We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Flag!

Flag mast2

Pictured is a 12 inch flag, and the 2 foot yardstick shows what a 20 inch flag would look like. Would a 16″ be better aesthetically?

Fellow Woody Boater Ron Stevenson sent us a fun request, and to be honest, we have had the same question many times. Are the correct Flags a little two small? Is there a reason for the smaller size? No touching the brite work? Times have changed though, and a stunning mast and flag are all part of the magic our Woody Boats deliver. So here is Rons question.


I am at the final stages of getting my 1948 20′ ft Chris-Craft Custom “Beautiful Day” done. Many thanks to Kerry Price our Custom Tracker, Ike Kielgass, who found the boat to begin with, and to Rob DaPron,  who did an amazing restoration job, to Karl Hoffman for rebuilding the V8, and to other friends, and members of our Pacific Northwest chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society who have made various contributions. Sorry, with my gray hair,  I am not able to remember everyone’s name!


All she needs is a flag!

The question for the WoodyBoater readers is how big of a flag should be on the flag  staff? First, do you fly an actual American flag, or a yacht Ensign? One rule of thumb is 1 inch along the staff pole for every foot of your boat. Just who’s rule is that? And who’s thumb are we talking about?

So inquiring minds want to know, how big is yours?

Best Regards,

Ron Stevenson

32 replies
  1. WoodyGal
    WoodyGal says:

    12×18 seems a bit small. I’m flying 18 x 24 on My 18′ Super Sport and on ARRRGH, XK-19.
    Below is ARRRGH’s new “bloody flag” which in pirate lingo means “take no prisoners”

  2. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    Rory was looking for an Ensign when they launched Sandbar Island, but Mike, the owner of Bittersweat Marina, had this flag which had floated in. It’s a little big, but better than nothing.

  3. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Always a yacht ensign, and large enough to just touch the deck or slightly hang over the transome. We should be proud to fly our national colors and the larger size exhibits that pride!

  4. m-fine
    m-fine says:


    For the US, I would always choose a yacht ensign and go as big as you can without it looking too big.

    For Canada, I might select the maple leaf over their less recognizable ensign.

  5. Mike K
    Mike K says:

    aaaahh a new question.

    ensign or flag?

    funny, on my sailboat i fly a flag, on the streb i fly a ensign.

    i have 50% of being correct!


  6. Jim Staib
    Jim Staib says:

    One inch of ensign length per foot of boat length is the general rule.
    One inch of height per foot of boat length is my rule. I think bigger is better.
    24×36 are the general sizes

  7. Christopher Stang
    Christopher Stang says:

    For U.S. registered boats, the ensign can be flown in all U.S. waters. However, once the boat moves to international waters the stars and stripes should be sailed.

  8. Alan Frederick
    Alan Frederick says:

    According to the US Power Squadron, the 13 star, w/ fouled anchor, US yacht ensign should be flown in US waters on the stern pole. They recommend 1″ of fly for each foot of boat OAL. The 18″ length is too small so you would jump up to the 24″ size. The 20 ft. Custom came with a 16″x24″ yacht ensign from the factory. The height/length ratio is 2:3. (thus 16×24, etc.)
    The 50 star US national ensign (or flag) must be flown in foreign or int’l. waters since the yacht ensign has no standing as a national ensign. The height/length ratio is 1:1.9. (thus 20×38, etc.)

  9. Doug Pope
    Doug Pope says:

    Stars and bars for both my big boats. I’m frequently in international waters aboard Walkabout, the sailboat. I fly a 20 x 30 on my 21′ runabout Rumble, and it seems to fit he boat well.

  10. Martin
    Martin says:

    Has anyone ever seen or know of the availability of an good quality reproduction 48 star flag for our boats? I would like to find a few for 19 foot CC if possible. Thanks for any thoughts,

  11. Brian Robinson
    Brian Robinson says:

    The 16×24 ensign is what the 20′ Customs came with originally. The ones that always look small to me is the 12×18 spec’d for the 19′ Racing Runabouts, but I just say it must have been for more wind resistance!

  12. Michael Stevens
    Michael Stevens says:

    Have I got a deal for you! My family has an all wool flag from about 1948 that only has 47 or 48 stars. It’s about 9 x 12……unfortunately that’s feet!]
    I think any flag size would work as long as it doesn’t look ‘out-of-place’.

  13. Ron in Seattle
    Ron in Seattle says:

    Thanks everybody! I thought the 16″ staff length looked better aesthetically, sounds like the factory did to. I will order an ensign since she will be in US waters. The 12″ flag pictured is actually a courtesy flag I bought for a Canadian to use on her boat while down here. I do have a US flag on the stern pole of my 37′ North Sea trawler, since that cruises in Canadian waters. While there, my 12″ Canadian courtesy flag is flown on the main mast.

  14. Fred B
    Fred B says:

    I have always preferred the Stars and Stripes over the yacht ensign. I say as big as will reasonably fit. But without ever touching the water as I personally find that disrespectful.

  15. Pete DeVito
    Pete DeVito says:

    This was Knotty 48′ flying a 48star US flag that was an original cotton. It was a little small but I wanted to fly the 48 star during an event we had since there were only 48 states in 48. I kept the flag but never flew it again.

  16. Ed Andrews
    Ed Andrews says:

    This is from the USPS Flag and Etiquette page.

    Size of Flags
    Flags are often too small. When your purchase your flags, use the following guidelines, rounding up to the next larger commercially available size when necessary.

    The national ensign flown at a flag staff at the stern of your boat should be one inch on the fly for each foot of overall length.

    All other flags such as club burgees, officer flags, and private signals for use on sailboats should be approximately 1/2 inch on the fly for each foot above the waterline of the tallest mast on the boat. (That is, if the tope of the mast is 30 feet above the waterline, these other flags should be 15 inches on the fly.) On powerboats, these flags should be 5/8 inch on the fly for each foot of overall length. The shape and proportions of pennants and burgees will be prescribed by the organization to which they relate. A union jack should be the same size as the canton of the national ensign being flown from the flag staff.

    Many foreign ensigns—courtesy flags—sold in stores are not manufactured to correct proportions. For instance, the flags of all former British Commonwealth countries, including Canada, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the British Virgin Islands, are correctly proportioned 1:2, i.e., the fly is twice the length of the hoist. As a matter of interest, the United States flag is correctly proportioned 10:19 (nearly 1:2), not 3:5 as is commonly available.

  17. Brian Flaherty
    Brian Flaherty says:

    I have long suspected I was flying too big of flag on our little 17 Cavalier… When at idle in calm winds the tail just grazes the prop-wash and is typically dangling in the exhaust spray. I am flying a 16″ tall x 24″ long ensign… I guess based on all the comments today I should be flying the 12×20? I have kept flying the bigger one cause it looks awesome at speed yet graceful when parked at the dock… But, like others, I feel it is a little disrespectful to be getting the flag wet whenever I am idling around.

Comments are closed.