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
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."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! "
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?