Friday, October 7, 2011

Beach Bling: Signal Flag Barware

I lost $60,200,000.00 last night.  Well, I didn’t so much loose it as fail to win the POWERBALL jackpot.  <<sigh>> And I had it all spent, too.  But that hasn’t stopped my virtual window shopping excursion today, trolling through web pages of interesting things to decorate my cottage by the sea (which I was also going to purchase with my lottery windfall.)    It was going to be gorgeous, decorated in Early Beach Bum style, with colors of green and blue inspired by the ocean against walls painted the color of southern California sand. And it had an outdoor bar, and that’s because I need somewhere to show off the barware I found today.
But in order to understand just how cool this stuff is, I hope you’ll first indulge me a brief lesson on the ways seafaring vessels communicated with each before two-way radios.   Really brief.  I promise.
Since Indian Smoke Signals were not an option (think about it…an open flame on the deck of a wooden sailing ship where--hopefully--there was a lot of wind?  Not wise…)  So mariners of long ago got together and developed a way to signal each other using flags.  Called “semaphore”, a sailor would stand on the deck of a ship and hold the flags in various positions to indicate letters of the alphabet.  In this manner they would spell out entire messages as needed, and then transcribe returning ones.  (It sure makes one thankful for email, huh?)  A semaphore message would look like this:
Sending the message  SOS in semephore
(A little aside, S.O.S, which is the universal wireless signal for ships in distress does not stand for “Save Our Souls” nor “Save Our Ship” as is common conjecture.  According to official maritime publications, that idea may have been the dream-child of some romantic publicity man, but wireless operators promptly jeered the idea into oblivion. They explained that the letters S.O.S (which in Morse Code is three dits, three dahs, three dits) were just a quick and compelling combination to command instant attention.  The letters themselves have no hidden meaning. )
     Another way was to communicate an entire message by hoisting a “code” flag that represents a letter of the alphabet (and if you don’t know your military flag alphabet, a complete chart is included at the end of this blog.)  They can be used to spell out a message (such as Welcome Aboard) or the vessel’s name (VooDoo Queen) or even a seasonal message (TGI Summer.)  A fully decorated boat would look something like this:   

In addition to each flag representing a letter it also has a unique full message, such as Oscar means "Man Overboard."  And that (finally!) brings us to the purpose of today's Beach Bling Post!   

Some people much more clever (and enterprising) than I have figured out a way to decorate barware with signal flags.  And those clever people have selected flags that, when flashed at a party, the code can mean something innocent or something maybe with a whole different meanting.  (I love a good double entendre, don’t you?)

First from Nautical Décor and Gifts <>

Say “Cheers” in a new and entertaining way. Our 16 oz. Beer Tankards feature the Code Flags:

Delta: I am maneuvering with difficulty
Romeo: You may feel your way past me
Tango: Keep clear
Xray: Stop carrying out your intentions

Also loved these glass tumblers from Nautical Luxuries:    <>

Colorful Signal Flags have multiple meanings that make great conversation and nautical fun for boaters and land-lovers alike. The boxed set of four 14 oz. acrylic glasses features one each of four different code flags. Each flag also has an important secondary meaning for ships at sea:

India: Coming alongside
Kilo: I wish to communicate with you.
Uniform: You are running into danger.
Zulu: I require a tug.

     I imagine those of you who are romance writers are racing to their computer to type up a scene using these coded tumblers.  I will admit today’s research sparked a few ideas of my own that may show up in my next mystery, so be sure and watch for "The Clue in the Coded Barware" coming soon to an e-reader near you. 
   Now as promised, here is the entire alphabet of signal flags along with their maritime meanings.  (Another quick peak into Navy Wife life, one way to help pass the miles and those cross-country drives for PCS (permanent change of station) moves is to recite the Flag Alphabet…Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc…yeah, that’s only after we’ve sung Ninety Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall and found all 50 state license plates and played I Spy with My Little Eye until it felt like our heads were ready to explode.  Yes, six cross-country drives were tedious!)    

(Wouldn't this look good framed and hanging over the outdoor bar in my imaginary cottage by the sea?)


Patricia said...

Jayne, that was a very cool post. And I would not be surprised if anyone writing a book that contained information about boats ran to their computer and added a snippet of your blog to their novel! Very interesting and a lesson I'd never have learned otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting lesson. I had no idea about any of this stuff. As Patricia said, it would be awesome for someone who was writing about something naval and needed some quick research. :D

Jolyse Barnett said...

Hi Jayne! Love the nautical symbols, as well as a good double entendre like you. I'm feeling in a particularly frisky mood tonight, so I rather like that first one on the left. Oooh. ;)

Thanks for the cool facts.

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