Power & Motoryacht tested: Sirius Signal Distress Light
Pyrotechnic flares have been a Coast Guard requirement for decades for one simple reason: they work. At night—and even during the daytime—light and smoke from a pyrotechnic are visible from miles away. But traditional flares have limitations. Most aren’t waterproof (a major problem when bobbing in the ocean) and the open flame makes them dangerous for both children and untrained adults. Then there is the 42-month shelf life; according to the Coast Guard Auxiliary, expired flares are the number-one reason for failed Coast Guard inspections. The Sirius Signal Distress Light kit, however, aims to address all these issues. Powered by three C-batteries, you simply twist the dome atop the Cree LED (a light known for its impressive size-to-output ratio) to activate a bright SOS signal. An included signal flag fulfills another Coast Guard requirement for marine distress signals.
A wrist strap and an easy-to-grip handle make holding the light easy when overboard. The fact that the light floats is also smart; if you’re in a liferaft you could tie a line to the flare and let it float outside the raft. I can attest that the waterproofing on this light is more than adequate. I held it underwater for a minute while loosening and tightening the top; the light was undeterred. The manufacturer claims the light can be seen from 10 nautical miles away at night. That seems a little optimistic to me, since in my test on a calm night on the Connecticut River I lost sight of the light approximately 5 miles away according to my GPS. The company also claims the light will work for at least six hours; I found it outperformed that expectation, continuing to flash after eight hours in a drawer.
The Verdict: This innovative light simply addresses a lot of issues facing pyrotechnic flares. While I won’t head to sea without traditional and parachute flares, the Sirius Signal Distress Light would be a welcome tool in anyone’s safety arsenal.
This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.