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Old 06-23-2016, 02:04 PM   #1
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Visual Distress Signals

Interesting article on Distress Signals and proposed signaling equipment for those of you who don't receive BoatUS magazine:


Visual Distress Signals: Please Say You See Me - BoatUS Magazine
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Old 06-23-2016, 02:11 PM   #2
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My own personal experience in search and rescue when flares are involved is pretty dismal.

Sent out often...rarely found anything.

Only once in 20 plus years of USCG searching and another 13 of assistance towing did a flare result in a finding.

That's not to say flares don't work....but their short duration time and distance seen has to be taken into account..

I would rather have 3 PLBs than a mountain of flares.

They are much more useful when rescue units can be seen searching your area...but for initial distress transmission...nothing like electronic...both VHF and EPIRB/PLB.

The BoatUS articles matches my experience with all the forms of visual distress signals.
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Old 06-23-2016, 04:53 PM   #3
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I think some boaters may misinterpret their use. If people aren't searching for you, the pin prick of light far away is not very likely to launch a rescue response. The flares are very useful when a potential rescue is very close by, or has previous VHF or other knowledge of your overdue status. My idea of underway watch-keeping is to scan ahead for crab pots or floating debris. Only now and then do I conduct a horizon sweep, in truth probably less often than the burn time of a 3 minute flare.. I don't think I am alone in this. It changes, of course, if I am made aware that a mariner is in distress somewhere where I am or will be.
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Old 06-23-2016, 06:12 PM   #4
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Good parachute flares are an OK alert device...quite unmistakable for most....

But their range is still limited to less than VHF in most cases, visibility limited also. Handheld flares have their place, just have to know how limited they are.
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Old 06-23-2016, 09:28 PM   #5
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I couldn't tell you how many times we were dispatched for a "flare siting" +/- 1 day of 4th of July. Green, white, yellow, blue. It didn't matter. At least if someone was shooting off fireworks, the weather was reasonably nice. The other most frequent flyer dispatches were to search for an "overdue sailboat on a trip from Cape Cod to the Florida Keys". For some reason these almost always came in after midnight.
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Old 06-23-2016, 10:48 PM   #6
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That was an interesting article. My thinking now is to go away from pyro signals and go more electronic. Epirb, PLB, VHF, LED SOS Light and maybe one of those laser flares.

I shouldn't encourage this as I make money selling you guys new flares every five years, but I think it's going to happen.

The same thing happened with paper charts. People used to buy new paper charts every few years. Now I hardly ever sell a paper chart.
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Old 06-24-2016, 06:13 AM   #7
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37MM parachute flares , about 1 min of hang time.

9 out of 10 WW II still work.
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Old 06-24-2016, 07:50 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HopCar View Post
That was an interesting article. My thinking now is to go away from pyro signals and go more electronic. Epirb, PLB, VHF, LED SOS Light and maybe one of those laser flares.

I shouldn't encourage this as I make money selling you guys new flares every five years, but I think it's going to happen.

The same thing happened with paper charts. People used to buy new paper charts every few years. Now I hardly ever sell a paper chart.
Last time I check, the expiration date was 3.5 years after manufacture.

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Old 06-24-2016, 10:00 AM   #9
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I ended up buying the electric SOS night signal so I wouldn't have to worry about USCG compliance.

While I think it is good, I still will keep some pyros on board.
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Old 06-24-2016, 12:12 PM   #10
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Visual Distress Signals

Don't discount signal mirrors.

As a pilot, once I had a boat owner playing around with his signal mirror really catch my attention so much I had to determine that there was no emergency and he was just experimenting. And also once, while sailing in Pensacola bay many years ago, I had a very bright light in my eyes that turned out to be a naval aviator in a life raft. He had been dropped off in a SAR exercise and he was experimenting with his emergency signal devices. When we found out the aviator was in SAR training we passed him a couple of beers to help him pass the time. I am sure he was the envy of the other pilots in training that day.
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Old 06-24-2016, 12:21 PM   #11
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I'm of a similar mind to others here...

I make sure I'm in compliance, using the least expensive means (usually the replacement 12 gauge packs). I recently took a pile of old hand-held flares to the recycle station, dating back to the 80s.

For an actual emergency, I'll stick with the VHF/MMSI Emergency, the ham 2 meter repeaters, my cell phone, or in the rare case when I'm out of VHF/UHF range, my Spot Messenger. Since all of my cruising is within the inland waters of Washington & British Columbia, I'm seldom out of VHF range.

The nascent electronic products look interesting, but I'll wait until the USCG publishes a standard. Until then, $25 bucks every 3 years isn't much to pay to keep the USCG happy.

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Old 06-24-2016, 12:50 PM   #12
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What's the difference between a PLB and an epirb?
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Old 06-24-2016, 01:03 PM   #13
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Quote:
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What's the difference between a PLB and an epirb?
Mostly just size, whether it will float or not as many PLBS are for using on land, battery life to a small degree....etc...etc...

Compare tech specs to get the who.e story but they work the same and so far equally as well.

Now for ocean crossers....EPIRB without a doubt and a second or some PLBs....

For coastal cruisers with small chances of overturning in an inlet.....a PLB is fine and maybe 2 instead of one bigger, more expensive EPIRB is a better call....I am still undecided what combo to wind up with.
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Old 06-24-2016, 01:08 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul M View Post
Don't discount signal mirrors.

As a pilot, once I had a boat owner playing around with his signal mirror really catch my attention so much I had to determine that there was no emergency and he was just experimenting. And also once, while sailing in Pensacola bay many years ago, I had a very bright light in my eyes that turned out to be a naval aviator in a life raft. He had been dropped off in a SAR exercise and he was experimenting with his emergency signal devices. When we found out the aviator was in SAR training we passed him a couple of beers to help him pass the time. I am sure he was the envy of the other pilots in training that day.
Not that mirrors should be discounted...but in busyboating areas...like up and down the East coast during the summer season and ICW with its related rivers and sounds....

When the sun is good for signal mirrors, it is also reflecting off a bazillion boat windows. Leaving a sear h area for a very regular flash wouldn't be beyond expectations...but leaving a standard search area to chase flashes can be counter productive as those flashes can be seen a long way if the search altitude is high enough.
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Old 06-24-2016, 01:39 PM   #15
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Good points. However, a signal mirror can be aimed and directed and with practice you can keep it in the eyes or pilothouse of your target and it cannot be ignored. Of course, daytime only and usually bright sun, and then, as you make the case, location. It's just one more tool in the bag.
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Old 06-24-2016, 02:40 PM   #16
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Quote:
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Good points. However, a signal mirror can be aimed and directed and with practice you can keep it in the eyes or pilothouse of your target and it cannot be ignored. Of course, daytime only and usually bright sun, and then, as you make the case, location. It's just one more tool in the bag.
One more tool maybe......

But have more faith in winning the lotto than getting saved by a mirror unless well offshore or out of well travelled areas and someone is actively looking for you....
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Old 06-24-2016, 06:03 PM   #17
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We made the video for the Weems & Plath SOS Distress Light:

https://youtu.be/g4ZRyK00atM

It's been such a popular product Weems is about 3 weeks behind in their production schedule. I think we'll post a TF special on the light in our store. I just have to post that in the Commercial section.

We think the light is a great product that performs as advertised. And like Dhays said we're still keeping our pyro flares on board, even though they are expired.
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Old 06-24-2016, 06:16 PM   #18
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Sorry, as a former USCG helo pilot....weak at best.

Any light at that point is a signaling device.

Most people don know what the pattern is for SOS

So unless there was already a distress sent and SAR units looking...it isn't much different than a flashlight.

Sure it keeps you from buying flares...but that is really it's only advantage in my experience.
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Old 06-24-2016, 06:50 PM   #19
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psneeld, you guys were/are good at finding needles in haystacks! I think the only thing we can do to really help you guys out is not to get into a situation where we need you in the first place.

However, if I have to abandon my boat, or fight to keep it afloat, I'd much rather have a device that I can turn on, tie aloft, or take in the water with me that runs for 60+ continuos hours (2.5 days) than just a flashlight. At least both my hands will be free while the light does its job of attempting to signal my location. Including sending up any pyro flares I have if I see or hear you flying overhead...
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Old 06-24-2016, 07:02 PM   #20
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If it is bright enough..but the SOS is crap but probably necessary to get approval....at which point any strobe that lasts 60 hours is good enough....a hard wired one if you are tying something in the rigging.

The most critical issue in SAR, is notification and position. Everything else is a tiny tid bit.

This light is only one of those tid bits.

Hate to be a wanker about it...but people need to really know the magnitude of importance in being located and rescued.

Way too much crap on the market is a great tid bit...but only that and the manufacturers glorify it way past it's real importance.

I feel that if people are going to bet their life on something..they need to know what level of importance it meets in being detected.

Reality...a bright flashlight pointed in the right direction I bet is way more noticeable than this device....but you are right that pointing requires active survival input....

Truth is...active survival input is one of the most necessary items in survival.
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