S/C-12 Catamaran, Prout


Catamaran, Prout

39' x 18' x 9 Tons

18-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9-10 Conditions


File S/C-12, obtained from Sackville J. Currie, Blaney, Ireland - Vessel name An t-Iompodh Deisiol, hailing port Sligo, Ireland, "Escale" catamaran, designed by Prout, LOA 39' x Beam 18' x Draft 3' x 9 Tons - Sea anchor: 18-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 5/8" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 60' each, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip line - Deployed in a whole gale in deep water about 90 miles northeast of Casablanca, Morocco, with winds of 45-52 knots and seas of 15-18 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 20-30° - Drift was estimated to be 7-8 n.m. during 36 hours at sea anchor.

Sackville J. Currie is the envy of every landlubber on the planet earth. Having sailed multihulls all over Japan as Prout's agent over there, he had the Prout brothers custom-design a 39-ft. Escale for himself, which he named An t-Iompodh Deisiol (pronounced Aan Umple Jesshul), Gaelic for "the place of turning sunwise."

After launching her in 1993 in Ireland he went on a three year - 18,000 mile - cruise. He sailed her down the Iberian Peninsula to North Africa, and then across the Atlantic to Brazil. After spending six months in Brazil, it was on to Venezuela, and then exotic Central American locations, and then the Leeward Islands, and finally onto Miami.

His article entitled Xcalac Con Escala, appearing in the November/December 1996 issue of Multihulls Magazine, gives the reader an inside view of what modern catamaran cruising is all about. Reading it will make any sailor's mouth water.

Imagine exploring the Caribbean on a seaworthy, handsome, luxurious, comfortable catamaran. Imagine swift passages to Trinidad and Tobago, Port of Spain, Bonaire and the Dutch Antilles, Curacao, Aruba, Cartagena, Bay Islands of Honduras and Roatan. Imagine a leisurely foray up Guatemala's Rio Dulce, which is navigable forty miles inland and is punctuated by numerous lakes that teem with gentle manatees. Imagine exploring the heart of the Central American rain forest on a spacious, ocean going catamaran, using twin diesels to power into mile-long winding canyons festooned with lush vegetation, cormorants, snowy egrets and thousands of green butterflies, to say nothing of running into the occasional lost Mayan city. Some people have all the luck.

Sackville's J. Currie's good luck is more than earned by his careful attention to details and planning, however. He knows the territory, so to speak, picking his routes and seasons carefully, always ready and prepared to run the unexpected gauntlet. And the gauntlets that Currie has run include a number of vicious ladies, among them Opal and Roxanne - hurricanes that devastated Yucatan and Guatemala in 1994. Currie barely managed to escape with the skin of his teeth.

Ah but then a miss is as good as a mile!

And as for the storms that he couldn't avoid, well that's what the parachute sea anchor was for. He deployed one in a nasty blow on the way to the Canaries from Casablanca. The bows of the Escale were yawing 20-30°, occasionally knocked to 40° by breaking waves. Currie said he was not worried about it, seeing how that it was a shock absorbing mechanism. (The yacht absorbs much of the shock of a breaking wave by pivoting on her CLR). A few lives were lost elsewhere in this storm. Transcript:

From Casablanca we set off for the Canaries. Within 24 hours the wind was up to F-7 on the nose, and still rising. Gale/storm lasted for 3 full days. For the first 12 hours we sailed into it to get searoom. About 95 miles off the African coast we hove to under staysail. The boat lay 50° off the wind and waves. Made 2 knots of drift, also took a lot of damage from waves crashing into our side (cockpit dodger broken, autopilot, wind instruments and GPS out of action). Once we deployed the parachute, we took waves on the bow, much better. The new deployment bag works very well. Motion on parachute was not nice though, we got seasick and some whip-lashing at stern.

We used a partial trip line with two fenders. The polypropylene trip line got twisted up - we will try a swivel here next time. In retrospect we should have deployed the parachute earlier, then we would have had no damage. To recover, we waited till wind and seastate moderated, then motored up to the fender.

We also use the parachute when we want a rest or when we have to go up the mast at sea, and to avoid nighttime landfalls, deploying it when still 20 miles offshore, and retrieving it in the early hours to allow arrival in daylight. 

S/C-3 Catamaran, Prout Snowgoose


Catamaran, Prout Snowgoose

37' x 16' x 6 Tons

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9 Conditions


File S/C-2, obtained from William E. Masters, Columbus OH. - Vessel name Rhayader, Snowgoose catamaran, designed by Prout, LOA 37' x Beam 16' x Draft 2'6" x 6 Tons - Sea anchor: 12-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 300' x 3/8" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 12' each, with 5/8" galvanized swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in a whole gale in the Bay of Biscay, and also in a low system near the Bahamas with winds of 35-60 knots and seas of 20-30 feet. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 12 n.m. during 66 hours at sea anchor.

Rhayader, a handsome 37-ft. "Snowgoose" designed and built by the Prout brothers, was purchased in England and sailed across the Atlantic in April 1987. The owner, William Masters, used a 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor in a gale in the infamous Bay of Biscay. Winds were then sustained at 45 knots, gusting to 60. The sea anchor was used again about a year later when Rhayader ran into a low system stalled off Bermuda. When a low system gets stalled for an extended period of time, even if it is only packing thirty knot winds it will eventually begins to generate huge waves and swells. On the DDDB form that Masters sent back he indicated that some of the combined seas were higher than 30 ft. On this second occasion Rhayader was tethered to the sea anchor for 66 hours. Transcript:

During the 66 hour period, the seas and wind averaged 040° True. Our drift was 262° True, probably tidal set onto the Bahamas Banks. Also, in April of '87 while sailing to the Canary Islands from England, we deployed the para-anchor off the Continental Shelf, depth unknown. Winds were easterly, sea from the northwest. Nasty. Seas were short and steep (200-250' crest to crest. Winds were steady 45 knots, gusts to 60 knots. Hove to the para-anchor for 22 hours. Drift was 2 n.m. west. Thanks, para-anchor, and of course the Casanovas. I wouldn't leave port without it.

D/C-6 Catamaran, Prout


Catamaran, Prout

37' x 16' x 7.5 Tons

Seabrake GP-24

Force 7 Condition


File D/C-6, obtained from Robert Harnwell, Berwyn, PA. - Vessel name Malaika, hailing port Philadelphia, Snowgoose catamaran designed by the Prout brothers, LOA 37' x Beam 16' x Draft 2.8' x 7.5 Tons - Drogue: Seabrake GP-24 (24" diameter) on 100' x 5/8" nylon three strand tether - No bridle - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 200 miles WNW of Cape Finisterre (Spain) with winds of 30 knots and seas of 12-20 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 10° - Speed was reduced to 4-5 knots during 48 hours of deployment.

Seabrake GP
Seabrake GP

Malaika was sailed from England to the Chesapeake Bay in August 1995. Like most Prout catamarans her mast is stepped aft. With her center of effort so far back she has a slight tendency to want to round up into the wind, and will yaw slightly more than other catamarans when running downwind. Taking the main down and using headsails will reduce this the yawing - and the weather helm. So will towing a speed-limiting drogue. This applies to any vessel with a mast stepped aft or a center of effort well back - schooners, for example. Transcript:

Deployed the drogue a number of times across the Atlantic. From England to the Azores the wind was straight behind. In the gale she was surfing 10-12 knots down the big ones, slewing around at the bottom. In a big, heavy boat like ours that's really fast. Deployed the drogue and it slowed the boat down to about 5 knots - like putting on the brakes. At one point had to roll out more jib to keep up speed and control the boat. We had a sail up throughout the 48 hours with the drogue. Most of the time she would track straight, slewing around only at the bottom of the waves.

No bridle, primarily because the boat is equipped with a real heavy duty cleat and roller for the stern anchor, slightly off the centerline of the boat, about 3 feet off the centerline. No noticeable difference. The wind was knocking us around and you really couldn't tell that the cleat wasn't on the centerline of the boat. Steered by hand through the worst of it. The autopilot in most cases could do a better job steering than we could, but there were times when you would get a succession of waves, of one, two, and three waves, and on the third one you knew that you had to get on the helm yourself, because you could feel that the boat was going too fast and you were going to lose control at the bottom of the wave - when you came off the bottom of the wave the autopilot wasn't going to be able to keep the boat straight so you had to take over. But she didn't yaw about significantly in those conditions. A couple of times things got thrown around down below, but that was about it.

Due to higher speeds on catamarans, use caution in deploying a drogue. We almost lost control of it when we first put it overboard. It took off so fast and it had so much drag that it almost overwhelmed both of us. My suggestion would be to practice deploying it beforehand, which is what we really should have done. We lost the polypropylene trip line due to a slipped knot and had to pull the drogue back in with a winch - it's like having a bulldog pulling against you at the other end.

[Positioning the drogue:] The drogue grabbed anywhere it was off the stern. Sometimes it would come out of the front face of a wave, so I guess the farther back you position it the better off you are. Given the moderate conditions [30-knot winds] we didn't want it much more than a 100 feet off the stern, worrying about having to haul it back again. It would have worked fine 25 feet off the stern, but at a 100 feet everything was a little more stable. You need to use good chafing gear. We had the rode running through an anchor roller. Even with the roller and the nice, smooth metal surfaces, I had to let out a little line every twenty minutes or so.

D/C-3 Catamaran, Prout


Catamaran, Prout

34' x 16' x 5.5 Tons

9-Ft. Dia. BUORD

Force 9 Conditions

File D/C-3, obtained from Thomas W. Kintz, Groton, CT. - Vessel name Sundsvalla, hailing port East Lyme, MA, Snowgoose catamaran designed by the Prout brothers, LOA 34' x Beam 15' 8" x Draft 3' x 5.5 Tons - Drogue: 9-ft. diameter BUORD on 350' x 3/4" nylon three strand tether, with bridle arms of 45' each and 1/2" galvanized swivel - Deployed in a gale about 60 miles west of Cape Finisterre, Spain, with winds of 40-45 knots and seas of 20-25 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed up to 90° off to each side - Drogue was eventually tumbled and rendered useless - Drift was about 30 nm during 18 hours of deployment.


Sundsvalla crossed the Atlantic in August 1987. On her way down the Iberian Peninsula she ran into a northeasterly gale about sixty miles west of Cape Finisterre. She used the same parachute drogue used by Echo in the previous file (D/C-2). The behavior of Echo was satisfactory. The behavior of Sundsvalla was anything but satisfactory. She would not lie to the relatively large drogue by herself. She had to be steered manually down the steep wave faces. And she kept doing the same thing that Galliard did in file D/T-2, i.e., surge forward and then snap back on the elastic rode. Later on, when the line had temporarily gone slack, a breaking wave threw the drogue and tangled it around itself.

What was the big difference between Echo and Sundsvalla? Sundsvalla has her mast stepped aft (most Prouts catamarans do). Any sailboat with her mast stepped aft will behave relatively well when using a sea anchor off the bow, but relatively poorly when using a drogue off the stern. The opposite is also true, of course: any sailboat with her mast stepped well forward - cat-rigged - will behave relatively poorly when using a sea anchor off the bow and relatively well when using a drogue off the stern. Transcript:

Echo (previous file) behaved quite well with a 9-ft. BUORD off the stern. Sundsvalla did not. Sundsvalla has her mast stepped aft, as do many Prout catamarans.

On passage from the south coast of England to Bayona, Spain. Encountered "dry" gale from the northeast. Sailed in rising wind/seas all day under staysail alone. Near dusk, wind rose to Force 9 and occasional seas began to break. Took down all sail and deployed BUORD off stern. No problem with deployment, but vessel would not lie to the parachute by itself - it had to be steered. Line would go slack periodically. Could not keep bows pointed downwind all the time. Finally, a breaking wave caught the drogue and tangled it around itself. We left it deployed, but effectively lay a-hull all night and into the next day. Took several breaking waves over the boat - not recommended! Recovered BUORD after gale subsided and continued to Bayena.

PROBLEM: The Prout Snowgoose 34 catamaran has the mast stepped way aft. I believe that this is what caused our problem. The center of effort of the boat's aerodynamic drag was so far aft that it would yaw from side to side. This allowed the tether to go slack and ultimately tangle.

SOLUTION? The next time on a vessel of this type, I would use a storm jib hanked onto the forestay and sheeted athwartships. I believe that this would keep the bows pointed downwind by moving the center of effort forward. This would allow the helm to be untended and the tether to remain taut. Although I haven't tried it, a large para-anchor deployed from the bow should work very well because the aft mast position would increase yaw stability. [Note that a large diameter para-anchor did work well off the bow of the Prout Snowgoose, Rhayader, in File S/C-3.]