Catamaran, Edel Cat
35' x 19' x 3.5 Tons
15-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor
Force 8-9 Conditions
File S/C-14, obtained from Jack Goodman, Arlington, VA. - Vessel name Cat Morgan, hailing port Lusby, MD, catamaran, designed by Maurice Edel, LOA 35' x Beam 19' 10" x Draft 2' 10" x 3.5 Tons - Sea anchor: 15-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 350' x 3/4" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 25' each, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip line - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 150 miles WNW of Bermuda, with winds of 40-50 knots and seas of 15-20 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 6 n.m. during 12 hours at sea anchor.
Bermuda bound sailors seem to be high on King Neptune's hit list. Transcript:
We were sailing to Bermuda from the Chesapeake Bay with the '95 Bermuda Cruising Rally. The second and third days it rained and blew. We were either beating in one squall, or becalmed and waiting for another one. The fourth morning found the wind blowing straight from Bermuda and strengthening. The waves grew much larger and more irregular than they should have been with 40 knots of wind. Very awkward. We seemed to be in between two different weather systems. The forecast was uncertain and we were growing tired. (We later found out that we had been sailing in the southern quadrant of a counter clockwise eddy, with the current against the wind. Had we beat southward ten more miles we would have been in much calmer seas).
By noon the irregular - pyramid shaped - waves had increased to 20 feet, so we decided to try out our 15 ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor. We took all sail down and ran with the wind at nine knots until the parachute was rigged and ready. With our outboard motor running at full bore we were just able to turn the boat 45° into the wind. I then dunked the parachute bag and float into the water on the windward side of the bow. Even though I was aware that the trip line could foul, and was therefore careful in full daylight, it still got wrapped around the shrouds of the parachute. The chute still opened, and since the [partial] trip line was not close by, I let it go (I could not have pulled it back anyway).
I slowly let out 350' of the 400' x 3/4" nylon braid rode and cleated it off to the port bow. Using a rolling hitch, I tied a 5/8" Dacron line to the 3/4" tether, let out 25 feet and cleated it off on the starboard side [re: Fig 38 in File S/T-6]. I then uncleated the port side and eased it out until the bridle sides were of equal length and re-cleated it. The boat rode bow to the wind, veering no more than 10° to either side. No water came on deck. Aside from the noise of the wind - and the going up and down like a mad elevator - it was quite comfortable inside. We cooked and ate a large steak dinner, left one crew member on watch and went to bed.
At midnight the wind dropped to about 20 knots and the boat sat 90° to the wind. We decided to retrieve the parachute. Motoring into the wind only allowed the chute to sink, causing more strain on the line. We found the best strategy was to wrap the line around a sheet winch and take in slack after every wave. This kept the chute close to the surface and was quite easy, albeit slow. When the chute was close enough we grabbed a shroud line with a boat hook and pulled it aboard. No strain on the boat or hard work - just two hours of time.
Notes: During the 12 hours with the sea anchor we drifted 6 miles east, with the wind from the southwest. I now believe that after the wind dies down a little and my boat wants to lie beam to the seas, I will tie the parachute off the stern until it is time to pull it in. When we got to Bermuda I removed the trip line. Getting the chute back is secondary. If we ever need to use the parachute again we won't mind the extra hour required to pull it in. Also, in order to set the sea anchor, the next time I will heave-to with only the reefed mainsail [sheeted in tight], instead of using the motor to bring the head up into the wind to deploy the parachute. One of the nice things about the Edel Cat is that the cleats are on top of a rounded deck with NO CHOCKS. The bridle lines went directly from the cleats to the parachute touching only the smooth deck or forward aluminum cross beam at extreme angles, hence hardly any chafe at all. From now on we will always carry a parachute when offshore. Not just for storms, but equipment failure and extreme fatigue.