Q Flag

The single-letter signal means, ‘My vessel is healthy and I request a free pratique’. The Q flag is flown on entering a foreign port, or returning home from abroad. The ‘pratique’ that is requested is ‘permission’ or ‘licence’ to come ashore. It may relate to health, customs or immigration rules. Hence the association of Q and quarantine. In the phonetic alphabet the word is Quebec, pronounced in the French manner as if spelled Kebek.


(1) A quadrant-or fan-shaped metal fitting at the rudder head which receives the steering cables. It ensures that the point of contact of each cable is tangential to a circular arc centred on the axis of the rudder.

(2) A now-outdated instrument for measuring angles, similar to and superseded by the Sextant.

Quadrantal error

In radio-direction finding (rarely used today), a displacement of the apparent di­rection of the transmitting station resulting from interference (reflection and re­radiation) caused by metal aboard the boat herself. Wire rigging and guard rails are the most likely causes of quadrantal error, especially when the wire forms a closed ring. A guard rail with ‘breaks’ in it is less likely to cause trouble.


A long, and often heavy, pole with a fork at one end and a wooden ‘truck’ or pad against which you can shove with your shoulder to drive the boat along in shallow water. Most seen nowadays on the traditional types of Dutch boat. The word is also used as a verb


The after end of the side of a vessel. The starboard quarter is the ‘back right-hand corner’. The quarters complement the Bows, and like bows they indi­cate no precise point, but rather a region and a direction. Thus a ship may be seen ‘coming up on the port quarter’ which is equivalent to an approach from over your left shoulder.

Quarter badge

A protective piece of timber fitted at the extreme after end of the ship’s side where it meets the Transom. Usually given a pleasing shape, and often designed to run in with a Rubbing strake. (See Badge, bow.)

Quarter knee

The Knee joining the Gunwale to the Transom. One each side

Quick flashing light

A light which flashes at a rate of sixty times a minutes or more.