In past articles gCaptain contributor Mario Vittone has clearly illustrated the importance of flares in finding vessels in distress. And having nineteen years of combined military service in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, the bulk of which he spent looking for mariners in distress, we value his opinion on the matter. But Mario also cautions about the dangers and limits of flares including “the dripping hot phosphorous put out by hand held flares and smoke devices will obviously burn your skin”.
With flares being so important to marine safety, yet inherently dangerous to use on small boats ravaged by high seas, is there a better system? Greatland Laser thinks they found a better way with the development of their Green Rescue Flare. They tell us:
The GLF031-01 Green Rescue Laser Flare® is a hand-held day and nighttime laser signaling device that provides a convenient, effective way to signal a rescue party. It’s waterproof, rugged design combines the safety of a laser signaling device with the convenience of a flashlight. Brilliant green light makes it the most visible of the three models and the preferred style of Search and Rescue (SAR) professionals.
Unlike pyrotechnic flares, the Green Rescue Laser Flare® is non-flammable, environmentally safe and can operate continuously for 5 hours on a single long-life replaceable lithium battery. Battery included.
But the question remains…. does it work? gCaptain has heard reports of green lasers being used effectively to blind pirates (or watch-mates!) and as a tool to point out stars to cadets learning celestial navigation, but we have not received any feedback on their use in marine safety applications. But Practical Sailor, the “Consumer Reports“ of boaters, did get their hands on a unit for testing. They write:
Compared to other visual distress signals, the Green Rescue Flare is an impressive tool. Its exceptionally brilliant light can be seen from greater distances than red laser flares, flashlights, and strobe lights; its signaling capability lasts hours rather than the minutes an aerial flare lasts; and unlike pyrotechnic flares, it is compact, can be re-used, doesn’t expire, and can be carried through airport security. The downsides of the green flare include its battery life, its hefty price ($250), its line-of-sight limitations, its ineffectiveness in daylight, and the fact that green is not a universally recognized color of distress.
The Rescue Laser is by no means a replacement for position-locating devices, or even aerial flares, but adding it to your ditch bag adds versatility to your survival kit. If we could afford it, we’d have one of these tethered to every PFD and foulie jacket on board.
You can find the full test report from Practical Sailor HERE and stand-by as gCaptain looks forward to testing these units for ourselves (Steve C – watch out!).