Wednesday, May 25, 2016

False Colors

This posting is a bit of a rant -- a pet peeve, if you will -- improper display of maritime flags.

As I type this posting there is a boat anchored next to us which is flying a brightly colored, large national flag of Canada on the stern of their boat.  That flag is called the ensign and tells all who see this vessel that the vessel is registered in that country.  It is the flag of the nationality of the boat -- NOT the flag of the nationality of the boat's owner or of anyone on the boat.  Only this boat is not a Canadian vessel.

On the stern of this vessel is displayed the hailing port, as required by law.  The hailing port is a widely recognized American city.  This vessel also has the state name as well, although only the city name is required by law.

An American vessel flying the Canadian flag?  


An online search of the vessel documentation database revealed the names of the owners and their address of record.  Their USA Certificate of Documentation for this vessel expires 30 June 2016.  A Google search of their vessel name revealed their blog.  They are Americans but the man did live in Canada for most of his life.  This does not give him the right to fly the Canadian flag as the ensign for an American vessel.  If he wants to fly the Canadian ensign then he must register the vessel in Canada.

As an American, I am somewhat insulted by these people flying the national flag of another country on their American documented (registered) yacht.  It not only is illegal; it is insulting to all other Americans.

Am I being judgmental?  Absolutely!!  And would feel the same if this were a British registered vessel flying an Italian flag.  The term for this is "flying false colors."  And it is illegal worldwide.

Last December we met a New Yorker who had been born in Canada; he supposedly held dual passports, although I never saw either passport to confirm that claim.  His boat was US Documented with a hailing port of New York City.  When in Europe he decided to fly the Canadian ensign; he saw no reason why he should not be allowed to do this.  The officials of The Netherlands felt differently.  On a routine inspection they discovered he was flying false colors and levied a substantial fine for this illegal act.  They remained on board while watching this man change to the proper ensign of the Stars and Stripes.  

Can you imagine what would happen to this vessel on our port side if it were seen by a US Coast Guard boat?  Those Coasties would put that boat through the most rigorous safety inspection possible.   Why are you flying false colors?  Attempting to smuggle drugs or weapons?  Attempting to avoid safety inspections?  There are no good answers to those questions when a group of pissed-off Coasties find you flying the wrong ensign.  They will search that boat and make your day miserable.  

And, yes, contrary to what some people believe, there are US Coast Guard vessels throughout the Caribbean.  As part of the drug interdiction efforts.  We saw one once in the waters between Venezuela and Grenada.  The US Coast Guard has the legal right to board and search any US vessel anywhere in the world.  If they find a US boat flying the national ensign of a different country, they will be upset.  Guaranteed.

If these American (Canadian wannabees) want to fly a flag to indicate that at least one person on board is a Canadian, they should fly a Canadian fly on the port side of their boat near the main mast.  That is the proper location for such a flag.  But that US Documented vessel with the US city hailing port requires the Stars and Stripes to be flown as its ensign.

1 comment:

  1. Is it that some people think that flying a Canadian, for example, flag, will get them more lenient treatment in areas where they think US residents are unpopular or in danger? I'm assuming this is the most common reason to false flag.


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