Safety is a tough item to sell, not because it is more costly than other commodities, but because people shy away from thinking about the unthinkable. Take, for example, the automobile. We had heaters and radios before safety belts. We had air conditioning before air bags. We had cellular telephones before side panel crash trusses. It is the same with boats. We buy radios before life rafts, watermakers before sea anchors and GPS before drogues. Somehow our priorities get all mixed up in the euphoria of buying our new toys.
In putting the cart before the horse, i.e., amenities before safety, we shun thoughts of danger crossing our paths. We know disaster always happens to the other guy. We read about misfortunes at sea and say, "That was tough luck. I'm glad it didn't happen to me, but I really have nothing to worry about. I have an insurance policy with sufficient coverage, so I am safe." Coverage for what? So that your heirs can live a better life? That's the wrong insurance for offshore boating where you can almost instantly vanish without a trace. What you really want are proven safety devices on board to enable you to outlive the paper insurance which means nothing to you when the chips are down.
It took a long time for the offshore sailor to accept the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) as a standard part of his survival gear. Eventually, though, the experiences of others proved its merit. Unfortunately, an EPIRB-induced rescue usually means the end of the line for cruising dreams. The boat is lost and life returns to the mundane. You want more than that. You want safety gear that will assure your survival on the spot. After the usual life jackets, flares, dye marker and other safety items for near-shore rescue, the list should be headed by designed-for-the-purpose drag devices - namely, the sea anchor and the drogue. They are to the boat as brakes are to the automobile, but offshore sailors still question the need for drag devices. It was the same with the EPIRB and, like the EPIRB, the growing experience of others is now giving credence to the safety value of drag devices at sea.
Interestingly, the sea anchor evolved mostly from the experiences of the multihull sailors who proved it to be a valuable device when you needed to stop your vessel and hold its bow to wind and wave. Past practices of lying a-hull and heaving-to, highly touted in the early days of cruising, have fallen into disfavor by those who have had the experience of riding to a sea anchor.
Drogues, on the other hand, were pioneered by monohull sailors who found the need to slow their boats down to maintain positive control but didn't want to stop them completely. Cruising classics abound with romantic stories on the towing of warps, sail bags, lashed oars, automobile tires and other jerry-rigged devices made up in the heat of battle with the elements. None of these worked with any consistency because the fundamentals of drogues were not then known.
We have come a long way since the days of such romantic inventions by the likes of Voss, Hiscock, Moitessier, and other early blue water sailors. Today we have thousands of cruisers around the world living their dreams. Many of the forward looking ones are already equipped with sea anchors and drogues backing up their goals of completed voyages. They have found that sea anchors work as well on monohulls as on multihulls and, conversely, that drogues work as well on multihulls as on monohulls. They have safely returned to port with first hand stories of encounters with survival weather using drag devices as their first line of defense. Their second line of defense, the EPIRB and liferaft, went unneeded.
If you, the potential offshore sailor, need convincing evidence about the value of carrying drag devices on your otherwise well-found boat, you will find it in the pages of the Drag Device Data Base. Herein are first hand, real life experiences of those who have survived the "ultimate storm" through the use of drag devices. Read these case histories and then rearrange your equipment priorities. You stand to become the beneficiary and not your heirs.
Earl R. Hinz,