Simply put, the term "boating flags" is an umbrella term for a system of flags that boat and ship operators can use to quickly communicate with each other.
Flags were first used during naval battles as a way for one ship to talk to other ships in the fleet. Early flag-based communications were limited, so they were mostly used to tell other fleet members that they needed to meet to talk about tactics or get more instructions.
In the 1700s, more complicated flag signals were made, which led to the Royal Navy's Permanent Fighting Instructions, which listed 45 different messages that could be sent with only 11 flags.
Mahé de la Bourdonniase, a French officer, came up with the first number of flags in 1738. With Bourdonnaise's new system, there were a whopping 1,000 possible messages that could be sent with just 3 flags.
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