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Old 11-03-2019, 18:00   #1
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Flares vs LED substitutes

My flares are expired and I am wondering if the Weems & Plath SOS Distress Light will serve the same purpose as far as requirements. DOes having it eliminate the need for day and night flairs?
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Old 11-03-2019, 18:11   #2
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Re: Flares vs LED substitutes

I bought the wheems & path sos light last season, still bought new flares for the gun.
Over this past winter I shot off 22, 12 gauge expired flares cause there's snow on the ground.

Flares do not seem to go very high or last very long. I'm not saying they aren't useful but personally I'm glad I bought the sos distress light...
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Old 11-03-2019, 18:56   #3
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Re: Flares vs LED substitutes

In response to your question; yes, the Weems & Plath SOS Distress light and the accompanying orange distress flag satisfy the USGC distress signaling requirements.

---
For boats 16' in length or greater: One orange distress flag and one electric distress light - or - three hand-held or floating orange smoke signals and one electric distress light - or - three combination day/night red flares; hand-held, meteor or parachute type.
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Old 12-03-2019, 16:44   #4
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Re: Flares vs LED substitutes

I bought the W&P light as well, but I keep my flares on board. Even though they are expired, they should be good to go for a number of years. Double coverage never hurts.
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Old 13-03-2019, 08:35   #5
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Re: Flares vs LED substitutes

I do both. The W&P satisfies legal requirements in case my flares are out of date but a serious SOLAS parachute flare will cover a huge range compared to the W&P.

If you just need to show a light for S&R to home in on your lat/lon then the W&P would be sufficient but if you're trying to attract attention from a random boat then the flares would be much better.
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Old 13-03-2019, 08:42   #6
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Re: Flares vs LED substitutes

We sail on a lake and have the light. Here, even though technically required, flares are discouraged (Inspections do not write you up for not having flares) since people have set islands on fire using flares during a drought.

I prefer the light since hand-held flares can catch your boat on fire unless you hold them out over the water on the lee side, and I actually saw a parachute flare catch another boat on fire once.
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Old 13-03-2019, 08:42   #7
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Re: Flares vs LED substitutes

Quote:
Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
I do both. The W&P satisfies legal requirements in case my flares are out of date but a serious SOLAS parachute flare will cover a huge range compared to the W&P.

If you just need to show a light for S&R to home in on your lat/lon then the W&P would be sufficient but if you're trying to attract attention from a random boat then the flares would be much better.



This is right and very important. If you've never seen a SOLAS parachute flare in action, it is an amazing sight, and orders of magnitude more visible than any laser flare. If you set one off in the middle of the Channel you could see it from both sides and everywhere in between -- they fly to 300 meters and are visible from more than 30 miles in good conditions.



I have all kinds of electronic distress signalling, including laser flares, but I sure keep SOLAS parachute flares, some in each liferaft, and some in the flare barrel.



The laser flares anyway are not meant to substitute parachute flares -- they are meant to replace red hand flares.
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Old 13-03-2019, 08:48   #8
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Re: Flares vs LED substitutes

Our instructor at a recent US Sailing Offshore Safety at Sea seminar mentioned that LED flares are not picked up by S&R night vision goggles. Just something to consider. I have both aboard.


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Old 13-03-2019, 09:19   #9
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Re: Flares vs LED substitutes

If you're offshore you need SOLAS flares--the expensive ones--and lots of them.

We were picked up by a container ship several years ago in the North Pacific (@ 42N 142W) in 50 knot and gusting winds and nine meter and higher seas. At night. Our regular parachute flares went sideways immediately. Only the SOLAS flares went straight up, though they drifted once the parachute opened.

It turns out commercial ship captains have a procedure and a search pattern they execute in these circumstances. In the conditions we encountered, we were only visible to each other when our boat and the ship were both on top of waves. In waves like those, the ship's radar will have a tough time picking you out. Our ship captain said he had to play with the gain on his radar to try to pick us out of the waves. That didn't work. In the end, they lit up the ship like a UFO, and we eventually found them. We had a masthead strobe which, along with the VHF, got us close enough to establish visual contact.

That sailboat is at the bottom of the sea, and we're lucky to be alive. My new boat has every safety device known to mankind, including an AIS transponder. Remember this: when you take your last breath, just before the sea folds around you like a shroud, you want to be certain that you gave yourself every chance available to survive. Your last thought should not be Dang, Im going to die. I wish Id spent the money on SOLAS flares and an AIS transponder.

Heres a pic of us trying to raft to the ship. That pilot ladder is blowing sideways like a kite tail. The Filipino crew finally gave up on the ladder and send us a heavily weighted line. They pulled us up, one at a time; we swung around and slammed against the ships hull all forty feet up to the gunnel, where we were pulled over the rail like tuna. The whole process, from activating the EPIRB to finally realizing we were not going to die took more than twelve hours. You do not want to skimp on flares.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ggG...ew?usp=sharing
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Old 13-03-2019, 09:20   #10
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Re: Flares vs LED substitutes

Quote:
Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
……….. a serious SOLAS parachute flare will cover a huge range compared to the W&P.
Yes, but it is also true that a SOLAS parachute flare covers a larger area and is much more visible than the 12 gauge flare pistol or meteor flares that most boats carry.
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Old 13-03-2019, 09:36   #11
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Re: Flares vs LED substitutes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Halien View Post
If you're offshore you need SOLAS flares--the expensive ones--and lots of them.

We were picked up by a container ship several years ago in the North Pacific (@ 42N 142W) in 50 knot and gusting winds and nine meter and higher seas. At night. Our regular parachute flares went sideways immediately. Only the SOLAS flares went straight up, though they drifted once the parachute opened.

It turns out commercial ship captains have a procedure and a search pattern they execute in these circumstances. In the conditions we encountered, we were only visible to each other when our boat and the ship were both on top of waves. In waves like those, the ship's radar will have a tough time picking you out. Our ship captain said he had to play with the gain on his radar to try to pick us out of the waves. That didn't work. In the end, they lit up the ship like a UFO, and we eventually found them. We had a masthead strobe which, along with the VHF, got us close enough to establish visual contact.

That sailboat is at the bottom of the sea, and we're lucky to be alive. My new boat has every safety device known to mankind, including an AIS transponder. Remember this: when you take your last breath, just before the sea folds around you like a shroud, you want to be certain that you gave yourself every chance available to survive. Your last thought should not be “Dang, I’m going to die. I wish I’d spent the money on SOLAS flares and an AIS transponder.”

Here’s a pic of us trying to raft to the ship. That pilot ladder is blowing sideways like a kite tail. The Filipino crew finally gave up on the ladder and send us a heavily weighted line. They pulled us up, one at a time; we swung around and slammed against the ship’s hull all forty feet up to the gunnel, where we were pulled over the rail like tuna. The whole process, from activating the EPIRB to finally realizing we were not going to die took more than twelve hours. You do not want to skimp on flares.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ggG...ew?usp=sharing
Sounds familiar. Have a friend who, with 3 others, was picked up by a half laden ore carrier. 13 man crew, 12 pulled the rope while the captain steered. Took several passes to get them off.

Not to pry but in a few words can you state the reason for your distress? Whale strike, rudder, ? In my friends case the boat, older 39’ Ericcson, was breaking up due to the violence of the storm.
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Old 13-03-2019, 13:07   #12
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Re: Flares vs LED substitutes

Safety At Sea at least used to demo the pyros, so you could see the differences.
12 guage = sad joke.
Handheld meteor = visibly better
SOLAS parachute, makes everything else look like a child's toy.

Pyros will last longer in a hermetically sealed container, preferably with a moisture absorer (silica packet) and an oxygen absorber (another packet, not reuseable) added in. Military surplus ammo cans are the best, but a big old glass peanut butter jar seals just as well, if budget counts. And, allows people to see what's inside without breaking the hermetic seal.

Ammo cans tend to get some uniformed types upset these days.
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Old 13-03-2019, 15:38   #13
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Re: Flares vs LED substitutes

Hi Hpeer,

This was a delivery from Honolulu to Seattle. The owner needed his boat moved ASAP, but it was late in the year. I attempted to talk him out of it, but in the end I took the job anyway. I knew it would be a rough trip in October, but I'd been in ugly storms before and figured I and the boat could handle it. Ha!

The first pic below is the surface analysis for the time when we were disabled. The red X marks the approximate spot where we activated our EPIRB. It may not look that bad on the map, but with a storm at our West and leftover hurricane Ana slop coming from the South, the sea state was terrible. I just can't describe it. The nine meter waves were bad enough, but when they started mixing with the Ana mess, the wavetops were like huge explosions of white water. The kinetic energy was simply jaw dropping.

The boat's motion was violent, like a car crash that wouldn't end. We were running off (in the right direction, thankfully) with a storm jib when we were hit by an enormous mess of breaking waves. They happen quickly, and no, you can't just steer around them. I don't want to speculate how big they were, but they were far taller than what we'd experienced before then. In the space of two or three seconds we were knocked down, a fixed window to port was broken out from the inside by flying debris, and green water filled the cabin to knee height. We'd lost and replaced a hatch board in a previous storm, but the sea laughed at our repair. We now had no way to secure the cabin against the knockdowns that kept coming. It was like the sea was trying to stomp us to death, repeatedly, and it felt like it.

Imagine you're hit in an intersection by a city bus. That's how violent the disabling wave was. It knocked the starboard interior off the hull. The cabin was a disaster. Every time we were knocked down after that the boat refilled with seawater. Our electric bilge pump failed. It had sucked up some floating debris, and once it was clogged it didn't take long to burn itself out. You can't hear the change in in the pump's operation in those conditions, and we were hand pumping at the same time, so we never noticed it had failed. With almost a thousand miles to go, and the weather just getting worse, I decided my crew's lives were more important than saving the boat.

The Hyundai Grace was within 150 NM of our location, and I didn't want to miss that bus and spend the next week fighting to keep the boat afloat in the depressions that march across the globe at that latitude at that time of year. If you look in the pic, our boat is clearly on its way down as we were being taken off, and it had only been an hour or so since we'd quit hand pumping.

The decision to deliver the boat in the North Pacific in October was a bad one, and that's on me. We're only alive because I had shipped my own safety equipment to Hawaii before the trip, and because I pulled the plug when I did. I thought I'd seen all kinds of bad weather in my various offshore miles, but nothing, just nothing compares to the violence we experienced that day.

Surface Analysis:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kcj...ew?usp=sharing

How to use a SOLAS flare:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1n7l...ew?usp=sharing

What can happen if you misuse a SOLAS flare:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1WiU...ew?usp=sharing


Starboard cabin, sans cabinetry. This is AFTER we'd stabilized the boat and cleaned up a bit:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FAk...ew?usp=sharing

I was on the bridge of the Hyundai Grace when the skipper of this boat contacted us a few hundred miles off the Central American coast (my crew and I deboarded in Panama). He was in serious trouble and considering asking us to take him off his boat. I took the call because I was there and a native English speaker. He chose to continue on in the bad weather, with less than optimal safety equipment aboard. At his request we called his wife from the bridge and left a message that he was going to be late getting in to Acapulco. He never made it, and now hes dead. The difference between me and him is a few thousand dollars worth of safety gear and a single bad decision. I stay in touch with his family; I was the last person he spoke to before he died:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hx6...ew?usp=sharing

This is just interesting. Its a fax the Filipino crew staffing agency sent to the Hyundai Grace when news of our rescue got back to their office:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xIG...ew?usp=sharing

There are several lessons to learn from our loss, but the main ones are not to play around in the North Pacific after about September, and not to skimp on safety training and equipment. No one should imagine I'm sanguine about our experience. I misjudged and almost died. It still wakes me up in a cold sweat some nights. This thread began with the question is it okay to substitute the W&P strobe for SOLAS flares. Unless you never leave protected waters, it is not.
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Old 13-03-2019, 18:49   #14
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Re: Flares vs LED substitutes

Halien,

My many thanks for your thoughtful and well written response.
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Old 14-03-2019, 07:09   #15
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Re: Flares vs LED substitutes

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Halien,

My many thanks for your thoughtful and well written response.

I'll second that! Best post I've read in a while.
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