You will be shown 3 flags in class that are used by divers:
The Alfa Flag,
The "Diver's Down" Flag, and
The Papa Flag
Every letter of the alphabet is represented by a colored
flag. Almost all of them have a dual meaning. Each represents a letter, and
most have a second meaning. These flags are recognized by captains of ships
throughout the world.
The Alfa (sic) flag is white and blue with a triangular
piece missing from the blue front. It represents the letter "A" as well as
meaning: "Diver Down; Keep Clear." This flag must be flown from vessels
that have diving operations going on in international waters, coastal waters,
and other waters where commercial and international shipping is taking place.
The red flag with a diagonal white stripe from the upper
mast to the lower outer corner was specifically for divers in the United
States. The flag is not an official flag. It is the most common flag flown
by divers in the USA. It is now used in many areas of the world and may be
flown with the Alfa flag. It generally means there are divers within 100'
of the flag. Exactly what legal requirements are connected with the use of
the flag is determined by the law in each State. In New York State, Section
45, 1a of the State Navigation Law states that unless you are the vessel
that is involved in diving operations, boats must stay at least 100' away
from the flag.
There are many pleasure boaters that do not have a clue
as to the meaning of any of the divers' flags. Just because the flag is flying
does not completely protect the diver. It is important for divers to make
sure local boating training courses, such as those conducted by the US Coast
Guard Auxiliary, include information on "Diver Down" flags.
The Papa is a blue square with a white square in the
middle. When the flag is displayed it means the vessel is about to sail.
This flag has been used to bring divers back to the surface and discontinue
diving operations. When the flag is up, the tenders realize the end of diving
has been signalled and start the divers toward the surface. Sometimes large
cruise ships will tell their departing tourists to return to the ship when
the Papa flag is hoisted to the top of the vessel.