Choosing the Right Boat Flares

Choosing the Right Boat Flares

Flares represent just one entry in a varied mix of devices known officially as visual distress signals (VDS). Why the variety? All distress signals have distinct advantages and disadvantages. No single device is ideal under all conditions or suitable for all ­purposes. Here’s a sampling of types to help you select the right VDS for you.

Choosing the Right Boat Flares

Hand-Held Pyrotechnic Flares Pro: Approved for day or night use; universally recognized. Con: Short burn duration; can burn user. Tip: Carry more than the required three. Example: Orion Hand-Held Red Signal Flares, $32 (four-pack); westmarine.com

Choosing the Right Boat Flares

Electronic Flares Pro: Bright SOS signal; safe to use.**** Con: Approved only for nighttime use; may blend in with shoreline lights.**** Tip: Make sure to maintain the battery.**** Example: ACR C-Strobe Personal Strobe Light, $26; westmarine.com

Choosing the Right Boat Flares

Smoke Signals Pro: Excellent daytime attention-getter; visible beyond horizon. Con: Approved for daytime use only. Tip: Deploy downwind of boat/raft/persons in water. Example: Orion HandHeld Orange Smoke Signal, $27; westmarine.com

Choosing the Right Boat Flares

Aerial Flares Pro: Excellent nighttime attention-getter; visible beyond horizon. Con: Requires experience for safe use. Tip: 25 mm pistol launcher offers superior versatility. Example: Orion 25 mm Alert/Locate PLUS Signal Kit, $230 (includes other flare types); westmarine.com