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Use of the U.S. Ensign and Washington State Flag on Recreational Boats

Note: This section does not cover the use of yacht club burgees, owner's private signals, U.S. Power Squadron flags, U.S.C.G. Auxiliary flags, foreign flags, or social and courtesy flags. Rules for these are well established and may be found in existing literature. The U.S. Ensign with a canton of 50 stars (as the U.S. flag is called while in nautical use) and the U.S. Yacht Ensign, with a canton of 13 stars, are interchangeable on all types of recreational vessels while in national waters. Because the preferred location for the U.S. Power Squadron flag is also the starboard spreader, it may be flown beneath the Washington State flag.

The U.S. Ensign and the Washington State flag are normally flown from sunrise to sunset. However, at most yacht clubs "colors are made" at 0800. This timing is proper when in the company of other boats simultaneously making colors. The U.S. Ensign is flown first and lowered last.

If the Washington State flag is flown on sailing vessels:

Sloops, cutters, and schooners

While underway - sailing vessels with one mast should fly the U.S. Ensign at the stern staff, or two-thirds of the way up the leech of the mainsail (or at the top of the leech, if gaff-rigged). The Washington State flag should fly at the starboard spreader, or on the forward mast of a schooner.

While at anchor - The U.S. Ensign should fly from the stern staff and the Washington State flag from the starboard spreader.

Yawls and ketches

While underway - The U.S. Ensign should fly at the stern staff or at a position two-thirds up the leech of the mizzen sail (or at the peak of the leech of the mizzen sail, if gaff-rigged). The Washington State flag should fly at the starboard spreader ("at the starboard spreader" means the spreader on the most forward mast if more than one and from the most outboard hoist of that spreader.)

While at anchor - The U.S. Ensign should fly from the stern staff and the Washington State flag from the starboard spreader.

If the Washington State flag is flown on motorboats:

While underway and at anchor - The U.S. Ensign should fly from the stern staff and the Washington State flag may be flown from the forestaff in lieu of a yacht club burgee.

Motorboats with auxiliary masts should follow the rules for sailboats.