Courtesy Ensigns for your Eastern Caribbean Sailing Adventure

Don't let anyone tell you that Courtesy Ensigns (or courtesy flags) for the Caribbean Island Nations are just that  - a courtesy. If you choose to ignore this er, courtesy, you're likely to be the only one in the anchorage to do so, and it will attract attention.

You might be able to get one locally, but it's easier (and cheaper) to get them before you set off for your Caribbean sailing adventure. The standard size is 12" x 18" (30mm x 450mm).

You'll certainly win no prizes with the Customs and Immigration officials if you fail to fly the appropriate courtesy flag from the starboard spreader, and it will be an open invitation for someone to want to sell you one at an exorbitant price.

Courtesy flags get quite a beating from the sun and the wind - low quality ones will soon fall apart. Look for good quality nylon fabric, brass grommets and ideally stitched with UV resistant thread.

However, don't fly the courtesy flag until you've checked in. On entering territorial waters, hoist the Q flag (plain yellow) which means "I request free practique".

After clearing Customs and Immigration, drop the Q flag and only then hoist the appropriate courtesy flag.

If you plan to visit all the Lesser Antilles (and it's a very good plan) you'll need the following flags. The ones illustrated are produced by a company called Taylor Made and available online from West Marine.

An BVI Ensign for: 

  • Tortola
  • Virgin Gorda
  • Anegada
  • Jost Van Dyke
BVI Courtesy FlagTheoretically, British flagged vessels don't need to fly this one, but it is a much appreciated gesture if they do.

An USVI Ensign for: 

  • Saint Croix
  • Saint John
  • Saint Thomas
USVI courtesy ensignTheoretically, US flagged vessels don't need to fly this one, but it is a much appreciated gesture if they do.

A French Ensign for:

  • St Martin; 
  • St Bartholomew ('St Barts');
  • Guadeloupe;
  • Marie Galante;
  • Les Saintes;
  • Martinique
French courtesy flagNot required on a French flagged vessel.
Martinique courtesy flagAlternative courtesy flag for Martinique

A Netherlands (Dutch) Ensign for:

  • Sint Maarten;
  • Saba;
  • St Eustatia ('Statia')
Netherlands (Dutch) courtesy ensignNot required on a Dutch flagged vessel.
St Maarten courtesy ensignAlternative courtesy flag for Sint Maarten

A St Vincent & the Grenadines Ensign for:

  • St Vincent; 
  • Bequia;
  • Mustique; 
  • Canouan;
  • Mayreau; 
  • Tobago Cays;
  • Union Island;
  • Petit St Vincent
St Vincent & the Grenadines courtesy ensignCourtesy flag for St Vincent & the Grenadines

Another one for Grenada and associated territories:

  • Grenada; 
  • Carriacou;
  • Petit Martinique
Grenada courtesy ensignGrenada courtesy flag

Individual courtesy ensigns for all the other Island Nations:

Anguilla courtesy ensignAnguilla
Antigua & Barbuda courtesy ensignAntigua & Barbuda
St Kitts & Nevis courtesy ensignSt Kitts & Nevis
St Lucia courtesy ensignSt Lucia
Dominica courtesy ensignDominica
Trinidad & Tobago courtesy ensignTrinidad & Tobago


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