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New generation of Electronic Distress Flares. Will they replace chemical flares for you?


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Check your practical sailor magazine for this great article on electronic flares, and specifics on how those based on latest USCG standards (two LED colors, etc.) are a worthy replacement for chemical flares. 

https://www.practical-sailor.com/safety-seamanship/distress/distress-flares-go-electric
 

Old electonic design = major negatives, must be kept very level to the ground, or they are unviewable in all directions (not easy to accomplish on a boat) and not easily recognizable as distress light from background lighting.

New electonic design = many positives, read the article. In regards to being level, still a requirement but less sensitive, e.g. will still  be viewable in half or more directions if not level.

Did you know? = in testing, both electronic and chemical flares need not be waived around in the air by the user. Such movements are unnoticable to the viewer.

Could be better = major oversight in design, no easy way to hang the product level, like an integrated harness to keep it level. Manufacturers think you would mount on the boat or let float in the water.

Would you switch from chemical to electronic on a product like ?
https://siriussignal.com/shop/c-1002-sos-distress-light/

Should USSailing SERS be changed to allow them in all classes of racing?

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2 hours ago, b393capt said:

Check your practical sailor magazine for this great article on electronic flares, and specifics on how those based on latest USCG standards (two LED colors, etc.) are a worthy replacement for chemical flares. 

https://www.practical-sailor.com/safety-seamanship/distress/distress-flares-go-electric
 

Old electonic design = major negatives, must be kept very level to the ground, or they are unviewable in all directions (not easy to accomplish on a boat) and not easily recognizable as distress light from background lighting.

New electonic design = many positives, read the article. In regards to being level, still a requirement but less sensitive, e.g. will still  be viewable in half or more directions if not level.

Did you know? = in testing, both electronic and chemical flares need not be waived around in the air by the user. Such movements are unnoticable to the viewer.

Could be better = major oversight in design, no easy way to hang the product level, like an integrated harness to keep it level. Manufacturers think you would mount on the boat or let float in the water.

Would you switch from chemical to electronic on a product like ?
https://siriussignal.com/shop/c-1002-sos-distress-light/

Should USSailing SERS be changed to allow them in all classes of racing?

It’s s handy tool , but it can’t match a solas pyrotechnic 

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1 hour ago, solosailor said:

This news is many years old.

Nope, this is a new generation of product. New = 2021, the Sirius C-1002 is only available over the last couple of months.

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4 minutes ago, slug zitski said:

It’s s handy tool , but it can’t match a solas pyrotechnic 

Cannot match a parachute flare, true, but in regards to the handheld flares, it is debatable which is better. 



 

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1 hour ago, solosailor said:

This news is many years old.

Hey, this is me, I wouldn't waste your time with old news.

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19 minutes ago, b393capt said:

Cannot match a parachute flare, true, but in regards to the handheld flares, it is debatable which is better. 



 

A light needs to see the horizon 

waves will make it useless 

A handheld flare creates a glow , regardless  of wave height 

 

best to carry a solas kit then add lights as extras 

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None of the light signaling devices are worth much in the real world. Usually no-one will notice them, and if someone does they frequently do not realize they are indicating distress.

You want electronic signaling - orders of magnitude more effective in the real world.

And then you just need some chem light sticks - no batteries, super reliable.  USCG found a solo swimmer off the (just sunk) Bounty in hurricane size waves from a helo because he had a chem light stick.

 

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I am thinking of getting one of these new electronic two color visual distress beacons, have read the practical sailor magazine article, and had the oppotunity to speak with Drew while he was writing it. 

Can anyone poke holes in this logic below for recreational sailboats, racing or cruising, vessels only (excluding man over board)?

It would appear chemical flares (handheld and parachute), for boats within range of Rescue 21 (20 nm), have been entirely obsoleted when vessels are equipped with Rescue 21 enabled ship DSC and handheld DSC radios. With those, chemical flares isn't the method you will use to immediatly seek help. I feel at that pointa waiving flash light is good enough, and that visual flares are extremely diminished in value to the point the comparison between chemical and new electronic flares is really a choice of lower long term cost and environmental negatives of having chemicals disposed of every three years. Even at that, the practical sailor magazine article has me thinking that the two color electronic flares are going to be easier to see by rescue people arriving on scene knowing they are looking for people in distress, as the electronic flare remains on during the entire rescue (6 hour battery) and no fire hazard.  (yes, I am discounting that the two color SOS scheme is unfamiliar, which wouldn't be an issue if rescue people or nearby boaters were alterted via VHF to your distress, e.g. know to look for something out of the ordinary)

It would appear the benefits of handheld chemical flares for boats beyond Rescue 21 (20 nm) is non-existant. Both are equally visable and there is no background lights to be confused with. The electronic flares also run for 6 hours rather than a couple of minutes, a huge advantage if you are using handheld flares as your only method of summoning help (e.g. no radio message got out / all vhf radios failed)

It would appear the benefits of parachute flares for boats beyond range of Rescue 21 has already been narrowed considerably with EPIRB. Potentially signal aircraft to respond sooner than a rescue center, check. Potentially signal nearby boats that didn't hear you on VHF, to respond sooner, check.

The above excludes POB (person over board / MOB), for which such products above are unlikely to be carried by crew at their time of need.

Poke holes?

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I bought the Weems unit when it was first approved by the CG for one reason only: so I'd be legal. I still have a box of chemical and parachute flares on board (all expired) so but I no longer have the hassle and expense of keeping unexpired flares on board in case of a USCG boarding. 

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6 hours ago, b393capt said:



Poke holes?

It would be interesting to get a USCG helo pilot's take - but ironically these may be too bright - cause problems with the night vision gear.  In the past helo pilots have told me very directly they preferred a couple chem lights (over the previously available options).

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I got one as soon as they came out - purely for compliance purposes.  

A few tests of freshly-expired inexpensive “orion” type signals pretty much convinced me of their uselessness.  I do keep a few SOLAS signals on board - shoot one off each NYE, buy a new one each year.  More or less.  Not too expensive that way.  

Given EPIRBs and all that, the only really purpose of visual signals any more is to help rescuers get visual acquisition.  Seems like a strobe on the boat and life-jacket strobes are the best means for that.  

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On 6/3/2021 at 5:29 PM, estarzinger said:

It would be interesting to get a USCG helo pilot's take - but ironically these may be too bright - cause problems with the night vision gear.  In the past helo pilots have told me very directly they preferred a couple chem lights (over the previously available options).

In fact, the LED emits in the IR and is specifically tuned to work with SAR night vision, in cooperation with the USCG.

This standard was motivated by the USCG.

 

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Just now, thinwater said:

In fact, the LED emits in the IR and is specifically tuned to work with SAR night vision, in cooperation with the USCG.

This standard was motivated by the USCG.

 

ah, nice - is there a reason to believe it is better than chem light sticks - the helo pilots I talked to said they say them perfectly well in all conditions.

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  • 5 months later...
On 6/4/2021 at 9:44 PM, estarzinger said:

ah, nice - is there a reason to believe it is better than chem light sticks - the helo pilots I talked to said they say them perfectly well in all conditions.

Well, the light sticks won't do for meeting USCG requirements.

The new USCG requirement is referenced here RTCM standard 13200.0
https://www.sailmagazine.com/virtual-boat-show/sirius-signal

 

The old standard is here:
https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-46/chapter-I/subchapter-Q/part-161/subpart-161.013

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On 6/4/2021 at 9:42 PM, thinwater said:

In fact, the LED emits in the IR and is specifically tuned to work with SAR night vision, in cooperation with the USCG.

This standard was motivated by the USCG.

 

If you are costal sailing helicopters come in handy 

offshore is a helicopter free zone 

you will use your solas flares to signal marine traffic at sea level 

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I have the electronic signal mainly to meet USCG requirements. Keeping relatively new, less than 10 years, parachute and hand flares because they are about 1000 times more visible than the little LED thingy. I have launched the big parachute flares, everybody within a few miles notices. Waving the e-flare...not so much. The expiry scam is onerous but understandable due to boater's all-too-casual lifestyle. Sealed in the proper plastic barrel they will easily last 10 years.

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The new electronic flare (that started this thread) is significantly brighter than the old ones. I can see how it will work well at night.  The pattern is also unusual and would be hard to mistake for party lights. I carry one to keep us legal and because I think the long runtime and safety around kids are good benefits.
 

I have a lot of expired pyro flares too, DSC, and AIS. 

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As per above, if you want surface shipping to have a chance to see you, waving a bright thing 5’ above sea level will never be as effective as a bright thing hanging on a parachute at 1,000 feet.  So, if you’re just replacing handheld pyros, the electric flares are probably just as good or better (less likely to burn holes in your life raft).  But no handheld flare can be seen from as far as an aerial flare.  So have both.  My 2 cents.

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12 hours ago, jdazey said:

I needed to replace my flares prior to RTC and seriously considered the electronic versions. However SERs 3.6.x left me buying the SOLAS flares. Am I missing something here?

The only one that applies to RTC is 3.6.6. Check the NOR.  “A boat shall carry U.S. Coast Guard (or applicable government entity) flares meeting day-night requirements not older than the expiration date.”

I think the Sirius electronic flare meets that legally  

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

One concern I have had about electronic flares, which may or may not be valid, is that devices rarely used and stored long term with batteries installed seem to be subject to the batteries failing and leaking, destroying the batteries of course and the device. Do the electronic flares have removable batteries (like a flashlight) or permanent ones (like an eprib)? 

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Some pretty good takeaways from this Doco, its old, but pretty impressive given the equipment of the day.

https://youtu.be/Aa7KxGtUlAA

More offshore orientated but

No.1 : You need an EPIRB or you die. This has been proven again twice recently off NZ.

No.2 / 3 I was impressed with the smoke flares visibility in daylight but a means of communication - handheld VHF seemed to be the next most useful thing.

Flares, Liferaft seemed secondary to survival in this instance.

Near shore, I reckon its harder to attract attention than you might think. Cellphone is probably most effective means of initiating rescue and communication and then VHF. Depends on what sort of systems are set up around your country. EPIRB will work, AIS might.

 

I think you make a pretty fair analysis, with GPS in everything, finding your location is the easy bit. Getting someone to come help you is harder. A Flare that lasts 6 hours with an on/off switch has to be useful compared to one that doesn't.

On 6/4/2021 at 2:56 AM, b393capt said:

I am thinking of getting one of these new electronic two color visual distress beacons, have read the practical sailor magazine article, and had the oppotunity to speak with Drew while he was writing it. 

Can anyone poke holes in this logic below for recreational sailboats, racing or cruising, vessels only (excluding man over board)?

It would appear chemical flares (handheld and parachute), for boats within range of Rescue 21 (20 nm), have been entirely obsoleted when vessels are equipped with Rescue 21 enabled ship DSC and handheld DSC radios. With those, chemical flares isn't the method you will use to immediatly seek help. I feel at that pointa waiving flash light is good enough, and that visual flares are extremely diminished in value to the point the comparison between chemical and new electronic flares is really a choice of lower long term cost and environmental negatives of having chemicals disposed of every three years. Even at that, the practical sailor magazine article has me thinking that the two color electronic flares are going to be easier to see by rescue people arriving on scene knowing they are looking for people in distress, as the electronic flare remains on during the entire rescue (6 hour battery) and no fire hazard.  (yes, I am discounting that the two color SOS scheme is unfamiliar, which wouldn't be an issue if rescue people or nearby boaters were alterted via VHF to your distress, e.g. know to look for something out of the ordinary)

It would appear the benefits of handheld chemical flares for boats beyond Rescue 21 (20 nm) is non-existant. Both are equally visable and there is no background lights to be confused with. The electronic flares also run for 6 hours rather than a couple of minutes, a huge advantage if you are using handheld flares as your only method of summoning help (e.g. no radio message got out / all vhf radios failed)

It would appear the benefits of parachute flares for boats beyond range of Rescue 21 has already been narrowed considerably with EPIRB. Potentially signal aircraft to respond sooner than a rescue center, check. Potentially signal nearby boats that didn't hear you on VHF, to respond sooner, check.

The above excludes POB (person over board / MOB), for which such products above are unlikely to be carried by crew at their time of need.

Poke holes?

 

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19 hours ago, George Dewey said:

One concern I have had about electronic flares, which may or may not be valid, is that devices rarely used and stored long term with batteries installed seem to be subject to the batteries failing and leaking, destroying the batteries of course and the device. Do the electronic flares have removable batteries (like a flashlight) or permanent ones (like an eprib)? 

Unfortunately it is incumbent upon the sailor to periodically check the device and replace the batteries, pretty much in the same way that you should be checking inflatable PFD arming kits.

In my opinion, electronic flares are still not as bright as they should be and are only a supplement to pyrotechnic flares. I have one but I still carry a SOLAS orange smoke for day signaling and SOLAS parachute flares for night signaling and a small brace of the ordinary aerial pistol launched flares. For coastal sailing, I find that these, plus a SPOT or Garmin In-Reach tracker are an adequate safety buffer. Oh, I also have a PLB since I sail solo. If I were heading to Bermuda, I'd definitely have an EPIRB onboard.

As all of this high-tech crap creeps onto our boats, I find that the best way of keeping it all working is to create a military type "PMS" (Preventative Maintenance Systems) checklist. It doesn't have to be lengthy or complicated. Just type up the list of items, the specific component to be checked (battery, CO2 cartridge, dissolving bobbin etc) and the periodicity (weekly, bi-annually, annually, etc).  Laminate the sheet and keep it in a locker that you visit frequently.

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The electronic flares that I have seen use common Duracell batteries 

the e flare might not be the best signaling device but it’s a pretty handy signaling tool  to have in you emergency pack 

a pyrotechnic fired from a life raft had many dangers 

in addition the electronic  flare can be turned on and off as needed ..long lasting 

think of s situation like your boat got lightning blasted … electric system dead .. crossing shipping lanes unlit 

that electronic flare would be mighty handy for  identifying you position 

 

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Yes.  Flares have saved a lot of people but there have also been a bunch of really bad accidents with them, mostly due to operator error.   As a certified klutz it is easy for me to envision trying to demonstrate how to use a flare and setting the thing off unintentionally.   Batteries and electricity can be dangerous too....but replacing pyrotechnics with Duracell D-cells seems like a good tradeoff.  On our cruising boat we have EPIRB, boat VHF with mmsi and distress button, handheld vhf with mmsi and distress button, and an electronic signaling light certified to meet the USCG signaling requirements.   No flares.   Plenty of redundancy as all of the aforementioned electronic signals are on independent power sources.

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I have one and I like it.  I was able to store it the round container my flare gun came in.  I taped the seam with duct tape so it's waterproof.  The batteries are Duracell and you should replace them every year.  In addition Duracell will replace anything their batteries damage.   They replaced a dive light of mine so it know they do. 

I would rather replace batteries then flares with the disposal pain in the neck.  Although in Maine the Fire Marshals office will pick them up and dispose of flares. New law last year

 

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12 hours ago, Ajax said:

Unfortunately it is incumbent upon the sailor to periodically check the device and replace the batteries, pretty much in the same way that you should be checking inflatable PFD arming kits.

In my opinion, electronic flares are still not as bright as they should be and are only a supplement to pyrotechnic flares. I have one but I still carry a SOLAS orange smoke for day signaling and SOLAS parachute flares for night signaling and a small brace of the ordinary aerial pistol launched flares. For coastal sailing, I find that these, plus a SPOT or Garmin In-Reach tracker are an adequate safety buffer. Oh, I also have a PLB since I sail solo. If I were heading to Bermuda, I'd definitely have an EPIRB onboard.

As all of this high-tech crap creeps onto our boats, I find that the best way of keeping it all working is to create a military type "PMS" (Preventative Maintenance Systems) checklist. It doesn't have to be lengthy or complicated. Just type up the list of items, the specific component to be checked (battery, CO2 cartridge, dissolving bobbin etc) and the periodicity (weekly, bi-annually, annually, etc).  Laminate the sheet and keep it in a locker that you visit frequently.

You and I are of the same mind. I keep a simple excel spreadsheet. A quick sort by date every year will tell you what’s expired. Off topic from flares, but the meds in your first aid kit are a big one that many ignore. 

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The pros of pyrotechnic flares are: Visibility, visibility, visibility.

The pros of electronic flares are: safety and duration. With fresh batteries, an electronic flare will shine for hours, maybe even a couple of days.  A steady beacon is valuable when a USCG chopper is hunting for you at night vs. a single use flare that might last 60 seconds.

This is why I like to carry both.

@Monkey Quite right. Medications begin losing effectiveness after their expiration date. Heat accelerates the process so if you're cruising somewhere warm, it's something to remember.  Sealed, sterile bandages and similar items are usually exempt.

I also carry a fire blanket. It's folded flat and stored in a small, flat, cloth case. This is excellent to have in case of a galley accident where someone catches on fire or to wrap oneself in to evacuate a flaming compartment. It's also good for smothering a flame on a wide area such as a settee cushion. It has no expiration date, nothing to check.

Fire Blanket

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I am writing to consolidate my comments to many of you above.

I am writing from the perspective of needing to have my sailboat meet Coast Guard and US Sailing SERS, of which 3.6.1 through 3.6.6 focus on flares, link here https://www.ussailing.org/competition/offshore/safety-information/ser-world-sailing-special-regulations/

The requirement varies based on the race being categorized in rough categories of Nearshore, Coastal, and Ocean by the race organizizers. For races organizezd in Long Island Sound, a race is frequently categorized as Ocean if the race is outside of Long Island Sound, e.g. from Stamford to Newport, even though it feels coastal, and races that From Newport to Long Island Sound destinations are categorized as Coastal rather than Ocean.

From The SERS, one thing to notice is that there are no parachute flares, my personal favorite. Such parachure flares were eliminated in 2016 as noted in the history of revisions tab on the web-site. Also note,

* in the nearshore category the flare requirement becomes exactly equal to USCG.
* in Coastal and Ocean, the reference to SOLAS flares is a type of chemical flare that meets higher standards, such as a design that does not drop hot metal onto your deck, which is very problematic especially when used from liferafts.

image.thumb.png.a115e929a812d31a9be137e4cb113ee0.png

1. So in answer to this comment:

On 11/21/2021 at 12:40 AM, Alex W said:

The only one that applies to RTC is 3.6.6. Check the NOR.  “A boat shall carry U.S. Coast Guard (or applicable government entity) flares meeting day-night requirements not older than the expiration date.”

I think the Sirius electronic flare meets that legally  

 

The electronic flares will only meet the requirements of Near Shore racing, the other categories currently need chemical flares unfortunatly from the standpoint of chemical waste replacing them every 3 years.

2. For the rest of this discussion lets focus on what makes you feel SAFE day or night, within 21 miles of the shore of the USA, within range of handheld RESCUE 21 capable VHF radios, that perhaps you would prefer US Sailing choose. And lets only compare with the new standard electronic flares that blink between the two colors and is just as visable at night as hand flares. (e.g. parachute flares are more visable yes, but parachute flares seem to have been dropped in 2016 for some reason, maybe safety, but more likely they were obsoleted by EPIRB and PLB)

My view.

1st line of defense - electronics.

Coastal - Day or Night, a ship DSC radio and handheld DSC radio programmed with MMSI/GPS receiver/Rescue 21 ready should be the first thing I would use and have my crew trained to use, e.g. open red cover, hold button down for a few seconds, etc. after which your GPS coordinates are transmitted). Compared to a cell phone, people around you (with a VHF on) can potentially respond faster than the USCG to assist, especially when you are among other boats. During a sailboat race, likely other racers have the VHF turned on. Reminder, Rescue 21 will cause the nearby VHF radios to switch to 16.

Ocean - EPIRB or PLB

2nd line of defense -  Visual signalling

Even if the radio works, it is a good suplimental strategy to use visual signalling. When boaters hear you are in distress, they can more quickly realize their relative position to you, if they can look around and see your visual signal.

Daylight: new electronic flares are close enough to being bright, but the smoke thrown off by such flares is probably very valuable in daylight. The new electronic flares come with a large daylight flag to display at the same time. So all in all, thats probably fine at short distances. US Sailing for coastal and ocean races require a smoke flare, in which case the smoke capability of a hand held flare is redundant. So it would seem no need for red hand held flares.

Night: Practical Sailor magazine has an excellent article on testing they did, I am convinced the new electronic flares are better, because the alternating dual lights are as distinctive as a flare, and can run for hours. The last question in my mind, does the user community need education to recognize the dual light combination as distress?

I think 6 hour battery life trumps flares, and that advantage is only slightly at risk. Yes, batteries die. Have replacements in your kit. Yes, batteries leak, especially 2+ years out.. Have a maintenance schedule to replace them every year, or if you cannot do that, keep the batteries in a seperate bag may be a solution. Personally I want my flare ready to go, batteries installed.

3rd line of defense - Choice of (a) PLB when not requried.  (b) Parachute flares when not required

I think it makes sense to keep a PLB on board all our boats in all conditions as an additional backup, especially in that it has an excellent dual use for anyone single handing their boat or in storms that it is kept on the body of the helms person making it easier to find them if they are washed off the boat.

While I want to make a case for parachute flares, I really cant.

Conclusion - Q&A Below?

Does all this sound reasonable? is it the end of the line for poisonous, flammable, chemical wasteful handhled flares?

 

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I think you're talking about two different needs here, boat and person.

1st line boat ocean - EPIRB

1st line person anywhere - PLB

We've got a lot of beacons: 1 EPIRB, 1 PLB for each crew (2), and 1 PLB in the ditch bag (SER 3.4). It seems like I'm constantly renewing beacon registrations:)

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17 minutes ago, jdazey said:

I think you're talking about two different needs here, boat and person.

1st line boat ocean - EPIRB

1st line person anywhere - PLB

We've got a lot of beacons: 1 EPIRB, 1 PLB for each crew (2), and 1 PLB in the ditch bag (SER 3.4). It seems like I'm constantly renewing beacon registrations:)

For offshore, I prefer MOB AIS beacons to PLBs. The boat you're most likely to be rescued by is the one you fell off of. Or better yet, both.

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EVDS don't get much of a rating from USCG in sunny daylight conditions and nowhere near as attention getting as SOLAS red hand flares and smoke flares...  Things improve for EVDS in cloudy conditions however.  Interesting read here: Daytime_Visual_Distress_Signals_AD1121486_DTIC.pdf (uscg.mil) 

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20 hours ago, b393capt said:

I am writing to consolidate my comments to many of you above.

I am writing from the perspective of needing to have my sailboat meet Coast Guard and US Sailing SERS, of which 3.6.1 through 3.6.6 focus on flares, link here https://www.ussailing.org/competition/offshore/safety-information/ser-world-sailing-special-regulations/

The requirement varies based on the race being categorized in rough categories of Nearshore, Coastal, and Ocean by the race organizizers. For races organizezd in Long Island Sound, a race is frequently categorized as Ocean if the race is outside of Long Island Sound, e.g. from Stamford to Newport, even though it feels coastal, and races that From Newport to Long Island Sound destinations are categorized as Coastal rather than Ocean.

From The SERS, one thing to notice is that there are no parachute flares, my personal favorite. Such parachure flares were eliminated in 2016 as noted in the history of revisions tab on the web-site. Also note,

* in the nearshore category the flare requirement becomes exactly equal to USCG.
* in Coastal and Ocean, the reference to SOLAS flares is a type of chemical flare that meets higher standards, such as a design that does not drop hot metal onto your deck, which is very problematic especially when used from liferafts.

image.thumb.png.a115e929a812d31a9be137e4cb113ee0.png

1. So in answer to this comment:

The electronic flares will only meet the requirements of Near Shore racing, the other categories currently need chemical flares unfortunatly from the standpoint of chemical waste replacing them every 3 years.

2. For the rest of this discussion lets focus on what makes you feel SAFE day or night, within 21 miles of the shore of the USA, within range of handheld RESCUE 21 capable VHF radios, that perhaps you would prefer US Sailing choose. And lets only compare with the new standard electronic flares that blink between the two colors and is just as visable at night as hand flares. (e.g. parachute flares are more visable yes, but parachute flares seem to have been dropped in 2016 for some reason, maybe safety, but more likely they were obsoleted by EPIRB and PLB)

My view.

1st line of defense - electronics.

Coastal - Day or Night, a ship DSC radio and handheld DSC radio programmed with MMSI/GPS receiver/Rescue 21 ready should be the first thing I would use and have my crew trained to use, e.g. open red cover, hold button down for a few seconds, etc. after which your GPS coordinates are transmitted). Compared to a cell phone, people around you (with a VHF on) can potentially respond faster than the USCG to assist, especially when you are among other boats. During a sailboat race, likely other racers have the VHF turned on. Reminder, Rescue 21 will cause the nearby VHF radios to switch to 16.

Ocean - EPIRB or PLB

2nd line of defense -  Visual signalling

Even if the radio works, it is a good suplimental strategy to use visual signalling. When boaters hear you are in distress, they can more quickly realize their relative position to you, if they can look around and see your visual signal.

Daylight: new electronic flares are close enough to being bright, but the smoke thrown off by such flares is probably very valuable in daylight. The new electronic flares come with a large daylight flag to display at the same time. So all in all, thats probably fine at short distances. US Sailing for coastal and ocean races require a smoke flare, in which case the smoke capability of a hand held flare is redundant. So it would seem no need for red hand held flares.

Night: Practical Sailor magazine has an excellent article on testing they did, I am convinced the new electronic flares are better, because the alternating dual lights are as distinctive as a flare, and can run for hours. The last question in my mind, does the user community need education to recognize the dual light combination as distress?

I think 6 hour battery life trumps flares, and that advantage is only slightly at risk. Yes, batteries die. Have replacements in your kit. Yes, batteries leak, especially 2+ years out.. Have a maintenance schedule to replace them every year, or if you cannot do that, keep the batteries in a seperate bag may be a solution. Personally I want my flare ready to go, batteries installed.

3rd line of defense - Choice of (a) PLB when not requried.  (b) Parachute flares when not required

I think it makes sense to keep a PLB on board all our boats in all conditions as an additional backup, especially in that it has an excellent dual use for anyone single handing their boat or in storms that it is kept on the body of the helms person making it easier to find them if they are washed off the boat.

While I want to make a case for parachute flares, I really cant.

Conclusion - Q&A Below?

Does all this sound reasonable? is it the end of the line for poisonous, flammable, chemical wasteful handhled flares?

 

Yachts at sea don’t monitor the radio 

I have many times tried to contact visible yachts at sea  and no luck 

a flare might have better results 

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1 hour ago, slug zitski said:

Yachts at sea don’t monitor the radio 

I have many times tried to contact visible yachts at sea  and no luck 

a flare might have better results 

Sadly, most people don't know what a distress flag looks like either. Most people do know what a flare means. 

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Great Discussion, Some points I could make ...

 

11 hours ago, slug zitski said:

Yachts at sea don’t monitor the radio 

I have many times tried to contact visible yachts at sea  and no luck 

a flare might have better results 

> There is a difference. When you hail a yacht normally they coulud be a on a different channel or have the vol turned down. When you do DSC alert, radios make a racket and turn to channel 16

 

9 hours ago, George Dewey said:

Sadly, most people don't know what a distress flag looks like either. Most people do know what a flare means. 

> There is a difference. If first someone learns about distress through the radio, the distress flag or electronic visual flare can help them identify which boat is on the radio calling.

 

 

18 hours ago, spirit28 said:

EVDS don't get much of a rating from USCG in sunny daylight conditions and nowhere near as attention getting as SOLAS red hand flares and smoke flares...  Things improve for EVDS in cloudy conditions however.  Interesting read here: Daytime_Visual_Distress_Signals_AD1121486_DTIC.pdf (uscg.mil) 

> There is a difference. If first someone learns about distress through the radio, the distress flag or electronic visual flare can help them identify which boat is on the radio calling.

> The smoke flare, which is required also under US Sailing, would augment the EVDS.

 

On 12/9/2021 at 2:25 PM, George Dewey said:

For offshore, I prefer MOB AIS beacons to PLBs. The boat you're most likely to be rescued by is the one you fell off of. Or better yet, both.

> Yes, So Do I. That is more of a MOB discussion, which flares are entirely unsatisfying for unless you kept it dry and can fire it from the water.

 

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4 hours ago, b393capt said:

> There is a difference. When you hail a yacht normally they coulud be a on a different channel or have the vol turned down. When you do DSC alert, radios make a racket and turn to channel 16

Only if it's turned on.

4 hours ago, b393capt said:

 

 

4 hours ago, b393capt said:

> Yes, So Do I. That is more of a MOB discussion, which flares are entirely unsatisfying for unless you kept it dry and can fire it from the water.

No one carries pyrotechnics in their PFD, but they do have lights which automatically deploy (if it's an ocean capable PFD). Since I brought it up I'll mention that the AIS MOB beacon can be rigged inside the PFD to automatically activate upon inflation, and also it needs to be programmed to match the MMSI of the boat. The PLB can not be rigged to activate automatically, but can be carried in the PFD and does not need to be programmed, just registered once. 

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There is nobody would replace their Handheld chemical flares with the new electonic visual distress product, if US Sailing allowed so in the future for coastal or ocean racing?

 

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On 12/11/2021 at 12:24 AM, George Dewey said:

Only if it's turned on.

 

No one carries pyrotechnics in their PFD, but they do have lights which automatically deploy (if it's an ocean capable PFD). Since I brought it up I'll mention that the AIS MOB beacon can be rigged inside the PFD to automatically activate upon inflation, and also it needs to be programmed to match the MMSI of the boat. The PLB can not be rigged to activate automatically, but can be carried in the PFD and does not need to be programmed, just registered once. 

A parachute flares intense light illuminates the sea so that you can locate a MOB 

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On 6/2/2021 at 3:42 PM, slug zitski said:

A light needs to see the horizon 

waves will make it useless 

A handheld flare creates a glow , regardless  of wave height

best to carry a solas kit then add lights as extras 

PS is recommending the other way around.  Electronics stay on and offer better long term coverage and because the blink they attract the human eye more readily.  Flare is brighter and best held back until you see/hear a potential rescue craft, light then because its use is brief but bright.  Interestingly they preferred the green tinted white lights because the human eye sees green better than any other color.

Quote

The pyrotechnic flare was brighter, but from a distance, it could still be mistaken from the background light. The SOS lights were conspicuous against the backlight, and if a sailor checked the flashing frequency to compare it to aids to navigation, as we commonly do, the universal dot-dot-dot dash-dash-dash dot-dot-dot SOS Morse code pattern would be apparent.

Pyrotechnic flares and electronic beacons are different and you can carry both. The downsides of electronic signaling devices include their poor visibility in daylight (a flag or other signaling means is required for daytime), higher initial cost, less brightness, and limited visibility from the air. The pre-RTCM 13200.0 models concentrate the beam along the horizon and have only a narrow vertical beam.

Then PS offered the following with a square of four photos of the tested lights and the flare at number 4.

Quote

1. The rapid Sirius C-1002 orange/red “dots” are conspicuous.

2. The Sirius C-1002 cyan dashes are slightly brighter because the eye sees green best. The alternating colors, increased frequency, and increased brightness make The C-1002 more visible than plain white beacons.

3. The Sirius C-1003 white flashing light seemed about 25 percent less bright, but still stood out against a cluttered skyline. A nonsailor might not recognize the SOS pattern.

4. The Orion handheld signal flares are brighter, but not more noticeable because the burst is short-lived.

PS, always worth the subscription price.

I have already switched, keep flares around but electronics are the go to.

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3 hours ago, Foredeck Shuffle said:

PS is recommending the other way around.  Electronics stay on and offer better long term coverage and because the blink they attract the human eye more readily.  Flare is brighter and best held back until you see/hear a potential rescue craft, light then because its use is brief but bright.  Interestingly they preferred the green tinted white lights because the human eye sees green better than any other color.

Then PS offered the following with a square of four photos of the tested lights and the flare at number 4.

PS, always worth the subscription price.

I have already switched, keep flares around but electronics are the go to.

Flares work during daylight  

Any flashing light at sea can be confused with a fishing longline 

on the coast its a navigation maker 

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On 12/13/2021 at 11:57 PM, slug zitski said:

A parachute flares intense light illuminates the sea so that you can locate a MOB 

So the flashing light attached to the MOB lifejacket, the strobe on the floating danbuoy and the light on the floating horseshoe, all get drowned out by a bright light in the sky fired by someone who may or may not be anywhere near the  MOB. That sounds really helpful.

Lots of stories of people rescued after being located by their PLB or EPIRB, not so many from flares. Lots of stories of people setting off flares and getting no response.

 

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Just now, Wright Way said:

So the flashing light attached to the MOB lifejacket, the strobe on the floating danbuoy and the light on the floating horseshoe, all get drowned out by a bright light in the sky fired by someone who may or may not be anywhere near the  MOB. That sounds really helpful.

Lots of stories of people rescued after being located by their PLB or EPIRB, not so many from flares. Lots of stories of people setting off flares and getting no response.

 

They have been using flares long before electronic gizmos were invented 

before a submarine surfaces it fires flares, not electric gizmos 

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26 minutes ago, slug zitski said:

Flares work during daylight  

Any flashing light at sea can be confused with a fishing longline 

on the coast its a navigation maker 

And PS is reporting that at a distance the flare looks like a light, nothing more.  So better to have a light that lasts hours, or days, then a flare that lasts seconds.

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Just now, Foredeck Shuffle said:

And PS is reporting that at a distance the flare looks like a light, nothing more.  So better to have a light that lasts hours, or days, then a flare that lasts seconds.

Every seaman in the world can identify a flare or smoke signal 

a person on the shore can identify a flare 

electronic gizmos we’ll never replace flares 

 

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18 minutes ago, slug zitski said:

Every seaman in the world can identify a flare or smoke signal 

a person on the shore can identify a flare 

electronic gizmos we’ll never replace flares

Ok boomer.

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19 hours ago, Foredeck Shuffle said:

And PS is reporting that at a distance the flare looks like a light, nothing more.  So better to have a light that lasts hours, or days, then a flare that lasts seconds.

Exactly. They also report, at a distance, waiving the flare has no affect, it still looks stationary. 

That electronics signals jump between two colors has made a big difference in the new USCG specification. Perhaps the SOLAS people should offer a flare that alternates between two colors also, to look less like a light? Ideally people have already heard you distress call and are now looking to find you, and the flares burn out quick while the electronic version stays on a while.

Since waiving the flare has no practical affect, the author of the PS article made a good point that the eVD should come with a harness so it can be suspended from the boom or something. Enought to do in an emergency to not also have to hold up the flare.

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This is an odd thread. People keep trying to find deficiencies in the various signaling options. Why not choose life and carry an assortment?  They all have their strengths. Obviously cost is an issue, but adding an electronic flare is relatively cheap. If my boat is sinking, I think it’d be handy to set and forget to provide a visual for the inbound helicopter/boat. 

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Call me old fashioned, but summoning the god of fire to save my craven soul seems the more sailorly thing to do.  The expired pyrotechnics are still good for another 15+ years, so I just keep them on board for additional odds against going to Davy Jones' Locker. 

Besides, setting of flares is fun.

god-of-fire-box.png.0f2c15d43e5f2497f658c8bc10841091.png

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5 hours ago, Tacoma Mud Flats said:

Call me old fashioned, but summoning the god of fire to save my craven soul seems the more sailorly thing to do.  The expired pyrotechnics are still good for another 15+ years, so I just keep them on board for additional odds against going to Davy Jones' Locker. 

Besides, setting of flares is fun.

god-of-fire-box.png.0f2c15d43e5f2497f658c8bc10841091.png

Save those flares. Someday you may find yourself in SE Asia, like my Philippines, where the meaning of a marine flare is so lost that you can use them for any celebration whatsoever. Nobody will arrive. Even out in the Marshall Islands the locals used their fancy LED flashlight S-O-S flash mode as a general purpose navigation light. So you can forget about that being useful in an emergency. 

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Yep. we had and have flares because it was/is all we got. If a ship was in distress, they would have made a fire on board to attract help. Afterwards we got flares, and now we have electronics. The more the merrier. The problem is that the flares go out of date too fast, and they are a waste of materials and energy when replaced. Governing bodies should require manufacturers to provide flares that take 10 years to need replacement, not three. Because governments don't make this mandatory, we the poor boaties pay instead. 

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On 12/15/2021 at 6:44 PM, Monkey said:

This is an odd thread. People keep trying to find deficiencies in the various signaling options. Why not choose life and carry an assortment?  They all have their strengths. Obviously cost is an issue, but adding an electronic flare is relatively cheap. If my boat is sinking, I think it’d be handy to set and forget to provide a visual for the inbound helicopter/boat. 

Realistically, most of us have three or more methods, including ship vhf radio, hand held vhf, cell phones, air horns, whistles, and flares.

This thread is more about that next choice when the flares expire.

You going to buy another set of chemical flares, or are you good with switching to this next generation of electronic flares?  

 

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10 minutes ago, b393capt said:

Realistically, most of us have three or more methods, including ship vhf radio, hand held vhf, cell phones, air horns, whistles, and flares.

This thread is more about that next choice when the flares expire.

You going to buy another set of chemical flares, or are you good with switching to this next generation of electronic flares?  

 

Both. I like the idea of an electronic handheld far better than a pyrotechnic one, but there’s still no substitute for good aerial flares. 

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Aerial flares are my favorite too. There are substitutes for areial flares if you are within 20 miles of the shore. Handheld and ship radios with DSC/GPS configured with MMSI numbers so that you can communicate with USCG including sending them pinpoint GPS locations.

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3 hours ago, b393capt said:

Aerial flares are my favorite too. There are substitutes for areial flares if you are within 20 miles of the shore. Handheld and ship radios with DSC/GPS configured with MMSI numbers so that you can communicate with USCG including sending them pinpoint GPS locations.

I understand what you’re saying, but I see them as alternatives, not replacements. A lot of boats leave their radios off. Maybe I just like overkill when it comes to safety. My little 30 footer (which is very weight sensitive) has an assortment of SOLAS flares, radio with DSC/MMSI, EPIRB, liferaft, MOM 8A, and at least my personal AIS. I like redundancy. An electronic flare is on my shopping list before spring. I don’t necessarily carry all that gear for every race, but like having it for offshore stuff. 

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Education - teach boaters that the electronic flares means something. Buy ads in boating and fishing magazines. Teach it in sailing schools. Put up posters in yacht clubs and marinas. It isn't that hard. Pretty soon most people who go offshore will recognize them.

Coastal:

- I'm probably within VHF or cell range so that is primary source of signalling
- I see nothing wrong with using an electronic flare. Long lasting, no hazardous waste to dispose of.

Ocean:

- I don't trust big ships to have a watchstander who will notice a flare at all
- I do think big ships will have a VHF radio on. They will respond to that
- Small boats: an electronic flare with a long duration is perhaps more likely to be spotted than a parachute flare that is up for 10 or 15 seconds. The watchstander on the other boat could be looking the other way during that 10-15 seconds, but hopefully they scan the horizon often enough. Same sort of reasoning for big ships. Long duration is important.

Canada has just allowed electronic flares - but they have to be the fancy 2 colour Sirius ones AND carry 1 smoke signal for daytime use. Previously no daytime smoke signal was required.

 

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