Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How To DIY Courtesy Flags on the Cheap | Less Than $1 A Flag

Firstly, I'd like to thank S/V Wanderlust for their post on DIY Caribbean Courtesy Flags! 3 years ago, during the World Cup in Brazil, I noticed these string banner flags everywhere. I remember suggesting to Alex that perhaps we could get them and convert them into courtesy flags, but we didn't know where to get them at that time and we weren't sure of the quality either.

Imagine my delight when I found their post. After reading their experience, we felt more confident and bought ours on eBay for $19.77 USD; also available on Amazon. It comes in a set of 20 Caribbean country flags, at 18" x 12" per flag on 30ft of string.

To be honest, we never bothered too much about flying courtesy flags {not proud}. That's not to say we don't try to wherever we are but it's not always available (in good quality and at the right price!).
We know it's not proper etiquette not to fly one when we are visiting a foreign country, but an individual flag can cost around $10 USD each! For something that's for a one-time use and usually doesn't last very long; we'd almost always end up spending that $10 on something else. But with this method, at less than a dollar a flag, how could we resist?! 

When we cruise in a foreign country, it is a sign of respect and diplomacy to fly the native flag of the host country. Photo: Flying our Thai courtesy flag!
  1. Antigua & Barbuda
  2. Antilles
  3. Aruba
  4. Bahamas
  5. Barbados
  6. Belize
  7. Bermuda
  8. Cuba
  9. Dominican Republic
  10. Dominica
  11. Grenada
  12. Haiti
  13. Jamaica
  14. Martinique
  15. Puerto Rico
  16. Saint Kitts & Nevis
  17. St. Lucia
  18. Curacao
  19. Saint Vincent
  20. Trinidad & Tobago 
Comes in a row on a 30ft of string
Close Up of the Flags
Pretty decent quality
As I inspected the flags individually, I noticed some parts of the string were slightly twisted when it was sewn onto the flags. It doesn't affect the functionality of the flag {just hurts my eyes 😆 It's times like this I wish we had an iron onboard!} But not complaining at this price. 

Here's how we converted the string banner flags into courtesy flags.

DIY Courtesy Flags
What We Used
What You Need:

1. Scissors
2. Hammer
3. Hole cutter/punch (ours came with the Grommet tool set)
4. Grommet tool (consists of a top and bottom setting die, we have a size #2)
5. 40 Brass grommets (2 grommets/flag)
6. Pen/Pencil
7. Solid piece of wood
8. Lighter (optional)
9. Bit of extra material (optional) - we had some spare weblon type material which we decided to use where the grommet sits just to provide some extra strength {it's most definitely going to outlast the flag}.

What To Do:

1. Cut the string to separate the flags.
2. Sew the ends or lightly burn the edges to seal it from fraying. 

Step 1 & 2 - I sewed one flag (got lazy) and used the lighter to seal the edges for all the other flags
3. Mark where you want to place the grommets with a pen or pencil. I marked them around the same spot for each flag so that it'll be easy to keep them together with a split hinged ring.

Step 3
4. Punch out the holes with the hole cutter/punch & hammer on a solid piece of wood.

Step 4
Step 4 - If it doesn't punch out completely, use the scissors
5. (Optional step) If you decide to add material to provide extra strength around the hole, then you will need to punch holes in the material as well.

Step 5
Step 5
6. Place the extra material on both sides before inserting the grommet. The grommet (shank) should be placed on the bottom setting die, with the materials in the middle and the washer on the top.

Inserting Grommet
Step 6
Step 6
7. Hammer the top setting punch to set the grommet in place. 

Step 7
 8. Ensure that the grommet is set properly. If it's not set, repeat step 7.

Step 8 - Top view
Step 8 - Bottom view
9. That's it! (repeat till you're done) 

Step 9 - That's it!
All we need to do now is to complete our boat projects/repairs and we're all set to sail the Caribbean! Woohoo! ;D

P/S: You can also get these string banner flags for Asia, Europe, South/Central America.

Asia: Afghanistan, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Europe: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland (eagle), Portugal, Netherlands, Norway, Scotland (lion), Scotland (cross), Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and USA.

South/Central America: Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and El Salvador.  

Note: The list of countries may vary, so check before you make your purchase. 

You can also get 40 Maritime Signal Flags on a string!

So excited, can't wait to fly these! I know it's still early but after the Caribbean, perhaps the South/Central America set next?

Hope this was useful. If you have any experience or idea on how to improve this. We'd love to hear from you. Happy sailing! 😃


  1. This is super helpful info and your step-by-step photos are great! Thank you so much for sharing this!

    1. Hi Julia, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a note. Very happy to know it's helpful. :)

  2. What's the weather resistance like? Will they stand a little rain?

    1. Hi Kenneth, rain is no problem ;) more worried about the wind and UV though. I got some advice from experienced cruisers to add a hem/sew around the edges of the flag and then sew some vertical stitches (every few inches) across the flag to reinforce it.



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