I originally wrote a much shorter version of this on a Facebook group but it could be of interest here. Some updates in early 2024 as my piece on First Aid Kits, the Grab Bag & Life Jackets was expanded and updated.
Clearly their carriage, or not, has to be a personal decision so this is a personal view not a recommendation, also if coastal or offshore racing, taking part in many events (but not a Jester Challenge👍), or if there is any commercial implication such as sail training or payment for carriage, pyrotechnic flares must be carried to the published scale.
I am not replacing pyrotechnic flares, except those in the life raft when that is serviced. I had thought of keeping a couple of in-date smokes but rescue helicopters carry their own (but would rarely need them at sea) and although they make a good daylight marker 2 or 3 of those cost as much as a spare LED flare so decided not to.
The RYA is trying to get the mandatory carriage of pyrotechnic flares on larger boats removed, so you can see where they are coming from.
The disadvantage of flares is generally considered to be:
- Cost, an offshore pack is between £200 and £250 depending on make and only contains 4 parachute flares, 4 hand flares and a couple of smoke floats.
- They officially have a shelf life of just 3 years.
- Difficulty and cost of disposal.
- Danger of having pyrotechnics on board and risk when used.
- The biggest in my view is the short time of active use.
|£220 worth of flares by Pains Wessex.
Typically a pack like this gives a total
of c 6 mins 40 secs burn time for the
flares and 5 minutes for the smoke.
- Parachute Flare: 40 seconds, in good visibility with no low cloud they can be seen from an aircraft for up to 30 miles.
- 2 Star Red Aerial Distress Flare: visibility up to 6 or 7 miles, burns for 5.5 seconds.
- Hand Flare: Line of sight, burns for 1 minute.
- Hand Smoke: Burns for 1 minute.
- Smoke Float: Burns for 2-3 minutes depending on make.
|My McMurdo GPS PLB, not the smallest now
available, but small enough to carry in a pocket, on
a lanyard round the neck or attached to a harness.
You wouldn't know it but my AIS SART is inside the
life jacket and activates automatically on inflation,
a DSC alert can be activated manually. Attached
is my PLB (yellow pouch) plus a strobe (left).
The Ocean Signal EDF1 LED flare is waterproof to 10 metres, is visible for up to 7 miles and one battery (replaceable @ £27 each with a 10 year shelf life) will keep it flashing for at least 6 hours.
|One of my "Grab bags", the other really is a bag that can have
items such as the EPIRB. A couple of legacy expired parachute
flares are on the right with an Ocean Signal LED "Flare" (yellow)
and a strobe (orange), for more on the Grab Bag see my page
First Aid Kits, the Grab Bag & Life Jackets.
There is also the mobile phone in a water proof case and an iPad with GSM on a different provider if one of them has a signal.