Captain's Log: February 1, 2023

Ships Wheel

Good morning, Followers –

We have something special planned for cadets this afternoon.  Weather permitting, all cadets will gather on the Helo Deck for a demonstration of marine pyrotechnics.  This is a Sea Term tradition. 

All ships are required to carry marine pyrotechnics.  You have heard me mention, SOLAS, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.   This international maritime treaty sets the minimum number of hand flares, rocket parachute flares, and buoyant smoke signals that must be carried aboard a vessel at sea.   

In the event of an extreme emergency, the TS Kennedy would use these distress signals to attract the attention of ships in the area.  Vessels would head in the direction of the lights, knowing that our ship required immediate assistance.

In their Vessel Familiarization & Basic Safety Training course last fall, all of 4/C cadets were introduced to three distress signals; hand flares, rocket parachute flare, and buoyant smoke signals.  Although cadets learned how these pyrotechnics worked, professors were unable to provide a demonstration.  Emergency distress signals cannot be set off in residential areas or in areas of heavy boat traffic. 

Sea Term is the ideal time to hold a marine pyrotechnics demonstration. I have chosen an area where there will not be a lot of ship traffic.  Both before and after the demonstration, I will announce the test on our marine radio to prevent any confusion. We will be using recently expired pyrotechnics for the demonstration.  They will still work to their full capacity, but can no longer be considered part of our required stock.

Here’s a brief description of the three distress signals:

hand flares small cylindrical stick that produce bright red smoke when activated, able to be used during the day and at night

rocket parachute flare: red flare attached to a parachute, shot to a height of 1,000 feet, burns for at least 40 seconds, parachute opens up to reduces the rate of descent

buoyant smoke signal: small container that floats on ocean surface, releases bright orange smoke for not less than three minutes, best for use during the day

Line throwing appliances will also be demonstrated this afternoon.  Although line throwing appliances are not pyrotechnics, they would be used in an emergency to make a connection between our ship and the rescue vessel. 

The distress signals and the line throwing appliances are stored in bold red, waterproof containers labeled, Pyrotechnic.  The lockers are located on deck where they would be easily accessible in the event of an emergency.    Each lifeboat also carries these distress signals and the line throwing appliances.

For our 4/C cadets, today’s pyrotechnics demonstration will be a new experience.  For upperclassmen, the demonstration will be an important review.  Although the bright colors and noise may remind cadets of a 4th Of July celebration back home, it will be made clear that this is an important lesson that could save their lives.  Cadets who volunteer to set off any of the pyrotechnics will do so under the direct supervision of crew members.  As an added safety precaution, volunteers will wear firefighting gloves and helmets. 

I will request that photos be taken during the demonstration so that they may be shared with you later this week.  I will ask Mrs. Franks to include a photo of the Pyrotechnics Locker with this log.

Thanks for supporting our cadets.


Captain Michael J. Campbell
Master, TS Kennedy

The photos and videos below will introduce you to the distress signals and line throwing apparatus that Captain Campbell mentioned in his log.

You'll feel like you are on the Helo Deck with the cadets, participating in the demonstration.


Here is one of the pyrotechnic lockers on the deck of the TS Kennedy.  Notice that it is kept locked at all times.  The keys are kept secured on the Bridge.

Pyrotechnics Locker

This is the SOLAS approved hand flare that cadets will see demonstrated.

hand flare

Check out this short training video for a hand flare.

Cadets will also see the red rocket flare demonstrated today.

parachute flare

If you have time, check out this SOLAS approved training video for a rocket parachute flare.  

This is a SOLAS approved buoyant smoke signal canister.

smoke canister

This video demonstrates how the buoyant smoke signal canister works.

Cadets will also see the line throwing apparatus demonstrated today.

line throwing

Are you curious about how the line throwing appliance works?  This video will answer your questions.