Phonetic Alphabet, Morse Code, Flags and Semaphore

Sadly this is becoming a dying art but knowledge of flag meanings and Morse could help keep you out of danger or save your life. The phonetic alphabet is included as well as the most commonly used Racing Flags.

Single-letter signals may be made by any method of signaling. Those marked * when made by sound must comply with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, Rules 34 and 35. Signals K and S have special meaning as landing signals for small boats with persons in distress. In the phonetic alphabet, the syllables to be emphasised are in italics.

 You could also use Sempahor. This is where you can work out what letter is being signalled by the position of the flags. Using flags is a good way to communicate when you are out at sea and can’t use the radio.

Why don’t you learn it and practise with your friends? Try spelling out your name or your friends’ name, or how about the name of your school or sailing club. See if you can guess what each other is saying…

 Single-letter Flags

  Phonetic Alphabet Morse Code Code Flag Single-letter Signal Semaphore
A ALPHA
pronounced AL FAH
dotdash A I have a diver down. Keep clear
B *BRAVO
pronounced BRA VOH
dashdotdotdot B I am taking in, discharging, or carrying dangerous goods  
C *CHARLIE
pronounced CHAR LEE
dashdotdashdot C Yes (affirmative or 'The significance of the previous group should be read in the affirmative')  
D *DELTA
pronounced DELL TAH
dashdotdot D Keep clear of me; I am manoeuvring with difficulty  
E *ECHO
pronounced ECK OH
dot E I am altering my course to starboard  
F FOXTROT
pronounced FOKS TROT
dotdotdashdot F I am disabled. Communicate with me  
G *GOLF
pronounced GOLF
dashdashdot G I require a pilot. When made by fishing vessels operating in close proximity on the fishing grounds it means: I am hauling nets  
H *HOTEL
pronounced HOH TELL
dotdotdotdot H I have a pilot on board  
I *INDIA
pronounced IN DEE AH
dotdot I I am altering my course to port  
J JULIET
pronounced JEW LEE ET
dotdashdashdash J I am on fire and have dangerous cargo on board: keep well clear of me  
K KILO
pronounced KEY LOH
dashdotdot K I wish to communicate with you  
L LIMA
pronounced LEE MAH
dotdashdotdot L You should stop your vessel instantly.  
M *MIKE
pronounced MIKE
dashdash M My vessel is stopped and making no way through the water  
N NOVEMBER
pronounced NO VEM BER
dashdot N No (negative or 'The significance of the previous group should be read in the negative'). This signal may only be given visually or by sound  
O OSCAR
pronounced OSS CAH
dashdashdash O Man overboard  
P PAPA
pronounced PAH PAH
dotdashdashdot P In harbour: all persons should report on board as the vessel is about to proceed to sea. At sea: it may be used by fishing vessels to mean 'My nets have come fast upon an obstruction'  
Q QUEBEC
pronounced KEH BECK
dashdashdotdash Q My vessel is healthy and I request free pratique  
R ROMEO
pronounced ROW ME OH
dotdashdot R (no single letter meaning)  
S *SEIRRA
pronounced SEE AIR RAH
dotdotdot S I am operating astern propulsion. The significance of this signal is as likely to be "I am slowing down" as it is to be "I am about to gather sternway".  
T *TANGO
pronounced TANG GO
dash T Keep clear - I am engaged in pair trawling  
U UNIFORM
pronounced YOU NEE FORM
dotdotdash U You are running into danger  
V VICTOR
pronounced VIK TAH
dotdotdotdash V I require assistance  
W WHISKY
pronounced WISS KEY
dotdashdash W I require medical assistance  
X X-RAY
pronounced ECKS RAY
dashdotdotdash X Stop carrying out your intentions and watch for my signals  
Y YANKEE
pronounced YANG KEY
dashdotdashdash Y I am dragging my anchor  
Z ZULU
pronounced ZOO LOO
dashdashdotdot Z Stop carrying out your intentions and watch for my signals  
 
1 pronounced WUN dotdashdashdashdash 1    
2 pronounced TOO dotdotdashdash 2    
3 pronounced TREE dotdotdotdashdash 3    
4 pronounced FOWER dotdotdotdotdash 4    
5 pronounced FIVE dotdotdotdotdot 5    
6 pronounced SIX dashdotdotdotdot 6    
7 pronounced SEVEN dashdashdotdotdot 7    
8 pronounced AIT dashdashdashdotdot 8    
9 pronounced NINER dashdashdashdashdot 9    
0 pronounced ZERO dashdashdashdashdash 0    
 
  First Substitute   1st    
  Second Substitute   2nd    
  Third Substitute   3rd    

Racing Flag Signals

At race meetings, instructions and information regarding the events are usually given by means of flags and pennants and sound signals. There is an internationally agreed system of code flags used at most race meetings with which you should familiarize yourself. The signals relate to rules applying to the meeting as a whole, starting procedures and instructions during the race. They are usually displayed from the starting box or start/committee boat, and a number of flags can be displayed simultaneously. You must listen for the sound signals which draw your attention to the changes in the flags. Remember though, it is when your class flag is lowered that your race begins, not when you hear the sound signal.

G
 

Gate Start
 

Y
 

Bouyancy aids compulsory
 

L
 

Come within hail
 

I
 

One minute signal
 

P
 

Preparatory
 

1st
 

General recall
 

Race Postponed
 

Race postponed
 

Race Postponed
 

Race postponed 15 minutes
 

race
1
 

Race postponed 1 hour
 

race
2
 

Race postponed 2 hours
 

race
A
 

Race postponed to a later date
 

N

Race abandoned

N
X
 

Race abandoned - to be re-sailed shortly
 

N
1st
 

Race cancelled
 

m
 

Mark missing
 

s
 

Shortened course
 

b
 

Protest - If an incident involving an infringement of the rules occurs and you are in the wrong, you should comply with the penalty set out in the sailing instructions. However, if you think you are in the right, you must protest to the other competitor and display the protest flag.
 

Courtsey of 4th Knowle Sea Scout Group