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.
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.
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.
|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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