Category Archives: Drogues on Monohulls

Monohulls deploying a drogue or speed limiting device from their stern

D/M-1 Monohull, Bermuda Ketch


Monohull, Bermuda Ketch

46' x 12 Tons, Full Keel

Warp, 60 Fathoms 3" Hawser

Force 10 Conditions


File D/M-1, derived from the writings of Miles Smeeton - Vessel name Tzu Hang, hailing port Victoria, B.C., monohull, Bermuda Ketch, built in Hong Kong in 1938, LOA 46' x LWL 36' x Beam 11' 6" x Draft 7' x 12 Tons - Full keel - Drogue: Warp consisting of 360' x 3-inch manila hawser - Deployed while running before a storm in the high latitudes of the Southern Ocean with winds of 50 knots and seas of 30-40 ft. - The warp had little effect in preventing the pitchpole of Tzu Hang about 1000 miles from Cape Horn on 14 February 1957 - The yacht was sailed under jury rig to Chile, reaching Arauco Bay 36 days later.


This is probably the classic pitchpole in all of yachting history. All the major works on the subject of heavy weather tactics make mention of it. Adlard Coles refers to the 1957 pitchpole of Tzu Hang six times in Heavy Weather Sailing. In her two celebrated attempts to round Cape Horn, Tzu Hang was pitchpoled the first time and rolled the second. On the first attempt she was manned by a crew of three, owner Miles Smeeton, his wife Beryl, and the renowned singlehander John Guzzwell of Trekka fame, (Trekka Around The World, John Guzzwell, 1963).

Tzu Hang had been running before mature seas in the high latitudes (50° South) of the Southern Ocean, trailing 60 fathoms of 3-inch manila hawser. Unlike nylon, manila has the sponge-like quality of soaking up water and was at one time considered to be ideal for use as warps. In this case it was not very effective, for Miles Smeeton writes, "I watched the sixty fathoms of 3-inch hawser streaming behind. It didn't seem to be making a damn of difference, although I suppose that it was helping to keep her stern on to the seas. Sometimes I could see the end being carried forward in a big bight on the top of a wave." (Once Is Enough, Granada Publishing, London, 1984, by permission).

As the boat continued to run before the storm, one breaking wave did come aboard, but Tzu Hang showed little tendency to broach. She seemed to be doing quite well in fact. "It was a dangerous sea I knew, but I had no doubt that she would carry us safely through, and as one great wave after another rushed past us, I grew more and more confident." (Ibid.) At the time of the incident Beryl had just relieved Miles at the helm, and was steering the boat when a great wall of water approached from the stern, so wide that she couldn't see its flanks, so high and so steep that she knew Tzu Hang could not ride over it. Water was cascading down its face, like a waterfall. Miles was down below, reading a book: "As I read, there was a sudden, sickening sense of disaster. I felt a great lurch and heel, and a thunder of sound filled my ears. I was conscious, in a terrified moment, of being driven into the front and side of my bunk with tremendous force. At the same time there was a tearing cracking sound, as if Tzu Hang was being ripped apart, and water burst solidly, raging into the cabin. There was darkness, black darkness, and pressure, and a feeling of being buried in a debris of boards, and I fought wildly to get out, thinking Tzu Hang had already gone down. Then suddenly I was standing again, waist deep in water, and floorboards and cushions, mattresses and books, were sloshing in wild confusion around me." (Ibid.)

Beryl had been catapulted out of the cockpit and into the sea, landing some 30 yards to leeward. Miraculously she was able to swim toward the trailing wreckage of the mizzen mast. Her shoulder was badly injured and it took the combined strength of the two dazed men to pull her back on board. But the situation was now critical. Tzu Hang had received a near death blow. Both masts were gone and there was a gaping - six foot square - hole where the doghouse had been. The weather was not getting any better and she was taking on great amounts of water. She would no doubt have gone down, had it not been for the tenacity and sheer will power of her crew.

From the onset Beryl, although in great pain, did her best to provoke, spur and cheer the two men on into life-saving action. She was the driving force that kept resignation and despair at bay. And John "Hurricane" Guzzwell would soon put his resolve, his backbone and his skills as a carpenter to keep Tzu Hang afloat. He patched the hole in the deck. He sawed and hammered, laminated and improvised, putting back together the pieces that would - thirty six days later - bring Tzu Hang safely into Arauco Bay, Chile. What transpired in those thirty six days on the wastes of the Southern Ocean should serve as an important lesson to all sailors regarding the mindset that is so often crucial to survival itself, the lesson being this: Never give up.

What exactly happened? There is much speculation about the exact movement of the boat during the mishap. Miles Smeeton is certain that it was a somersault: "When she pitchpoled a very high and exceptionally steep wave hit her, considerably higher than she was long. It must have broken as she assumed an almost vertical position on its face. The movement was extremely violent and quick. There was no sensation of being in a dangerous position with disaster threatening. Disaster was suddenly there. Whether she had been 20° to it or her stern directly presented to it, or whether she had been running at 2 or 7 knots could, in this case, have made no difference. Her stern came up and just went on going with no hesitation at all right over the bow." (Because The Horn Is There, Granada Publishing, London 1986, by permission).

The reader may wish to compare Smeeton's observations with the statement of Joan Casanova (File S/T-1), who survived a similar wave in the Southern Ocean: "It was the type of a wave which pitchpoles yachts in these oceans, the type which every voyager sailing in the high latitudes of the Southern Ocean fears.... We want to stress here that no vessel, multihull, monohull or freighter, could have survived such a sea unless tethered with a long line from a sea anchor...."

Formula for Disaster
Formula for Disaster


Whereas a rising tide will lift a boat vertically by a force equal to her displacement (usually many tons), a steep wave will "lift" the same boat horizontally with equal displacement force (DF) at wave speed. Speed of molecular rotation is already about 7 knots on the crest of a 40-ft. wave (A). The decaying crest hurls tons of water at a wave speed of 20 knots at her transom (B). Force of gravity (C) drives the bow down into the adjacent trough where it is briefly met with 7 knots of reciprocal rotation coming from the opposite direction (D). Result: The stern goes flying right over the bow without any hesitation at all.

Miles Smeeton later wrote a short Postscript which may be the key to our understanding of the dynamics of pitchpole. This Postscript can be found on the last pages of Once Is Enough and includes the following remarks:

Since I wrote this book I have had a number of letters - mostly from well informed sources - on the reasons for Tzu Hang's two mishaps... the major cause was probably due to the orbital velocity of a big wave. I had never heard of this theory which is that, although the mass of water in a seaway, seen as a whole, is static, each particle of water moves in an orbit around the place which it would occupy at rest. If we were to throw some rubbish overboard so that it represents a particle of water on the surface, we would see it drawn back towards the approaching swell, lifted up, carried forward, and dumped in approximately its original position again; seen from the side it would trace an orbit against the background of sea and sky.

The important thing is the speed at which the water moves in this orbit, and for a forty-foot wave with a ten second period the speed is approximately seven knots. With seven knots on the top of the wave with the wind, and seven knots against the wind at the bottom, a forty-foot ship on the point of a forty-foot wave is subjected roughly to a seven knot push one way at her stern and a seven knot push the other way at her bow, a formidable overturning couple. A longer ship is already overcoming the push at her bow by the time her stern is subjected to the maximum thrust. The answer seems to be to keep forty-foot ships out of forty-foot seas, but if forced to run before them to tow long enough lines so that there is an effective drag in spite of the forward movement of the water on the crest.... (Ibid.)


D/M-2 Monohull, Bermuda Ketch


Monohull, Bermuda Ketch

39' 6" x 13.4 Tons, Full Keel

Warps, Net and Pig Iron Drags

Force 10 Conditions

File D/M-2, derived from the writings of Bernard Moitessier - Vessel name Joshua, monohull, canoe-stern, center cockpit Bermuda Ketch build of steel, LOA 39' 6" x LWL 33' 9" x Beam 12' x Draft 5' 3' x 13.4 Tons - Full keel - Drogue: assorted drags used in concert, including 22 fathoms 4.5" hemp rope weighed down by 3 pigs of iron 40 lbs. each; 16 fathoms 3" hemp rope weighed down by two pigs of iron 40 lbs. each; 32 fathoms of 1.5" nylon rope trailing freely - Deployed while running before a mature storm in the high latitudes of the Southern Ocean with sustained winds of 50 knots and seas of 30 ft. - Joshua came near to pitchpoling several times and Moitessier elected to cut away all the drags.


Bernard Moitessier is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary seamen that has ever lived. Fortunately he is an extraordinary writer as well. The critic Jonathan Raban once said, "I'd sooner read Moitessier than any other nautical writer alive." Indeed one never tires of reading Moitessier. He holds the imagination captive, from the first page to the last. Born in French Indo-China, Bernard's first odyssey was aboard his dilapidated junk, Marie Therese, which ran aground after a fifteen round - eighty five day - battle with a monsoon in the Indian Ocean. He then spent three years on the island of Mauritius, building Marie Therese II, which ran aground in the Antilles, after a long lonely Atlantic crossing. A few years later the resilient Moitessier had finished his book, Vagabond des Mers du Sud, and was in Chauffailles, France, getting married to "a little slip of a woman called Francoise" and overseeing the building of his new 39-ft. steel boat Joshua. In October 1963 he took Francoise "for a sail" on Joshua - across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, to the Galapagos and the South Pacific. The couple spent two happy, carefree years in Polynesia. In the winter of 1965 they "went sailing" again - Tahiti to Spain non-stop, via Cape Horn, 14,216 miles in 126 days.

It was on 13 December 1965 that Joshua ran into a heavy storm in the high latitudes of the Southern Ocean, mid-way between Tahiti and Cape Horn. Mindful of the experiences of Smeeton and Robinson, Moitessier deployed an array of drags to slow Joshua down - all told some 900 feet of heavy ropes weighed down by five 40-lb. iron pigs and a large heavy net used to load ships. Despite all the drag devices in tow Joshua came very close to sharing the fate of Tzu Hang - going end over end. As he struggled with the helm, Moitessier began to take stock of his situation and compare it with the experiences of other "Cape Horners," among them the renowned Argentinean singlehander Vito Dumas.

In the famous episode that followed we find Moitessier engaging the ghost of the Dumas in a debate, as it were. "But what was your secret, Vito Dumas.... You did it... and Legh II was a small boat... you carried sail, I believe you... but you couldn't have carried any sail in this kind of seas, don't spin me that yarn, for if you had carried any sail in these seas you would have been pitchpoled like Tzu Hang... and like Joshua, almost.... And yet, you covered the three oceans...." (Cape Horn, The Logical Route, Grafton Books, London 1987, by permission).

Moitessier then writes that he doesn't believe in ghosts, but could have sworn that he heard a voice - that of Dumas - telling him the answer. Once he had the answer he was aft, cutting away all drags and warps, allowing Joshua to run unimpeded on bare poles. He noticed an enormous change in her: "She had no longer anything in common with the wretched boat of the night before which had made me think of the little hunter trying to parry the blows of a gorilla, with his feet caught in the undergrowth." (Ibid.) Thereafter Moitessier adopted the technique of "putting down the helm," and Joshua began taking the seas more safely on the quarter. Later on in the storm, as they are sitting in the inside steering station, he explains the technique to his wife Francoise:


I'm running dead before the wind to keep the maximum speed on the boat and make sure that she answers on the helm when she has to. Now watch carefully, you see that wave coming up [behind]... I am still dead before... and just before the stern lifts I turn the wheel right down... You see... she heels over and veers to the right as she ought to... she is pushed forward and a little sideways... the moment the stern settles down again, just after the wave has passed I turn the wheel right over in the opposite direction to bring her back again stern on; this is the best moment because the rudder is deep in the water and very effective... you see... we are back dead before the wind, and the business starts all over again. (Ibid.)

Remarkably, Moitessier seems to be using his instincts to avoid pitchpole (see image in previous file). It must have been instinct because the phenomenon of orbital rotation was not well known at the time - nowhere in his writings does Moitessier refer to the orbital rotation of waves. Indeed, one can only infer that Moitessier must have been directed by some rare and spontaneous instinct peculiar to extraordinary seamen. By that, or by the ghost of Vito Dumas.

To fly dead straight down a wave face would have placed Joshua in the same head-over-heels predicament as Tzu Hang - the bow impaling itself in the approaching "current" in the trough as the stern was being hurled downwind by the motion at the crest. So, in maneuvering across the face of a wave (like a skier zig-zagging down a slope), Moitessier is in effect trying to cheat the pitchpole demon - trying to keep the bow from burying itself in the adjacent trough. To some extent the same principle is used by a surfer when he puts down his heel to "spin out" and disengage from the wave. Needless to say in order to execute this maneuver with precision over and over again in a storm, the helmsman of a sailboat would require the reflexes, the skill and the stamina of a Grand Prix driver, attributes that Moitessier no doubt possessed at that time, but hardly common to all sailors. Bear in mind also that Joshua was made of steel, had a canoe stern, a center cockpit, and an inside steering station where the helmsmen could concentrate on what he was doing, unaffected by the cold and the wet. It is interesting to note what the late Miles Smeeton had to say about this technique:

When Bernard Moitessier, that fine seaman, offers an opinion, it should be well considered, because he has twice sailed Joshua round Cape Horn... but his answer is not necessarily the right one for all yachts, any more than mine is, and it requires a superman to steer accurately like this through a dark night.... Even if his theory is correct for other yachts, tired men and irregular waves are apt to defy it. (Because The Horn Is There, Granada Publishing, London, 1984 & 1985, Appendix, by permission).

In 1982 Joshua was anchored in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, when a tropical storm swept over the crowded anchorage. A large motorboat dragged down on Joshua, forcing her up on the beach, where numerous other yachts ended their careers as well. When the fiasco was over nothing remained of the famous boat other than her bare steel hull. Two brothers from Port Townsend, Washington bought the hull for $20 and spent two years rebuilding her, later selling her to a Seattle woman. The woman's dream of sailing Joshua around the world was rudely shattered by the indiscretion of her sailing partner - he turned out to be married. The French newspaper Voiles & Voliers heard about the affair and sent a photographer to Seattle. After the article - showing magnificent photographs of Joshua under sail - was published, a number of famous sailors banded together to form the Joshua Foundation. The French Maritime Museum then purchased the dear old boat, put it on a ship and took it to La Rochelle France, where she is on display today.

D/M-3 Monohull, Custom Ketch


Monohull, Custom Ketch

50 x 22 Tons, Full Keel & Centerboard

36" Dia. Galerider

Force 10 Conditions


File D/M-3, obtained from Frank Snyder, Vice Commodore, New York Yacht Club - Vessel name Southerly, hailing port New York, monohull, center-cockpit aluminum ketch designed by Sparkman & Stephens, LOA 50' x LWL 45' x Beam 14' x Draft 5.5' x 22 Tons - Full keel & centerboard - Drogue: Galerider on 200' x 1¼" nylon three strand rode, with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Deployed in low system in deep water in the Gulf Stream, with winds of 50 knots and seas of 10 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 20° with helmsman steering - Speed was reduced to 3-4 knots.

Galerider drogue produced by Hathaway, Reiser and Raymond
Galerider drogue produced by Hathaway, Reiser and Raymond

Frank V. Snyder, Vice Commodore of the New York Yacht Club, ran across an article in a British magazine summarizing the results of experiments conducted by the National Maritime Institute on life rafts in heavy weather, in the North Sea. The article emphasized the importance of sea anchors - small, synthetic cones - when it came to keeping life rafts from capsizing, but revealed that the same cones were often among the first parts of the raft to fail. The article went on to say that the Institute had then designed and built new sea anchors from a close mesh netting material which, unlike their predecessors, did not fail in a second set of sea trials. One raft even lost its ballast bags but still did not flip: its sea anchor held it down.

When preparing his 55-ft. ketch Southerly for a late fall passage from New York to Antigua in 1984, Commodore Snyder decided to equip her with a flow-through drogue of his own design. He approached Skip Raymond of the sailmaking firm of Hathaway, Reiser & Raymond, Inc., with his ideas. Raymond then went to work, building a small model at first, and then the full scale prototype of the first Galerider drogue. It was three feet in diameter and four feet long, shaped a little like a basket made from two-inch nylon webbing. On Saturday, November 17, Southerly departed New York Harbor and broad-reached all Saturday and Sunday morning, making better than eight knots in seas that were building. On Sunday afternoon the barometer began dropping rapidly and, by the time she entered the Gulf Stream at dusk, the wind had piped up to southwest, Force 9-10. Soon she was in very confused conditions, with two big seas crossing at an angle of 90°.

In a related article appearing in the September 1986 issue of Yachting Magazine entitled Galerider Handles a Gale, Frank Snyder wrote that despite being a big, strong, stiff and seakindly boat, Southerly couldn't handle the turmoil. He directed the crew to douse the trysail and they began running before it under bare poles, trying to keep the new seas slightly on the starboard quarter. But as the confused seas continued to build Southerly became unmanageable, now and then her speed racing up to 12 knots or more on the face of a bigger wave. To have her surging at these speeds under bare poles was alarming. The vicious cross seas would catch her on the downslide and roll her rail down under. Her hull form would then cause her to broach in the trough - dangerous if the waves got any bigger. It was time to deploy the Galerider. The rode, 200 feet of 1¼" nylon three strand, was attached to the drogue and the bitter end given four turns around the coffee grinder on the after deck (Southerly is a center-cockpit boat). In went the drogue. When it took hold there was no shock at all; in fact the crew couldn't tell for sure the precise moment when the drogue did take hold, but were soon aware that the boat was slowing down. Commodore Snyder writes that the effect of slowing the boat in that big, confused seaway was magical:

At one moment the boat had been charging like a mad bull, with the helmsman struggling at the wheel; in the next, she was docile and under full control. The helmsman found that Southerly would still answer her helm - though slowly - and that she could steer through about 90°. Everyone relaxed, and the off-watch turned in, even though the motion wasn't all that comfortable, with the cross sea still rolling us 20° either side of vertical. But the boat was safe.

The seas continued to build for the next three hours and several big ones came aboard over the stern, though no green water reached the cockpit. Had the cockpit been aft, it would probably have filled a couple of times. At 0200, the wind veered to north and began dropping. By 0400 it was down to Force 7, and the storm was over - another of those six-hour Gulf Stream "local lows." (Yachting Magazine, September 1986, by permission).

Commodore Snyder's creation has caught on and many offshore yachts now carry a Galerider on board. The "flow-through" concept is rugged, simple, stable, and does not get turned inside out. The stainless steel wire hoop that keeps the Galerider's mouth open can be folded on itself, allowing for compact storage.

D/M-4 Monohull, Irwin 37


Monohull, Irwin 37

37' x 6 Tons, Low Aspect Fin Keel

Jury-Rigged Sail

Force 7-8 Conditions

GENNYANCFile D/M-4, obtained from Charles E. Kanter, Key Largo, FL. - Vessel name Lorilynn, hailing port Philadelphia, monohull, center-cockpit sloop designed by Ted Irwin, LOA 37' x LWL 34' x Beam 14' x Draft 4' x 6 Tons - Low aspect fin keel - Drogue: 150% Genoa sail (three corners tied together like a diaper) on 200' x 5/8" nylon three strand rode, with no swivel - Deployed in a low system in deep water midway between Great Anagua and Ackland Islands (Bahamas) with winds of 30-40 knots and seas of 8-12 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 10° - Drift was said to be very little.


A former delivery skipper, Charles E. Kanter has well over 100,000 blue water miles under his belt. He has served as sailing coach to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, conducted extensive tests on ground anchors, written articles about sea anchors, ground anchors and hurricane mooring systems. On the occasion of this file Kanter and crew were sailing their newly refurbished Irwin 37, Lorilynn, from St. Thomas to the Bahamas when they ran into full gale conditions. To the north lay the treacherous shoals of Acklins Island, and to the west the equally treacherous lee shore of the Great Bahama Bank.

Kanter rigged a "drogue" out of his largest genoa. He tied the three corners of the sail loosely together with dock lines; he then connected it to 200 ft. of anchor rode and carefully deployed the whole thing over the stern. He was able to get the sail to fill and assume a shape similar to a triangular parachute. The boat then lay comfortably stern-to the seas for a period of about 12 hours, more or less anchored to the surface of the ocean. The wind and the rain were so strong that it was impossible to go on deck. The EPIRB, life raft and the calamity pack were made ready just in case. The crew prepared itself for the worst.

Every fifteen minutes one of them would try to poke a head out of the hatch as a lookout, but it was a futile exercise, the air being so thick with spume and spray. In related articles appearing in the February 1985 issue of Cruising World and September/October 1987 issue of Multihulls Magazine, Charles Kanter wrote that he spent the entire night on the cabin sole, agonizing and reflecting on the tactic as it related to the particular boat and situation. As it turned out the center cockpit Irwin rode out the storm quite nicely, without excessive yawing or broaching. Her stern stayed more or less snubbed into the seas, and in twelve hours she had drifted only about three miles westward - the wind being from the east. By dawn the storm had abated and they got under way again, after hauling the "genny anchor" back in. It is interesting to note that Kanter mentions observing large cresting waves breaking over the location of the makeshift drogue:

We found that the sea anchor being close to the surface caused the waves to break before they reached the boat, just like being behind a shoal. It was awe-inspiring. Giant waves would rush up behind us, looking like they were going to overwhelm us and they would, literally, explode when they hit the sea anchor artificial shoal. We never took green water on the deck in the twelve hours we lay there. It looked a little like the famous Hawaii surf, with us standing just far enough up the beach to get a little foam. (Multihulls Magazine, September/October 1987, by permission).

In parts of the Mediterranean where ancient Phoenicians knew of the existence of underwater currents they would lower their sails into the depths and get a tow when becalmed. Sails have great potential for use as makeshift sea anchors and drogues. Think about it. If a sail is strong enough to drive a heavy boat through the sea at several knots, why can't it be used as a sea anchor or drogue to reduce drift? In section 8 of Oceanography And Seamanship, William G. Van Dorn discusses the use of parachutes as sea anchors and adds that a makeshift parachute can be rigged out of any heavy spinnaker, "using three sheets as shroud lines and any spare nylon for a rode." He goes on to say that the forces will be about the same as if it were flying in a strong wind.

Sailors should also read the article Sails As Sea Anchors by Daniel C. Shewmon, appearing in the July/August 1986 issue of Multihulls Magazine (back issues available from Multihulls Magazine, 421 Hancock St., Quincy MA 02171). This article explains and illustrates how to convert sails into emergency sea anchors. Shewmon emphasizes that purpose-made sea anchors should be standard equipment on all offshore boats, but that if the unit is lost or damaged it can temporarily be replaced by a sail. "Mains, genoas, and spinnakers are ideal shapes for conversions to sea anchors.... The key to their success as sea anchors is equal flow of water from all three sides." (July/August issue of Multihulls Magazine, by permission).

Large, equilateral sails, such as genoas, can be converted into sea anchors - or drogues - by tying the three corners together like a diaper, or by using three short lengths of rope as shown above. A swivel termination is a good idea. On some vessels this "genny anchor" can then be used off the bow, along with a mizzen or riding sail. On others, it may be used off the stern as a makeshift medium-pull drogue.
Large, equilateral sails, such as genoas, can be converted into sea anchors - or drogues - by tying the three corners together like a diaper, or by using three short lengths of rope as shown above. A swivel termination is a good idea. On some vessels this "genny anchor" can then be used off the bow, along with a mizzen or riding sail. On others, it may be used off the stern as a makeshift medium-pull drogue.


D/M-5 Monohull, Tayana


Monohull, Tayana

37' x 11 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

Warps, Submerged Dinghy, Etc.

Force 11-12 Conditions


File D/M-5, obtained from Patton S. King, Houston, TX. - Vessel name Hudie, hailing port Houston, monohull, Tayana, designed by Robert Perry, LOA 37' x LWL 31' x Beam 11' 6" x Draft 5' 8" x 11 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Drogue: Four warps, 250' each, with various items attached, including buckets, tarp, sail bags and submerged 8-ft. fiberglass dinghy - Deployed in hurricane Juan (October '85) in 100 fathoms of water about 130 miles SE of Galveston, with winds of 90 knots and seas of 30 ft. - Vessel yawed 40° and was eventually rolled full circle by a rogue wave, necessitating abandonment.


Hudie, a seakindly, canoe-stern Tayana 37 designed by Robert Perry, was on her way to Key West from Galveston in October 1985. To the east, a tropical depression had formed, which soon matured into a tropical storm, and was later upgraded to a full-fledged hurricane, named Juan by the National Hurricane Center in Miami. In the language of meteorologists, the term re-curvature refers to the shift in direction of the path of a hurricane, from a westerly to an easterly component of movement. Trying to predict when and where a hurricane is going to re-curve is the sort of thing that gives the men and women of the National Hurricane Center migraine headaches. Juan wasn't about to make things any easier. It was "all over the place," stalling and moving about erratically - playing a game of hide and seek with the forecasters.

Juan was only category 1 in stature, weak in so far as hurricanes go. In terms of damage, however, it would soon prove itself to be one of the worst storms in history. On October 28th, for instance, it forced 80 oil workers on 2 offshore rigs to take to life boats. On the 29th it sank an oil barge with 3 crewmen on board. On the 30th it was lashing the Louisiana coast for a second day, causing an estimated fifty deaths and one billion dollars damage. Governor Edwin Edwards said that Juan had done more damage to the state than any storm in history, and President Reagan had to declare the state of Louisiana a disaster area on November 2nd.

Meanwhile, back on Friday October 25th, Hudie was down to her last reef points, with the storm jib pulling like a bulldozer. The seas continued to build rapidly and on Saturday night she found herself engulfed within Juan's spiraling arms. Wind: Force 11-12. Hudie was running before 30-ft. seas now, averaging 6 knots on bare poles. With options narrowing the owner, Patton S. King, deployed a 9-ft. diameter BUORD on the fly, believing that it would stop the boat and pull the bow around, or at least partially around. No swivel was used. The rode consisted of 200 feet of 5/8" diameter nylon three strand, leading out of the port bow chock. The shock of the opening parachute was noted, along with extremely high tension in the rode. The boat's speed decreased from 6 knots to 3 knots. But Hudie did not round up into the wind. She didn't even come beam to the seas, but instead assumed a heading still downwind, with the seas on her quarter and with the rode leading off the bow, bent under the keel and trailing out astern.

We should digress briefly and ask the question as to why the 9-ft. diameter BUORD failed to exert some sort of a pull on the bow - make the boat stop, turn around and begin facing into the wind and seas. There are several possible answers.

In the first place, with nearly six feet of draft, a full keel and the forefoot cutaway, the Tayana 37's CE (center of wind effort) is well forward of her CLR (center of lateral resistance). A yacht like this won't even lie a-hull in hurricane force winds. Rather, she will tend to point downwind. For a sea anchor to countermand this tendency and actually pull the bow all the way around it would have to be larger - in the order of 15-18 feet in diameter.

In the second place, there is the matter of the torque associated with three strand rope under extreme dynamic loading. The chute was set on the fly, resulting in a significant shock when it opened. No swivel was used (not that it would have been able to rotate, initially) and extremely high tension was noted in the line. What happens to three strand rope when it is subjected to this sort of extreme loading? It torques. In trying to unlay, it will stiffens and rotate like an engine shaft, twisting the parachute shroud lines together into a thick lay and reducing the diameter at the mouth of the parachute. The sea anchor was too small to begin with, and with its mouth choked shut it could not possibly have pulled the bow of Hudie around into the seas.

At any rate, twenty minutes later the rode parted from chafe under the keel, and the boat resumed its 6-knot run down streaked mountains of water. Four warps, 250 ft. each, were then trailed over the stern, with various items attached, including buckets, 2 tarps, sail bags, an igloo ice box (full of ice and pop) and a submerged, 8 foot fiberglass dinghy. The combined drag was enough to slow Hudie down to 3 knots again. In fact, from 10 p.m. on Saturday, until 6 a.m. Sunday, the makeshift drogues improved the behavior of the boat to such an extent that in subsequent telephone conversations with Victor Shane, Patton S. King said that he could not have been happier with the way things were going.

At approximately 6 a.m. Sunday, however, it is thought that a rogue wave picked up Hudie, carried her sideways, broke and rolled her through 360° in about twelve seconds. Instantly cans, bottles, tables, utensils, floor boards and people were rolling around in total shambles inside - with broken glass everywhere. There was much evidence of roof damage, with extensive damage to the rigging, mast and spreaders. All the crew had sustained injuries, fortunately nothing major. They could not raise the Coast Guard, but a call to "any vessel" was soon answered by a couple of tugs and a commercial fishing boat. In the meantime they cut away all warps, started the engine, brought the bow around and began jogging into it.

By 3.30 p.m. Sunday afternoon the situation had become altogether untenable - all pumps clogged or broken, engine rapidly overheating and the boat being hammered by 25-ft. seas. When the F/V Gulf King appeared and agreed to take the crew aboard the decision was made to abandon ship. Soon all were safely aboard the Gulf King. Their last view of Hudie was seeing her get knocked down in the distance.

D/M-6A Monohull, Ericson


Monohull, Ericson

25' x 3 Tons, Swing Keel

9-Ft. BUORD, 30" Galerider & Series Drogue

Force 4-5 Conditions

File D/M-6A, obtained from Gary Danielson, St. Clair Shores, MI. - Vessel name Moon Boots, hailing port Detroit, monohull, designed by Bruce King, LOA 24' 8" x LWL 20' 10" x Beam 8' x Draft 4' (27" keel up) x 3 Tons - TESTS OF: 9-Ft. Diameter BUORD, 30" Galerider, Jordan Series Drogue - Deployed for evaluation purposes during passage of frontal trough in shallow water (9 fathoms) on Lake Huron with winds of 25 knots and seas of 6-8 ft.


Prior to sailing his Ericson 25 across the Atlantic Gary Danielson tried out three different drag-device concepts: A 9-ft. diameter BUORD parachute off the bow, a 30-inch Galerider drogue off the stern, and a Jordan series drogue off the stern (88 x 5-inch diameter cones spliced into 300 ft. of braided 1/2" nylon towline at 20" intervals, with a 15 lb. mushroom anchor at the very end to keep the array well-submerged).

To make his investigation as reliable as possible Danielson did all of the testing on a single day, in constant conditions. The crew for this evaluation was along solely to take measurements and record data. The tests were conducted in November 1988 on Lake Huron. On the day of the tests the sustained wind speed varied between 20 and 25 knots with gusts of 30 knots. The waves varied between 6 and 8 feet.

One of Danielson's preconditions was that the swing keel be up and out of harm's way on this particular boat. With the keel raised he found that the 9-ft. BUORD parachute would not pull the bow of Moon Boots into the seas in a satisfactory manner. It yawed up to 50° off to each side. This is not too different from the experience of Harley Sachs in file S/M-11, where the bow of Gamesmanship yawed 30-45° off to each side when the keel was retracted, but only 10° when it was lowered. Transcript:


Sea Anchor: A 9 foot sea anchor was deployed over the bow attached to 300 feet of 3/8" braided nylon rode. The centerboard and rudder were both raised and all sails were lowered for this test. The sea anchor was very easy to deploy and there was no shock to it when it grabbed hold of the boat. It did an extremely good job of keeping the boat in place as sternward drift through the water ranged from .25-.75 knots. The problem was that the boat was yawing through an arc which totaled almost 100 degrees (putting the bow of the boat almost 50 degrees off the wave). It was yawing very slowly from side to side so that there were lengthy periods (60 seconds) where the bow of the boat was as much as 50 degrees from the wave direction.

Since the boat spent so much of its time not being bow-on to the waves it rolled quite heavily (in excess of 20 degrees) and relatively quickly. Had the conditions been more severe, this could have proved to have been dangerous. The rode was then shortened to 150 feet of scope to see what effect that would have on the yawing of the boat. Repeated measurements showed no substantial variation in yaw even with the shortened scope. The sea anchor was very difficult to retrieve as Moon Boots has no anchor windlass on the foredeck and as no trip line had been attached to the sea anchor.


A BUORD is a porous small parachute issued by the Bureau of Ordnance
A BUORD is a porous small parachute issued by the Bureau of Ordnance


Galerider: The next item tested was the Galerider drogue. This was set from the stern utilizing a 30 foot 1/2" braided tether which was connected to each of the stern quarters of the boat and then attached to a 150 foot 3/8" braided nylon rode. Initially the Galerider was utilized with no sail up, the centerboard and rudder both retracted. The Galerider drogue had a steady and constant pull and did not jerk when it was deployed... it held the boat to a total yaw of 10° (5° per side). The boat rolled (vertically) no more than 10-12° to a side. As well, it rolled much more slowly than it did with the sea anchor out. The Galerider was running below the surface, but only by about 5 feet. Therefore, in heavier conditions it may be somewhat more susceptible to surface wave action. It did not pull the stern down much at all and gave the boat, overall, a very nice ride.

Next, the rudder was lowered and allowed to swing free and the centerboard was lowered while the Galerider was still out. It was noted that the boat then yawed through a total of about 70° (35° per side). The boat still rolled very little and did so slowly. Next, a small jib sail was raised to see how the boat sailed with the Galerider out. The boat could be sailed through a total arc of 90° (45° per side). The boat speed ranged from 2.5 to 4 knots. There was no tendency whatsoever for the boat to surf and, of course, at these speeds it was very responsive to the helm. The Galerider was particularly easy to retrieve as the rode with which it had been deployed was wrapped around a cockpit winch and winched back aboard.

Galerider drogue produced by Hathaway, Reiser and Raymond
Galerider drogue produced by Hathaway, Reiser and Raymond



Series Drogue: The Jordan style series drogue was then deployed over the stern using the bridle to each of the quarters of the boat and attached to the 300 ft. rode (with cones)... the centerboard was up, the rudder was up and all sails were lowered for this test. This drogue was easy to deploy and caused no shock loading when it began to take effect. The Jordan style drogue appeared to sink very deeply into the water and, in fact, created a substantial downward as well as rearward pull on the boat. Consequently a number of waves washed in over the transom of the boat while the Jordan drogue was deployed. The Jordan drogue slowed the boat so that the average speed was between 0 and .25 knots.... The boat yawed a total of 10° (5° per side). The boat rolled very little, only 10-12° per side, and did so slowly. The series drogue was easier to retrieve than the sea anchor (without any trip line) but more difficult than the Galerider. It was easier than the sea anchor because every few feet of rode that were retrieved resulted in one less cone being in the water to create drag and therefore the drag continued to be reduced as the rode was brought in. The difficulty with retrieving the Jordan style drogue is that it cannot be retrieved utilizing winches because the cones get tangled up when a winch is used so that retrieval can only be done by hand....

The Jordan Series Drogue consists of dozens of tiny cones spliced into the long rode
The Jordan Series Drogue consists of dozens of tiny cones spliced into the long rode


CONCLUSIONS: In the moderate conditions of the test the Galerider was definitely the best product of those which were tested. Its advantages are its small storage space, its ease of deployment and retrieval.... It has the additional benefit of having enough drag that the boat can be actively sailed, but will not surf, should you find the wind blowing in a favorable direction. It would be useful if repairs were needed since it stops the boat from rolling. The Galerider is also good in that it does not seem to pull the cockpit down (which would make it vulnerable to breaking waves). The concerns that I have are that it may not ride deep enough to avoid wave action in heavy weather (resulting in a possible loss of drag) and it is possible that it may not offer enough drag in the ultimate storm to pull the stern into a serious breaking wave....

The Jordan style drogue would be helpful to keep the boat from rolling while some repairs were made and is the best at keeping the boat in a stationary position if drift were undesirable. It also was the best at keeping the stern directly into the waves and at exerting a constant pull. Finally, I am confident that its design of multiple cones coupled with its deep riding nature would ensure that no matter what the wave situation it would never be caught in wave disturbance and lose any appreciable amount of drag. The disadvantage was that it rode too deep and exerted too much downward force on the stern of the boat. However, I will be putting a smaller weight on the end in an effort to reduce the downward pull.

Please note Gary's update after serveral mid-Atlantic gales

D/M-6B Monohull, Ericson


Monohull, Ericson

25' x 3 Tons, Swing Keel

Jordan Series Drogue

Force 8 Conditions


File D/M-6B, obtained from Gary Danielson, St. Clair Shores, MI. - Vessel name Moon Bootshailing port Detroit, monohull, designed by Bruce King, LOA 24' 8" x LWL 20' 10" x Beam 8' x Draft 4' (27" keel up) x 3 Tons. Drogue: Galerider deployed in Force 8, mid-Atlantic - vessel required constant steering.  Jordan series drogue (88 x 5" cones on 300' x 1/2" nylon braid rode) - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 500 miles east of the Bahamas with winds of 35-45 knots and seas of 9-14 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 10° - Drift was about 10 miles during 36 hours of deployment.


This file updates the previous one. Gary Danielson's Lake Huron evaluations took place in 1988. In 1991 he sailed Moon Boots across the Atlantic and back. He had occasion to use the Galerider and the series drogue in a number of Force 8 gales. In the first mid-Atlantic gale he used the Galerider and found that it greatly enhanced steering control in 15-ft. seas, but left to itself (while he was resting down below) it would allow the stern of the boat to yaw too much - 40° off to each side at times. In the second Force 8 gale (600 miles from the British Isles and 15-ft. seas again) he used the series drogue and it kept the stern of the boat snubbed into the seas and, in taking total control of the situation, allowed him to remain down below and get much needed rest. Danielson sailed Moon Boots back across the Atlantic singlehanded in March 1991, re-tracing Columbus' route from the Canaries to San Salvador in the Bahamas. En route he ran into another Force 8 gale. Transcript:

The only heavy weather of the trip occurred about 500 miles east of San Salvador, Bahamas. As my course was due West at that point, it meant the wind was right on the nose. At 25-30 knots Moon Boots can't sail upwind effectively any longer. Once the wind got to the low 30's I knew I'd have to put out a drogue. I decided to use the Jordan style series drogue rather than the Galerider because I didn't want to lose any of the ground I'd already gained and the Jordan is a much better "anchor" than the Galerider. In fact, that was pretty much how I decided which one to use on the prior trip also. In any event it did an outstanding job of keeping the stern into the waves and of limiting drift to almost nothing (10 miles in 36 hours, less any westerly drift from possible currents). I had changed the 15 lb. mushroom at the end to a 5 lb. weight and that helped the Jordan to ride a bit more horizontal (but still below the surface). The only problem was that the boat had been broken into in the Canaries and the inside lock for the main hatch had been damaged (the hatch fully closed, just couldn't be secured shut). As you probably know, the Jordan drogue exhibits a tremendous pull at all times. The transom of Moon Boots had been beefed up specially because of this, as had the hatch and the hatch boards. And a good thing too, because every so often a wave would completely go over Moon Boots (I could see solid water as I looked out the side ports).

The problem was that at times these waves would slide the main hatch 2-3' forward. Note that the hatch top itself was custom made of wood, weighted almost 75 lbs., and slid very hard on its track as it did not sit on rollers or cars of any type (just slid on metal tracks). It always took an effort with both hands to slide it open or shut. But these waves would slam it open and at the same time 30-50 gallons of water would pour in, (this happened 9 times in 36 hours). Therefore anyone using this style drogue had better have prepared the stern of his boat properly.

It has occurred to me that since the Jordan style drogue has a constant and continuous pull, it could make a superior sea anchor (off the bow) if sized properly for a given boat. It wouldn't work on Moon Boots as a sea anchor, but any boat that behaves OK with a sea anchor would probably be even safer with a Jordan style. I now believe, more than ever, that my solo Atlantic passages on Moon Boots could not have been accomplished safely without the drogues.


D/M-7 Monohull, Nor’Sea 27


Monohull, Nor'Sea 27

31' x 5 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

30" Dia. Galerider Drogue

Force 10-11 Conditions


File D/M-7, obtained from George R. Purifoy, Pittsburgh, PA. - Vessel name Synthesis, hailing port Pittsburgh, monohull, Nor'Sea 27 (center cockpit version) designed by Lyle Hess, LOA 31' x LWL 27' x Beam 8' x Draft 3' 9" x 5 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Drogue: 30" Galerider on 150' x 5/8" nylon three strand rode, with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Deployed in a storm in deep water about 500 miles east of Block Island, New York, with winds of 50-60 knots and seas of 20-25 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 20° with the owner steering manually - Downwind speed was reduced to about 3 knots in 15 hours of deployment.

George R. Purifoy, Jr., is a Pittsburgh engineer who completed a solo Atlantic crossing and return on board Synthesis, a Nor'Sea 27 - solid little world cruiser designed by Lyle Hess. The Nor'Sea 27 boasts of about 150 Atlantic and Pacific crossings, and 4 circumnavigations. Synthesis left City Island, New York, bound for the Azores and ran into an Atlantic storm on 12 June 88, approximately 500 miles east of Block Island. In an article appearing in the 32nd issue of Ocean Navigator, Purifoy recounted his trials and tribulations as he struggled to keep the sea in face of a mounting storm. Methodically, he went through the incremental steps of sail reduction - down to storm jib and double-reefed main. By the time it was blowing 40 knots it was dark and even the double-reefed main had to come down. Down it came, an inch at a time, "thrashing like a thing alive," the decks awash and illuminated by flashes of lightning.

As the storm built, Purifoy put Synthesis on a downwind course and began steering her in earnest. From then on it was a battle to keep the yacht from getting a little sideways and tripping on her keel. The mental states experienced by Purifoy in that perilous night might easily be experienced by any sailor running into a storm. Excerpts from the article follow (reproduced by permission of Ocean Navigator):

Boy, talk about scared! I am just on the ragged edge of control. One of these times I'm going to make a mistake and that will be all she wrote. To compound things, the steepness of the waves and our speed down them is causing the bow to bury in the base of the wave ahead.... Little Synthesis is taking green water over the bow up to the mast. Now, along with the distinct probability of a broach, is the very real danger of pitchpoling. Time for the last line of defense: the storm drogue. If I can't slow the boat down we're going to buy the farm for sure!

When Purifoy finally deployed the Galerider, there was a dramatic transition from chaos to control. The drogue took hold, slowed the boat's speed down to a safe and sane 2-3 knots, and helped to reduce the tendency to bury the bow. The article continues:

What a wonderful feeling. No longer are we rushing crazily toward a cold swim. The boat has slowed down to about two knots or so, even on the steep downhill faces of the waves. Those monster waves are still rushing at us from astern, but Synthesis just lifts her stern and all the foam and tumbling water just moves by. Beautiful! I still have to steer, but not with the strain and concentration of before. All of a sudden the storm seems manageable, duck soup even.

In subsequent telephone conversations with Victor Shane, Purifoy added the following: A bridle was used, with arms of 14' each, made of 3/4" nylon three strand, the tether itself being 150' x 5/8" nylon three strand; the deployment took place in the Gulf Stream; the storm jib was flying for the duration of the time in which the drogue was deployed; the boat had to be steered manually without interruption, although happily the steering was much easier with the drogue in tow; without continuous manual input at the helm Synthesis might have broached and/or capsized; notwithstanding she might not have survived the storm intact without the assistance of the Galerider. In answer to your Shane's question about the positioning of the drogue Purifoy had this to say:

The 150' rode seemed about right for the wave system - the drogue was always one wave back of Synthesis, and on the back side as Synthesis was on the front side. I guess the wave length must have been more like 90-100'.


Positioning the drogue... "on the back of the next wave."
Positioning the drogue... "on the back of the next wave."

D/M-8 Monohull, Morgan 382


Monohull, Morgan 382

38' x 9 Tons, Low Aspect Fin Keel

Five 14" Plastic Cones In Series

Force 11 Conditions


File D/M-8, obtained from Jim Gilster, St. Clair Shores, MI. - Vessel name Windsprint, hailing port St. Clair Shores, monohull, Morgan 382 designed by Ted Brewer & Jack Corey, LOA 38' 4" x LWL 30' 6" x Beam 12' x Draft 5' x 9 Tons - Low aspect fin keel - Drogue: 5 each 14" diameter plastic cones (Davis Instruments) on 300' x 5/8" nylon three strand rode plus 20' of chain - Deployed in a storm in deep water about 200 miles north of Bermuda with winds of 60-70 knots and seas of 20 ft. - Microbursts - Vessel's stern yawed 10° - Speed was reduced to about 2 knots during 33 hours of deployment.


On 3 June 1984 the British sailing barque Marques capsized and sank with loss of 19 lives, 80 miles northeast of Bermuda while participating in the Tall Ships Race. On 14 May 1985 the replica sailing vessel Pride Of Baltimore capsized and sank 240 miles north of Puerto Rico. On 31 August 1986 the Calida, a 135' replica of the Cutty Sark, capsized and sank in similar circumstances 90 miles southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

The culprit in each case: Microburst. Microbursts, or "white squalls," as they are sometimes called, are associated with massive thunderstorm cells embedded within existing storm systems. A microburst involves a sudden, cataclysmic release of bottled-up energy in the form of one or more downbursts. These downbursts - sometimes sporting wind gusts of 100 knots - consist of cold, dense air which plummets down to the surface of the sea, thereafter spreading out on all sides, the outer edge being called a gust front or shear line.


This precipitous downward movement of air, also known as wind shear, is now believed to have been the cause of a number of previously inexplicable air tragedies, among them the tragic crash of Delta flight 191 in Dallas in 1986. The crash of Delta 191 prompted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to sponsor the development of NEXRAD - "next generation" pulse-doppler radar capable of detecting wind shear as well as incipient tornadoes and twisters. (Today NEXRAD is in wide use throughout the world). The added leverage gained by the wind, because of its downward vector, has no doubt been the undoing of many a sailing vessel. Try sailing under the wash of a hovering helicopter with a sailing dinghy and see what happens. The downward blast from those rotors will instantly knock your dinghy down. The same phenomenon occurs in nature, only on a much, much grander scale - microbursts. It is Victor Shane's opinion that the Queen's Birthday Storm of June 1994 was reinforced and exacerbated by a great many microbursts (see File D/M-12).


Normal wind blowing horizontally will heel a canvassed yacht before spilling out of the sails. Microburst coming down at an angle will instantly roll the yacht onto her beam ends.
Normal wind blowing horizontally will heel a canvassed yacht before spilling out of the sails. Microburst coming down at an angle will instantly roll the yacht onto her beam ends.

Sailing vessels situated directly beneath the microburst will find themselves in grave peril, especially those with lofty rigs. The added leverage gained by the wind will easily knock down, capsize, or drive the bow down under, as was the case with the Marques. The downward force of the wind struck against her lofty rig from the port quarter, burying the bow; the sails, then on the starboard side, served as the lever to spin the Marques around and quickly roll her onto her beam ends. She filled with water and sank in a matter of minutes.

It is interesting to note that the builders of the old Baltimore Clippers seemed to have had foreknowledge of microbursts, and made allowance for this vice of nature in the way that they designed the rigging. In an article called The Baltimore Clipper, appearing in volume 14 of Sea History, Melbourne Smith writes, "Everything aloft was made as light as possible to reduce windage and save weight. The gear could be struck at will by the large number of men carried aboard. Some of it was purposely fashioned light as a built-in safety factor so that it could be `removed by the Lord' if the crew failed to do so in time." (Courtesy Sea History, a publication of the National Maritime Historical Society.)

Getting back to file D/M-8, Windsprint, a Morgan 382, was being sailed to England in June 1984 when she was caught in the same storm system that sank the Marques. The owner of the boat, Jim Gilster, was quick to take down all sails and set a new course downwind, a few degrees off the rhumb line to Bermuda. Windsprint was soon averaging 7 knots on bare poles with the helm manned. The skipper then deployed a drogue consisting of five 14-inch diameter plastic cones, shaped like Mexican hats, manufactured by Davis Instruments. (Davis is still manufacturing the "Mexican hats", but for use as "rocker stoppers" only). The five cones, spaced 18" apart at the end of a 300' nylon rode, did a good job of keeping the stern of the yacht pointed into the seas for some 33 hours. In fact, once the helm was properly adjusted and locked no further steering was required. The crew was able to retire down below and rest in relative comfort, seventy knot winds and twenty foot seas raging outside. Transcript:

We were in the storm pattern that sank the Marques on June 3, and we were told of its sinking by one of the tall ships continuing on to Halifax. When we arrived in St. George's Harbor in Bermuda we witnessed services being held aboard the one tall ship that dropped out of the race to assist in the search and rescue effort.

The five plastic cones were spaced 18" apart; I rigged them up with 5/16" braided nylon, doubled, with a thimble at the bend, and figure eight knots at the holes in the cones. I attached all this to 20' of chain and 300' of 5/8" nylon line, led to the port stern cleat and port sheet winch. I felt confident it would all hold up. It did, in 70 knot winds and 20' seas. We slowed down to 1.5 to 2 knots from 7 knots on bare poles. I adjusted the wheel to allow us to quarter the waves, and we were "comfortable".... We were occasionally pooped, but with a bridge deck and tight hatch, little water entered the cabin. Although each of the five cones was cracked when we hauled them back in, we did not notice any diminished resistance while "at anchor." I am in the process of affixing two cones together to make five sets of two each, somehow each set of two cones sealed/glued together for strength.

Interestingly, these cones were originally marketed as "sea anchors" in the early 60's when I purchased a set for this purpose. I think Davis should beef them up a bit and again denote them "sea anchors." I would, and will, use them again in the same manner. I was very pleased with the way they slowed the boat down, although, of course, I had no lee shore to contend with.

D/M-9 Monohull, Gulf Island


Monohull, Gulf Island

30' x 4 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

36" Dia. Galerider Drogue

Force 8 Conditions


File D/M-9, obtained from Warren Hawkins, North Pole, Alaska - Vessel name Ancient Mariner, monohull, Gulf Island, LOA 30' x LWL 27' x Beam 8' x Draft 5' 4" x 4 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Drogue: 36" Diameter Galerider on 200' x 5/8" nylon three strand rode, with bridle arms of 20' x 5/8" Dacron braid and 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 1200 miles NE of Hawaii with winds of 35-40 knots and seas of 18 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 20° - Speed was reduced to about 3 knots during 20 hours of deployment.


The trade winds blow steadily over vast stretches of ocean and can generate surprisingly large seas and swells. When Victor Shane was sailing to Hawaii, for instance, stiff trades had produced swells that averaged about 10 feet. Typically these seas are very lumpy and uncomfortable as well. Add a few squalls and a low system and it's time to heave-to or get out the drogue. Ancient Mariner, a Gulf Island 30, was being delivered to Hawaii from Alaska when she ran into this sort of situation. Transcript of the feedback provided by delivery skipper Warren Hawkins:

During the early morning hours of July 30, 1990, the [trade] wind steadily increased, while holding approximately the same direction (70-90°). By dawn the main was down completely. We were running on about 1/3 of the roller-reefed jib. Our speed was manageable, the swells being about 12' high. Our course to steer was only about 20-30 degrees from straight downwind. By 0900 hrs. we were under bare poles, the wind still increasing and the swells running 15-18'. Steering was becoming a problem to keep from broaching or from running straight down a wave and possibly pitchpoling.

Just before noon, while maneuvering on one of the larger swells whose upper 4' broke on us, the tiller snapped off. At this point deployment of the drogue was an absolute necessity. I made up a bridle out of about 60' of 5/8" braided Dacron, in the middle of which I tied a loop using a figure eight knot. The loose ends ran inside the stern cleats and around the two genoa sheet winches. The 200' rode was attached to the bridle approx. 20-25' aft of the boat with a bowline. The other end was attached to the Galerider swivel with a bowline. The rode itself was braided nylon and could have been longer.

The very instant that the Galerider took hold it was as if you had pushed a button and calmed the gale. We made a quick jury-rig repair on the tiller (which lasted all the way to Honolulu) and the motion of the vessel was such that we could take normal steering watches on the tiller and the off watch could get some sleep. One pleasant surprise from using the Dacron bridle was that due to its very low stretch it did not chafe where it went over the two corners of the transom (no sawing effect).

By 0800 the next morning the swells were back down to 10-12', the wind was subsiding and we hauled in the Galerider. The Gulf Island 30 was not designed as an ocean crossing vessel. We would have been hard put to weather the gale without some form of speed reduction even if the tiller had not broken.