Mailport: February 2012
Flare Myths & Warnings
Regarding your product advisory on Orion flares (January 2012): During a vessel safety check last summer, a skipper told me he had the new 12-gauge flares, so I asked to see the pistol and found that the barrel would not open sufficiently to allow a cartridge to be loaded. (The barrel of some 12-gauge plastic flare launchers made by Olin or Orion Safety Products (www.orionsignals.com) before the year 2000 may not open sufficiently to load a cartridge. Anyone with such a launcher should contact Orion at 800/851-5260 or firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions on how to get a replacement, or visit the company website.)
How many boaters have checked to see if their launcher barrel will open fully? I have come across more than one launcher and its cartridges still in the original store packaging; they are well packed and not too easy to open at the best of times. Now is a good time to check your flare launcher.
Also, I was once told in a marine store that long cartridges were designed to stop the end of the launcher barrel from melting when multiple shells were fired in quick succession. An Orion spokesperson said that the real reason for the long cartridge was that it allowed the aerial flare to reach a higher altitude (500 feet vs. 350 feet), increasing the chance of its being seen.
Another piece of misinformation I had heard is that 12-gauge flare cartridges float so you can retrieve them if dropped in the water. Orion told me that they sink. So if you have to use the pistol, take extra care handling the cartridges.
U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons would be pleased to give your boat a vessel safety check. This can be done by contacting your local flotilla or squadron, or by going online (Google “vessel safety check”). The checks are free, and vessel examiners are not law enforcement, so any deficiencies found can be corrected without penalty.
USCG Auxiliary, Vessel Examiner
Presque Isle, Maine.
Next: Are Flares Necessary?