Whenever we sail into a “Port of Entry” for a country we have to fly our yellow “Q” flag. This plain yellow flag is one of the oldest International Signal Code flags and probably the most active. It’s meaning when flown from the rig says to those ashore; “ My Ship is Healthy and I Require Free Practice”
But the actual history of how this practice came into being is sketchy at best. There are some references that date to Ancient Greek times and while its use was developing it was at times and in different countries, a solid green flag, or white, along with a lantern lit at the topmast during darkness. Actual written requirements for some countries date as late as the early 1900’s.
The BUBONIC PLAGUE of the middle 1300’s solidified the practice. QUARANTINE comes from Italian, meaning “40 Days”. Venice required ships to fly the yellow flag and anchor out for 40 days in the hope any disease and illness would run its course. The Plague had arrived aboard ships from the Black Sea and tens of millions would die before it slunk away for a while.
PRATIQUE is still mandatory now for all mariners.
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