Maritime Signal Flags

The following flags are international signals used by ships at sea. They can be used to spellout short messages, or more commonly, used individually or in combination they have special meanings. Strung end to end and hung bow to stern from the rigging they are used to dress the ship for ceremonmial and festive occaisions.

Alphabet Flags

a b c d e
f g h i j
k l m n o
p q r s t
u v w x y

Answering Pennant

Code and answering pennant.

Numeric Pennants

0 1 2 3
4 5 6 7
8 9

Substitute Pennants

Substitute 1 Substitute 2 Substitute 3

The first substitute repeats the upper flag or pennant of a hoist, the second substitute repeats the second flag or pennant, and so on.


A - Diver below (when stationary); I am undergoing a speed trial
B - I am taking on or discharging explosives
C - (affirmative)
D - keep clear of me, I am manoevering with difficulty
E - I am altering my course to starboard
F - I am disabled, communicate with me
G - I require a pilot
H - I have a pilot on board
I - I am altering my course to port
J - I am going to send a message by semaphore
K - you should stop your vessel instantly
L - you should stop, I have something important to communicate
M - I have a doctor on board
N - no (negative)
O - man overboard
P - the Blue Peter - all aboard, vessel is about to proceed sea. (At sea) your lights are out or burning badly
Q - my vessel is healthy and I request free practique
R - the way is off my ship. You may feel you way past me
S - my engines are going full speed astern
T - do not pass ahead of me
U - you are standing into danger
V - I require assistance (not distress)
W - I require medical assistance
X - stop carrying out your intentions and watch for my signals
Y - I am carrying mails
Z - to be used to address or call shore stations
Z - to be used to address or call shore stations

Answering Pennant

Code and answering pennant.


N + C - I am in distress