In 2015, the Sirius Signal electronic flare from Weems & Plath was US Coast Guard approved as a nighttime distress signaling device. At the Annapolis Sailboat Show last week, I discovered that many new boaters didn’t know about this option. It is a HUGE improvement over burning flares.
The problems with traditional flares are legion:
- If you ever have to use one, there will be burning material falling — hopefully into the water, but there’s a good chance it can go onto your boat or life raft. Or your hand that is holding the flare. That’s potentially going to make a bad situation even worse with a burning boat, holed life raft or seriously burned crew member.
- Flares have expiration dates, meaning that you have to buy new ones every few years and dispose of the old ones.
- It’s gotten to be almost impossible to find anywhere to dispose of old flares. Neither the Coast Guard nor fire departments will take them, and you can’t light them off if there isn’t an emergency. So we end up carrying more and more flares or illegally disposing of old ones with their toxic chemicals.
- Flares burn for a relatively short period of time (1 minute or less) and you have a limited number of flares, so you have to light them when you think they have the best chance of being seen.
- Can’t be shipped by air nor taken on airplanes — a real problem if you’re in a place where they are not sold and you need to get them shipped to you or brought back with a crew member.
- Many flares are not waterproof (some are).
- Require training to use safely — but most of us don’t get the appropriate training.
- Impossible to test.
One Weems & Plath/Sirius Signal electronic flare satisfies the US Coast Guard requirements for most boats. It’s sold with a daytime distress flag, which gives you both the day and night required signals in one package. Since flares are the most common reason for boats to fail a Coast Guard inspection, it’s nice to know that this will never again be an issue on your boat!
- It flashes SOS and is visible 10 miles.
- On/off switch.
- Nothing burning to harm a boat, life raft or person.
- Never expires — buy once. Decidedly cheaper in the long run.
- Never have to worry about disposal.
- Fine on airplanes, both shipping and in luggage.
- Operates 60 hours on 3 C batteries. Carry extra batteries for even longer signaling ability.
- C batteries are easy to find almost everywhere.
- No training required.
- Can easily be run up a mast for greater height.
- Can easily be owner tested.
The included distress flag meets the legal requirement for a daytime signaling device, but you may wish to have other devices such as a dye pack or rescue streamer to provide a larger target for an airplane or helicopter to spot.
We keep batteries in our electronic flare and carry 9 more batteries (3 sets of spares) in a waterproof Lock & Lock container in our ditch bag. Links (all products on Amazon):
- Weems & Plath Sirius Signal Electronic Flare
- 12-pack of C batteries
- Lock & Locker waterproof container for batteries
- See/Rescue Streamer — 25 foot
- See/Rescue Streamer — 40 feet
- Orion Fluorescent Dye Marker – 2-Pack