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Old 11-04-2016, 04:25   #1
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Flares in Life Raft Safety Pack?

I keep waffling on what to do with my life rafts this year. I was thinking to sell the Avon 4 man, buy a good 6 man raft, and use my second, Seago 4 man for training.

But then I discovered what I thought was a Seago is actually another Avon -- a first class raft which ought to have some life left in it.

So maybe I'll just have both rafts serviced and leave it at that.

One of them has just had the hydro testing and new firing head, so that's the only expensive thing besides the Solas "A" safety kit, which contains a multitude of time-limited things like a bunch of flares, etc.

I am required to carry Solas "A" being over 15 meters and going more than 150 miles from land, but where I am cruising this year and next I will be that far from land only briefly and only twice a year.

So I'm thinking about downgrading to Solas "B" and just carrying the flares separately.

So the question is -- why not? If you're required to carry them, it doesn't mean they have to be actually inside the liferaft, does it?

The cost of ownership of a Solas "A" flare kit is high, considering that it only lasts for three seasons, and it seems silly to duplicate it. Unlike some people, I do believe that flares have their place in the whole system of rescue signalling, but with EPIRBs, PLBs, HF DSC, VHF DSC we have backups to backups to backups, for rescue signalling, so surely the minimum legal requirement of flares is going to be enough, no?


So I think I'll just dispose of the flares in both liferafts and rely on the separate ones. Replace the seasickness pills and water rations. Replace the flashlight/torch in each raft with a modern LED diver's torch, vacuum packed with spare batts.

Add some light sticks, vacuum packed.

Another thing I will skimp on is the canopy light batteries. They cost something like $200 each. I will have light sticks both in the grab bag and in each raft, plus extra flashlights/torches. As long as the canopy light works, I'm not touching the batteries.


The chances of ever needing to use even one of the life rafts is about a million to one, so one is tempted not to invest a lot of effort, but this is one of those things where even if are highly unlikely to need it, if you do need it -- then you REALLY need it.


The grab bag is a different story, and I am going to transfer my in-date flare supply to that, after vacuum packing with dessicants and oxygen absorbers. That will allow me to take flares off the grab list.



Anyone have any comments, insights, hints?
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Old 11-04-2016, 04:55   #2
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Re: Flares in Life Raft Safety Pack?

Another related question -- which will sound naive to some people. But I've never been seasick and I've never tried any seasickness remedies, so I completely lack any knowledge.

I will have to replace the seasickness tablets in the life raft safety kits -- which ones to use? Is there a consensus? Stugeron?


AFAIK everyone pukes his guts out in a liferaft, as the motion is absolutely horrible, and I've heard this is the worst thing about being in a liferaft. So I guess this would be one thing to get right.
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Old 11-04-2016, 06:03   #3
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Re: Flares in Life Raft Safety Pack?

Have you considered the new electronic flares? We've just purchased some from North American Survival Systems EF-20A-1 electronic strobes & think they are a good alternative or at least supplementary to traditional flares.
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Old 11-04-2016, 06:10   #4
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Re: Flares in Life Raft Safety Pack?

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Have you considered the new electronic flares? We've just purchased some from North American Survival Systems EF-20A-1 electronic strobes & think they are a good alternative or at least supplementary to traditional flares.
Funny you should ask --

I have never believed in the laser so-called flares which just shine a beam in the sky. I doubt that they would be seen, and even if seen would evoke the response that a real parachute flare would.

A parachute flare in these waters triggers a full scale SAR response -- no less so than an EPIRB. And a parachute flare can't not be seen with the heavy shipping traffic. So although I think it's only a backup to a backup, since we have other signalling means, still -- a parachute flare is a pretty powerful tool to have in your inventory.

So I kind of stopped reading about electronic flares, assuming they're all like that.

Just now, however, I read about the Ocean Signal EDF1 which is not a substitute for a parachute flare, but for a red hand flare.

Now that's a horse of a different color, and seem very reasonable. Unlike a pyrotechnic hand flare, this lasts for a long time and can be used over and over again. I believe I will be acquiring one or two of these for the grab bag.

Then no reason at all to carry more than the legal minimum of red hand flares.

So far I'm still going to be carrying rocket flares, but I think not inside the raft.
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Old 11-04-2016, 06:53   #5
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Re: Flares in Life Raft Safety Pack?

This year I replaced my Winslow with no extras and going with an accompanying grab bag. It seems kind of crazy to duplicate the flares and stuff when the stuff you really need to get rescued is going to be in the grab bag anyway. Saved a bunch of money but I also feel more confident in the having stuff that I can see and replace as needed instead of it being in the black hole of the replaced life raft.

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Old 11-04-2016, 06:59   #6
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Re: Flares in Life Raft Safety Pack?

We first read about them in the Feb 2016 review in Practical Sailor magazine, which identified the EF-20A-1 as the best of those tested. We paid $75 each USD. They are a powerful waterproof strobe and I can see a number of applications--in your PFD pocket, grab bag, dinghy, life raft, & even on your person when walking in questionable areas. The web site is here: EF-20A-1 Lightning

What I don't know is how they may or may not factor into legal requirements for flares.
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Old 11-04-2016, 09:13   #7
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Re: Flares in Life Raft Safety Pack?

Sounds to me as if you know what you're doing. All the use by dates on this stuff is for worst case conditions, and most boaters take care of their safety gear. That said I would get the full requirements if it were my boat. Not that I'd think I'd ever use them . Here in the US, the USCG really frowns on not having the required gear; in addition, the life rafts have to be inspected and repacked by a profession servicing company to stay currently rated.

We used to do coastal and off-shore sailboat racing (knees won't do that any more) and the requirements of the race had to be SOLAS, and if checked, the boat would be disqualified if the safety gear was not up to snuff.

Insurance is another issue. Mine requires that the boat meet all USCG requirements. With the way insurance companies try not to pay these days, it's a concern for me.

Sounds like you're going on a great trip.
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Old 11-04-2016, 09:21   #8
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Re: Flares in Life Raft Safety Pack?

Some time ago, we set off some old flares left over from WW2-Very gun. Worked well. Dry shelf storage. So doubt if the "drop dead" dates have any real meaning beyond marketing. The electronic "guns" are, in our humble opinion, worthless. Its the brilliant, dramatic movement of a flare that gets attention, not some spotlight in the sky.
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Old 11-04-2016, 10:02   #9
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Re: Flares in Life Raft Safety Pack?

dockhead-
You touch on a number of good points. As to "why pack" consider this:
You, the captain and master, get clocked on the head by the mast or boom as it is coming down to deck level and anyone else on board has to decide how to abandon ship. Do you really think they will know, or remember, where to grab the extra abandon ship bag? Versus, if you are lucky, grabbing you and getting a life raft launched?
That's when having everything IN the raft is advantageous.
Damned expensive and inconvenient, true, but it guarantees the stuff will be in the raft when you are.


That's pretty much the only (and very personal) consideration for whether to pack it or not.


As to the equipment...the newly approved LED "flares" (not laser, but LED) make great sense for packing in a raft, using lithium primary batteries with a potential ten year life, so there's no hazmat and no three year expiry to worry about. Assuming the electronics behave. And while the new alkaline batteries claim well over a ten year storage life...I've seen too many claims and failures from their makers in the past, personally. Versus lithium primaries (i.e. from Saft) that just don't leak.


I don't now what batteries your canopy lights have but $200 sounds unreasonable. If you can't be certified without "the real thing" that's just all there is. Otherwise, again, lithium primaries or chemlights (cyalumes) are certainly an alternative.


SOLAS-rated parachute flares and other pyros tend to be damned expensive--but head and shoulders above the mass market stuff for performance. There is that to consider as well.
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Old 11-04-2016, 10:16   #10
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Re: Flares in Life Raft Safety Pack?

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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
dockhead-
You touch on a number of good points. As to "why pack" consider this:
You, the captain and master, get clocked on the head by the mast or boom as it is coming down to deck level and anyone else on board has to decide how to abandon ship. Do you really think they will know, or remember, where to grab the extra abandon ship bag? Versus, if you are lucky, grabbing you and getting a life raft launched?
That's when having everything IN the raft is advantageous.
Damned expensive and inconvenient, true, but it guarantees the stuff will be in the raft when you are.


That's pretty much the only (and very personal) consideration for whether to pack it or not.


As to the equipment...the newly approved LED "flares" (not laser, but LED) make great sense for packing in a raft, using lithium primary batteries with a potential ten year life, so there's no hazmat and no three year expiry to worry about. Assuming the electronics behave. And while the new alkaline batteries claim well over a ten year storage life...I've seen too many claims and failures from their makers in the past, personally. Versus lithium primaries (i.e. from Saft) that just don't leak.


I don't now what batteries your canopy lights have but $200 sounds unreasonable. If you can't be certified without "the real thing" that's just all there is. Otherwise, again, lithium primaries or chemlights (cyalumes) are certainly an alternative.


SOLAS-rated parachute flares and other pyros tend to be damned expensive--but head and shoulders above the mass market stuff for performance. There is that to consider as well.
Yes, and this makes it a hard decision.

I'm not likely to need the rocket flares, because I've got a PLB and VHF DSC and VHF and HF voice which I would use first. I will also have an AIS MOB beacon which is good for short-range distress signalling.

The problem is that in certain kinds of disasters you might not manage to get the grab bag, in which case where are you? That's the very case when you'll need the rocket flares

So maybe, as expensive as they are, two rocket flares, vacuum packed with desiccants and oxygen absorbers, in each raft wouldn't be a waste of money. Hmmmmm.


By the way, this is another very strong argument to NOT skip having a PLB, just because you have an EPIRB. The risk of getting into the liferaft without satellite signalling is dramatically reduced, if the PLB is lanyarded into your life vest, as mine is. Also the MOB beacon.

The handheld DSC VHF just can't be kept just anywhere -- it needs to live in its charging stand so you always have a full charge. Even if you have the alkaline battery tray as I do. So that is of necessity on the grab list, with attendant risk you won't have it.

One of those GMDSS VHF handhelds with one-use lithium batteries would be an excellent thing to have in the life raft, but who could justify the cost -- I can't.
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Old 11-04-2016, 10:27   #11
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Re: Flares in Life Raft Safety Pack?

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Originally Posted by reed1v View Post
Some time ago, we set off some old flares left over from WW2-Very gun. Worked well. Dry shelf storage. So doubt if the "drop dead" dates have any real meaning beyond marketing. The electronic "guns" are, in our humble opinion, worthless. Its the brilliant, dramatic movement of a flare that gets attention, not some spotlight in the sky.
I agree about laser flares.

But expiration dates are not mere marketing. The chemicals break down over time just like they do in medicines. The rate at which pyrotechnics become compromised by this seems to be somewhat unpredictable, though.

Although it's against the law, I do keep out of date flares, well hidden , up to 10 years, to back up the minimal set of in-date ones I have.

And I'm going to start vacuum packing them which I think ought to improve their shelf life.
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Old 11-04-2016, 11:53   #12
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Re: Flares in Life Raft Safety Pack?

One of them has just had the hydro testing and new firing head, so that's the only expensive thing besides the Solas "A" safety kit, which contains a multitude of time-limited things like a bunch of flares, etc.

I am required to carry Solas "A" being over 15 meters and going more than 150 miles from land, but where I am cruising this year and next I will be that far from land only briefly and only twice a year.

So I'm thinking about downgrading to Solas "B" and just carrying the flares separately.

So the question is -- why not? If you're required to carry them, it doesn't mean they have to be actually inside the liferaft, does it?

When you get a life raft serviced, it has to be serviced to a standard acceptable to Solas for a specific reason; to save lives and to the standard of the worst case scenario. I do not think that the service people would repack a life raft to "your" standard which seems to be sub-standard from what I read in your posting. There has to be a limit to what is acceptable and not acceptable. If your standard is compromised, what will be next expensive item that you will keep out of this life raft? The bigger the vessel, the further out to sea you will travel. Is it worth the risk?

I always ask the final question... how much do you like yourself or others that travel with you if you are going to compromise your equipment to save a few bucks in adverse conditions that you cannot control...?

I also hate to get our life raft serviced.

Make sure they pack your life raft...
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Old 11-04-2016, 12:12   #13
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Re: Flares in Life Raft Safety Pack?

We found out our raft had disintegrated to the point of being useless after three years tied down on deck in its cannister. So regular inspections worth it. Now the hard part is finding a competent inspection outfit. Over the years have been lots of stories about inspections that were not, or that damaged the rafts, or had taken out vital components and not repacked them, like inflators.

So inspections are worth it. Spend time finding a business that does it on a regular basis for commercial outfits. Or learn to inspect the raft yourself; maybe even get qualified and set up a part time business.
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Old 11-04-2016, 12:53   #14
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Re: Flares in Life Raft Safety Pack?

Batteries and handhelds: A bit of a marketing distraction, those are. A cruel fraud, one might say. Like the otherwise very nice SH radio, with the free alkaline tray. Which might support low power operation for less than a couple of minutes transmit time. (Yes, it really is that poor, and lithium primaries wouldn't help.)


It just means that slightly older radios, with older power options, aren't dead yet. Or, you could wire up a charging stand (unless you have a handy 3d printer) to connect a more rational power supply to it. It is a problem begging for a better solution though.


On the old WW2 flares? Remember, those probably were milspec and to the same spec as ammunition. Military ammunition tends to be built for long term storage and "environmental-proofing".


In the 70's we dug up some WW1 Ottoman empire trenches, complete with ammunition stores. Vaguely something like a 30-06 round, as yes, they were taken away and found to still be good.


In the 80's some guy had recovered some 4" shells from a sunken warship (USS San Diego IIRC) south of LI Sound and was using them as fireplace andirons. Heck, after 70? years under 100+ feet of seawater, they couldn't be dangerous, could they? But his neighbor was upset, called the Suffolk County Bomb Squad, and guess what the andirons did on the bomb range? Yup, still perfectly good. For a year or so after that, the USCG tried to keep a boat out there and argue it should be off limits.


You don't get that kind of performance from civilian goods.(G)


I started changing my own brakes after the highly trained factory mechanics put them in backward on one wheel, long ago. I figured, I couldn't do MUCH worse. Then I started maintaining my own scuba gear, after finding that every shop seemed to give it back worse than when I sent it in.


I draw the line at DIY neurosurgery and appendectomies. But purely mechanical stuff? Fortunately, here in the Colonies us recreational sailors still have the option of taking responsibility for our own lives. No highly paid highly trained totally disinterested and distracted professional help required.


AFAIK mylar bags (the aluminized mylar bags that a lot of electronics are shipped in will do) are WAY better as oxygen barriers than even the best of the vacuum-freezer bags. I compromised on the road flares in the car, by overwrapping their sealed plastic in adhesive mylar duct tape, overlapping itself. (Too long to fit in an ammo can.)
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Old 11-04-2016, 13:12   #15
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Re: Flares in Life Raft Safety Pack?

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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
Batteries and handhelds: A bit of a marketing distraction, those are. A cruel fraud, one might say. Like the otherwise very nice SH radio, with the free alkaline tray. Which might support low power operation for less than a couple of minutes transmit time. (Yes, it really is that poor, and lithium primaries wouldn't help.)


It just means that slightly older radios, with older power options, aren't dead yet. Or, you could wire up a charging stand (unless you have a handy 3d printer) to connect a more rational power supply to it. It is a problem begging for a better solution though.


On the old WW2 flares? Remember, those probably were milspec and to the same spec as ammunition. Military ammunition tends to be built for long term storage and "environmental-proofing".


In the 70's we dug up some WW1 Ottoman empire trenches, complete with ammunition stores. Vaguely something like a 30-06 round, as yes, they were taken away and found to still be good.


In the 80's some guy had recovered some 4" shells from a sunken warship (USS San Diego IIRC) south of LI Sound and was using them as fireplace andirons. Heck, after 70? years under 100+ feet of seawater, they couldn't be dangerous, could they? But his neighbor was upset, called the Suffolk County Bomb Squad, and guess what the andirons did on the bomb range? Yup, still perfectly good. For a year or so after that, the USCG tried to keep a boat out there and argue it should be off limits.


You don't get that kind of performance from civilian goods.(G)


I started changing my own brakes after the highly trained factory mechanics put them in backward on one wheel, long ago. I figured, I couldn't do MUCH worse. Then I started maintaining my own scuba gear, after finding that every shop seemed to give it back worse than when I sent it in.


I draw the line at DIY neurosurgery and appendectomies. But purely mechanical stuff? Fortunately, here in the Colonies us recreational sailors still have the option of taking responsibility for our own lives. No highly paid highly trained totally disinterested and distracted professional help required.
Yes, they were mil.spec. US Navy flares. Had a box load of them--About 1 inch diameter. Big flares, plus two Very pistols. Real messy to fire but impossible to ignore. All packed in waterproof metal canisters. An incoming commercial flight reported the flare off Montauk Point and they were about twenty miles away. We found out when the Coast Guard politely inquired what were we up to(We had informed them previously about our trials). This was back in the 1980s so the flares were at least 40 years old. Hauled them around for many decades on our boat.
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