To answer to the question : not at all obsolete.
It may be the best visual marker available aboard for the MOB, both day and night...(smoke is not very visible at night or in poor visibility case...).
We brought some modification to our pole as follow:
The lines for light activation, and tying to the horseshoe buoy, were of poor quality material (polypropylène, that loose its strength over the years under sunlight) and fixed both end with (very) loose bosun chair
knots (or had to be tied with at erection stage) :
We replace these line with proper rope
, splicing and carabiner snaphook for an easier and faster erection and safer tying at each ends.
The "automatic light" originaly supplied at the top of the pole (Plastimo classic / rigid model) had 2 major issues : the automatic switching device of the light use to be damaged and out of order each time we were inserting the battery
in the light (and cost a fortune to replace), we had to replace it each time, and the light itself was more than weak in term of illumination, way too much for a safety
device in our opinion:
We therefore decided to replace the light by a stroboscopic one originaly designed for lifevest purpose (ACR...), erected on a plastic oarlock socket inserted and riveted at the top of the pole, the strobe light being secured and locked with electrical
straps (the shape of the oarlock socket was excellent for this purpose).
The activating system is now reliable, andthere is a "test" function, finally the ligth is of course much more powerful.
We also sewed the "O" international code flag on the orange one that was supplied with the pole.
We also noted the tendancy of these falgs to have a quick fading of their orange coulour, so we roll it around the pole, and with 2 clips tied on the same rope
that the activating one for the light, kept it wrapped around, until the pole will be thrown away.
The result is that the fading is only happening on few inches of the flag length, at its end, keeping most of it bright orange and more visible.
In addition, we sticked few adhesive
reflectors patches on the buoyancy, as well as labels with the name of the boat, the radio
call sign, phones number, harbour...
As usual, we do not consider the pole as the 1rst safety
barrier, the 1rst one will always be the harness, but with these improvment, we feel that we gave it as much efficiency and reliability
as we could to this safety device (specially for operation at night).
I read sometime ago, in a sailing magazine test, that the inflatable
poles tested in strong winds conditions could not reach their vertical position and were mostly staying in a near horizontal position...loosing al the interest and visual impact. It has to be considered before buying
The pole is tied to an horseshoe buoy and to a 300 feet of tether line rolled on a drum at the rear of the pushpit...considering the speed of the boat (10 to 17 knots in good conditions), 300 feet may be too short at high speed, but that is our compromise so far.
Another major improvment we found in term of MOB was to give the crew on watch (undertsanding while sailing being 2 aboard) a arm (Aquapac) watertight pocket and a PMR in it. This will greatly help for direction from and to the MOB (provide the MOB is conscient of course) and I guess that having the ability to still speak to the boat will be of a great psychologic support and benefit in such dramatic situation.
The PMR and the pocket are quiet cheap
for the real advantage they give in term of safety, again IOHO.