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22 hours ago
WHAT IS IN A FLAG?
The flag pole on the bow of a ship is called a 'jack staff' or 'jackstaff'. The flag, known as a 'jack' is flown on it when the ship is moored or at anchor.
One such jack is the current flag on KEEWATIN. It looks like a British Union Flag surrounded by a white border. In the earliest pictures of Keewatin, she is shown with this flag.
The Pilot Jack (the white-bordered Union Jack) flag was introduced in 1823 as a signal for the need of a pilot to guide the ship into harbour. Established in law since 1854, changes came in 1899 when the International Code of Signals Committee wrote; "We recommended that flag S when hoisted alone should be an international pilot signal signifying 'I want a pilot.' At present the single flag signal to be used by British vessels requiring a pilot is the Union Jack with a white border. This flag is not suitable for international use, and there is great diversity of practice among foreign countries in regard to the signal to be made by vessels wanting pilots ...".
There was ambiguity in the ruling and some merchant captains continued to lfy the Union Jack with the white border. The Admiralty and Board of Trade did not interfere. Finally, in 1970, the white-bordered Union Jack ceased to be the signal for a pilot and is now used as a civil jack, also called a 'Merchant Jack'.Recreational vessels may also use it.
The Merchant Shipping Act (1995) specifically permits the use of "the Union Flag (commonly called the Union Jack) with a white border" as being one of the "distinctive colours" permitted to merchant vessels. Ain't history fun? ... See MoreSee Less
It's actually called a "jack staff". Shipboard flag poles are referred to as "staffs." Jack staff, stern staff. The flags flown to the side fly from "yards" or a yard arm.
Thank you for that explanation. I recently sailed with Steamship Shieldhall at Southampton and she flew the “Merchant Jack” from the jack staff. I was wondering the meaning of the white-bordered Union Flag. So, I appreciate the explanation.
Also wondering what the red union jack flag means
We always called those "Harbour Jacks". Not sure why.
In the pre-radio world, clear visual signals determined your status. Flying the wrong stuff made you a pirate.