ACR has finally came out with a worthy successor to the classic Firefly Rescue Lite ACR / 4F. The ACR Firefly PRO Series is Brighter, flashes longer and has more functions (Strobe, Flashlight, SOS) than the 4F model. I found the ACR Firefly PRO Series at Fish Expo in Seattle and was quite impressed with the new Strobe Light. So impressed that I bought one for myself.
The strobes that came after the Classic 4F just did not seem as bright, and looking at other manufactures offerings they did not seem as bright either, which left me disappointed, over the years when I needed to buy new strobes for additional life-jackets. The Classic 4F originally had an expensive mercury battery, I changed the battery to a non-mercury battery to keep the 4F working and the 4F remained my favorite and attached to the life-jacket that I wore the most.
ACR replaced the Xenon strobe with LED’s on the Firefly PRO Series. Using LED’s gave the engineers more design flexibility in features and the light profile. Most of us have seen strobes used at night and the difficulty in seeing them. The ACR Firefly Pro Series Emergency Strobe light has a noticeably longer duration (0.175 second) than a standard Xenon strobe (0.000214 second), the president of the company said the longer duration was to help depth perception at close range when approaching a person in the water at night, however the longer duration light should make the light easier to see as short duration flashes are very hard to see. When the Fresnel lens was first developed, testing was done on flash duration and how short a flash could be seen. A flash of 0.10 second was able to be seen, but when the light was observed from the deck of a ship the light flash needed to be longer than 0.10 second so the longer duration of the ACR Firefly PRO Strobe will help a person in the water be seen easier at night.
The ACR Firefly Waterbug turns on automatically if immersed in water (if the switch is set to Auto), once started it keeps flashing until it is turned off. The standard ACR Firefly PRO model needs to be manually turned on. The Waterbug also has full manual operation in case a person is in an adverse environment and worried about accidental activation.
Wondering about the water activation feature, I did a quick informal test on my new ACR Firefly Waterbug, I took a spray bottle of water and soaked the ACR Firefly Waterbug with spray for several minutes and it did not activate, but when I put it under the tap, the ACR Firefly Waterbug turned on and started flashing.
With a visible range of over 3.5 miles in good weather, a person in the water in the center of Puget Sound should be able to be seen from the shore in most of Puget Sound with the Firefly PRO Series strobes. Yes I know that a light bobbing up and down at the surface of the water is difficult to see at best, but a bit comforting to know the new strobe lights have a nice reach with the light.
The difference between the U.S. Coast Guard Approval and SOLAS approval is the batteries used. USCG approval uses AA Alkaline batteries and SOLAS approval requires AA Lithium batteries. I suspect this is because Lithium batteries have better cold weather performance and a bit more total power storage rating. Both organizations require the batteries to be changed on a regular and planned interval. Since Puget Sound water is cold, I use Lithium batteries in my strobes.
Both strobes have three functions, Emergency Strobe, SOS Strobe and low power flashlight.
The Emergency Strobe will flash for 56 hours, well over the SOLAS time requirements. The SOS function will last for 52 hours. The flashlight or steady-On gives you a low powered light for 28 hours, the light is a nice diffused beam that will light up the cabin on a recreational vessel. However best to turn the flashlight feature back to strobe when you go into the water, a friend pointed out that fishermen use light sticks and flashlights to attract sharks and other fish at night.
ACR website ACR Firefly Pro Series Waterbug (Automatic Water Activitated) SOLAS rated, ACR Firefly Pro Series SOLAS (Manual Activation), Both lights are SOLAS rated when used with the proper battery, the Waterbug turns on automatically when immersed in water.
Factory Specifications Sheet (05/2014 edition)(PDF 800kb) for both ACR Firefly Pro SOLAS & ACR Firefly Pro Waterbug.
If you stop by the ACR Booth at the Seattle Boat Show tell them I sent you, no it will not get you a special deal, but I keep wanting someone to tell a company that I sent them.
$50.- to $100.- USD depending on the model and how aggressive the pricing is by the dealer.
For more information on Personal Boating Safety Equipment.
Update: January 30, 2015, Bit of a warning, when the ACR Strobe is x-rayed at a security check point it looks a lot like a Tazer to the security folks, and your bag will get additional attention.
Update: May 7,2015, Two friends just ordered ACR Firefly PRO Waterbug’s and sent me an email asking how I had mounted mine to my Mustang Inflatable Lifejacket.
See the picture for details on how I mounted my regular ACR Firefly PRO Waterbug. I used a large sailmakers needle and #16 whipping twine. There is a strap with a hole in it for a light on the left side at the top above the oral inflation tube. I tied the ACR Firefly PRO Waterbug on with the large whipping twine. Be real careful you don’t punch a hole in the bladder. I used two cords, one each at the top and bottom of the slot for the strap that comes with ACR Firefly PRO Waterbug. I went around ACR Firefly PRO Waterbug twice with the twine on each cord.
Thanks for your interest in and support of Boating Safety.
– c / m –