34' x 24' x 3 Tons
28-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor
Force 9-10 Conditions
File S/T-17, obtained from Richard R. Barrie, Van Nuys, CA. - Vessel name Fifth Fox, hailing port Channel Islands, CA, trimaran designed by Jay Kantola, LOA 34' x Beam 24' x Draft 3' x 3 Tons - Sea anchor: 28-ft. Diameter C-9 military class parachute on 400' x 3/4" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 100' each, with 3/4" galvanized swivel - No trip-line - Deployed in a Pacific storm in deep water about 1000 miles west of Guadalajara, Mexico, with winds of 55-70 knots and seas of 20 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 12 n.m. during 72 hours at sea anchor.
Sailing to Los Angeles from Panama, Richard Barrie decided to take one long - 1000 mile - tack out to sea and back, avoiding the Pagagayos, Tehuantepeckers and other hazards that one ordinarily associates with the Central American coast. However, Fifth Fox ran into a storm well offshore. Transcript:
During the last week of May, 1984, my wife and I with our two daughters left the Las Perlas Islands in Panama, and headed back to California. The first two weeks of the trip north were idyllic, 15-20 knots beam reaching with the spinnaker and the Tiller-Master doing all the work. During the second week of June the wind gradually went northwest and increased.
Before noon on the second day of the wind shift, a strong gust hit us (we had put a reef in the main, but still had a 120 genoa up) and the lower after stay on the port side parted at deck level. My first thought was to deploy the parachute, fix the shroud and continue on. We deployed the chute off the stern [on the fly] going downwind without a trip line in moderate conditions. I fully expected to replace the lower shroud and continue on. While sitting to the chute during the first hour or so, I went up the mast with a new Sta-Lock attached to a new lower stay. While I was at the spreaders attempting to exchange the wire, the wind quickly increased from a steady 30-35 knots to a steady 50 knots with higher gusts, with the sea state increasing rapidly. I had never been seasick in all my life, yet I became nauseous. I could not continue with the work aloft so came down the mast and jury-rigged the lower at the deck with some wire clamps. That took the S-curve out of the mast so we could sail if the chute let go.
After sitting on the parachute anchor for a few hours, I was in the cockpit when a huge wave pushed the boat up to the crest and back on the rudder. The rudder had been locked in place amidships with the Tiller-Master. In the middle of this particularly large cresting wave, I heard a sickening crack and looked down and saw the tiller head starting to swing independently of the tiller. It was very apparent what was wrong. Fortunately there was a hole in the rudder blade itself, so with a stout line tied to the port float near the transom, I dove in the sea and rove this line through the rudder blade, with a knot on either side, then on to the starboard float. This action no doubt saved the rudder....
For the next three days we were anchored to the parachute, with the wind screaming and the waves cresting. While it was difficult to sleep soundly, we could at least sleep. As time wore on, it became apparent that we and the boat were safe, even with the wind flicking salt water bullets at us at 50 or 60 knots. The wind moderated to 35 knots after the third day and we cast off the lines and sailed up to the float and retrieved the parachute quite easily. Previously we had deployed the parachute with a trip line and it fouled rather quickly. I resolved then never to use a trip line again. I will now carry two parachutes for insurance.
I took star shots each evening and morning during our three day stay in this part of the ocean and was quite surprised to find that we moved only 12 miles in a southeasterly direction.