distress strobe

Discussion in 'Paddling Safety' started by fester, Oct 17, 2005.

  1. fester

    fester Paddler

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    I recently read an article about night paddling. Something which struck me as alarming was the author reccomending the use of a "coast guard approved" strobe light to disclose your position, presumably to avoid collision.

    Only certain frequency strobe lights are recognized as a distress signal

    Distress strobes are not an aid to night paddling. They are a distress signal and should only be used as such.
     
  2. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    Where was the article?

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  3. Steve_Fairbairn

    Steve_Fairbairn Paddler

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    Before purchasing my Scotty light I used to use a flashing red bicycle light attached to the back of my PFD. One evening while I was getting ready to paddle out to the fireworks I was approached by a coast guard who told me that I was not to use ANY type of flashing light as it would be interpreted as a distress signal.
     
  4. Dave_Barrie

    Dave_Barrie Paddler

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    Flashing lights are bad - all the legal requirements can be found in the Interational Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea - commonly referred to as the Coll Regs or Rules of the Road. I'll find a link and post it later.
     
  5. blondie

    blondie Paddler

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    The Oct/Nov Wavelength magazine, I believe.
     
  6. fester

    fester Paddler

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    If I recall correctly the frequency for a distress strobe is between 55 and 65 flashes per minute, so roughly one per second.

    The led headlamp I have has a couple flashing modes, neither of which corresponds with the standard distress frequency. One is a good deal faster and the other is slower. I'm guessing this is done intentionaly to avoid confusion.

    It's easy to speculate that if someone uses the faster mode, and it is accompanied by music, they could well be dancing or having sex.
     
  7. jurgenk

    jurgenk Paddler

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    Now that would be more likely to upset the Coast Guard as well as the kayak (depending on the beam of course)...
     
  8. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    LOL! I'm going to have to work on my bracing skills a bit more. 8O

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  9. jurgenk

    jurgenk Paddler

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    I should have mentioned that the beam of the individuals involved could effect the primary stability of the boat as well, but I imagine that that was rather obvious.

    Back to the topic, I carry one of the rescue strobes that MEC sells in the back pocket of my Guides Vest and it is attached to the vest at the shoulder by its lanyard. I also bought a couple of "Turtle" lights (small led's for biking that have an elastic attached to them) from there, that I thought I could attach to my paddle shafts if I wanted to make myself more visible. I thought that if I used them that I would put them on strobe (they have a fixed and blinking option) but I can now see that that would not be a good idea. These lights are cheap as I imagine that probably would not last a long time exposed to salt water.

    Brad
     
  10. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    I just got off the phone with the Canadian Coast Guard and was told that strobe lights are ONLY to be used as a distress signal.

    In the Collision Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act it is stated in Rule 36:

    Rule 36

    Signals to Attract Attention

    If necessary to attract the attention of another vessel any vessel may make light or sound signals that cannot be mistaken for any signal authorized elsewhere in these Rules, or may direct the beam of her searchlight in the direction of the danger, in such a way as not to embarrass any vessel. Any light to attract the attention of another vessel shall be such that it cannot be mistaken for any aid to navigation. For the purpose of this Rule the use of high intensity intermittant or revolving lights, such as strobe lights, shall be avoided.
    -----

    (red text is added by me to highlight the sentence)

    The Coast Guard regulations regarding correct navigation lighting for kayaks is one single white light visible by 360 degrees. Steve and I have spoken with Coast Guard officers at the False Creek station on several occasions and they have told us that because our single white rear deck mounted light is blocked by our bodies that the use of a headlamp is a good idea for shining at oncoming boats.

    So yes, fester is correct -- in Canada, strobe lights on kayaks are only to be used as a distress signal. I'll be sending off an e-mail to notify Wavelength Magazine of the error in the article.

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  11. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    Further to the above, in Annex IV, DISTRESS SIGNALS - INTERNATIONAL of Collision Regulations, it states:

    Distress signals--Canadian Modifications

    4. In Canadian waters or fishing zones, in addition to the signals described in section 1, the following signals may be used or exhibited either together or separately to indicate distress and need of assistance:

    (a) a square shape or anything resembling a square shape; and

    (b) a high intensity white light flashing at regular intervals of 50 to 70 times per minute.

    (red text is added by me to highlight the sentence)


    Regarding the Wavelength Article: It should also be noted that the article in Wavelength Magazine is with regard to paddling on the eastern coast of the US -- it's possible that strobes are permitted by the US Coast Guard.

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  12. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Dan wrote: Regarding the Wavelength Article: It should also be noted that the article in Wavelength Magazine is with regard to paddling on the eastern coast of the US -- it's possible that strobes are permitted by the US Coast Guard.

    Don't think so. Use of strobes has come up in a couple of other paddling forums, and IIRC the USCG rule is the same as the Canadian. One good reason to avoid their use (aside from any restrictions from regulations) is that they kill the night vision of boaters looking at them. I really want the tug operator looking my way to be able to see my legal allaround, and I don't want strobes from other boaters affecting his/her night vision.
     
  13. Dave_Barrie

    Dave_Barrie Paddler

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    Ooops - I never did come back and post the links to the regs :oops:

    Flashing lights of various colours are used to signify some interesting things; eg. a hovercraft in non-displacement mode, a submarine on the surface, a designated search and rescue vessel, and the list goes on.

    Even the Sea Bus in Vancouver uses a flashing light!

    There's nothing wrong with carrying a strobe - just don't use it unless you're looking to be rescued.