What are Signal Flags?
To the uninformed, it's just a cool looking string of colorful flags. If you're good with patterns, you may have noticed the repeat flags, and if you were really bored you could have deduced that they spelled "Lifelines".
But any Navy vets or career sailors probably read it like it was in plain English, because those flags ARE an alphabet, with each one corresponding to a unique letter and shorthand message. Why do we need our own non-landlubber letters? Is it just another way to make ourselves feel cool?
Why Do We Need Signal Flags?
Think about it this way - They don't even make you distinguish between capital i, lowercase L, and the number 1 on eye tests - and those are done from 10 feet away. Imagine having to distinguish those on bobbing seas from hundreds of yards away through a telescope.
Beyond that, you might have a message that would take way too long to spell out letter by letter. Signal flags gave navies around the world 26 opportunities for shorthand phrasing. Turns out, that's plenty.
Individual Signal Flags
These are listed in alphabetical order, using their names from the NATO phonetic alphabet. * signifies a flag you can find in our name. (Note: There are also number flags, but these aren't as cool and don't have their own shorthand. So I'm skipping those.)