Displaying the American Flag is a common, proud sight as Members travel about The Reef. Homes, business owners and clubs often erect flag poles and fly US
Flags to provide their homes and our community with an obvious sense that “Here we honor our country.”
With that noble objective comes a sacred responsibility to observe the protocol associated with that intention. It’s the protocol of saying, “Good Morning to you” and the smile that you render when someone says, “Good Morning” to you. Failure to return the greeting and smile is a snub. Failure to follow flag protocol is considered akin.
If you fly the US Flag, you must lower it at sunset and raise it again at 8 o’clock in the morning – a solemn protocol called “Colors”. You must also raise your flag completely and return it to “half mast” in periods of national mourning. These periods can only be proclaimed by State Governors or the US President and are often violated by clubs and local organizations, with good intentions, when a popular leader or member dies.
Luckily for late risers, you may elect to properly illuminate your flag at night and fly it night and day. Be especially attentive to potential noise that flag halyards can make in certain winds and wind speeds.
The advent of synthetic fibers has vastly increased the life of well-made flags. However, none are totally resistant to weather and sunlight and eventually become frayed so as to become useless. When this happens, the US Flag must be replaced and the retired flag properly disposed of by burning. Burning is best done with the flag properly folded in a neat, clean cardboard box outdoors in a metal bucket or pail. You can use an ounce or two of charcoal lighter fluid to dampen the box and ignite it with a long gas match. Many use the moment as a solemn ritual, perhaps with family to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. “Flag Day” (June 14th) or “Independence Day” with family are days that usually work well and teach respect for our flag.
The photograph shows the nautical flag mast near the Raw Bar that allows the display of the US Flag seemingly displayed incorrectly below the Ocean Reef Club famous blue burgee flying high above. Three nautical flag masts dominate the entrance channel into Ocean Reef Harbor and all three position the US Flag below either the Ocean Reef Club Burgee or the Ocean Reef Yacht Club Burgee at the yacht club’s Quarterdeck Room above the dockmasters office.
This positioning is perfectly correct as the position of the US Flag at the top of the “gaff” angled yard is the position of greatest honor and mimics the aftermost position of all large national flags of all sailing vessels from the days of sailing warships when the immediate nationality of the vessel was paramount from long distances.
Nautical flag masts have “spreaders” to each side that can contain useful information using burgees or alphabet letter flags. The spreader on the right or “starboard” is the side of greater honor. Thus we see the local US Coast Guard Flotilla flag on the right honoring its association with the USCG. The Club’s burgee at the top designates the owner of the mast – your Ocean Reef Club that is spelled out, flag-wise, on the first mast entering the harbor.
The protocol and study of flags is called Vexillology.