Reviewed by Captain Mike Schoonveld
Luckily, I’ve never had to shoot off one of the visual distress signals Coast Guard and state regulations require I carry on my boat when I’m on the Great Lakes. Every time I purchase a replacement set, (they all have an expiration date) I visualize a scenario in which the hand held flares or the meteor shells are all that stands between me and a nasty-fate should something that “only happens to the other guy” happen to me.
Three or four meteors would give me only about 20 seconds of signaling time. Handheld flares might give me 20 minutes – but are visible from a much shorter distance. That’s if they work; that’s if they don’t set the boat on fire.
Weems-Plath noticed a provision in the Coast Guard regs allowing an electronic (battery powered) visual distress signal. This easy-to-use handheld device features a compliantly bright LED bulb programmed to blink three-longs, three shorts, three longs – SOS – for up to 60 hours. There’s no expiration date. Just keep fresh C-cells in the handle.
It comes with a day-signal compliant flag so for less than $100, you are legal. More important, you are more likely to be noticed should you need help. It’s widely available.