Light shone on flare use
Flares have a very serious purpose and there are severe penalties for improper use.
Do not leave flares in your boat when it is not in use, and keep them away from children because they can be a danger.
Distress flares have two distinct purposes: to attract attention over long distances and to pinpoint the location of the vessel in trouble.
The use of distress flares indicates there is a grave and imminent danger to life or a vessel.
Handheld red: This type of flare is handheld, gives off white/grey smoke and is visible up to about three miles in daylight or at night. They are ideal for inshore uses and should only be used if you are within sight of land, a boat or a plane. If you cannot see them, then a parachute flare might be the best choice.
Handheld flares should be restricted until a rescue craft or plane is sighted.
Orange smoke: These may be handheld or floating, have a range of one to three miles and are very effective in daylight. Once a potential rescuer is identified, the flare is best used to mark your position and to show the wind direction as in the use of helicopter rescues.
The smoke can disperse quickly, so try to fire a smoke flare in a sheltered area.
If it is operated from the downwind side of the vessel, the smoke may tend to cling to the boat because of the turbulent air flow around the vessel. If it is safe to do so, choose an elevated position to activate a handheld flare.
Red parachute: These are in effect small but powerful rockets, intended for offshore use, day or night. Flares can rise to around 300m before drifting down with a bright red light on a parachute, leaving behind a clear smoke trail that can be seen over considerable distances.
Because of the height these flares can reach, they can be seen up to about 40km away if the weather is clear enough.
Parachute flares should be fired around 10-15 degrees downwind of the vertical for them to reach optimum height.
For safety, they should be fired clear of any enclosed spaces such as a wheelhouse.