Carrying flares

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Douglas Wilcox
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Re: Carrying flares

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Wed Feb 14, 2018 8:57 pm

Hi Rick,

You have made some great points in defence of flares. I guess I am just playing Devil's Advocate.

As I said above, I am out on a limb. Perceived wisdom is that leaders/professionals should carry flares, there is a terrible inertia to change within organisations such as BC. I am lucky I just paddle for fun, but unlike Rowland I have seen flares go bad more than once. I have a number of friends and relatives who are ex services: Army, RN, RFA, RAF and several friends who are volunteers or employees of the RNLI. They have all fired flares professionally. Some of them love flares but equally some of them are against them in small, open boats, so even professional users are divided.

Let's look at it another way, let's say the status quo was PLBs and DSC VHF. Someone comes along tomorrow from the Save your Soul pyrotechnic company, (imagine someone like Jeremy Clarkson) and says
"Look forget about those invisible electron thingies, we have developed this great new rescue technology based on exploding chemicals. When you let one of these babies off you really know you have called for the cavalry! We give you recoil, noise, heat, light, burning sparks, smoke and... did I mention the smell? Oh I love the smell of napalm in the morning! We have even managed to slow the explosion so that our budget models burn for 20 seconds and our premium products last an amazing 40 seconds! And unlike batteries you don't even need to bring your old ones back for recycling, our shops will be happy to sell you new ones without a recycling bin in sight! "
Does anyone seriously think for a moment that the Save your Soul company would be able to introduce their exploding chemicals as a new product to the recreational marine market today? Of course not, they are far too dangerous and are an environmental nightmare to get rid of responsibly.

I have carried flares on Wayfarer dinghy, yachts, RIBs, windsurfers and kayaks for the best part of 45 years. I have test fired parachute, handheld light and smoke flares not to mention mini flares at land based yacht club/RNLI/coastguard demos. At least on land you can turn round quickly if the acrid suffocating smoke blows towards you. I am glad to be rid of them.

With regard to a gully, if you can fire a rocket out your PLB signal will get out. To protect your hands... helmet, hood, gloves spraydeck they will all burn rather nicely, I guess a leather glove would be much better. Funnily enough I do carry a single leather glove on camping trips... to pull out thistles before I put the tent up. If I was forced to carry flares, let's say on a trip to Brittany, then perhaps it would be better move my leather glove from my tent bag to my newly purchased flare bag.

Talking of travelling, unless I paddled to Brittany (which in itself would be breaching French law), I would need to buy them in France then get rid of them before coming back. A few years ago I had a complete set of flares confiscated at Weymouth before travelling on the SeaCat to Jersey. The boarding marshal was observant. Noticing the kayak on the roof, he asked if I was carrying flares. I told the truth and they were gone. A couple of years later on the way to the Jersey symposium, I took an EPIRB but no flares. They actually took cars with kayaks on the roof aside then searched them for flares.

Even here in Scotland, Calmac class flares as dangerous goods, along with boat fuel tanks with more than 5l of fuel and divers' air tanks. If you give them 24 hours notice they will give you permission to carry fuel or air tanks but not flares. My concern is that if flares are too dangerous to carry on the muckle great iron ship, the MV Caledonian Isles, then they must be lethal aboard my wee plastic Sula.

So in conclusion Rick, as I am completely uncertified, I get away with carrying no pyrotechnics but for those that are certified, then perhaps a case could be made for carrying leather gloves, a face mask/respirator and a fire extinguisher, in addition to flares? And make sure your insurance covers fire if carrying hazardous, inflammable (not to mention exploding) goods :) :)

PS despite all of the above, the last time I let off a flare it proved to be a damp squib. What do you do with an explosive device that you have already pulled the firing pin from?

Douglas :)

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by RickC » Thu Feb 15, 2018 7:35 am

Hi Douglas

I have to agree with everything you say. It's a fact that they are dangerous but I am obliged to carry them, especially in France. C'est la vie.

Cheers, Rick

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by rowlandW » Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:16 am

Just to chase a bunny down a side hole in this warren - I can't speak from experience with Calmac ferries, but having booked to go to Orkney this summer with Northlink Ferries, I contacted them about carrying my flares on board. I have to fill in a form and give them 24 hrs notice - that's all.

Rowland

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by andynormancx » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:51 am

And Brittany Ferries have no issue, you need to declare it when you make your reservation and there are limits on the number you can carry.

http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/artic ... and-flares

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by Jim » Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:59 pm

Carriage of flares (other than those that are part of the ships own SOLAS kit) is almost certainly determined by the certification of each individual ship with respect to carriage of dangerous goods, it is not unusual for flag state to give different certification to apparently identical ships for any number of reasons, not least because the owner or operator chooses not to apply for the same level of certification, or has a different set of operating procedures which would need revising, or the ship already has a certificate to carry another dangerous item which cannot be carried at the same time as flares.

Personally I have carried a variety of pyrotechnics, all of which I need to get around to disposing of properly. My view is that any of them could work depending on the situation, none are guaranteed to work or not to blow your arm/head off but would have been worth a try. Most I will not replace due to the hassle of disposal, smokes and/or pinpoints I may since they can be useful to guide in a rescue asset which has already been alerted by other means. I have yet to get a PLB or laser flare, I carry VHF and cellphone and I do have a signal mirror which may be useful in some circumstances, if I remember to carry it. I don't get out on the sea very much now, generally only as part of a race event (where VHF is now acceptable in lieu of flares, given that there are a number of safety boats patrolling the course) or with friends who have the rest of the kit, if/when I start getting out more frequently again I would invest in PLB and laser flare, and probably new smoke, maybe pinpoints.

One thing that bugs me is that miniflares are so awkward to use (accepting the limitations of height and burn time), years ago a friend had a device which could launch similar flares from a plastic carousel which was easy to operate with cold hands - unfortunately such devices came to require a firearms license and presumably became classed as pistols so became illegal when they were banned in the UK (as did the old fashioned very pistol). It seems to me that there probably are ways that flares could be made more user friendly for watersports users, but doing so would make them viable weapons for people so inclined, and therefore the law would prevent such developments. I think our best option is to embrace new technology - sure if you PLB has a small sky window it may take a long time before a satellite passes close enough to find it, but the thing will continue to broadcast long after a stock of pyro has been launched if no-one saw it.

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by Chris Bolton » Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:46 pm

RickC wrote:The problem with flares is this. If you're a certified leader and you choose not to carry them and there is an incident, you may find yourself accused of failing to take due care. So what do you do - anyone from British Canoeing or ISKGA care to comment?
So far as I can see, there's no requirement to carry pyrotechnics on a BC Sea Kayak Leader assessment (old 4 star) - if you can get certified without them, that implies to me that they're not considered essential. By contrast, the syllabus does require you to carry a VHF (and have a licence if in the UK).

I also have a copy of "British Canoeing Safety Guidelines V2-0 Oct15" (which I can't find on their website) which says:
Has the leader determined what equipment should be carried by the participants? Equipment chosen must be appropriate for the activity and area of operation. It may include:
- Marine Whistle
- Mobile phone
- Signaling mirror
- Marine VHF radio (operators should hold the VHF certificate for proficiency)
- Flares (red, smoke, parachute)
- Marine 27MHz radio
- Torch
- Strobe light
- VHF radio
- Satellite phone
- Chemical light stick (or electronic equivalent)
- EPIRB
I typically carry all the above except pyrotechnics, 27Mhz radio and satellite phone (except I have a PLB rather than EPIRB). I'm not sure why the list includes both "Marine VHF radio" and "VHF radio". I also have a Garmin Inreach (in effect a satellite text messager) which I carry where appropriate. I think, if you are able to explain why you carry what you carry, in risk assessment terms, you would meet both assessment criteria and duty of care.

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by Jim » Thu Feb 15, 2018 4:06 pm

Chris Bolton wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 2:46 pm
I'm not sure why the list includes both "Marine VHF radio" and "VHF radio".
Maybe it is a generic list and they are anticipating WW leaders carrying regular VHF instead of marine (different channels) - is that even possible/feasible for anyone not in emergency services or mountain rescue?

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by PhilAyr » Thu Feb 15, 2018 6:41 pm

I wouldn't venture out without my flares...

https://www.atomretro.com/product_info. ... 70s-FLARES


....and they are perfectly safe as long as they are not too tight !


Phil

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by ian johnston » Thu Feb 15, 2018 9:17 pm

Chris & Rowland - one possible reason for the difference between Calmac and Northlink/Brittany Ferries rules is that Calmac services regularly carry bulk fuel in road tankers on their shorter sea routes and that will be factored into their certification; as far as I know that's not usually the case on Northlink or Brittany services - the regulations are complex as Jim says; even between ferry types where some have open vehicle decks and some are all enclosed.

Jim - we still carry Very pistols and their flare cartridges on our ships! A safer way to deploy smaller flares but as you say, requires a firearms certificate

Chris - that's a very interesting list! 27Mhz radios are usually termed "CB radios" - possibly only of use if you were always paddling within range of an outdoor centre also using a CB set? Also, mention of an EPIRB (meaning a 406Mhz beacon) but not of a SART (121.5Mhz transponder)? Fortunately both functions are incorporated in the majority of modern PLB's

Phil - "Like" button engaged!

Kind Regards

Ian

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Thu Feb 15, 2018 10:48 pm

Hi Ian/Jim I never thought of that (different regs applying to different ships, even in the same fleet) but for those that do not know, the MV Caledonian Isles is the Arran ferry and yes it does carry a mixture of private and commercial vehicles including fuel tankers. This also might be why the car deck is open at the stern rather than enclosed and any fuel tanker I have seen (usually on the 7am crossing) is always first on as the Caledonian Isles loads through the bow at Ardrossan on the way to Arran. There is no separate freight ferry to Arran.

Ian your boats must carry an interesting mix of “things”....

Douglas

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by Chris Bolton » Thu Feb 15, 2018 11:02 pm

Ian Johnson" wrote:Chris - that's a very interesting list! 27Mhz radios are usually termed "CB radios" - possibly only of use if you were always paddling within range of an outdoor centre also using a CB set? Also, mention of an EPIRB (meaning a 406Mhz beacon) but not of a SART (121.5Mhz transponder)? Fortunately both functions are incorporated in the majority of modern PLB's
Ian, the document containing the list is a general paddling safety brief, not specific to sea kayaking, so CB radio might be [might once have been] relevant (I didn't recognise the frequency). As I understand EPIRBs, apart from the frequency, they are designed for larger vessels and many will transmit an alarm automatically if they get wet - not much use in a kayak!

In about 1987 I walked onto the Calmac ferry from Ullapool to Stornaway carrying a metre long red tube labelled 'Flares' and nobody said a word. We'd slipped £5 each to a driver with an empty lorry and loaded our kayaks into it - in those days I think Calmac charged for carrying kayaks, and I'd only found the tube in my car after the lorry was closed up.

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by Ken_T » Mon Feb 19, 2018 7:49 am

Hi,
A list of equipment to be worn when firing a rocket flare was given earlier in this thread, what I would consider the most important item was missing which is glasses (even sun glasses if that it all you have), if the exhaust goes in your eyes it will do extremely serious damage.
Ken

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by Allan Olesen » Mon Feb 19, 2018 5:21 pm

ian johnston wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 9:17 pm
Also, mention of an EPIRB (meaning a 406Mhz beacon) but not of a SART (121.5Mhz transponder)? Fortunately both functions are incorporated in the majority of modern PLB's
As far as I know, the 121.5 MHz transponder is a mandatory part of a 406 MHz EPIRB, required by the IMO. So I am not sure that they left anything out by only mentioning an EPIRB.

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by PhilAyr » Mon Feb 19, 2018 6:43 pm

Allan Olesen wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 5:21 pm
ian johnston wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 9:17 pm
Also, mention of an EPIRB (meaning a 406Mhz beacon) but not of a SART (121.5Mhz transponder)? Fortunately both functions are incorporated in the majority of modern PLB's
As far as I know, the 121.5 MHz transponder is a mandatory part of a 406 MHz EPIRB, required by the IMO. So I am not sure that they left anything out by only mentioning an EPIRB.
Sorry guys but I am now confused. Correct me if I am wrong but my understanding is a SART And A PLB/EPIRB are two separate distress alert devices :

EPIRB/PLB : Both transmit a 406Mhz distress signal and both transmit a 121.5Mhz "Homing Signal" for rescue vessels and aircraft to home in on the casualty.

SART :
Stands for Search and Rescue Transponder. It is designed to produce a string of 12 distinctive pulses on a radar screen. It operates on the 9GHZ band and is intended for liferafts but can be found on some vessels but not kayaks !!..


Regards,

Phil

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Mon Feb 19, 2018 8:04 pm

Hi Phil the history of "EPIRBs" is long and complex and in the past not all EPIRBs broadcast an analogue 121.5Mhz signal. Indeed not all of them broadcast a digital 406Mhz signal either. There was at least one rival system to the current system which used the IMMARSAT satellites. This is still used by some ships but for all intents and purposes all PLBs on sale to the public today transmit a digital distress signal on 406 Mhz which is picked up by satellite and an analogue homing signal on 121.5Mhz (which is also the aviation analogue distress frequency).

Douglas

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by ian johnston » Mon Feb 19, 2018 9:01 pm

Hi Phil

Douglas beat me to it!

"EPIRB" has become quite a generic term, as has SART, but I used the wrong terminology above. You're quite correct:

A PLB will usually consist of a 406MHz EPIRB function and a 121.5Mhz Homing beacon function which can be DF'ed by aircraft and surface rescue craft.

A SART operates in the 9GHz band and is activated by receiving an X band (3cm) radar pulse, showing as a directional RACON on ship or aircraft radar. A recent addition to the GMDSS "A" regulations is the AIS SART which shows on a ship's ECDIS display. SARTS are designed to be taken away in survival craft and are manually operated.

Chris ^ regarding the activation of EPIRBs: an EPIRB can either be manually operated and also do have an automatic activation function, but it's more sophisticated than simply dipping it in water - most ships take significant amounts of spray and "green" water inboard in rough weather so the EPIRB needs to resist this sort of soaking. What happens is that there's a hydrostatic release arrangement which springs the EPIRB clear of its stowage (and the ship) at a set water pressure (should the ship capsize or sink rapidly). The act of springing the unit clear triggers a magnetic switch which activates two "sea contacts". Only if the EPIRB is in water does the unit then activate - this is a safety mechanism in case it is accidentally sprung whilst testing etc.

Douglas - some of the "pyros" we carry down in the holds are designed to REALLY get attention! :o)

Ian

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by PhilAyr » Mon Feb 19, 2018 11:05 pm

A big thank you to Douglas and Ian for coming to my rescue with your detailed explanations. It now makes some sense.
Douglas - some of the "pyros" we carry down in the holds are designed to REALLY get attention! :o)
One can only imagine !! :-S

kind regards


Phil

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Very pistols

Post by nickcrowhurst » Tue Feb 20, 2018 3:31 pm

Jim wrote:
Thu Feb 15, 2018 1:59 pm
.....presumably became classed as pistols so became illegal when they were banned in the UK (as did the old fashioned very pistol).
My Webley and Scott WW1 bronze Very pistol, with aluminium-cased cartridges, was only recently re-licensed for marine distress purposes. The Firearm certificate is free of charge, and is renewed by my local Constabulary every five years. I have owned the pistol for 45 years. I have three types of cartridges for three different results: red flare, white flare, and an extraordinarily loud bang. They are separately identifiable by the number of deep grooves in the rim, so they can be selected appropriately at night. This particular model of pistol was originally issued to officers in the British army in WW1. I think about that every time I clean the pistol.
Nick.

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by TechnoEngineer » Wed Feb 21, 2018 10:35 am

Wow, those Flare Pistols are quite pricey!
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Re: Carrying flares

Post by nickcrowhurst » Wed Feb 21, 2018 11:26 am

Star Wars nerds will need to know that Boba Fett's weapon of choice was this model of Very pistol, with a few glitzy add-ons to attempt to disguise its origins.
https://argocoins.com/product/british-w ... irmingham/

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Re: Carrying flares

Post by ron-t » Tue Feb 27, 2018 12:19 pm

Hi

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this topic - I didn`t expect such a wide reponse, nor did I expect such a diversity of opinion about flares.

I had sort of assumed that flares were now well past their sell-by date, but it seems that they are still very much alive.

Interestingly, it seems that the people who are most in favour of them are the people who have actually used them in real life situations.

It looks as if there is quite widespread agreement that parachute flares are a bit of a no-no for use from sea kayaks, but that the handheld red and orange smoke flares are perhaps still worth carrying.

I think I have gone from not considering them at all to thinking about how they would fit in to my environment, how I would carry them, if I can find some sort of practice session - there are I think significant implications in deciding to carry them, but maybe it is the way to go.

I accept the fact that they can be dangerous, but a burnt hand is a lot less life threatening than being smashed onto rocks in a big sea at the bottom of cliffs where there is no VHF signal.

So thank you for all your inputs.

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