Considering a sailing adventure to Mexico? Just look at how engrossed that guy is in the book! Grab a copy of the Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico, and you too can find yourself sitting on a Mexican dock with an oversized (but very attractive) hat.

Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico

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courtesy flag size

Notice, if you can, the tiny American courtesy flag flown on the starboard spreader. Click to enlarge.Study the books all you like, but you'll find no hard and fast rules relating to courtesy flags. When a vessel visits a foreign land, such as the French Canadian vessel pictured left, it needs to fly the host nation's flag on its starboard spreader. This vessel is in the United States, so it needs to fly the United States flag (also known as the ensign).

Similar to the difficulty of establishing what's courteous and what isn't in normal society, the same is true for this piece of flag etiquette and as such there are no hard and fast rules, other than the basics like ensuring it's the right flag, and that you only fly it after completing quarantine procedures.

Looking at the cocktail napkin sized courtesy flag pictured, tattered and worn, do you feel that vessel is being "courteous"? Can you even identify that it's an American flag?

Money certainly isn't the issue. As evidenced by composite sails, high end rigging, and an obvious bit of pride shown by the vessel's own ensign. Several chandleries exist within walking distance with ample stock for low prices.

As an American when I walk past this boat I don't think the owner is a jerk, but rather someone who just decided that displaying his host nation's flag properly is not important. It's a formality for him, and he either didn't think or doesn't care about the way his "just enough" mentality is received by others.

When you equip your own vessel with a courtesy flag, take a minute and think about the message it sends to citizens of that nation when you arrive. Do you present them a clean, attractive, and proud version of their national ensign? Something that if it was your own flag, you would be proud to see? Or is it one step away from entering service as an oil rag?

If you are traveling to a foreign country it's probably to enjoy the experience to some extent. Starting off on the right foot doesn't cost much, and is purely a reflection of your own desire to be respectful to your host nation.

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