Straighten up and fly right!

Nick Wolochatiuk ~ Dances With Words
Straighten up and fly right!

Occasionally, our ship watching activities along the St. Lawrence Seaway provide us with something out of the ordinary. Periodically, ocean-going vessels carrying a deck cargo of wind turbine blades pass through. The arrival a of new cruise ship designed to ply the Great Lakes during the summer and explore the Antarctic waters when summer goes to the South Pole was a treat. A deck cargo of a set of arch bridges manufactured in Halifax have passed through.

However, we got a touch of excitement when we spotted a foreign vessel heading toward the Iroquois lock.

Juliet had spotted something unusual. “Take a close look at the two courtesy flags flying above its bridge!”


STAND-IN SHIP – To avoid embarrassment of all those involved in my account of the comedy of errors, I’ve used this one to represent it. (Photo by Nick Wolochatiuk)


Zooming in with my 250 mm telephoto lens I noticed that an American courtesy flag on the starboard was flying upside-down. Not only that, but it should have been on the port side, the American side of the river, where the Canadian flag was incorrectly flying.

Ordinarily, an upside-down flag is a signal of extreme distress, including being overwhelmed by pirates. We quickly drove to the lock’s security gate and used the intercom to contact the lockmaster.

Obviously, the ship’s captain was then contacted. The upside-down flag was taken down, then righted. Almost instantly it was once-again taken down, as was the Canadian flag. Protocol states the Canadian flag should be flying on the Canadian side of the river, the Stars and Stripes on the American. They were reversed. Once again, the flag upper and downer was put to work.

That crewman was as busy as a one-armed paper hanger and as frustrated as Putin when he studies reports of Ukraine’s defiance of his rabble Russian army.

Oh to have been a fly on the wall of the captain’s quarters when the crewman was being given a lesson in FLAG FLYING PROTOCOL 101.


Share this article