags typically flown on a vessel.

Unlike buildings and houses ashore, a vessel has a limited number of places from which to fly flags, and thus the yachtsman must be selective in the flags that he or she flies afloat. A yacht will ordinarily display three flags: one announcing her nationality, one announcing her owner’s club affiliation, and one announcing her owner’s status (private signal or club officer’s flag).

While the United States Flag Code, USC Title 4, Chapter 1, provides general guidelines for the display of the U.S. flag, nautical flag display is based on long-standing traditions that date back over 300 years.

The United States Power Squadrons, the worlds largest boating educational organization, developed an updated code for displaying flags on boats in 1998. This code, devised in consultation with the U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, New York Yacht Club, and other yachting authorities, eliminates confusion and will help you show proper respect for each flag and pennant you fly.

This code is primarily for use on private vessels because small craft are so different from large ships; yet it is flexible enough to accommodate the wide variation in construction of most modern pleasure craft. The code applies to all boaters, but has specific application to members of groups such as yacht clubs, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the United States Power Squadrons.

While points of honor have been established by long tradition, new configurations of boats, rigging and the like have modified these points. Using antennas, fishing towers, outriggers, sailboat backstays, portside halyards, and double hoisting are all new to the flag code. Even though traditionalists may think they are incorrect, these flag display techniques are appropriate today. If your boat’s configurations requires you to use any of these techniques to fly your colors, do so, but follow this code to do so correctly.

The updated code, How to Fly Flags, Nautical Flag Display, is available from various marine suppliers around the country and from USPS Headquarters. 

United States Ensign (50-Star US flag)
The U.S. national ensign, sometimes called “50-star” or “Old Glory,” is the proper and preferred flag for all U.S. vessels. Your boat should wear it from 0800 until sunset, and when you enter or leave port during daylight or at night, weather and rig permitting. While in port, if you leave your boat and will not return before sunset, lower and stow the national ensign before you go.

The national ensign worn by a vessel must be the flag of her registry—not necessarily that of the owner or operator.

Generally, the national ensign should be displayed at the peak of the gaff, i.e., the outer end of the spar extending aft from the mast of your boat—if you boat has a gaff. If it does not, fly it from the flagstaff at your boat’s stern. If your boat has an overhanging boom or an outboard motor, your flagstaff may be offset to starboard (preferably) from your boat’s centerline.

On a sportfishing boat, where a stern staff might interfere with the gear, and vice versa, the practice is to fly the ensign from a halyard rigged amidships on the after part of the superstructure.

Marconi-rigged sailboats may fly the ensign from the leech of the aftermost sail (or from the back stay), approximately 2/3 the distance up its length. This puts it in about the same position it would occupy if the boat were gaff-rigged.

At anchor or made fast, the ensign should be flown from the stern staff of all boats. The U.S. national ensign has a 10:19 hoist/fly ratio.

Club Burgee
[SYC Burgee.]  Generally triangular in shape, although sometimes swallow-tailed, the yacht club burgee contains a unique design symbolic of the organization represented. If you boat is a mastless or single-masted yacht, fly your burgee from the bow staff. Boats without a bow staff should wear a burgee at the truck of a single-master yacht. On the other hand, if the truck is occupied with instruments or other conflicting gear, a pigstick can be affixed to a halyard so as to carry a flag above the truck. Alternatively, the burgee may be worn at a spreader halyard. If your boat has two or more masts, fly your burgee at the truck of the forward mast. Do not display more than one burgee at a time. The burgee your boat wears should be that of the group in whose activity you are participating, or whose harbor you are entering, if you are a member of that group. Otherwise, fly the burgee of your home organization. Each yacht club usually has rules that determine when their burgee should be flown.

Size of Flags
Flags are often too small. When your purchase your flags, use the following guidelines, rounding up to the next larger commercially available size when necessary.

The national ensign flown at a flag staff at the stern of your boat should be one inch on the fly for each foot of overall length.

All other flags such as club burgees, officer flags, and private signals for use on sailboats should be approximately 1/2 inch on the fly for each foot above the waterline of the tallest mast on the boat. (That is, if the tope of the mast is 30 feet above the waterline, these other flags should be 15 inches on the fly.) On powerboats, these flags should be 5/8 inch on the fly for each foot of overall length. The shape and proportions of pennants and burgees will be prescribed by the organization to which they relate. A union jack should be the same size as the canton of the national ensign being flown from the flag staff.

Many foreign ensigns—courtesy flags—sold in stores are not manufactured to correct proportions. For instance, the flags of all former British Commonwealth countries, including Canada, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the British Virgin Islands, are correctly proportioned 1:2, i.e., the fly is twice the length of the hoist. As a matter of interest, the United States flag is correctly proportioned 10:19 (nearly 1:2), not 3:5 as is commonly available.

Here are some tips for flying the American flag correctly.

Do: Choose the right size!

The fly (length) should be one inch per foot of overall boat length, with the hoist two-thirds of the fly. Use closest ready-made size.

Don’t: Fly a flag that is too big!

It doesn’t mean you are more patriotic, it only means you aren’t displaying the flag respectfully!

Do: Fly it during daylight hours ONLY!

The American flag is properly flown ONLY from 0800 to sundown while in the harbor. Other flags (e.g. club burgee, officer’s flags, private signals, fish flags, etc.) may be flown at any time the vessel is in operation.

Don’t: Fly the American flag from the:

  • Top of the mast
  • Spreader flag halyard
  • Bow staff
  • Fishing outriggers

United States Yacht Ensign
The U.S. yacht ensign features a blue canton (the rectangle at the upper corner nearest the staff) having 13 white stars and a fouled anchor. Originally devised as a signal to identify documented yachts to relieve them of certain customs formalities, it is now flown on recreational boats of all types and sizes instead of the national ensign in domestic waters. Traditionally, the yacht ensign had a 10:19 hoist/fly ratio like the U.S. ensign. Today it is found with a 2:3 or 3:5 ratio. However, the preferred flag is the 50-star national ensign, especially since the yacht ensign must never be flown in international or foreign waters since it has no standing as a national ensign.

Officers Flags
In most cases, officer flags are blue, red, white, or yellow signals the are rectangular or triangular. The officer flag is worn instead of the owner’s private signal on all motor and sailing vessels except single-masted sailboats, where it is flown at the masthead in place of the club burgee. On motor boats without a signal mast, an officer flag may be flown from a radio antenna, preferably on the starboardside. Fly this flag either singly or under an associated ensign, that is, below the corresponding organizational ensign (not the national ensign or the yacht ensign.)

The only other officer flag that may be worn simultaneously with the owner’s or captain’s officer flag is that of a visiting officer of higher rank than the officer commanding the vessel. The visiting officer’s flag may be flown from the bow staff (in place of the burgee) or from the port spreader halyard. The starboard-side halyard positions belong to the flag of the owner/captain; the port side halyard positions belong to the visitors flags.

Association Flags
Flag’s of associations, e.g., a cruising club or a USPS district, are generally rectangular and may be worn on a spreader halyard. Many flags or signals are flown from the spreader halyards but—usually—only one should be worn on each halyard. If your boat is rigged with one starboard halyard and one port halyard, fly the signal of superior dignity on the starboard side and the signal of lesser dignity on the port side. If you have more than one halyard on each side of your boat, fly the superior signal form the outboard starboard halyard, with other signals to its left, in order of decreasing dignity. They may be balanced, insofar as possible, starboard and port. 

Owner’s Private Signal
This is a personal flag, often called house flag. It is usually swallow-tailed, designed by the individual owner to depict a personal interest, hobby, family tradition, initials, or the like. A private signal should be a unique design and always in good taste. It should not include or be the ensign of a foreign country, nor duplicate a design previously adopted by someone else.

On a mastless vessel, fly your private signal from the bow staff. A single-masted vessel may wear it at the truck of the mast (replacing any other signal normally worn at that point) or from a spreader halyard.

Union Jack
A rectangular blue flag with 50 stars-the upper quadrant of the National Ensign nearest the hoist, properly referred to as a canton. It is worn most often by government vessels—rarely by private vessels. It may be flown only when notunderway at the jack staff of yachts with more than one mast, and only on Sundays, holidays, or when dressing ship. The exterior dimensions of the union jack should be equal to the respective exterior dimensions of the union on the national ensign being flown. 

Making Colors
Colors are made each morning at 0800; as mentioned, at yacht club and similar organization docks or anchorages, this may be signaled by a morning gun. The national ensign or yacht ensign is hoisted at the stern (or set in place on its staff). This is followed, as applicable, by a foreign ensign (courtesy flag), a club or squadron burgee, organizational flags, an officer flag or private signal and then by any other signals not already fling, such as a guest flag.

At sunset, colors not properly flown on a day-and-night basis should be lowered in reverse sequence, the ensign at the stern always being the last to be secured.

If you fly the yacht ensign (or other authorized ensign) in lieu of the U.S. ensign, raise and lower it as if it were the U.S. national ensign.

Dressing Ship
On national holidays, SYC Opening Day, boat christenings, marine parades and other special occasions yachts often “dress ship” with a rainbow of International Code of Signal flags. The sequence is based on a harmonious color scheme and has no meaning in terms of letters or numerals. Flags are flown beginning with “A” at the forward waterline, over the stem and the top of the mast(s), to the stern and finally to the waterline aft. The flags discussed above are flown in their usual places.

The recommended sequence is: AB2, UJ1, KE3, GH6, IV5, FL4, DM7, PO 3rd Repeater, RN 1st Repeater, ST Zero, CX9, WQ8, ZY 2nd Repeater.

Important: If you don’t have a set of signal flags, sets of decorative pennants are available at modest cost.

Power boats too! This is not just for sailboats.

Private Signals
One of the oldest traditions in yachting is that of the “Private Signal.” A private signal is a unique flag that communicates the presence of a specific individual or family on a boat. They are personal flags, or logos, similar to family crests. The tradition of the private pennant signal, or “house flag,” currently used dates back to the 18th and 19th century when the sailing ship lines were at their peak.

The private signal is flown from the starboard spreader flag halyard on both power and sail boats. If a powerboat doesn’t have such a halyard, the private signal may be flown at the top of an antenna on the starboard side. Boats without a mast may fly the private signal from the bow staff in place of the burgee.

If you would like to have a private signal, here are some tips for good design:

Shape – You may use any shape, but three types are used primarily for private signals:

Non-tapering swallowtail, swallowtail and rectangular. Most clubs use the pennant shape (e.g., the HYC burgee) so the pennant shape is not recommended for private signals.

Keep it Simple – A design without small details is easiest to see from a distance. It is also easiest to reproduce, which is important when you have your flag reproduced on clothing, dishware, etc. Traditionally, initials are not used.

Consider Mirror Image Designs should look nice from both the front and back. Thus, words don’t usually work well since they will read backwards on one side. Double-sided flags can be made but are much more expensive.

Few Colors – flags limited to 2 or 3 colors look better. They are easier to see from a distance and easier to reproduce.

Color Choice – Basic vivid colors work best. Use contrasting colors, light and dark. Colors that are similar, such as blue and green, will be harder to distinguish from a distance.

Other Flags
Courtesy flags: When a US vessel is in the waters of a foreign country, it Is expected that she will fly the host country’s national flag from the starboard spreader on a sailboat or from the starboard spreader of a powerboat with a mast, or the bow staff of a mast- less powerboat. This is especially important for boats going to Mexican or Caribbean ports. Note that the Bahamas, The British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom each have red ensign versions of their flag that are the correct flags to be used for this purpose.

Fish or Prize Flags: Fishing boats often fly flags denoting their catch. Flags denoting marlin, wahoo, sailfish and other species are available from marine suppliers. They are flown from the port outrigger or spreader, and are flown upside down if the catch was released.

Blue Gavel Flag: Past commodores of HYC who have been inducted into the International order of the Blue Gavel may fly the IOBG flag. When flown it replaces the past commodore’s flag.

 Courtesy Flags
When you visit foreign water, your boat should display a courtesy flag (the civil ensign of the country you are visiting) whenever your U.S. national ensign (the USPS ensign or the yacht ensign should not be displayed in foreign waters) is displayed. (The USPS ensign and U.S. yacht ensign should not be worn in foreign waters)

If your vessel is mastless, it should wear this “courtesy flag” at the bow, in lieu of a squadron or club burgee, or on a starboard antenna strong enough to support it. It your vessel has one or more masts, display it single-hoisted at the outboard signal halyard of the main starboard spreader. Move any flag normally flown there to the inboard starboard halyard or, if your boat has only one halyard per side, to the port spreader halyard.

The customs observed in various foreign waters differ from one another. Try to learn the correct procedure for the country you are entering. For example, is some countries it is customary to fly the courtesy flag only after the quarantine flag (the yellow ‘Q’ flag) and the vessel has been granted pratique by the appropriate authorities.

Do not fly a foreign courtesy flag after you have returned to U.S. waters. It is not to be used as a badge of accomplishment for having cruised to another country.

Foreign Guest Flags
When a foreign guest is aboard, you may display the ensign of the guest’s country from the bow staff or outboard port spreader. Should more than one such guest flag be appropriate, wear them on spreader halyards from port to starboard in the alphabetical order of their countries’ names in the English language.

Half-Staffing Flags
The only authorities who may direct that all national ensigns be flown at half-staff (sometimes called “half-mast) are the President of the United States or the governor of a state. The length of time at which the ensign is to be flown at half-staff is determined by the deceased person’s position and the directive of the president or governor. This normally lasts from 1 or 2 days to as many as 30 days.

A commodore, commander, civic association president, or corresponding official of a similar organization may order his organization’s flag flown at half-staff to honor a member who has died. A club burgee on a sail or signal mast is a half-staff when ti is even with the man spreader or yardarm.

On Memorial day, the national ensign is properly flown at half-staff until 1200.