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20 April 2016

Q Is For Q Flag | Nancy Drew Investigates {A To Z Challenge}


During April, we're participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day (except Sundays), we'll be doing an alphabet themed post starting with "A is for Anchor" and ending with "Z is for Zodiac." Each post is an installment of "Nancy Drew Investigates the Case of the Missing Anchor" - so you may want to read the posts from the beginning, in order to follow along with the story (click here for the first post and here for an index of all the posts). At the end of each post, you'll also find some random thoughts on the day's particular topic. So, if Nancy isn't your thing, feel free to skip the story and go straight to the end. 

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When we last left you, someone had sabotaged the dinghy by stealing the oars and siphoning off most of the gas. The girls were in danger of drifting out into the bay, but, fortunately, there was an extra gas tank in the back of the dinghy.

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Nancy started up the outboard engine. “There, everything is working now. Let’s head back to the boat.” After expertly guiding the dinghy alongside of The Scarlet Slipper’s swim platform and tying it off, Nancy turned to Bess and said, “Can you hand me one of those rags over there. I’m afraid I got a little grimy switching out the gas tanks.”

“Here you go,” said Bess as she handed a yellow rag to Nancy. “Wait a minute Bess. That’s not a rag, that a Q flag. I wonder what that’s doing here. Can you have another look? There should be a rag should be around here somewhere.”

Bess poked around in the canvas bag sitting on the floor of the dinghy and said, “Here, I think I’ve found one.”

While Nancy wiped off her hands, Bess looked at the yellow nylon flag in her hand and asked, “What’s this for anyway?”

“When you sail into another country, you have to fly the Q flag until you’ve officially cleared customs and immigration. The Q stands for quarantine,” Nancy replied as she climbed out of the dinghy and onto the swim platform.

“Quarantine? Isn’t that what you do to people who have leprosy or tuberculosis? I didn’t realize you could pick up such horrible diseases when you’re sailing,” Bess said in shock. “The more I learn about sailing, the more risky it seems.”

“Come on Bess, get out of the dinghy,” said George as she pushed her up onto the swim platform. “I really don’t know where you get these silly ideas from. Of course you’re not going to catch leprosy or tuberculosis when you’re out sailing. They just call it a Q flag because that’s how it was used historically.”

“George is right,” said Nancy as they all sat down in the cockpit. “The Q actually stands for Quebec, which is one of the maritime signal flags. But, in the old days, people would fly a yellow flag to show that there was a communicable disease on board. Nowadays, it means the opposite, that the boat is disease free and waiting to clear in.”

“Hmm,” said Bess dubiously as she looked at the flag. “I think I’d rather fly down to the islands then sail there. It sounds much safer and far less complicated.” Bess got up and started down the companionway. “Is anyone else hungry? I wonder if there are any cinnamon rolls leftover from this morning.”

As Bess climbed down the ladder with one hand, holding on to the Q flag with the other, she stumbled and fell down into the salon. “Oh no, I think I just ripped the Q flag on this hook. What will Marvin and Shelley say?”

Tune in on Thursday for the next installment of Nancy Drew Investigates – R is for Raft-up.

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Our Q flag, flapping in the breeze in the Bahamas. It really is just a boring yellow flag. I can see how Bess mistook it for a rag.

I had never crossed into another country by sailboat until we went to the Bahamas, so using a Q flag was new to me. I think it was new to Scott too, as he has only sailed in New Zealand and within the European Union. The previous owners of our boat left behind a box of courtesy flags, as well as our lovely Q flag. It was so much fun to look through them and see all the exciting countries we can sail to without shelling out a penny for our own courtesy flags - like Cuba, the British Virgin Islands, Grenada etc.

When you first arrive in the waters of a new country, you fly your Q flag until you clear in. After that, you replace your Q flag with a small courtesy flag of your host country. It's a much more fun way of entering a country than flying in and standing for hours in a line at the airport for customs and immigration. Those places are so serious. Life is so much better on a boat!

Have you ever traveled internationally? What was the best and worst customs and immigration experience you've ever had?

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39 comments:

  1. Poor Bess, she never catches a break, does she? :)
    I have travelled internationally and the best experience I ever had was in Vancouver. I use a crutch, well, these days I use two, but then I just had the one. It means my husband and I always wait for others to get off before we move because I'm slower than everyone else. Well we rolled up last in the customs queue and this man in a uniform comes up to us and asks us to come this way. Uh-oh, I thought, but actually he took us to the crew queue so I didn't have to wait in line :).
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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    1. I'm starting to feel like I'm being a bit tough on Bess.

      That was great that they took you to the crew queue. I always feel nervous when anyone approaches me in customs and immigration, even though I haven't done anything wrong.

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  2. Oh dear, is Bess a bit accident prone? ;)

    I used to travel a lot for work between UK and Eastern US. I have to say, I much prefer customs and immigration when I'm flying business rather than economy, you get to be at the front of the queue :)
    Sophie
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles | Wittegen Press | FB3X

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    1. I used to travel for work too between the UK and the States and they would fly me business class. Soooo much nicer and I loved skipping the queue to check in and go through immigration.

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  3. I've not done anything so exciting. But boats, I couldn't do at all. Too afraid of water. :)

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    1. For some reason, I'm not as afraid of the water as I probably should be.

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  4. I'm sure Nancy can find Bess a needle and thread somewhere and fix the flag up! I traveled to the BVIs on my British passport, which had been renewed from the US. Upon returning, US customs couldn't understand why I didn't have an exit stamp from the UK. It was quite the palaver! - Lucy

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    1. Just wait until you see what S stands for tomorrow :-)

      I remember a big palaver when I was flying from the States back to New Zealand on a one way ticket. They made such a big deal about not having a return ticket and that I wouldn't be allowed into NZ despite the fact that I had permanent residency stickers in my passport. It took a supervisor or two before they realized that I was right and they were wrong.

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  5. I sail between Victoria BC and the San Juans a bunch, so my Q flag gets a lot of use. Although I've signed up with the SVRS system so I can call from the water!

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    1. We signed up with the SVRS as well. It made clearing back into the States fairly simple with just a phone call.

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  6. I've noted that some sources say you should fly BOTH the "Q" flag and the country's courtesy flag until cleared, then take down the "Q" once you're cleared. I'm still trying to find out if one or the other is "more" correct...

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    1. I've never heard of flying both the Q flag and the courtesy flag at the same time. Curious where you read that. Personally, I would just go with the Q flag. I'm not even sure if we have enough clips to fly two flags at the same time. Something else for me to investigate.

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    2. I think one of them was a post by Jan Irons on "Commuter Cruiser. She mentioned they see both ways.

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  7. Quarantine flag! I never would have thought of that one, but it's a good one! Q was the most difficult one for me so far!

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    1. Q always stumps everyone, doesn't it. I was thrilled when I realized that Q Flag would work :-)

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  8. Well bugger, Blogger ate my comment. I'll try to remember.

    We have a powerboat so we don't have all those flags that sailboats do. We do have a book on those flags though and we've referenced it when seeing sailboats with flags.

    The story is coming along nicely.

    Have a fabulous day Ellen. I'll see you tomorrow. ☺

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    1. That happens to me all the time!

      I really appreciate you dropping by all the time - thanks Sandee!

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  9. Quarantine is an excellent choice for your word. Back in the days of the great sailing ships there was so much disease bred in close quarters! It's still an issue for people who spend long weeks at sea.

    @Kathleen01930
    Meet My Imaginary Friends
    #AtoZchallenge

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    1. Hopefully, we don't get any sorts of diseases while on long passages :-)

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  10. The French islands in the Caribbean are a breeze to check in - a computer in a booth of a store or on a table at a restaurant, where you enter all the information yourself. The most difficult countries are the ones where all the different offices need to be visited separately, in the heat of the day, with bribe lusting officials who don't speak English... :-)

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

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    1. So, you can clear into a country while having a refreshing drink and snack at a restaurant in the French islands. Talk about civilized!

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  11. I would feel sorry for Bess if she wasn't such a ninny. Hmmm, I guess I didn't realize we still needed to fly the Q flag. I'm planning on making our courtesy flags because, well, what else can I do on the boat? Polish wood? I'll probably have to do them by hand because I won't have my sewing machine. But I'm pretty good at fast stitching. I'm sure glad I'm not as clumsy as Bess. I'd probably stab myself with the needle. Hmm, come to think of it... that does happen. Maybe I'm more like Bess than I like to think. There is that whole sugar addiction thing...

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    1. I'm guessing no one flies the Q flag when cruising in Canada? I think it would be ok sewing some courtesy flags, if they are just stripes or simple patterns, but some of them look complex. Do you have that book that has pictures of all of them and what you need to sew them up yourself?

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    2. I don't have the book yet, but I think they sell it at Sailrite. I also think there may be an app that shows them, but it's possible that I'm thinking about signal flags. Who am I kidding? I'll probably try to find cheap ones.

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    3. The ones designed for boats sure aren't cheap, but when was anything for a boat every cheap?

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  12. The previous owners sailed the Caribbean for 15years before handing the boat over to us. We must have at least 100 courtesy flags that they left onboard for us. (great if we ever go that route) It was most important to me to be able to fly our Alaska flag with the US flag. (we're like that up here) Bringing the boat up to Alaska from Washington, we had customs in Canada, go through the boat VERY thoroughly. It took about 2 hours for them to finish, while we stood on the dock. We now have our NEXUS cards, and that makes life soooo much easier via air/car/boat, at least for US/Canada/Mexico.

    Poor Bess, I think I would want a cinnamon roll too, after the dinghy episode.

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    1. I love that you fly an Alaska flag - pretty cool! I didn't realize NEXUS was for Mexico too. That would make things a lot simpler.

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    2. One of our few splurges was to buy a Maine nautical ensign. Maine is one of only two states that have a different version of the state flag, specifically for yachts. We're pretty excited about flying it all the way down the ICW, but have to figure out for sure which halyard to fly it FROM!

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    3. I'm going to have to start paying more attention to the ensigns that boats are flying. I want to design my own - maybe with a kitten on it.

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  13. I traveled to England and Paris...immigration went well. Everyone was so mean in Paris, I won't go back.

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    1. Ugh. There's nothing worse than having a bad customs and immigration experience after you've gotten off of a long flight/travel day.

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  14. Cambria's registered in the UK and whenever we have to deal with US Customs, it's a nightmare. It's getting better, but I really resent being treated so poorly in my own country -- it takes all the fun out of coming home.

    Cheers,
    Stephanie

    http://www.svcambria.com/2016/04/q-is-for-questions.html

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    1. The stories that the Canadians tell me about dealing with US customs on their boats just sound crazy. I can't believe we make it so hard for folks. Does it ever seem to make a difference when they realize you have a US passport? Or, do they not care?

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    2. All of the bad experiences we've ever had, or that our world-traveling daughter has ever had, have been coming back into our on country. I am so resentful of that. To be treated like a criminal without any cause is just beyond it all. Her Scottish boyfriend is treated even worse. Last time they came home, our immigration wouldn't let him in without a 2 hour interview, filmed, after which he was told he can never return without applying for a Visa. He had broken no rules, by the way. The agent just had a bad day.

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    3. That's awful!! Can he appeal? Has he tried to get a visa to enter since then?

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  15. Best Customs experience was having the officer ask me what beauty products I use as she thought I have very good skin. Worst immigration experience was when the officer couldn't recognise me because the photo on my passport was taken on a 'bad hair' day.

    Aneeta from
    How to Tell a Great Story


    Aneeta from
    How to Tell a Great Story

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    1. Great examples of good and bad experiences! I'm not sure anyone looks good in their passport photos :-)

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  16. I've traveled all over Europe with no issues. As a kid we went back and forth from Detroit to Windsor every month. No issues. But when my son got married in Vancouver several years ago, the customs officer asked me why they couldn't get married in Michigan where they lived. WHY were we in Canada? And I was not the only one in the wedding party interrogated. I have vacationed all over Canada and this was the first time anything like this happened.

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  17. Since beginning to follow you during the #Challenge, I am behind in reading your posts. Trying to visit as many others sites as possible. Looking forward to catching up soon. Enjoying what I am able to read. Thanks. Visiting on the letter R day where I have written about a hotel in Italy that I used in a second novel. Wish I were writing you from there rather than North Carolina. Having fun, however. Cheers.

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