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Hoisting the Signal Flags

“I really liked your Sailing in Place piece in today’s ‘Lectronic Latitude,” wrote reader Peter Detwiler on April 17. “I’m missing our grandkids, so it was fun to see those Broderick boys enjoying their boat.

“When you live in Sacramento like I do and miss sailing on San Francisco Bay with your buddies (like I do), what else was I supposed to do? I dug deep into my gear box and found a set of signal flags that I bought 12+ years ago off the discount table at my local West Marine store. I paid $40 for a full set of letters, numerals, and repeaters. The regular price had been $140, so I told my wife that I hadn’t paid $40, I’d actually saved $100.”

Four signal flags
The Detwilers’ first ‘hoist’, around Easter.
© 2020 Peter Detwiler

“Today is the second hoist I’ve created this week. I’m not sure what my East Sacramento neighbors think, but I’m sending out good thoughts during this strange time of semi-isolation.”

Signal flags: two words
The Detwilers’ second hoist. We’ll give you a hint on this one: The black and white pennant at the end (screen right) is the ‘3rd substitute’. In this message, the Detwilers are using it as a ‘repeater’.
© 2020 Peter Detwiler

On April 25, Peter sent this update: “The neighbors liked our signal flags, so I composed a new ‘hoist’ for this week. I didn’t have to use a ‘repeater’ substitute flag this time. Carrie (my wife) picked the week’s message.”

More signal flags
The latest message to the neighbors — and to ‘Lectronic Latitude readers. Peter and Carrie have lived in this pretty Sacramento house since 1978.
© 2020 Peter Detwiler

Some of our readers may not have all the signal flags memorized. If you need help decoding the flags, turn to page 22 of our Northern California Sailing Calendar. Please, no spoilers in the comments section!


  1. Maryann Hinden 4 years ago

    Fun article. A very creative way to have fun on land!

    Speaking of flags, who ever thought that in this day and age a ship might have to use the “Q” flag? Not me.

    • Mandy Lifeboat 4 years ago

      Great idea about the Q flag. I live on the Big island. How about sailing into Radio bay in Hilo, hoisting the Q flag and refusing to leave? It would put those DoT and DLNR bullies in a tight spot considering international laws at sea. (long ago the DLNR were called the department of land and NO recreation!)

  2. Chaim 4 years ago

    If You don’t have any use for them I’ll be glad to buy them from you please let me know 310-619-4804

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