With Transport Canada’s recent approval of Electronic Visual Distress Signals (eVDSD) for pleasure craft vessels, I decided to do a little research into this newer technology to see what benefits they offer boaters and if they are a better option than traditional pyrotechnic flares, both environmentally and safety wise.
Currently vessels over 6 meters are required to carry flares as part of their Transport Canada safety requirements. The quantity and style vary depending on overall length and type of vessel, and expire 4 years from date of manufacture at which time they must be properly disposed of.
For anyone needing a refresher on flare etiquette, the below link will direct you to Transport Canada’s Boating Safety home page where you may download the “Safe Boating Guide” which outlines all required safety equipment per size of vessel (and don’t miss the “notes” about reductions in number of flares based on having other electronic devices – like a vhf radio – onboard):
Last November the Sirius C1002 LED 2 colour electronic flare was approved as a replacement for all Type A, B, and C flares in Canada however boaters making the switch must still carry one Transport Canada approved type D smoke signal for day use. Here are three links that provide a little history on the Sirius device and approval:
Although at a higher price than any flare ($389 on Amazon), the unit would replace all but one smoke flare. It comes with 8 – C123a lithium batteries that will need replacing in about 10 years (approx cost per Amazon – $50 for 8). Sirius says the device itself should last a lifetime if properly cared for.
One important safety feature that you will not find with any pyrotechnic flares – this device can be linked to “Sirius Signal”, a free smartphone app that allows you to file float plans with your contacts, plus send SOS signals with your location tagged should the need arise. The unit will work off an LTE signal and weighing in at just over a pound, is simple to tuck away for even a lengthy dinghy trip.
Great for older boaters regardless of their vessel size, especially if they often travel at night alone or in harsh conditions. Also peace of mind for parents whose kids enjoy taking the run-about out to visit with friends in the evenings.
And let’s face it – things rarely go wrong on a boat when it’s sunny, calm and with lots of help around! It’s usually in rough seas, fog, or during the night with limited visibility….when having to open, prepare and remember how to safely fire the flares can be an added pressure, especially if you have kids, dogs or guests onboard. The Sirius however has a simple push on/off breaker switch.
Easy to activate, safe to carry and store, extra peace of mind with the locator app – these devices may become quite popular amongst boaters. Environmentally their longevity makes them a better choice; I like that they reduce the explosive load onboard which also means a reduction in those harsh pyrotechnic chemicals. Although the high price may be a discouragement for some, the safety features will be a definite plus for others. Transport Canada notes they will be reassessing this program again in 5 years.