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Old 10-11-2013, 13:02   #76
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Re: Flares no longer needed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
Who said a hand held is the only radio on the boat? We keep one for other purposes, such as transiting on the dingy, in case the primary goes down in a non-emergency and while the mast is down on canal systems. It's a multi-tasker with value beyond emergency situations. Most cruisers we know have a similar backup by choice not because of govt mandate.
This is non-sequitur to what I wrote. No one has argued against handheld VHF radios. They are, obviously, extremely useful for a whole variety of purposes.

What I said was that for longer range distress signalling, the handheld VHF is no substitute and no backup to the main radio, whereas the EPIRB and flares are.

That was in response to your statement to the effect that if you lose your main VHF, you've got the handheld, so why do you need any other backup. For longer range distress signalling, the handheld is useless.

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Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
As far as potential benefit once the boat goes down... the odds of a flare being seen from 30 miles away... it only lasts for seconds and is gone. From 30 miles away it's blip on the horizon. I have zero faith in it benefiting a rescue if no one knows you are in trouble. If they are actively searching for you, I have little faith it is likely to be seen and useful from more than 3-4 miles away.
It sounds like you're confusing 12 gauge Very gun flares with SOLAS rocket flares. SOLAS rocket flares are serious pieces of pyrotechnics -- they go up to an altitude 300 meters and burn for 40 seconds. They produce a huge amount of light, red light, and at night, they light up the whole sky over a huge area. They would make great fireworks if it were allowed to use them like that. At night there is no way to miss them -- if your back is to the flare, it will light up everything in front of you. Spoil your night vision, even. They are extremely effective out to 30 miles and more, provided of course the weather conditions allow that much visibility, but they put out so much light that they even show through clouds.

In the day time, of course, they are less useful -- you still see them, but not with your back turned to them like at night, so of course flares are not a panacea which works 24/7 in any conditions.

The usefulness of SOLAS rocket flares also varies depending on where you are, so YMMV and that's another good reason to delete the requirement for carrying them. In a place like the English Channel with dense ship traffic and coast watch stations, you have a 0.00% chance of a rocket flare not being responded to, at least at night. The sighting of a rocket flare sets off a frenzy of activity, as anyone who has followed such incidents on VHF will know. There will be See-Lonce Mayday for at least an hour, helicopters flying around, intense radio discussion, the whole works. The flares burn long enough that watchstanders even have time to take bearings on them, so around these parts you'll generally get a fix.

In other places it might be different, and so the relative usefulness of flares compared to other signalling techniques may be different.

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Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
A hand held on open water, can have a range of several miles depending on the height of the other antenna (with most sailboat and commercial ships have antenna heights in excess of 40' it's several miles). More importantly, used wisely, you should have a few hours of air time that can be spread out over days and once contact is reached, clearly define that you are in need of help and where you are.
Absolutely right, which is why I consider (and wrote so above) a handheld VHF with DSC a very important safety tool. I have one, and I think it would be so important in the liferaft that I'm considering buying a second one which would be kept exclusively in the grab bag, so that there would be no risk that we couldn't find the regular one on our way out.

I already bought a whole box of long-life lithium AA batts (at considerable expense) and the Standard Horizon battery tray, so that air time on the handheld VHF would not be limited nor would it be critical to have the radio fully charged at the time of abandoning.

Quote:
Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
Given one or the other, the hand held radio wins by a mile.
Flares and handheld VHF radios are not alternatives to each other at all, so not devices among which you can choose a "winner".

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Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
If we are going to ignore the benefit/cost ratio, I would rather have a nice offshore life raft with automatic activation for coastal cruising on a small boat. But most people make a reasonable choice based on benefit cost when the cost (both $ and wasted space) are considered vs the thousands and regular maintenance that come with offshore life rafts.
Liferafts and flares are even less alternatives to each other, than flares and handheld VHF. I can't imagine that anyone has ever weighed choosing to either keep flares, or have a liferaft.

I have two liferafts, one of which is always in service, and the other I will do next summer (or replace). I would not go to sea in these cold and stormy waters without a liferaft (and better two) -- going in the water without certainty of getting out in less than an hour would be a death sentence. Again -- that is specific to where I sail. In Florida, with warm water, benign weather, and staying close to shore, for example, I think you can do without it. Everybody has to design his own safety program tailored specifically to his boat, crew, and sailing area.

The cost of keeping the liferafts in service probably amounts to an average of $150 a year each (it's cheaper over here than in the US). A big service with hydro testing is $600 or $700, and a small service is about $200, and it's good for three years on my vacuum-packed rafts.

As far as I know, everyone who has posted here agrees that flares should not be required carry -- given the wide choice of alternative distress signalling devices, we should be able to decide for ourselves.

Carrying flares is very expensive, probably more expensive even than carrying a sat phone with emergency minutes plan. The set of SOLAS flares I am required to have costs about $350 and lasts only three years, so the annual cost is a significant fraction of my insurance cost. I stretch it by not buying the whole set every time and keeping the old ones around. For many sailors it will just not make any sense; in the UK, however, flares are required only on boats over 45' long. Under 45', you are subject to almost no mandatory safety equipment, in the UK (in contrast to France).
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Old 10-11-2013, 13:26   #77
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Re: Flares no longer needed?

Wondering how an LED can replace a smoke flare?
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Old 10-11-2013, 13:29   #78
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Re: Flares no longer needed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
This is non-sequitur to what I wrote. No one has argued against handheld VHF radios. They are, obviously, extremely useful for a whole variety of purposes.

What I said was that for longer range distress signalling, the handheld VHF is no substitute and no backup to the main radio, whereas the EPIRB and flares are.

That was in response to your statement to the effect that if you lose your main VHF, you've got the handheld, so why do you need any other backup. For longer range distress signalling, the handheld is useless.



It sounds like you're confusing 12 gauge Very gun flares with SOLAS rocket flares. SOLAS rocket flares are serious pieces of pyrotechnics -- they go up to an altitude 300 meters and burn for 40 seconds. They produce a huge amount of light, red light, and at night, they light up the whole sky over a huge area. They would make great fireworks if it were allowed to use them like that. At night there is no way to miss them -- if your back is to the flare, it will light up everything in front of you. Spoil your night vision, even. They are extremely effective out to 30 miles and more, provided of course the weather conditions allow that much visibility, but they put out so much light that they even show through clouds.

In the day time, of course, they are less useful -- you still see them, but not with your back turned to them like at night, so of course flares are not a panacea which works 24/7 in any conditions.

The usefulness of SOLAS rocket flares also varies depending on where you are, so YMMV and that's another good reason to delete the requirement for carrying them. In a place like the English Channel with dense ship traffic and coast watch stations, you have a 0.00% chance of a rocket flare not being responded to, at least at night. The sighting of a rocket flare sets off a frenzy of activity, as anyone who has followed such incidents on VHF will know. There will be See-Lonce Mayday for at least an hour, helicopters flying around, intense radio discussion, the whole works. The flares burn long enough that watchstanders even have time to take bearings on them, so around these parts you'll generally get a fix.

In other places it might be different, and so the relative usefulness of flares compared to other signalling techniques may be different.



Absolutely right, which is why I consider (and wrote so above) a handheld VHF with DSC a very important safety tool. I have one, and I think it would be so important in the liferaft that I'm considering buying a second one which would be kept exclusively in the grab bag, so that there would be no risk that we couldn't find the regular one on our way out.

I already bought a whole box of long-life lithium AA batts (at considerable expense) and the Standard Horizon battery tray, so that air time on the handheld VHF would not be limited nor would it be critical to have the radio fully charged at the time of abandoning.



Flares and handheld VHF radios are not alternatives to each other at all, so not devices among which you can choose a "winner".



Liferafts and flares are even less alternatives to each other, than flares and handheld VHF. I can't imagine that anyone has ever weighed choosing to either keep flares, or have a liferaft.

I have two liferafts, one of which is always in service, and the other I will do next summer (or replace). I would not go to sea in these cold and stormy waters without a liferaft (and better two) -- going in the water without certainty of getting out in less than an hour would be a death sentence. Again -- that is specific to where I sail. In Florida, with warm water, benign weather, and staying close to shore, for example, I think you can do without it. Everybody has to design his own safety program tailored specifically to his boat, crew, and sailing area.

The cost of keeping the liferafts in service probably amounts to an average of $150 a year each (it's cheaper over here than in the US). A big service with hydro testing is $600 or $700, and a small service is about $200, and it's good for three years on my vacuum-packed rafts.

As far as I know, everyone who has posted here agrees that flares should not be required carry -- given the wide choice of alternative distress signalling devices, we should be able to decide for ourselves.

Carrying flares is very expensive, probably more expensive even than carrying a sat phone with emergency minutes plan. The set of SOLAS flares I am required to have costs about $350 and lasts only three years, so the annual cost is a significant fraction of my insurance cost. I stretch it by not buying the whole set every time and keeping the old ones around. For many sailors it will just not make any sense; in the UK, however, flares are required only on boats over 45' long. Under 45', you are subject to almost no mandatory safety equipment, in the UK (in contrast to France).
Every tool is an alternative unless you have unlimited funds to spend on a vessel of unlimited capabilities. You can't consider one tool in the absence of all others.

40 seconds vs 10 seconds sounds great but is still highly unlikely to draw attention unless someone is already looking. A radio especially if it has an emergency button is likely to draw the attention of most vessels within range.

If we are going to mandate safety equipment a waterproof vhf would be a far more effective option.
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Old 10-11-2013, 13:52   #79
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Re: Flares no longer needed?

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Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
Every tool is an alternative unless you have unlimited funds to spend on a vessel of unlimited capabilities. You can't consider one tool in the absence of all others.

40 seconds vs 10 seconds sounds great but is still highly unlikely to draw attention unless someone is already looking. A radio especially if it has an emergency button is likely to draw the attention of most vessels within range.

If we are going to mandate safety equipment a waterproof vhf would be a far more effective option.
I certainly agree that DSC VHF is vastly more effective than flares, and it hardly makes sense to mandate flares while the other is optional. I agree that flares should not be required.

But as to the effectiveness of flares, I say again, you have clearly never seen a SOLAS rocket flare in action. At night, you cannot miss it for many miles around. It is incredibly dramatic. It cannot go unnoticed, regardless of where you're looking. It will light up your cockpit if you are within 10 or 15 miles. You will see it even if your back is turned to it.

But that doesn't change the fact that a 25 watt VHF radio with DSC is superior in every way to flares -- no one disagrees with this. That should be Plan A for most sailors; certainly it is for me.

As to what is an alternative for anything else -- of course, all of us are deciding all the time things like -- new VHF antenna? Or new watermaker filters? But you can't have a non-idiotic conversation about VHF antennas versus watermaker filters -- that is a totally personal question about which others cannot advise you.
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Old 10-11-2013, 13:54   #80
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Re: Flares no longer needed?

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Wondering how an LED can replace a smoke flare?
If you put enough volts across the LEDs, they smoke
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Old 10-11-2013, 14:47   #81
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Re: Flares no longer needed?

How about a helium balloon/blimp ? Seems to me they will stay up for a long time, a canister to fill them, and a line tied to the raft. Orange with some flashing leds on them.

But no question, PLB/EPIRB is the real answer.
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Old 10-11-2013, 16:04   #82
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Actually the new led tactical flashlights are phenomenal. Like a nite core mt40. I am pretty impressed by these. Does not meet uscg self cert for a SOS strobe but has the feature. As far as I can find there is no flashlight that meets uscg approval guidelines. Not that their are not good lights they just are not bothering with making something that is approved . For storage I use US army ammo cases . I store spare batteries in these and flares.
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Old 10-11-2013, 16:19   #83
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I always wonder now how flares sit within GMDSS , given the requirement that the first distress must reach the shore


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Old 11-11-2013, 06:12   #84
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Re: Flares no Longer Needed?

I always use a belt, and suspenders (with plenty of spares). Sadly, I can no longer afford pants....
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Old 11-11-2013, 07:10   #85
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Re: Flares no longer needed?

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As to what is an alternative for anything else -- of course, all of us are deciding all the time things like -- new VHF antenna? Or new watermaker filters? But you can't have a non-idiotic conversation about VHF antennas versus watermaker filters -- that is a totally personal question about which others cannot advise you.
Actually, that is exactly the point. Unless you are talking mega yachts, boats by their nature are very limited in space and for most folks, they have limited budgets. So even if space wasn't limited, they can't buy every potentially benefitital safety device.

Everything that comes on a boat must be balanced for risk vs reward. But in this senario, govt agencies using antiquated rules have taken the choice to focus our limited space and budget on the best options away from us.

Now if the govt has already done the analysis to show the mandatory equipement is the best option, by all means show us the evidence and we will bow to thier better judgement. For example, we are regularly plied with statistics backing up the need for lifejackets, but I've yet to see any similar studies touting the benefits of flares. If there is similar evidence for flares, please provide it. Otherwise, common sense and anecdotal evidence says it's a govt regulation for the sake of regulation.
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Old 11-11-2013, 07:14   #86
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Re: Flares no longer needed?

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Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
Actually, that is exactly the point. Unless you are talking mega yachts, boats by their nature are very limited in space and for most folks, they have limited budgets. So even if space wasn't limited, they can't buy every potentially benefitital safety device.

Everything that comes on a boat must be balanced for risk vs reward. But in this senario, govt agencies using antiquated rules have taken the choice to focus our limited space and budget on the best options away from us.

Now if the govt has already done the analysis to show the mandatory equipement is the best option, by all means show us the evidence and we will bow to thier better judgement. For example, we are regularly plied with statistics backing up the need for lifejackets, but I've yet to see any similar studies touting the benefits of flares. If there is similar evidence for flares, please provide it. Otherwise, common sense and anecdotal evidence says it's a govt regulation for the sake of regulation.
I don't think you will find anyone here to have this argument with.

Everyone agrees that flares should not be required. You're preaching to the choir
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