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New RYA advice on distress signals

Guidelines for skippers of pleasure craft under 13.7m in length on the types of emergency distress alerting and locating equipment they can choose to carry based on distance from the coast and GMDSS communications sea areas.

Download the guidelines

The RYA's Table of Guidelines for pleasure craft under 13.7m in length, outlines the combinations of equipment including flares, EPIRB, and VHFDSC, you could consider carrying and using to indicate that you need assistance, depending upon the type of your vessel and where you use it.

Modern Technology

Press and hold the red button on your DSCVHF and assuming power and an aerial it will transmit your distress alert until another station acknowledges it; activated, an EPIRB will transmit for about 48hours, indicating that you need help and telling the Search and Rescue authorities where your EPIRB is; fire a parachute flare and you have to cross your fingers, hope that someone is close enough, that they were looking in the right direction during the 40 seconds it will burn for, they see it and that they react.

Modern technology provides safer and more reliable options for distress alerting than flares, and presuming such technology is carried aboard a pleasure craft, the owner may now wish to consider reducing their complement of flares.

Location - the final mile

Simply telling someone you need help may however not be enough; they also need to be able to locate you. Search and Rescue (SAR) services, equipped with radar and specialist homing equipment, may not need anything further, but in many instances locating the vessel in need of help in the “final mile” can be challenging, especially if the rescuer is another small craft. Technology for this is still emerging, and for the time being flares remain the most effective solution for pinpointing the vessel in distress.

Download the guidelines

The RYA's Table of Guidelines for pleasure craft under 13.7m in length, provides guidance for skippers on the types of emergency distress alerting and locating equipment they can choose to carry based on distance from the coast and GMDSS communications sea areas. The advice given in the table has been endorsed by both the MCA and the RNLI.

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