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How to avoid expensive mistakes when you buy a new or second-hand yacht. 

Available on Amazon here


Icom IC-M35We review the Icom IC-M35 handheld.  Read the full review here.

GMDSS A User's Handbook

By Denise Bréhaut

GMDSS A user's handbook








The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) provides a fast and efficient way of calling for assistance at sea, whatever the size of craft or its geographical position. Since it was first published, this book has helped explain the system for anyone using GMDSS and has been excellent pre-course reading for students.



SafaSail HatThe SafaSail Hard Hat looks just like a sailing cap, but will help protect you if you get a bang to the head.  See our review here

Are Flares Outdated?

EPIRBHas the time come for a re-think about flares? 

It has been drummed into most of us during sail training, by sailing schools, and by the RNLI and other safety-related organisations that we shouldn’t go to sea without the proper flare pack.  In some cases, it’s a legal requirement.

But the widely-reported accident in April 2006, when Duncan McDougall was seriously injured whilst demonstrating the firing of a hand-held flare, has caused many of us to question the received wisdom about carrying flares.

The demonstration was being filmed by a colleague, who reports that: "On striking the firing mechanism, the flare ignited momentarily and then detonated violently. There was serious damage to his hand and arm with a great deal of blood loss, not to mention desperate pain. It was then we discovered the horrific nature of his other injuries. Suffice to say the metal tube of the device had entered his abdomen and was sticking out of his back."  The company said at the time of the recall that there were 52,796 of these in-date flares in circulation.

The debate is likely to be raised further following a letter to Scuttlebutt Europe from Teki Dalton, an Australian Sailing School Principal and author of 'Sea Safety for Small Craft'. He writes that in demonstrations of at least 140 in-date distress flares, 37 failed to activate. “Fifteen of them failed to activate because the string attached to the metal pull tag came out of the firing pin.”

The increasing availability of the small, portable, and highly efficient Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, or EPIRB (a version of which is pictured left), has added to the debate. Setting off an EPIRB, particularly if it’s also fitted with a GPS locator, means that a distress message, along with your position, is transmitted within minutes to the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre, no matter where you are in the world.  I know of no reports of an EPIRB exploding on deployment, and you don’t have to have a ship with a good bridge lookout in visual range for it to do its job.  It doesn’t rely on the ship’s electronics, and it is safe to transport and store.

At the best of times, and even with a bridge lookout paying attention, a flare can only give a very rough approximation of position, and even then only over a relatively short distance.  It is, of course, an improvement on a burning tar barrel. But given the increasing misuse of flares stolen from yachts, the risks involved in carrying and deploying them in the confines of a small boat, and the fact that there are now much better alternatives, isn’t it time we all started questioning the reliance on 19th Century technology in one of the most important safety areas of yachting?  Given the balance between risk and effectiveness, making yachts carry flares is no longer necessarily the  best way of ensuring an emergency response at sea.

Editor:  See Teki Dalton's reply here

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