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  Posted by: old_user on Jan-25-10 9:12 AM (EST)
   Category: unassigned 

I want to purchase some signal flares for boat and vest carry. I was leaning toward the Orion 12 gauge flare gun but after speaking to someone this weekend, I am looking at the Orion Skyblazer, hand-held variety. Any input?

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Messages in this Topic


  Have you thought about the laser flares?
  Posted by: Celia on Jan-25-10 9:22 AM (EST)
I am not 100% sure what their official status is now with the Coast Guard, but it's hard to beat them for something that can be seen well at night and is easy to carry. My husband's has withstood lots of dunking with no problem, mine finally bit the dust but it took three seasons. And it may be that the larger one is more robust - I got the smaller size.

Of course for day it probably means carrying a signal mirror - but compact and not having to get real fussy about storage is nice.
  Looks like a good idea
  Posted by: old_user on Jan-25-10 10:49 AM (EST)
but seems to be an addition to, as opposed to a replacement for standard signal flares. According to their site and the product description, they're only good for "line of sight" signaling while pyro-technic flares are visible over the horizon.

Thanks for the input though, very interesting stuff!
  lasers are to flares
  Posted by: bowrudder on Jan-25-10 4:13 PM (EST)
as telephones are to VHF
  Posted by: jesse59 on Jan-25-10 10:59 AM (EST)
I shot off one skyblazer for practice a while back and found that it had about maybe 3 good seconds of actual blaze in the sky.
I'd carried it around in my vest pocket inside a plastic bag through many a dunking for a couple years and it still worked.
It was easy to fire.
But you gotta wonder if anybody would really notice it when you need it.
  A test review article that might help
  Posted by: DesertDave on Jan-25-10 1:08 PM (EST)
  Thanks for the link to article
  Posted by: booztalkin on Jan-25-10 6:57 PM (EST)
Seemed like a good article. Tells the story.

  Posted by: old_user on Jan-25-10 8:38 PM (EST)
Pains Wessex
Expensive and tougher to get hold of but if you actually want it to work instead of just keeping the CG happy.....There is a reason they are popular choice for offshore life rafts etc.
  Also flares are best used when
  Posted by: bmach1 on Jan-25-10 9:20 PM (EST)
there is some one in the area that will see them. Just shooting them off and hoping is not the way to go. You have a limited supply and you need to be sure they will be seen when launched. If you want longer time then you need to look at parachute flares.
  tough to get ahold of
  Posted by: bowrudder on Jan-25-10 11:51 PM (EST)
Tough to get ahold of? Where do you find them, Indian reservations? I've never found them for sale in the US. Would love to find a source.
  Here are three US sources
  Posted by: shuman on Jan-26-10 9:27 AM (EST)
Mr. Jerry Hamby
120 Pintail Street Saint Rose LA 70087-402
Postal Code: 70087-4024
Tel: +1 504 496 0151
Web Site:
Email Address:
Opening Hours:
Monday - Friday: 08:00 - 17:00
Saturday: Closed
Sunday: Closed

Mr. Bruce Becker

Postal Code: 94133
Tel: 0014156731923
Web Site:
Email Address:
Opening Hours:
Monday - Friday: 07:00 - 16:00
Saturday: 09:00 - 17:30
Sunday: 09:00 - 16:00

Mr. John Ryan

Postal Code: 77011-1218
Tel: 0017139231671
Web Site:
Email Address:
Opening Hours:
Monday - Friday: 07:00 - 16:00
Saturday: Closed
Sunday: Closed
  landfall navigation
  Posted by: NateHanson on Jan-26-10 9:36 AM (EST)
You can get them from Landfall Navigation (print catalog, and online).

They're not cheap and they're large, but the performance of these SOLAS approved flares is apparently head and shoulders above USCG-approved varieties.

My take-home messages from that Boat-US report are that the Skyblazers I carry are fairly effective and work well at night, and secondly that I should carry a floating smoke cannister for daytime signalling.

Anyone here carry smoke?
  No smoke on the water...
  Posted by: shuman on Jan-26-10 9:44 AM (EST)
:-) and no stairway to heaven either....
  Posted by: bowrudder on Jan-26-10 9:53 AM (EST)
  I got discouraged . . .
  Posted by: Angell on Jan-26-10 12:19 AM (EST)
I had a lot of experience with flares in Vietnam - especially as an aviator using flares at night for reference on landing. In my experience, flares worked and generally could be relied on - even the S&R pen gun flares we carried, in case we got shot down.

Switch to civilian life. Many years later - actually last year - I did a lot of online research on the flares typically commercially available to us paddlers. I finished extremely disappointed and totally discouraged from buying any flares, for the time being, as they were represented as generally unreliable. Based on a number of reviews and tests, my discovery was that the flares available can be expected to NOT work in a rescue situation - especially those Orion ones!

I am very open to informed and experienced feedback on this genre of flares. I can tell you from the perspective of the guy in the cockpit that a brief 3-second flare on the horizon is practically useless, except to get some sense of a heading to take in the direction of the victims . . . that is, if you get the aircraft turned and on course before that 3-second flare burns out!

I am wondering if laser flares might be a better option. Even the pen gun flares we had were better than the flares typically carried by paddlers.

I don't know how the Coast Guard can approve what's out there commercially! It reminds me of the reliability of the FDA in approving pharmaceuticals.

So, besides the OP, now there are at least two of us looking for a source for reliable flares, or devices of equivalent function.
  Will they work....
  Posted by: old_user on Jan-26-10 1:33 AM (EST)
I am concerned with the reliability of the Orion and the recent problems. Watch out for the expiration date of 3-4 years. We shoot expired flares off at a gathering every year with permission from the local authorities. The Orions are 1 out of 4 at best. The pistol is much better. I currently have the Orions in a Pelican 1010 case in my PFD with the pistol flare in a dry case. I carry a mirror and flashlight in my PFD also.
  flares and kayaks
  Posted by: old_user on Jan-26-10 2:11 AM (EST)
Couple problems with most tests of flares is they are generally tested on fairly large boats, not in the confined cockpit of a kayak. The odds are pretty good that if you need to be firing a flare that the weather won't be ideal and playing around with a handheld flare will be at best difficult if not impossible. I much prefer 12 gauge pistol shot flares. Yes they don't burn as long nor go as high as some others, but they are fairly small and you can carry more in numbers than you could for most other flares. Most of the problems people have with flares is they run out of them before someone comes looking. The 12 gauge flares are also relatively inexpensive.

Bill H.
  Orion Skyblazer reliability
  Posted by: NateHanson on Jan-26-10 9:44 AM (EST)
My impression was that there were problems with the first generation of Skyblazers not firing, but that the issues were supposed to be fixed with the Skyblazer II now sold.

I carry four in my PFD pocket, sealed in an "aloksak" bag. They stay totally dry, and I feel confident that they'll work if needed.

The problem with the 12-ga guns is that you can't carry them on your body. Maybe the best combo would be to carry a couple SOLAS parachute self-launched flares and smoke in the day hatch, and skyblazers on your body.
  Similar to what I carry....
  Posted by: tvcrider on Jan-26-10 12:05 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-26-10 12:12 PM EST --

On my pfd I have four Skyblazers in my PFD pocket, sealed in an "aloksak" bag; Lazer flare; signal mirror; and strobe light mounted on the back.

In addition I have the following in my day hatch: flashlight; several lite-sticks; Orion Pocket Rocket (4 flares); Orion Orange Smoke Flare; Pains Wessex Para Red Rocket MK3; Pains Wessex Red MK 7; Pains Wessex Pinpoint Smoke Flare.

  Orion Pocket Rocket
  Posted by: tvcrider on Jan-26-10 10:24 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-26-10 10:26 AM EST --

I have just started carrying this compact flare kit. It could be likened to a simple flare gun for kayakers.
It seems ideally suited for storage in your pfd or kayak (whether they are readily accessible!). I use a small dry bag rather than the provided plastic container. I haven't fired off any expired ones, so I cannot provide any performance data.

  Posted by: NateHanson on Jan-26-10 10:35 AM (EST)
The Boat-US report found that using these on a larger pleasure boat was difficult. I wonder if it would be possible at all when swimming in the water, or hanging onto a kayak.

Could you get the little flare cartridge out without dumping the others in the water, screw it onto the launcher with gloved and/or cold fingers, and operate the tricky trigger?

That article did not leave me wanting to depend on the pen-launcher flares.
  An ideal signal device for kayakers?
  Posted by: tvcrider on Jan-26-10 11:26 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-26-10 11:44 AM EST --

I don't think there is one, which is one reason why I try to carry several different visual signaling devices. As kayakers we are all limited by space, accessibility, utility (ease and ability to deploy), effectiveness, and costs these devices pose to one's wallet. On top of that some of these pyrotechnics are very difficult to find. If you try to mail-order them wait until you see the DOT HAZMAT shipping fee! That will put you in a state of emergency (i.e. heart attack).

As an aside the reviews also stated the following on the often carried (by kayakers) Orion Skyblazers:

"testers felt that the directions were very small and not descriptive enough to feel confident that they were firing the flare properly. This was magnified because of the units’ small size—which also gave the impression of having more apparent recoil than the bulkier SOLAS models. Proper hand placement on the device is imperative—holding it improperly can lead to excessive recoil and potential injury."

You still have to use two hands to launch a Skyblazer and probably any other aerial flare out there with the exception of a flare gun. Even with that you would use two hands to load. If out of my boat I would try jamming one leg in the cockpit while floating on my back. It would free both of my hands for flare deployment/launching. You are right it's not nearly as easy as doing it from the deck of a large ship.

I guess we get to pick our poison(s). I certainly do not have a one size fits all answer.

  Strobe light first
  Posted by: FrankNC on Jan-26-10 12:06 PM (EST)
Get a good strobe light first. I carried flares for years and when they expired I lit them and one and three worked. The 12 gauge flairs were good about 1/2 the time. None of them were impressive. Uless someone is already looking at you then they will miss it. I'm not saying don't carrey flairs, but I am saying to buy your strobe first.

For twenty years of flairs I could have bought a SPOT and been way ahead of the game.
  Frank, amen....
  Posted by: tvcrider on Jan-26-10 12:16 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-26-10 12:16 PM EST --

I did not mean to overlook a good strobe light. I carry one on the back of my pfd.

I too have found about 1 in 3 flares (Skyblazers) to be effective. I would not want to bet my life of them, which is why I try to carry multiple signaling devices, including a waterproof VHF radio.



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