What flares should you carry onboard?

10 March 2020

Flares have always been an important element of a yacht’s emergency equipment. Traditionally, the distress flares you carry depends on the size of yacht you are sailing and the class i.e. is it commercial or pleasure.

However with the amount of advanced technology available to us nowadays, the RYA believe that EPIRB, PLB, VHF DSC, AIS, EVDS and SART are now able to provide reliable, accurate and timely alerting and location methods without the need for pyrotechnic signals which have a three year serviceable life and are hard to dispose of.

But the use of pyrotechnic rocket parachute flares and hand-held flares showing a red light is just one of the methods set out in Annex IV of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea to indicate distress and need of assistance.

Current regulations make it mandatory for certain recreational craft to carry flares for distress alerting; these regulations require:

  • Pleasure vehicles of 45ft/ 13.7m and over are to carry four red hand-held pyrotechnic flares.
  • Recreational craft of any length which are operating commercially, such as those that are used for training or charter, to carry varying quantities of pyrotechnic flares dependent on their area of operation.

Where carriage is not mandatory (i.e. on pleasure vessels of less than 13.7 metres (45ft) in length), recreational boaters are free to choose what means of distress alerting and location they wish to carry.

The RYA strongly recommends that recreational craft carry both a means of distress alerting and a means of indicating location should Search and Rescue (SAR) services be required.  That said, those who wish to continue to carry pyrotechnic flares, whether as their primary means of distress alerting and location indicating or as a supplementary means, are at liberty to do so and there is no suggestion that the carriage of pyrotechnic flares on board recreational craft should be prohibited.

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