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Old 14-02-2011, 07:21   #16
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I've actually been the one to institute a search due to spotting flares during daylight hours, and I will say it was just pure luck that I spotted them as they were directly ahead of my vessel only a few miles away. If they had been off to my side or behind me I doubt I would have spotted them. I do think flares could be useful to direct someone in towards your boat or liferaft if they were already searching for you, and it was night, but as a general alert, especially during the day, I think they are almost worthless unless you are in an area where there are lots of other boats that might spot something. The biggest, baddest flares are worth it in that scenario. I have also read of many rescues where the final approach was aided by shining a spotlight at the bridge of an approaching vessel. A powerful handheld light could be very useful. I wonder if a laser pointer might also be useful. However, to get the rescue vessel that close the best system is to use an EPIRB and/or a radio or satellite phone, or even a cell phone in coastal waters. By the way, I have fired off many out of date flares and I have found that there is a high failure rate. Some don't work at all, others wimp out, and some work fine. We fired off a SOLAS flare once that headed a bit out to windward of us then turned around and came straight back at the boat, blowing through all the rigging inches over our head while we all dived for cover and then rocketing across the harbor horizontally only a few feet above the water.
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Old 14-02-2011, 07:28   #17
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Well.... if your trying to save money get a reel of light fishing line... a box of tea lights and some paper bags and string.... fly one of these over the raft at nights... chose your own colour bags... red, green whatever...

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Old 14-02-2011, 15:12   #18
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I've actually been the one to institute a search due to spotting flares during daylight hours, and I will say it was just pure luck that I spotted them as they were directly ahead of my vessel only a few miles away. If they had been off to my side or behind me I doubt I would have spotted them. I do think flares could be useful to direct someone in towards your boat or liferaft if they were already searching for you, and it was night, but as a general alert, especially during the day, I think they are almost worthless unless you are in an area where there are lots of other boats that might spot something. The biggest, baddest flares are worth it in that scenario. I have also read of many rescues where the final approach was aided by shining a spotlight at the bridge of an approaching vessel. A powerful handheld light could be very useful. I wonder if a laser pointer might also be useful. However, to get the rescue vessel that close the best system is to use an EPIRB and/or a radio or satellite phone, or even a cell phone in coastal waters. By the way, I have fired off many out of date flares and I have found that there is a high failure rate. Some don't work at all, others wimp out, and some work fine. We fired off a SOLAS flare once that headed a bit out to windward of us then turned around and came straight back at the boat, blowing through all the rigging inches over our head while we all dived for cover and then rocketing across the harbor horizontally only a few feet above the water.

PLEASE !!!! never shine a powerful light at a bridge or rescue aircraft!!!!

In the general diretion of is OK...the glare of a powerful light is enough...especially the darker it is.

I've know captains that will run you over if you shine a light directly at them...not me of course
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Old 14-02-2011, 20:32   #19
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My thinking was more along the lines, "I honestly don't expect these things to work anyway, I might as well get something cheap I can throw in the boat and forget about."

I expect the real rescue to be based around the VHF(possibly hand held), maybe an EPRIB, maybe a SSB, and maybe a life raft.. Once you let someone know that your in trouble, if they can find the boat or the life raft, they probably don't need a flare to tell them where to go.

Am I wrong in expecting the flares, smoke, dyes, and what not to be basicly useless, and to really base any attempt to get help around some sort of radio?
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Old 15-02-2011, 05:03   #20
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Originally Posted by ViribusUnitis View Post
My thinking was more along the lines, "I honestly don't expect these things to work anyway, I might as well get something cheap I can throw in the boat and forget about."

I expect the real rescue to be based around the VHF(possibly hand held), maybe an EPRIB, maybe a SSB, and maybe a life raft.. Once you let someone know that your in trouble, if they can find the boat or the life raft, they probably don't need a flare to tell them where to go.

Am I wrong in expecting the flares, smoke, dyes, and what not to be basicly useless, and to really base any attempt to get help around some sort of radio?
They are rescue tools. Like any tool bag...you don't have just one tool. While some tools are more versatile...sometime evry tool is the best one for the job.

Rescue is a multilayer set of operations. EPIRB alerts and gets the rescuers headed in your direction, VHF lets them know of your current situation and helps direct them into you, flare ponpoints your location for them and the smoke from even a normal flare (even at night) can assist a recue helo in determining wind direction.

If in sight of many other people (boats or other), then the EPIRB is overkill and if they aren't listening to VHF...it's not necessarily going to help.

PS...there is NOTHING you can throw into a boat and forget about....ESPECIALLY safety gear. An attitude like that is WHY you might need safety gear more than the next boater.
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Old 15-02-2011, 05:14   #21
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As already touched upon, where you are also impacts on the usefulness of specific distress signals - albeit might not change the decision to carry (or not).

Around these parts if someone sees a flare - then a very good chance it will be reported (even if not 100% sure) and a lifeboat despatched (even without a VHF confirmation)..........and a very good chance (if not a certainty) that any other vessels in the area will respond (by reporting the sighting by VHF and also by heading to assist, even when they'd bet on the lifeboat or another vessel likely to beat them to it). Obviously summer and winter impacts on all that as simply less people around to spot a flare (ashore or afloat).

I am guessing that the above not the norm everywhere - but we be civilised . and it's a more pleasant approach to boating than shooting each other


Off the Coast of Africa I would not expect the same response (unless near Somalia ). Elsewhere perhaps somewhere in the middle?
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Old 17-02-2011, 17:52   #22
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check this out !! SIGNAL CANNON

https://www.seafaring.com/shipstore/...f8ed66e698c675
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Old 04-05-2011, 13:16   #23
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Re: Why Carry Pyrotechnic Distress Signals ?

I must say that I agree 100% with the OP on this subject. I have sailed all my life (40+ years now) and have never seen or used a flare, so while they are important, they are not a commonly used item. If I were sailing offshore, I would carry a case of them. But, many of us do NOT sail offshore. And our budgets to NOT support a large case of current flares. I sail 100% of my time in the Chesapeake Bay. A worst-case time-to-rescue would be under 24 hours, when I would drift ashore. I bought an ACR light back when they were still available, and in conjunction with a flag am USCG legal. I choose not to carry pyrotechnic devices. The benefits of the light:

* Inexpensive
* Legal
* Easy to use
* NO fire (would you use a handheld flare in a rubber dingy?) (Could you count on a crewmember not catching your vessel on fire?) (How about on a kayak?)
* 100% waterproof (if you were in the water in a lifejacket, do you think you could light and use a handheld flare?)
* Extended operation. You can marshal many hours of battery life as-needed -- a flare once lit is gone.

I fully recognize that the light and flag approach would be of little value 30 miles SSE of Cape Horn. I'm not going there. Where I am going, I firmly believe that a flare would be of use only in fortuitous circumstances. The light may not be any better, but it is legal. Personally, I'm putting my faith in a DSC VHF, a handheld VHF, and a cell phone -- all of which I suspect are more effective WHERE I SAIL than a flare, the light, or the flag.

They are legal, and I wish they still sold them!

Harry
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Old 04-05-2011, 14:10   #24
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Re: Why Carry Pyrotechnic Distress Signals ?

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Originally Posted by sailingharry View Post
I must say that I agree 100% with the OP on this subject. I have sailed all my life (40+ years now) and have never seen or used a flare, so while they are important, they are not a commonly used item. If I were sailing offshore, I would carry a case of them. But, many of us do NOT sail offshore. And our budgets to NOT support a large case of current flares. I sail 100% of my time in the Chesapeake Bay. A worst-case time-to-rescue would be under 24 hours, when I would drift ashore. I bought an ACR light back when they were still available, and in conjunction with a flag am USCG legal. I choose not to carry pyrotechnic devices. The benefits of the light:

* Inexpensive
* Legal
* Easy to use
* NO fire (would you use a handheld flare in a rubber dingy?) (Could you count on a crewmember not catching your vessel on fire?) (How about on a kayak?)
* 100% waterproof (if you were in the water in a lifejacket, do you think you could light and use a handheld flare?)
* Extended operation. You can marshal many hours of battery life as-needed -- a flare once lit is gone.

I fully recognize that the light and flag approach would be of little value 30 miles SSE of Cape Horn. I'm not going there. Where I am going, I firmly believe that a flare would be of use only in fortuitous circumstances. The light may not be any better, but it is legal. Personally, I'm putting my faith in a DSC VHF, a handheld VHF, and a cell phone -- all of which I suspect are more effective WHERE I SAIL than a flare, the light, or the flag.

They are legal, and I wish they still sold them!

Harry
Only more useless than flares... are the SOS light and flag.

Most people..including boaters probably wouldn't even notice the SOS light...let alone that it's flashing SOS...a strobe would get way more attention. the flag is great for vessels within a 1/2 to 1/4 mile...WOW...the other day I was dispatched to tow a vessel in who said they were flying a distress flag...went to several other boats till I glassed (binoculars) the fleet and finally figured out who had the flag up.
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Old 04-05-2011, 18:06   #25
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Re: Why Carry Pyrotechnic Distress Signals ?

Psneeld,

A few questions on that tow dispatch:

* Where you in VHF or Cell coverage with the vessel? That would certainly be better than a flare.
* Did you have a set of GPS coordinates? A real fix +/- 50 feet is MUCH better than a flare.
* If you didn't have VHF/Cell/GPS info, then that probably means the vessel got out the distress call by using their flares -- and once they used them to get the word out, they didn't have them to guide you in!
* Since the SOS lights have been unavailable for several years now (and never were very popular), there is a good chance they didn't have an SOS light. Why didn't they use their flares? Or, maybe they did -- remember, the typical 4-pack, with a 3 minute burn time per flare, goes bye-bye in a real big hurry!

I'm not saying the SOS light is a great device. I'm just saying that the traditional flares are expensive, have a short shelf life, are dangerous in use, and provide minimal if any benefit. And your story from the other day serves to prove the point!

Yes, the SOS light is a lousy device, and I carry it "just to meet the rules." But I think that the flares are a lousy device, and if I didn't have the light, I'd carry the flares "just to meet the rules." For coastal cruising in high traffic areas, there are MUCH better solutions to rescue than either the flare or the light!

Harry
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Old 04-05-2011, 21:10   #26
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Re: Why Carry Pyrotechnic Distress Signals ?

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Psneeld,

A few questions on that tow dispatch:

* Where you in VHF or Cell coverage with the vessel? That would certainly be better than a flare.
* Did you have a set of GPS coordinates? A real fix +/- 50 feet is MUCH better than a flare.
* If you didn't have VHF/Cell/GPS info, then that probably means the vessel got out the distress call by using their flares -- and once they used them to get the word out, they didn't have them to guide you in!
* Since the SOS lights have been unavailable for several years now (and never were very popular), there is a good chance they didn't have an SOS light. Why didn't they use their flares? Or, maybe they did -- remember, the typical 4-pack, with a 3 minute burn time per flare, goes bye-bye in a real big hurry!

I'm not saying the SOS light is a great device. I'm just saying that the traditional flares are expensive, have a short shelf life, are dangerous in use, and provide minimal if any benefit. And your story from the other day serves to prove the point!

Yes, the SOS light is a lousy device, and I carry it "just to meet the rules." But I think that the flares are a lousy device, and if I didn't have the light, I'd carry the flares "just to meet the rules." For coastal cruising in high traffic areas, there are MUCH better solutions to rescue than either the flare or the light!

Harry
While flares are just about useless...they are still way better than almost ANY other visual distress signal because people recognize a flare IMMEDIATELY as distress...most of the other signaling devices are hard to see or dificult to interpret as distress. In fact most flare sightings are not flares at all...so rescuers do spend a lot of time on wild goose chases but they are looking because someone saw something that looks like a flare...hardly ever anything else. So if I'm in distress and the electronics aren't working and the EPIRB is overkill...yes a stretch...then a flare is a good tool to use...just have lots of them...

The real reason flares are just about useless is just what you said...today we have VHF and cell reliabilty like nothing else...so staying in touch is rarely a problem....IF you don't let all your batteries die...
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Old 05-05-2011, 03:55   #27
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Re: Why Carry Pyrotechnic Distress Signals ?

FWIW, I have only ever assissted one vessel in distress and that vessel attracted my attention with a FLAG, so sometimes something as simple and lowly as flag does work!

I saw the boat (about a 20ft power boat) stationary just on the horizon, I assumed it was probably drift fishing but rather than just a white blur as expected, there was a faintly orange speck on the white blur; binoculars showed the orange speck to be perhaps a orange rectangle which was enough to get my interest and so sail over for a closer look.

Short story was their brand new engine failed to start; it was the first trip with that engine and the power pack had quit and yes, they had no radio, flares or other safety equipment except lifejackets!
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Old 05-05-2011, 05:36   #28
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Re: Why Carry Pyrotechnic Distress Signals ?

Flares are not of great use in every circumstance - but can be the best option. Obviously depends on cruising area for the locals to recognise / be prepared to respond to the distress signal.

FWIW was down the local boat show last week - mate just sold his boat and popped into the RNLI stand to ask about disposal of his out of date flares. Was told as no facilities over here to take them that he should set them off on November 5th (Britain's national burning a Catholic day - much fireworks)..........he will be double checking that advice on the day Plan B of course is for me to deep six 'em
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Old 05-05-2011, 07:50   #29
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Re: Why Carry Pyrotechnic Distress Signals ?

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Flares are not of great use in every circumstance - but can be the best option. Obviously depends on cruising area for the locals to recognise / be prepared to respond to the distress signal.

FWIW was down the local boat show last week - mate just sold his boat and popped into the RNLI stand to ask about disposal of his out of date flares. Was told as no facilities over here to take them that he should set them off on November 5th (Britain's national burning a Catholic day - much fireworks)..........he will be double checking that advice on the day Plan B of course is for me to deep six 'em
In the US...setting them off even on the 4th of July over here is against the law...but you are right...there are few proper disposal avenues. Some USCG, some USCGAUX, fire stations. etc....take them but not all...
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Old 05-05-2011, 08:02   #30
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We don't all speak English out there on the big blue, but we all understand pyrotechnics.
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