Flashing Light Requirements - Gotta Vent

I’m wondering how many seamen out there have used flashing light for communications, other than to supplement maneuvering signals?

Here are just a few issues I have with the current flashing light requirements:

[li]If you don’t use flashing light on a regular basis, there is no way you are going to maintain sufficient proficiency to use it in an emergency. Hence, with lack of proficiency, attempting to use flashing light in a stressful emergency situation is dangerous.[/li][li]The USCG is requiring US deck officers to pass a flashing light exam for each and every license upgrade: initial to 3/M, 3/M to 2/M, 2/M to C/M, and C/M to Master. STCW only requires one to demonstrate initial proficiency for the original OICNW certificate.[/li][li]The USCG no longer offers flashing light testing at the REC, even though it requires it for each upgrade. Your only choice is go go to a union or private school. These schools are charging up to $200 or more to give a ten-minute exam! If you don’t live near the school, add flight costs, hotel, etc. The USCG said they stopped giving the exam because their old cassette recorder testers were wearing out. They could simply buy a cheap pc program and be back in business at virtually no cost, but instead they are shifting the expense burden onto hundreds of mariners. And they are letting these schools price gouge!!![/li][li]I’m wondering if every USCG officer who is approved for watch standing is proficient in flashing light. I’ll bet a USCG officer is not required to take this exam (and pay for the costs, including travel) each time they are promoted in rank. Oh, somehow that’s probably different.[/li][/ol]
I think it’s time to eliminate the flashing light requirement for commercial seaman. It is as technologically outmoded as a CW watch on 500kHz.


Windjammer, you are so preaching to the choir. There have been quite a few other sailors on this forum that have also felt the need to vent. Let it out, man, it isn’t good to hold that stuff in.
Can I get an amen from the congregation?

Hallelujah, Brothers and Sisters!

The only time I have actually used an Aldis Lamp in the “real” world of sailing was when I wanted to confuse another supply boat . . and I was a QM in the CG back when they actually had QM’s . .

As long as in the CFR, it’s going to be required. Same for STCW, the minimum stabdard of competency for OICNW in Table A-II/1 species [I][t]ransmit and receive information by visual signalling[/I]. As long as that is in STCW, the requirement will persist in some form.

As far as the current requirements, the Coast Guard has announced a proposed rulemaking recently, maybe there’s something about it in there, and if so, you can make comments to the docket on the proposed rule.

I must admit, that at my house, flashing light is much more reliable than my cell phone.

Doug, you should create an I-phone app for that! Brilliant! It would be a top seller for those that didn’t want to attend school.:smiley:

I agree that most will not retain proficiency, or even use this skill, but I cannot say with total honesty, without doubt, that I will never have use of an Aldis lamp. ( …—… ) might be the only signal needed to save your life. Better to have it and not need it, but as a professional, an effort should be made to at least stay proficient in signals that can save your life, or the crews. It doesn’t take much, and assuming that nobody would understand any signal that you transmit is the crux of why there is a problem and need for STCW regulations.

Monthly checks of the battery pack, constavolt, lightbulbs, and operation of the Aldis may be the time to play around a little bit.

There actually is an iPhone app for flashing light. It’s called “Morse-It” or something similar.

There are no more Signalmen in the USN, and the USCG QMs (if there still are any) wont be attending USN SM school anymore and if all the Mariners are unproficient, like Anchorman asked, who are we going to signal to!??

I believe it’s done at 4wpm now? I did it for 3rd and 2nd Mates at 6wpm and it was a dog.

I and others addressed some of the flashing light BS in the proposed change to 46CFR thread. Commenting to DHS/USCG on that proposal may be the thing to do on this subject and a host of others; it might be our chance to shape the future.

Should have known better…

But the fact that the USCG and Navy are doing away with the training should mean something will change.

But the fact that the USCG and Navy are doing away with the training should mean something will change.[/quote]

Should. But the changes that are not really changes come originally from IMO and the USCG is only our representative there. They do not control it. Really we need the CG to accurately represent the needs of todays Mariners at IMO and fight for change that will be helpful rather than just follow along.

Actually my statement is rather bold as I don’t honestly know just how hard the CG does fight for us at IMO. I may be doing a disservice, but it is my perception.

I would like to find out if the USN still utilizes flashing light for ANY official comms - When I was in the CG, we mostly used FL and semaphore to ask the QM’s or SM’s on another vessel if they wanted to trade movies or magazines . .

And nope . . No more QM’s in the CG. They became BM’s or OS’s back around 03 or 04.

I knew I should have gone for the Musician rating in the CG . . lol

I was a signalman in the Navy, 84-90. We mostly used f/l to bs. It was also used when unrep-ing and comms with the carriers. I hated being near those guys!! I would be hard pressed to read a f/l now, and I was damn good at it.

not to give the NMC any ideas…what makes the flashing light requirement such a “crock” is the training/testing involves only “recieving”…that is only part of the equasion…“sending” is a whole other skill set…well at least they managed to get it half-ass right:rolleyes:!!

'Tis better to receive than to send.

Unless you’re the one taking the exam…

How about making it a requirement to work at NMC,one must be able to pass flashing light 4 words per minute.

My evaluator continuously referred to it as [B]flushing[/B] light in his emails. No shit. So he couldn’t even spell it.

Once had an overtaking situation with the “New Jersey” just outside of LA/LB. They were playing war games & wouldn’t answer on VHF. My mate was ex coastie signalman & very proficient on the aldis lamp. He spent over 10 min of trying to have comms with them i.e. repeated message of “This is the __________ requesting permission to overtake you on stbd side.” The only response we could get back was “Who are you?” Anyways, The last message my mate sent in frustration was “F. U. Bye-bye” So we were probably one of the few ships ever to tell the New Jersey to F**K OFF that didn’t get blown out of the water by her big guns!! Arghhhh Mateys true story!:D:D:D