How to Design Your Own Boat Burgee Flag

A simple design like this Galway pennant always looks good.

A private burgee, or owner's signal, is a way of expressing your own vision of the pleasure of sailing, and pride in your boat. The tradition of a unique pennant flown from the masthead goes back hundreds of years. The word “burgee” usually refers to a yacht club flag, but modern yachtsmen often use the term for any private flag. You can choose to make your own flag or hire someone to do the sewing.

Sketch some of your ideas on paper, keeping the concept simple. Use only a few colors, and think about how the flag will look from a distance. If you must include a letter, select one that looks the same from both sides, such as the letter “A”.

An array of signal flags dress the rigging of this ship.

Decide the shape of the flag that suits your taste: pennant, swallow tail, tapered or rectangular. Draw the outline of the shape, with the hoist (vertical edge) about two-thirds the length of the fly (horizontal edge).

Apply a contrasting border to one or more edges of your drawing. Try several combinations of borders to see how this will accent your design.

Sketch your drawing on the shape you have chosen, then turn it over and hold it up to a bright light to see how it will look from both sides.

Scale the size of your design so that the flag will be in good proportion to your boat. A burgee that is too big or too small looks awkward and inappropriate. Using a marking pen, try drawing a burgee on a photo of your boat, then estimate suitable dimensions from your sketch.

Michael MacKenzie began writing for the United States Air Force in 1963 followed by a career in television news. Author of "The Dictionary of English Nautical Language," he also wrote humor columns for the "Valley Voice," a Nova Scotia daily. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Brigham Young University.