Category Archives: Sea Anchors on Monohulls

Monohulls deploying a sea anchor off the bow

S/M-1 Canoe, “Tilikum” (Voss)


Canoe, "Tilikum" (Voss)

32' x 1.5 Tons

22" Dia. Cone Type Sea Anchor


File S/M-1, derived from the writings of John Claus Voss and Norman Kenny Luxton - Vessel name Tilikum, converted Siwash Indian war canoe, hailing port Victoria B.C., LOA 32' x Beam 5' x Draft 36" x 1.5 Tons - Sea anchor, four-foot long, 22-inch diameter canvas cone used in conjunction with a mizzen sail - Deployed in numerous storms during voyage from Victoria B.C. (May 19, 1901) to Tahiti, Australia, South Africa, and finally England (September 2, 1904).

This is one of the earliest recorded cases of a small sailing vessel using a sea anchor to negotiate heavy weather offshore. Mention of the use of the device is made in The Venturesome Voyages Of Captain Voss and Luxton's Pacific Crossing (Gray's Publishing, 1968 and 1971). Both books have been out of print but Grafton Books has recently issued a reprint of the former, now entitled Venturesome Voyages, in its "Mariner's Library" series.

Little is known of the life of John Voss, the father of drag devices. He was born in about 1854, some say in Newfoundland, others Nova Scotia, and yet others Sweden. His seafaring life seems to have begun in 1877 when as a young man he went to sea in large sailing vessels. By 1901 he was a hardened seaman, having served as master on many sailing ships plying the fur trade from Victoria to Yokohama. Much controversy surrounds him in his later years. Some maintain that he was eventually lost at sea. It is more likely, however, that he died in San Francisco in 1922, while earning a living driving a bus there.

The vessel making the remarkable 1901-1904 circumnavigation was a converted 32-ft. Siwash Indian dugout which, according to her owner, had been in many Indian battles on the West Coast of British Columbia. She was given the name Tilikum, a Chinook word meaning "friend." During the voyage to the South Pacific the crew of the Tilikum consisted of John Claus Voss, captain, and Norman Kenny Luxton, mate. The two later fell out with each other. Voss's attitude toward the sea was a very conservative one. He was not one to take anything for granted out there and dealt with the unpredictable forces of nature in a cautious, methodical way.

Wrote Norman Luxton, "Voss's ideas were very much more scientific in weathering a storm... he knew his business, and he learned it by going easy. I only once ever saw Voss take a chance. He never gave a storm any benefit of any doubt, and he never sailed until he even lost a sheet, always anticipating trouble. Many's the hell he has given me for not taking in sail when perhaps I should have." (Luxton's Pacific Crossing.)

"Captain Voss Patent Sea And Surf Anchor." From a hand sketch believed to be Voss's own. (Courtesy of the Maritime Museum of British Columbia).
"Captain Voss Patent Sea And Surf Anchor." From a hand sketch believed to be Voss's own. (Courtesy of the Maritime Museum of British Columbia).

 Voss told Luxton about how he would heave-to in a storm on what he called, a "sea anchor." He had gotten the idea from an old sailor in the North Sea. Tilikum's sea anchor consisted of an iron barrel hoop about twenty two inches in diameter, with a four-foot canvas cone sewn on (see image).

It was used in a total of sixteen heavy gales during the three year circumnavigation. To quote Luxton, "Once, for seventeen days the Tilikum rode to such an appliance and a drag, and never shipped a cup of water. The weather was composed of samples of everything that the misnamed Pacific could put up."

Voss maintained that a stationary hull was better able to retain its buoyancy - rise to the seas. The same hull moving at speed through the water, he argued, was "held down by suction" and susceptible to great damage by boarding seas. In Venturesome Voyages he appendixed some twenty paragraphs of advice, where we find the following:

I will go a little further, claiming - and I have absolute confidence in doing so - that on no occasion while in charge of a vessel which was hove-to under storm sail in a violent gale, have I shipped a sea that caused any damage to ship or outfit, even though the storm sails had been carried away by the force of the wind. And the same applies to the small boats I have sailed on long cruises when they were hove-to under sea anchor and riding sail. (Venturesome Voyages, Grafton Books, 1989.)

Voss's philosophy was to go into a defensive posture - heave-to - long before the seas built too high or began breaking. Head sails were first dropped and the vessel made to head up into the seas. The sea anchor was then lowered and its cable let out. The heavy mizzen was then set as a riding sail. Thus, if the bow fell off to one side it could only yaw so far before the sea anchor and the mizzen brought it back to face into the teeth of the gale. Using this tactic, Voss and crew were able to survive a 1912 typhoon off the coast of Japan in Sea Queen, a little yawl, 19 feet on the waterline! The outer fringes of the typhoon lifted the roof off Yokohama Station and drove a large steamer ashore.

This idea of "a cone and a riding sail" has entered into the folklore of heavy weather tactics. To this day your authors receive inquiries about the so-called Voss method. Both the Coast Guard report (CG-D-20-87, Investigation of the Use of Drogues to Improve the Safety of Sailing Yachts) and the Wolfson RORC report have concluded that small, cone-type sea anchors are generally ineffective and unstable on their own. Both indicate the need for larger devices for use off the bow.

Earl Hinz renders a similar verdict in Understanding Sea Anchors And Drogues (Cornell Maritime Press, 1987). It has to be pointed out, also, that small conical sea anchors tend to put inordinate strains on rudders and their fittings as well.

Lin and Larry Pardey have modified and modernized Voss's method of heaving-to with great success on their own boats. They have replaced Voss's small conical sea anchor with a larger parachute-type device, and his canvas mizzen with a modern storm trysail. Using these they have ridden out various storms with success - see Files S/M-3 & 4.

In 1965 Tilikum was restored and moved into the Maritime Museum of British Columbia in Victoria's Bastion Square. She - and her crude drag devices - can be seen there today, along with some other famous sailboats, among them John "Hurricane" Guzzwell's Trekka. A fact-finding mission to the Maritime Museum of British Columbia is highly recommend (read good excuse for a wonderful little vacation).

From Seattle take the high speed ferry to the delightful port of Victoria, then relax and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of a seafaring past. Stand on the wharf, close your eyes, and you may imagine that you hear the clanging of ship's bells and the noise and commotion that surrounds the arrival of a big, three-masted bark, after a difficult passage from Yokohama. The gaunt, tired Captain Voss leans silently over the rail. The first mate shouts orders as men with salt-crusted beards furl and tidy sails from their lofty perches up in the sky. Waiting on the wharf are the wives and children of the seamen, dressed in the attire of the late 1800s. A seagull cries out. The last yardarm is secured. The ship coasts to a perfect docking. Lines are heaved ashore. If you press your imagination a little more you may even see the horse-drawn carts lined up on the wharf, the horses flicking their tails impatiently.

S/M-2 Little Harbor 40 Yawl


Little Harbor 40 Yawl

39'11" x 11 Tons, Full Keel & Centerboard

24-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor

Force 9-10 Conditions


File S/M-2, obtained from Charles W. Turner, Marblehead MA. - Vessel name Mambo, hailing port Marblehead, Little Harbor 40 yawl, designed by Ted Hood, LOA 39' 11" x LWL 29' 7" x Beam 11' x 11 Tons - Full keel with bronze centerboard drawing 10' 6" when down, (draft 4' 3" with board raised at sea anchor) - Sea anchor: 24-ft. diameter cargo type parachute on 120' x 1" dia. three strand rode & 1/2" swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in 1964 in deep water, approx. midway between Bermuda and Nantucket Light, within the Gulf Stream, with the wind estimated at between 40-60 knots with seas 25' and greater - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 40 n.m. during 12 hours at sea anchor - mainly due to the motion of the Gulf Stream.


Chapter eighteen of Coles's Heavy Weather Sailing is entitled Twice Rolled Over. It is about the trials and tribulations of the 39-ft. centerboard yawl Doubloon, whose 3/4-inch-thick bronze centerboard was "bent about 30 degrees, probably when it hit the water as the yacht came back to even keel after the roll over." Doubloon was forced to run before 60-knot winds off the Carolina coast in the spring of 1964. The skipper, Joe Byars, tried a variety of traditional tactics in an effort to "keep the sea."

First, he tried running before the wind under bare poles. It worked for a while, but after taking five full smashes from astern (resulting in one crewmember being temporarily swept overboard) he changed course and put Doubloon on a broad reach, trying to work the boat out of the storm and the Gulf Stream.

This new tactic seemed to work for a while. Three hours later, however, the yacht was unexpectedly struck by a breaking wave and knocked down on her beam end.

Byars tried lying a-hull next. With her centerboard down Doubloon lay quietly with her bow some 70° off the wind for four hours. Then, suddenly, a wave broke and rolled her completely - 360-degrees in about five seconds. Six hours later she was smash-rolled for the second time. All the crew sustained injuries - Byars broke a rib - and there was havoc down below.

The next day the crew managed to improvise "sea anchors," one of which consisted of a working jib, with the head attached to the tack to create more drag. Two mattresses were also lashed onto the remains of the stern pulpit in order to create windage aft. Doubloon took no more knockdowns.

A few months later, in June 1964, another sailboat called Mambo, practically identical to Doubloon, encountered similar conditions in the same area of the Gulf Stream, but used a parachute sea anchor. Mambo was on the homeward leg of the Bermuda Race when, at daybreak, the wind freshened from the NE and quickly built up to Force-9. This was followed by a build-up of the seas, and it wasn't long before the waves were big enough to completely blanket the wind when Mambo was in a trough.

Mambo's skipper, Charles W. Turner of Marblehead, Massachusetts, a moderately experienced sailor, had the boat running before the seas initially. A short time later, as conditions continued to deteriorate, a trusted and more experienced crewmember suggested that it seemed high time to turn the boat around and face into it.

The decision was then made to try to heave-to in the traditional way - by using sails. However severe cross-waves made it impractical to do this.

Another crewmember then pointed to the 24-ft. diameter para-anchor on the cabin sole which the owner had purchased. He stated, "Since you had us practicing with that thing off Marblehead, why not try it now?" The skipper decided that this was a good time to try it, since the man who had ridiculed it in Marblehead now appeared to favor its use.

It took three tries to accomplish proper deployment. On the first attempt the parachute blew under the bow until the keel was on top of it. It was then pulled back, straightened out and again tried. This time it flew up in the air, reaching a position where a mizzen staysail would normally be flown. It was again recovered.

On the third attempt it stayed in the water and, as the boat drifted back, it was payed out to the full length of its line, with the trip line float right above it. The line was secured to a bow cleat, although they were not sure it would hold. Mambo then faced nicely into seas of about 25-30 ft. In this posture she rode out the rest of the storm safely, albeit cork-screwing annoyingly because of the cross-seas which were running up the troughs. Mambo, tethered to the 24-ft. diameter para-anchor, sustained no knockdowns or "barrel rolls" as did her sistership, Doubloon.

S/M-3 Pocket Cruiser, “Seraffyn”


Pocket Cruiser, "Seraffyn"

24' 7" x 5 Tons, Full Keel Cutter

9-Ft. Dia. BUORD Parachute

Force 8-10 Conditions


File S/M-3, derived from writings of Lin & Larry Pardey - See article on "Heaving To" in August '82 issue of Sail Magazine, also pages 268-274 of Seraffyn's Oriental Adventure (W.W. Norton & Co., 1983) and the Pardeys' book entitled Storm Tactics (Pardey Books, 1995) - Vessel name Seraffyn, pocket cruiser, built by Lawrence F. Pardey, LOA 24' 7" x LWL 22' 2" x Beam 8' 11" x Draft 4' 8" x 5 Tons - Full Keel - Sea anchor: 9-ft. diameter Naval Ordnance (BUORD) parachute on 250' x 5/8" nylon three strand rode with Pardeys' own bridle arrangement & 3/8" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed in the Gulf of Papagayo off Mexico and in the North Pacific during storms with winds of 40-70 knots - Bridle arrangement held the bow 50° off the wind - Drift was estimated to be about 5/8 of a knot.


Blue water veterans Lin and Larry Pardey have been using para-anchors since 1970. The one they used on Seraffyn was BUORD MK 2 MODEL 3. This parachute is government surplus and has been in use by fishermen for decades. The canopy is fabricated from heavy, nylon mesh material and it has sixteen shroud lines of 1000 lb. Dupont braid. Patrick M. Royce, author of Sailing Illustrated, did a series of tests on this parachute in 1969 and nicknamed it Two Pennant Storm Anchor (see page 157 of Royce's Sailing Illustrated).

Your author refers to these parachutes as "BUORDS" because they were originally developed for anti-submarine warfare use by the Navy's former BUreau of ORDnances - now Naval Sea Systems Command. Carrier-based S-3 Viking aircraft use such small diameter, heavy gauge parachutes to deliver torpedoes and other ordnances from the air. On page 269 of Seraffyn's Oriental Adventure the Pardeys show two photographs of the BUORD MK 2 MODEL 3. There is also a picture of Larry Pardey holding one up on page 36 of Storm Tactics.

In their original article in SAIL, Lin and Larry reported using this para-anchor in conjunction with a steadying sail in the Gulf of Papagayo (off Mexico) in gale force winds. The steadying sail would luff and flog violently as the boat was frequently pulled head-to-wind. Then it would fill and the head of the boat would fall off. This cycle would repeat itself once every four or five minutes - an uncomfortable and noisy affair. So Larry Pardey later rigged up an adjustable fairlead that kept the bow some 45-50° off the wind, at the same time causing the triple-reefed main to fill quite nicely and dampen the roll. This made the boat heel and lie much more comfortably. As a bonus, Larry found that in this attitude (45-50° off the wind) the boat would "scrape her keel" as she slid slowly downwind, leaving in her turbulent wake a significant "slick" that smoothed the seas, lessening their effect on the boat and gear. "You would be amazed at how this slick breaks down waves and steals their power," wrote the Pardeys to your author. Here is an excerpt from subsequent correspondence (reproduced by permission):

We have a preference for the BUORD surplus chute because 1) it is heavily built, with shrouds on our's almost strong enough to lift Taleisin, 2) it can be purchased quite inexpensively second hand, 3) as it is heavy weight fabric it does not have a tendency to fill with wind when you are deploying it, 4) we have used it since 1970 without problems, and finally, 5) because its fabric stretches when unusual strains come on it, the fabric becomes porous and lets some water sieve through, this absorbs shock loads.

Add this to the stretch of the nylon anchor line and we feel that the catenary curve-effect of chains or weights is redundant. We prefer a dead simple system - no floats, no trip lines, no catenary chains. We are also concerned about the move to bigger and bigger chutes. The bigger they are, the harder they are to store, handle and use. We are not sure they stop drift much better - once a chute is 8 to 15 feet in diameter, the drifts recorded by us on our boats, and during tests with modern sailboats off the Cape of Storms [South Africa], showed that the drift rate with the relatively small BUORD chute was about the same as that listed throughout the Drag Device Data Base for boats using much larger chutes, a drift of between 5/8 and one knot. For monohulls laying at a hove-to position, a smaller chute, combined with the considerable drag of the keel, as shown in the diagram, will produce a wide, effective slick. We can see that multihulls laying head to wind would need the largest chute possible as only the sea anchor is working to create a protective slick.

A further thought on chain. As chafe in the bowroller or fairlead is a major concern with any nylon anchor rode (onshore or offshore), we have considered using a 30 foot length of chain for the inboard end of the rode. But as we have not yet done so, we can make no actual comment on this idea.



Sea anchor rode is led off the bow. Pennant line from cockpit winch causes the bow to lie 50° of the wind. Storm trysail is set and the tiller lashed to leeward. As the boat is pushed downwind her keel begins to shed vortices, which gradually merge into a turbulent field upstream. The intense mixing effect of this turbulence will tend to cancel molecular rotation - the stuff that waves are made of. Note that this strategy requires square drift. The boat must not forereach - sail out of her protective "slick." The Pardeys have practical suggestions for ensuring that it does not in their book, Storm Tactics - required reading.

To what extent does the turbulence generated by the square drift of the keel affect the shape and ferocity of the waves? The "slick" mentioned by Lin and Larry Pardey is not to be confused with the superficial effects of oil on the surface of the water. It is a more profound phenomenon. It has to do with the turbulent field created by a succession of vortices, technically known as the Von Karman Vortex Street.

Vortices are eddies, created by the motion of irregular shapes in fluids. They flow away from the boundary layer and gradually merge into a homogeneous turbulent field in which the turbulence in one part of the field is the same as that in any other part.

Since non-homogeneous ocean waves are created by the orbital rotation of water particles, anything that interferes with that rotation can have an effect in a seaway. Logically, and if the interference is great enough, the resulting turbulent field can de-stabilize - or at the very least smooth down - the wave formations directly ahead of the boat.

S/M-4 Cutter, “Taleisin”


Cutter, "Taleisin"

29' 6" x 9 Tons, Full Keel Cutter

12-Ft. Dia. BUORD Parachute

Force 11-12 Conditions


File S/M-4, obtained from Lin & Larry Pardey - Vessel name Taleisin, hailing port Victoria, B.C., cutter designed by Lyle Hess, LOA 29' 6" x LWL 27' 9" x Beam 10' 9" x Draft 5' 3" x 9 Tons - Full keel - Sea anchor: 12-ft. diameter BUORD on 250' x 5/8" dia. nylon three strand rode with Pardeys' own bridle arrangement and 1/2" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed in 100 fathoms during a tropical cyclone about 100 miles off the Queensland coast, with sustained winds of 60-70 knots blowing contrary to the Australian Current, creating confused seas of 25' and greater - Drift was estimated to be about 15 n.m. during 56 hours at sea anchor.

The Pardeys are now cruising on board their new and larger boat, Taleisin. The sea anchor for Taleisin was a larger - 12-ft. diameter - BUORD parachute. On 1 November 1988, en route to Mooloolaba from Roslynne Bay (Queensland), Taleisin safely rode out a cyclonic depression off the Australian coast, hove-to the para-anchor and storm trysail, in the manner described in the previous file (S/M-3). In their latest book, Storm Tactics, Lin and Larry describe the storm as "an unseasonable typhoon rammed up against a ridge of high pressure." The wind was blowing contrary to the Australian current, near the Great Barrier Reef. Conditions were atrocious. From Storm Tactics:

We were forced to lie-to parachute anchor for over 56 hours in winds exceeding 70 knots. (Weather forecasters spoke of winds of 85 in our area). Wind blew against current in only 100 fathoms of water, creating breaking seas, which forced 400-foot freighters to heave-to. We have never before seen waves dangerous enough to stop ships. We could see two of them nearby, maneuvering to keep their bows into the seas for over 12 hours. Yet even in seas like this we were able to bring Taleisin through with the only damage limited to chafed lines, chafed nerves, and bruised bodies. Other sailors within 50 miles of us fared far worse; two lost their lives while using other tactics.

Sometime in those fifty-six hours there was a formidable jerk as "an extra strong gust and an extra steep sea combined to head the boat up and tack." This caused Lin, who was sleeping down below, without the lee cloth in place, to be thrown out of her bunk against the stove, banging up her teeth and ribs, fortunately not too badly, however. All in all, Taleisin, tough little ship, came through with flying colors. But Larry has since opted for a smaller 9-ft. diameter BUORD, which he considers more yielding and better suited to the use of the bridle and riding sail arrangement.

Again, the main idea behind the Pardey strategy is to create a turbulent field upwind, a "slick" that smooths the seas and robs the waves of a great deal of their power. The bridle is adjusted so that the boat lies about 50° off the wind, and the use of a riding sail (storm trysail, triple-reefed main, or combinations of other sails, depending on the particular hull and rig) increases the pressure of the wind on the boat.

The result is that boat, rode and sea anchor are, as a train, drift downwind at about 5/8 of a knot, churning up the sea and setting up the turbulent field ahead of the boat. Note that this is a little different from the traditional method of heaving to - the boat occasionally fore- reaching.

Again: The Pardey strategy requires square drift. The yacht should not zig-zag or fore-reach out of her protective slick. She must drift squarely downwind, her keel "scraping" the sea. Refer to Storm Tactics for more insights into the Pardey's method of heaving-to.

S/M-5 Steel Schooner


Steel Schooner

75' x 36 Tons, Full Keel

28-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor

Force 10-11 Conditions


File S/M-5, obtained from Jeremiah Nixon, St. Louis MO. - Vessel name Goodjump II, hailing port St. Louis, steel Schooner, designed by George Sutton, LOA 75' x LWL 62' x Beam 15' x Draft 6' 2" x 36 Tons - Full keel - Sea anchor: 28-ft. diameter C-9 military class parachute on 600' x 1-inch nylon three strand rode, with 5/8" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed in deep water during a storm near 39° 50' N, 49° 30' W (mid-Atlantic) with winds of 60 knots and seas of 18' - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was about 18 n.m. during 18 hours at sea anchor

Goodjump II was sailing to Portugal from the U.S. east coast. The skipper, Jeremiah Nixon, had purchased a para-anchor from the author's company. It was a 28-ft. diameter C-9 military parachute, converted into a sea anchor. This parachute has been a staple of the Armed Forces for decades, and is still in use by the Air Force. You can tell a C-9 by the colors of the canopy, either red and white, or a combination of red, white, gold and olive drab. C-9s have 28 suspension lines.

Shane Victor has handled hundreds of C-9's to date, each and every time with awe and amazement. Little wonder World War II pilots used to refer to their parachutes as "silken angels." Light in weight, resilient and strong, a military parachute (not to be confused with lighter sport parachutes) embodies eighty years of development and refinement. Government contracts require that C-9 parachutes be able to negotiate dynamic loads of 5,000 lbs. without failure - they have to be test-dropped from aircraft flying at high speeds with dummies attached.

When Goodjump II ran into a storm in the middle of the Atlantic, the crew decided to put out the chute. They had some initial difficulty in getting the big canopy in the water. The wind took hold of it on deck and it was almost airborne . The crew persevered, however, and finally had the chute properly deployed on 600 feet of nylon rode. Goodjump II rounded up into the seas, her bow nicely snubbed to her parachute sea anchor in 18-ft. seas. Transcript:

The para-anchor worked perfectly, we rode nicely. Learned the hard way to deploy it from the windward side of the boat by pushing it right into the water while holding it against the side of the boat. It got loose on our first effort on the lee side and went into the air.

You asked the question of the angle and movement of our bow during the storm. I cleated the rode to the forward port cleat and as a result the bow held about 10° to the right of the wind and there was no swing from side to side that I noticed. In fact the deck was dry and there was no spray or pounding. The 600 feet of rode stretched and raised out of the water at the point of wave crest and then came back down with an easy controlled feeling.

We drank beer and ate chili during the worst and I got a solid 6 hours of sleep at a time when we had to wear a safety harness because of wind when we went forward to check on chafe.

No trip line is necessary. Just motor up to it and bring it up. These are some of the reasons why I consider this equipment the most important safety item on my boat.... I will never make an ocean passage without one on board. People must realize that ocean cruising can be safe if you go with the idea that you will go into a defensive position before the seas build too high. The flat-out philosophy of professional racers must be disregarded by the small crew cruising yachts

(Note: The problem of the wind inflating parachutes prematurely on deck can be minimized by wetting down the parachute beforehand. Nylon cloth is much more manageable and less likely to fly open in the wind when wet and heavy. The other alternative is to use a deployment bag.)


S/M-6 J-30 Sloop


J-30 Sloop

30' x 3.75 Tons, Fin Keel Sloop

9-Ft. Dia. BUORD Parachute

Force 11 Conditions

File S/M-6, obtained from Paul C. Brindley, Houston TX. - Vessel name Heaven & Hell, hailing port Houston, J-30 sloop, designed by Rod Johnstone, LOA 30' x LWL 25' x Beam 11' 6" x Draft 6' 6" x 3.75 Tons - Fin keel - Sea anchor: 9-ft. diameter BUORD on 300' x 3/4" nylon three strand rode with no swivel used - No trip line - Deployed during a storm in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico, about 120 miles Southeast of Galveston, with winds of 60 knots and combined seas of about 30' - Vessel's bow yawed about 10° - Drift was .5 -.7 knots during 4 hours at sea anchor.

This is the first file that Victor Shane documented after starting Para-Anchors International in 1981.He comments that it tends to stick in the mind, like that first high school date. It is an important file in other respects as well. The boat, a fin-keeled J-30, rode very well to the 9-ft. BUORD parachute. Up to that time conventional wisdom had it that sea anchors were useless on board so-called "modern fin-keeled sailboats." This was a turning point of sorts.

In a letter to Victor, dated 2 November 1986, Donald J. Jordan, author of widely publicized articles on capsize prevention and inventor of the series drogue wrote the following (reproduced by permission): "Dr. Brindley called and gave me a comprehensive description of his experience.... As you say, the J-30 rode very well in that type of wind and sea. This is the first well-documented instance of a modern sloop riding properly with a sea anchor from the bow."

The 9-ft. diameter BUORD pulled the bow of this yacht into 60-knot winds and 30-ft. seas in a satisfactory way. It kept it there for four hours. However, the crew had inadvertently omitted to use a swivel on the parachute terminal, and the canopy's rotation resulted in a fouled-up useless mess of parachute and kinked-up rode.

After retrieving the mess and stowing it the best they could the crew then used the boat's inboard engine to jog into the seas. Apart from a few near knock-downs, Heaven & Hell emerged from the ordeal intact. From Dr. Brindley's handwritten feedback:

The drogue [meaning sea anchor] worked well. We could have eaten soup below until it twisted shut as we had inadvertently left off the swivel. We made about .5-.7 knots sternway, checked by the Loran. It went to 4-5 knots when the chute twisted shut. I much preferred the bow into the waves.


S/M-7 Pilot Cutter


Pilot Cutter

32' x 5 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

9-Ft. Dia. BUORD Parachute

Force 8 Conditions


File S/M-7, obtained from Dennis Lueck, Pensacola FL. - Vessel name Wind Song, hailing port Pensacola, Pilot Cutter designed by Frank Parrish, LOA 32' x LWL 20' x Beam 9' x Draft 5' x 5 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Sea anchor: 9-ft. Diameter BUORD on 300' x 1/2" nylon three strand rode with 1/2" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed during passage of frontal trough in shallow water (6 fathoms) off the Florida coast with winds of 35-40 knots and choppy seas of 8 feet - Vessel's bow yawed as much as 90° off to each side in the gusts.

Wind Song, a brand new Pilot Cutter, was being sailed from Tampa to her home port of Pensacola when a weather front arrived. The crew decided to play it safe with the new boat and deployed a 9-ft. BUORD, in 6 fathoms of water, about 30 miles offshore and due west of Bayport, Florida. The parachute did not do a satisfactory job of pulling the bow of Wind Song into the seas. The boat would get beam-on to the seas in the gusts. Notwithstanding, the motion was still much better than lying a-hull. Here is a transcript of her owner's feedback:

After rounding up to deploy the sea anchor, we forgot to return the rudder amidships, so it was hard to port all night (and not discovered till morning). As a result (I believe) the boat would get beam-on to the seas in the gusts and then roll. As it was, the motion was still much better than lying a-hull....

The rode did hit the bobstay and whisker stays quite often but did not chafe. We tried the "Pardey Bridle," but the snatch block stayed against the hull and we were afraid of chafe....

Incidentally, the boat was brand new and we were bringing it home. It had been dead calm and we were motoring north about 50 miles north of St. Petersburg when the front came through. As we had no sailing experience with this boat and it was night, we elected to heave-to with the sea anchor. Today, with similar conditions, we would sail the boat reefed down.

Why didn't the sea anchor pull the bow of this yacht into the seas? The problem of side-to-side yaw is related to the shape of the hull and keel, the position of the CLR (center of lateral resistance), the type of rig and the position of the CE (center of effort). It is most aggravated when the CLR is well aft and the CE well forward. This gives the wind a larger lever to push the bow off.

Boat design has always been the art of compromise and naval architects have seen the cutaway forefoot as something that enhances the course-keeping qualities of a yacht and lessens her tendency to broach in strong following seas. As long as such a yacht is sailing forward her underwater profile resembles an arrow in flight. The trade off, of course, is her behavior at anchor.

More than likely, however, Wind Song just didn't have enough wind. Seraffyn has unevenness associated with her underwater shape as well, but recall the Pardeys' words in File S/M-3, "If there was a lot of wind, the para-anchor held her pretty close to head to wind."

S/M-8 Vancouver 27 Cutter


Vancouver 27 Cutter

27' x 5 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

9-Ft. Dia. BUORD Parachute

Force 7 Conditions


File S/M-8, obtained from Anthony Gibb, Victoria, B.C. - Vessel name Hejira, hailing port Victoria, Vancouver cutter, designed by Robert Harris, LOA 27' x LWL 22' x Beam 8' 6" x Draft 4' x 5 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Sea anchor: 9-ft. diameter BUORD on 275' x 1/2" nylon three strand rode with 1/2" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed during passage of frontal trough In deep water in the Tasman Sea with winds of 35 knots and confused seas of 12 feet - Vessel's bow yawed as much as 90° off to each side.

Hejira, a Harris-designed Vancouver 27 on a world cruise, crossed from Nelson, New Zealand, to Sydney, Australia in 15 days, a distance of 1,265 miles.

As with most other crossings of the Tasman this one was not a pleasant one. The crew was harassed by a confusion of waves and swells from both southwest and northeast, which harassment did not end until the last two days of the crossing.

During a period of 30-35 knot south-westerly winds and 12-foot seas the crew deployed a 9-ft. diameter BUORD. As in the previous file, the parachute did not do a satisfactory job. Transcript:

The BUORD never set straight forward off the bow. It remained directly off the beam. It gave one the feeling of lying a-hull. It was only when a particularly large wave approached and took up the slack in the rope that the BUORD brought the bow through the wave....

The only other time that the BUORD brought the bow into the waves was when, after 4 hours, I decided to pull it in. When the line was pulled in so that there was only 50 feet out, then it seemed that the bow wanted to stay pointed upwind. I did not leave it there long enough to test it, so I don't know what the BUORD would do in the long run....

Again it might be asked why the same parachute that pulled the bow of a fin-keeled J-30 into the seas (File S/M-6) would not do the same thing for a Vancouver 27. And again, the answer has to do with the amount of wind, the keel configuration, the rig, and the relative positions of the CLR and CE on the different boats. The J-30 has a small, centrally located fin keel. The Vancouver 27 has a full keel with a cutaway forefoot. The J-30 had sustained winds of 60 knots. The Vancouver had winds of 35 knots.

A larger parachute sea anchor might have made a difference as well. We would like to emphasize that the canopies of these BUORDs are made of coarsely woven mesh material, "the sort of thing you would use to strain plankton out of the sea with" as one sailor described it. Although they have a nominal diameter of about 9 feet, they do not have the holding power of a 9-ft. diameter, zero-porosity sea anchor. Remember, they are designed for dropping torpedoes into the sea and need to have a great deal of "give" built into their canopies.

By coincidence, the Pardeys ran into Anthony Gibb in Australia, and had this to say to Victor Shane in another letter: "Later discussions make us wonder if he had enough wind, or possibly her laying so far off the wind might have been caused by her high bow, the tanks stowed on her foredeck and a very high deck house, combined with a cutaway forefoot."

S/M-9 Hunter 40 Sloop


Hunter 40 Sloop

40' x 9 Tons, Fin Keel

9-Ft. Dia. BUORD Sea Anchor

Force 9 Conditions


File S/M-9, obtained from Captain Jerry Sidock, Fort Myers Beach, FL. - Vessel name Bounty Hunter, hailing port Fort Myers Beach, Hunter sloop, designed by Warren Luhrs, LOA 40' x LWL 32' 6" x Beam 13' 6" x Draft 5' x 9 Tons - Fin keel - Sea anchor: 9-ft. Diameter BUORD on 300' x 5/8" nylon three strand rode with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in a gale in shallow water about 100 miles off the coast of Venezuela, with winds of 40-50 knots and seas of 15 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 20°-30° off to each side - Drift was 11 n.m. (confirmed by Loran & Satnav) during 14 hours at sea anchor.

Bounty Hunter, a fin-keeled Hunter 40, was on her way to Rio from Florida when she ran into a gale some 100 miles off the coast of Venezuela. The owner of the boat, Captain Jerry Sidock, being single-handed and tired at the time, deployed a 9-ft. BUORD off the bow. In one of several telephone conversations with Victor Shane, Captain Sidock reported that the bow held into the seas in a satisfactory way, yawing as she would at ground anchor, 20-30° off to each side, but certainly no more than 30°.

Note the same parachute sea anchor being used by different boats with varying results. Compare Bounty Hunter's underwater profile with those of the Pilot Cutter and the Vancouver 27 in the preceding files. Bounty Hunter has a more symmetrical underwater profile, her center of lateral resistance being a little closer to the center of effort of her rig. Additionally she was in stronger winds as well. Note however that her bow did yaw up to 30° off to each side, indicating that the yacht could do with a larger sea anchor

Captain Sidock knows the Caribbean Islands well. In his voyages to the Caymans, Jamaica, Roatan, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and South America he often uses the BUORD off the stern for rest periods. There is then hardly any side-to-side yaw at all.

Note that there is nothing wrong with using a sea anchor off the stern for rest and recuperation, drift control and damage control in moderate conditions. Moreover, for non heavy weather use the rode need not be very long either. Deploy the parachute, pay out a hundred feet of line and cleat it off. Now you can rig the awning over the boom, prepare a meal in peace and relax for a while, the whole ocean your own private anchorage. From Captain Sidock's handwritten feedback:

I would like to say that I don't think that common sense would permit me to leave shore without my sea anchor. It is just too difficult at times to continue on when short-handed, or rather single-handed, as I am most of the time. It is at that time that I look for assistance from other sources, such as a sea anchor.

S/M-10 Hinckley Bermuda 40 Yawl


Hinckley Bermuda 40 Yawl

40' x 10 Tons, Full Keel & Centerboard

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8 Conditions


File S/M-10, obtained from the owner of the boat - Vessel name Windswept, hailing port Gloucester MA., Hinckley Bermuda yawl, designed by Bill Tripp, LOA 40' x LWL 28' 10" x Beam 11' 9" x 10 Tons - Full keel with centerboard drawing 8' when down and 5' with the board raised at sea anchor - Sea anchor: 12-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 1/2" nylon three strand rode with 5/8" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed during passage of frontal trough in shallow water (30 fathoms) off the coast of Maine, with winds of 35-40 knots and seas of 8-10 feet - Vessel's bow yawed less than 10° - Drift was estimated to be 2 n.m. during four hours at sea anchor.

The 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor was deployed in a low system, about thirty miles offshore, near Portland, Maine. Transcript:

This was not a whole gale or survival storm. I was alone, wanted to rest, wanted to minimize drift, and wanted to experiment with my sea anchor. After deployment my yawl lay absolutely bow to the wind and waves with very little yawing. My boat does not have a cutaway forefoot, the board was up and the waves were not high enough to blanket the wind when the boat was down in the troughs.

With 400 ft. of rode there was absolutely no shock loading at all. No feeling of either being pulled through the waves or falling backwards on the rudder. My boat rode like a duck up and over each wave always nose to the wind. Altogether a very pleasant, safe and secure feeling.

The only two things I worried about were (a) commercial fishing interests in the area not seeing me and running over my anchor line, (b) cross waves approaching from the side of the boat and rolling her. With no sail set there is nothing to steady the boat side to side.

The Hinckley Bermuda 40 has a symmetrical full keel with considerable overhang at both ends (the waterline length of the boat being only 28' 11"). This particular Hinckley also has an auxiliary centerboard, which was in this case raised at sea anchor. Even so, she behaved well and pointed very high into the seas, doubtless because of the aft windage of her rig. Look for the relative positions of the CLR and CE and you will see a recurring pattern in all the monohull files.