Friday, July 10, 2020

Expired Flares? Here's What to Do

Expired flares.
Most boaters know they need flares for their boat, so they buy them. 

Did you know most flares expire in 3 1/2 years? We had about a dozen expired flares, most expired about 10 years prior. We bought newer flares and kept the old ones in case we burned through our current flares in an emergency.

But if we ever did need them for an emergency, would they light? We weren't sure. Nor were we sure we knew how to light one if the need arose.

Ken, Stacey, T, and Harold kindly invited us to their toasty 4th of July beachside campfire.
We decided we'd kill two birds with one stone, finding out how to light our flares and seeing if 10-year-old expired flares were viable. What better time to set off pyrotechnics than the 4th of July? What better place than over a relatively deserted beach, and over the Columbia River? 

We checked in with the few fellow boaters around the area. When they checked their flares, found they also possessed a bunch of expired ones, too. Theirs were only a few years out of date, versus our vintage variety pack.
Wayne explaining how to right expired flares.

The only concern? If they blew anyone's fingers off, we were a ways from medical careWayne pulled on his reading glasses before it got dark and read the fine print on firing flares and explained how to set the flares off. Like most boys, Wayne and Ken were far more eager to fire the flare guns and pull the cord than us gals were.

They were more comfortable playing with fire than me (I watched rather than joined my brother's minor pyromania play and I'm a lifelong non-smoker who still can't light a Bic cigarette lighter). They led the way, with Ken dancing with his; lit flares. Photos and videos of Ken's tripping the light fantastic are not included because we consider each other friends and I'd like to keep it that way.

Ken's aerial flares fired off from his gun without a hitch.

Out of our twelve flares, a mix of hand-helds and gun-fired aerials, nine failed, and only three were not duds and fired. 

In the interest of experience, I attempted to light some flares off. 

I felt jumpy, and the exploding fireworks from another nearby beachside group didn't help. After all, if you're jittery in the first place and not sure you know what you're doing, it's startling to hear a BANG! as you are about to or just pulled the beaded string off a flare in your hand. I also didn't quite expect the recoil! The flare jerked my hand back about an inch or so after yanking the beaded pull of my one successfully fired handheld flare.
Expired flares, blowing their wad on the beach at Sauvie Island.
After lots of flare-fire and dancing with handhelds, Mike still had a dozen spare expired flares. He stood them up like candles, planted them in the beach in sets of four, then lit each off after the prior set burned down.

We doused our spent flares in water and disposed of them. In doing some additional research, I found out they are potentially damaging to the water supply, and harmful for wildlife.  The best way to dispose of them would've been to check with the local police department, who probably would've suggested we take them to the hazardous waste site.
Flare images pilfered from

If money was no object, I would rather use an electronic flare, but they're not cheap. They run about three times the cost of traditional flares, assuming you need to purchase handhelds, aerials, and a gun for the aerials.
Image for electric flare from Sirius Signal pilfered from their website,
The only electronic flare that passes all the latest Coast Guard requirements is Sirius Signal. No worries about lighting them off or expirations, only making sure the battery is still viable.

The ROI would be about and long as the age of our expired flares. 

Meanwhile, all our flares aboard are current and I now know how to set them off, should I ever need to.

Location Location
We're anchored off Sauvie Island, Portland Oregon area N45 47.455 W122 47.201.
Moon over Sauvie Island, 4th of July 2020.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

USA's 244th Birthday: Fireworks Flashback & 2021 Call to Action

Two Moments of 2019 Nostalgia

There will be no official fireworks exploding across the skies to celebrate our country's 244th birthday.  The video is from 2019, St. Helen's small-town fireworks show. Be forewarned: if you don't like bagpipes, listen with the sound off. If you love bagpipes, by all means, crank up the volume!

Our nation is more divided than I can recall in my lifetime, this struck me as a worthwhile time to consider our origins and where we want to go.

Our Beginnings

National American Indian Memorial - Wikipedia
The USA's only true non-immigrants.
Image from
Before there was "the United States" our vast land was inhabited by Native Americans. Then Europeans arrived,* virtually wiping out the native populations with no resistance to their diseases. Territorial wars further dwindled their populations. 

*While Christopher Columbus visited Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in 1493, in 1513 Ponce de Leon was the first known European to reach the present-day United States mainland -- Florida's Atlantic coast.

Not Very Free -- Convicts, Slaves & Servants

Eventually, by mass exportation of the most bodies, Great Britain became the sovereign power of what we now consider the thirteen colonies who began the United States. Most did not come of their own free will.
Of the 585,800 immigrants to the thirteen colonies during the years 1700-1775, about 52,200 were convicts and prisoners (9 percent of the total). During these same years, slaves by far constituted the largest group of immigrants (278,400; 47%), followed by people arriving with their freedom (151,600; 26%) and indentured servants (96,600; 18%).... Almost three quarters of all the people arriving in the American colonies during this time period did so without their freedom. -- Anthony Vaver, author of Anthony Vaver, author of Early American Criminals and Bound with an Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America
We could pretend we are not responsible, that we were not yet the United States—except it took 89 years and a bloody civil war for the US to abolish slavery in 1865. Societally, 155 years later, we still have a long way to go.

American Revolution Was Really a Trade War
File:Boston Tea Party w.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
The Boston Tea Party

The three big events that led up to the American Revolution were
  1. Boston Massacre of 1770, when 5 colonists died after being shot by soldiers breaking up a mob that gathered over a trivial personal dispute that escalated. 
  2. 1772 burning of British customs schooner, HMS Gaspee.
  3. 1773 when colonists destroyed British imported Indian tea because they were irate the untaxed tea was getting an unfair trade advantage. In retaliation, Brittain stripped the colony's right to self-rule.
In 1775, the British attempt to disarm the Massachusetts militia in Concord led to open combat and the war officially began.

Our National Birthday's Based on a Premature Event
Benjamin Franklin signing the US Declaration of Independence.
We celebrate the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, July 4, 1776. The actual war wasn't considered over until 7 years later, in 1783. 

Our Contributions

Saving Lives

Of these top 10 advances in medical history, America played a pivotal role in 6:

  1. William T. G. Morton: anesthesia during surgery
  2. Ramond Daman Damadian medical imaging: MRI
  3. Dr Joseph Murray and Dr David Hume organ transplants
  4. ativiral vaccines
  5. Dr. William B. Coley immunotherapy
  6. AI's role in medical diagnosis and treatment

This chart shows assessed contributions to the World Health Organization for 2020.
USA was the biggest contributor to the World Health Organization. Will we continue to be?

Key Role in Ending Nazism

Remembering D-Day 75 years later > Schriever Air Force Base ...
D-Day, the WW2 invasion of Normandy, France.
image from Schriever Air Force Base
While we presume the USA deserves primary credit for decisively ending WW2, that may not be true. However, there is wide agreement internationally the USA did play a pivotal role in ending WW2.

Today we have a president who is unwilling to criticize white supremacists as they are one of his core voting constituencies.

Immigration: A New Place to Call Home

Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, New York | Pikrepo
Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, New York.
The USA's track record varies on whether or welcome mat is out, and to whom, but historically, we are known as a nation of immigrants. Fortune or freedom compelled many to come to the place where they through the streets were "paved with gold." My Jewish grandparents and great-grandparents came to the USA through Ellis Island, from Poland, Russia, and Hungary for freedom and in the hopes of a better life between WW1 and WW2.
Mexico–United States barrier - Wikipedia
US-Mexico border wall.
Today, to the tune of $11 billion and counting, we are building the most expensive wall in the world between ourselves and Mexico. Times change. Maybe the wall will protect more Mexicans from death from America's gross mishandling of coronavirus, which has hit Latinos in the USA much harder.

A Call to Action

George Floyd protest by the White House (5/30/20) | Protesto… | Flickr
George Floyd protest by the White House
Freedom is Still Elusive for People of Color
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
George Floyd's death at the foot of a police officer sparked a call for racial equity that is still reverberating. Today, Blacks suffer from racial profiling, compromised healthcare, and economic inequality—lives filled with violence, compromised and untimely death, and generational poverty. 

What changes are you making to help our country live up to our Declaration of Independence preamble?

If nothing else . . . 

Vote Generic 2016 America - Free vector graphic on Pixabay
image credit: Pixabay

My hope for 2021 4th of July is for a more unified United States, one where we focus more on what unites rather than divides us.

grayscale photography, people, hands, friendship, unit, together ...
 I wish you a safe and satisfying celebration,
and a 2021 Independence Day we are more proud of than this years.
image credit:

Location Location
We are anchored off Sauvie Island (N45 47.433 W122 47.197).
Shaver tug off Sauvie Island, doing their part for the 4th of July festivities.
Last year we went to St. Helens to watch the fireworks. This year, as with most places, the fireworks display in St. Helen was canceled in fear of spreading COVID-19. 

We will test out our expired flares in a safe place tonight.