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Old 04-03-2019, 12:09   #1
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Flare Replacement Choices

Hi,

My flares are due for replacement this season, and I'm wondering about alternatives.

My context:
- The boat is a 43' offshore performance cruiser.
- There are is regulatory requirement (UK based, private owner).
- I'm safety conscious: both an RNLI crewman, and a YMI.
- I'm not fond of pyrotechnics, people get hurt too often.
- The boat has a 6 Man SOLAS liferaft (so there will be flares in it).
- I've a DSC main radio with a masthead, and emergency, antenna and two waterproof handhelds.
- the two primary lifejackets on board both have OceanSignal DSC/AIS Mob beacons.
- My sailing is a bit of inshore racing, and cruising the channel as far as Brittany/Scillies and the southern north sea up into Holland.
- I don't currently carry an EPIRB, as I'm not out of VHF coverage.

In the past I've bought and offshore flare pack - 2x floating smoke, 4 x red para, 4 x pin point red.

I suspect that I could use an electronic flare to at least replace the pin point reds in the flare pack. The smokes are very effective in daylight, and relatively safe, so I'm inclined to stick with them but the big question is, should I buy the parachute flares? Has anyone else wrestled with this? If so what were you conclusions?

Tom
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Old 04-03-2019, 15:18   #2
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Re: Flare Replacement Choices

Tom-
There are no good answers.
The parachute flares will be visible from a much wider range than anything you can hand-hold on the boat, so in that sense they beat out all the electronic flares. By all means, carry an approved electronic flare to replace your "night" pyros, I don't think there are any approved as daylight devices. I'd still carry smoke for that.
I don't know the UK regs at all, but presume they allow you to continue carrying outdated pyros as extras, beyond the required new ones. I've found that pyros of all kinds, if kept hermetically sealed (from Day One) with desiccant, in something like a surplus ammunition box, will be perfectly reliable for well over ten years.
So by all means, carry what the rules (and any racing rules) require you to carry. Go electronic if you can. But SOLAS parachute flares and smokes are still unbeatable.
Damned pricey, but nothing else competes.
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Old 10-03-2019, 17:57   #3
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Re: Flare Replacement Choices

Interesting article in the March issue of Practical Boat Owner on flare disposal in the UK being reviewed. "In the UK, only coded boats, such as charter and training vessels, and owner of boats over 45' are required to carry flares." It also mentioned that the RYA believes that "with advances in technology flares are now outdated and the requirement to carry them should be reconsidered...especially in the light of available modern technology such as EPIRB's and an Electronic Visual Distress Signal."
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Old 10-03-2019, 18:29   #4
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Re: Flare Replacement Choices

All well and good, and at night an electronic flare certainly may make pyro's obsolete. But in the daytime? Nothing will grab my wandering attention like a cloud of orange smoke. And at night? Oh hell, the line of sight to an aerial flare is going to be WAY longer than the range of even a super-strobe flashing at deck level on small craft.

Pyro's ain't dead yet.
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Old 11-03-2019, 16:30   #5
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Re: Flare Replacement Choices

So for me the issue is about what's most effective. Given modern electronic aids, and my boat's equipment, I'm most likely to be asking for help electronically. Unless I'm in the liferaft, when I'll hopefully have a handheld VHF, but at the very least have the flares packed in the raft.

If you assume then, that I've made my distress call what I need to do is provide a localisation signal to SAR assets. If I had an EPIRB, that's when the 121.5MHz homing beacon would kick in. In the UK most SAR assets likely to be tasked to a 43' boat (ie helos and any RNLI boats except D class) have effective RDF gear, so they could home on a VHF. But in daylight a floating smoke is both low hazard to me, very effective and quicker and easier than VHF DF. So I'll have two of those. In the dark I suspect that an electronic flare will beat a handheld pinpoint red for that purpose - which is good as the pyros are nasty things. Which leaves me with my original question: what about the red paras? My raft will have two. Should I carry another 2-4 of them. When would I use them? I suspect I'll buy some because it's not a lot of money, but I'm left wondering what purpose they serve.
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Old 11-03-2019, 21:21   #6
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Re: Flare Replacement Choices

The red parachute flares are inevitably "just red flares" but the parachute means they will hang high up for a long time, and they're typically going to launch much higher than the cheaper red aerial flares. Obviously way higher than a handheld flare. And the height means everything for a larger visibility range. Similarly, if you've ever seen "chandlery" pyros demonstrated alongside of SOLAS approved pyros? The SOLAS don't seem expensive at all after that.
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