D/M-20 SPARKMAN & STEPHENS 34 (Swarbrick)

S&S 34 monohullD/M 20

Monohull, Sparkman & Stephens

33' x 6 Tons, Fin Keel

Seasquid

Force 9+ Conditions

File D/M-19, obtained from Ben Tucker, Australia - Vessel name Gypsy2, hailing port Hobart, monohull sloop designed by Sparkman & Stephens and built by Swarbrick, LOA 33' x LWL 25' x Beam 10' x Draft 5' 10" x 6 Tons - Fin keel - Drogue: Seasquid on 150' (45m) x 7/16" (11mm) kermantle dynamic nylon double braid rode plus 6ft (2m) of 8mm chain - Deployed in  deep water midway on passage from Hobart, Australia to Bluff, New Zealand in winds of 45 knots gusting to 60kt and breaking seas of 20 - 30 ft. (6 - 10m) - Surfing down waves was inhibited, and speed was reduced to about 4 knots during 18 hours of deployment

Ben Tucker has over 70,000 miles of sailing experience, plus a million miles as an officer on a container ship. On this occasion he was sailing from Australia to New Zealand in early summer when he get caught in a strong gale:

On passage from Hobart to Bluff in early summer we got caught in a nasty low with strong westerly winds. Over the day the wind and seas built and quite suddenly it went from fun fast downwind sailing to dangerous just on dusk. We dropped the deep reefed main, and eventually ran with just a scrap of the roller reefing headsail set. As the seas built up we started surfing too fast for comfort down the front of the seas and deployed a sea squid on about 45 meters of 11mm kernmantle dynamic nylon rope that had previously been used for climbing.  About 2 meters of 8 mm chain was shackled between the drogue and the warp. 

The drogue immediately slowed us down and controlled the surfing. 

But a big problem with our setup was soon revealed, the stretch in the drogue warp, coupled with the short line and only a short length of lightweight chain caused the drogue to break free of the approaching wave and fly forward towards us through the air about 10 meters and then re-engage, this would allow the boat to accelerate quickly to 7 or 8 knots until the drogue reengaged and with a brutal jerk it then slowed us down again to around 4 knots, this would often rip the drogue back out of the water again, repeating the cycle.

It was clear that the wavelength was around 100 meters or so, as the drogue was visible behind us on the approaching crest when we were near the trough.

It was deployed off the port quarter with no bridle to keep it clear of the windvane. We added a length of 19mm polypropylene line approximately 100 meters long in parallel with the drogue. This slowed us down enough that the drogue remained in the water with a more steady pull. 

We rode out the night hand steering with a small scrap of jib sheeted tight amidships and the drogue and warp behind.  Many times the cockpit filled with water, and were buffeted badly by the bigger crests, bouncing down the wave face. But by early morning it had eased significantly. 

We found that the windvane had been damaged by the drogue line at some point, and the plastic sea squid drogue had a bad crack in it, probably due to the tumbling as it flew through the air, then tangled with the chain and reengaged. 

the biggest lesson was to avoid using a dynamic rope with a drogue, Have at least 100 meters of warp available and plenty of heavy chain on the end to keep it well under water.  

The next time I used a drogue sailing to Antarctica on my 33 foot yacht Snow Petrel I had no issues with a much longer line, approximately 120 meters of 18mm polypropylene and 10 meters of 10mm chain using a Seabrake HSD 300 and the pull was very steady and consistent.

Once again we have problems with drogues skipping out of the waves, in this case exacerbated by using a very stretchy climbing rope as a rode. Elasticity is crucial in the rode for a para-anchor so as to prevent shock loading, but in a drogue a non-stretchy rode, combined with some weight at the drogue end, helps to keep the rode submerged leading to a more constant rode tension.

Ben notes that the wave length was about 100m and the drogue rode about half that. One would expect that this might work well, placing the drogue on the back of the when one needs it most, ie surfing down the face of the same wave, but in this case the extreme stretching of the rode seems to have counteracted this, resulting in the drogue pulling out of the water with the concomitant rapid acceleration of the boat.

As the Furgusons on St. Leger (D/M 17) found, one needs to either have a long rode with more weight to cover a wider range of conditions (as did Ben Tucker on his next adventure), or else be able to adjust it from the cockpit to specifically tune it to the conditions at the time.

S/M-32 Hunter 31 Sloop

HUNT31S/M-32

Hunter 31 Sloop

31' x 5 Tons, Fin Keel

15-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8 Conditions

 

File S/M-32, obtained from Chris Brann, Sausalito, CA. - Vessel name Snow Dragon, hailing port Juneau, Hunter sloop, designed by Cortland Steck, LOA 31' x LWL 28' x Beam 11' x Draft 5' 10" x 5 Tons - Fin keel - Sea anchor: 15-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 150' x 5/8" nylon double braid with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip line - Deployed in a low system in deep water about 150 miles west of Noumea, with winds of 45 knots and seas of 15-20 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 30° - Drift was 8 n.m. (confirmed by GPS) during 5 hours at sea anchor.

Chris Brann was a participant in Compuserve's mammoth drag device and storm tactics debate. The debate has since been "packaged" and placed in the library of the SAILING FORUM. When in Compuserve click on the traffic icon, type GO SAILING and look for a file called Thread on Drogues, Sea Anchors and Storms in the "Seamanship and Safety" library.

Brann cruised Alaskan waters with Snow Dragon, a fin-keeled Hunter 31, before sailing her all the way to Brisbane, Australia. Aside from two incidents of rudder failure, the boat held up fairly well. The failures were caused by the rudder manufacturer's use of smaller shaft dimensions, a defect since corrected by Hunter Marine (owners of older Hunters should make certain that their boats are not affected). The second incident of rudder failure occurred on the Noumea leg of the journey, where Brann had to deploy a sea anchor for damage control and attitude stabilization purposes. Transcript:

0300 November 26, front passed, wind backed to southwest, over 30 knots. 0410 We suddenly lost steering. After mounting the emergency tiller, checking cables and movement of the rudder post we realized we'd lost our rudder again. The seas were over 12 feet and continuing to build. The wind was 40-50 knots. With no rudder we fell into the trough, lying parallel to the waves. 0510 We deployed a 15 foot diameter parachute sea anchor from the bow... to prevent capsizing, and to try and stabilize the vessel while we built an emergency rudder. This held the bow into the waves. By now the wave crests were breaking regularly. The anchor was attached to the bow, via 300 feet of 5/8 inch double braid nylon. This made things a bit more comfortable, and it was easier to drill holes and so forth. Unfortunately, the outer covering [of the double braid] chafed, so I pulled enough rode in to put sound line on the cleats. This resulted in about 150 feet between the sea anchor and the bow. This was not enough line to absorb the energy....

At about 1000 a large wave broke over most of the vessel, filling the cockpit, even though it came from forward. The bow cleats are welded to a 1/4" stainless plate that is in turn bolted through the sides of the vessel. The strain [of the breaking wave] curled this plate through more than 90 degrees, crushed the pipe forming the legs of the cleats, and then broke the 5/8" line (breaking strength 14,400 lbs.) I determined that the line had broken rather than chafed through by observing that the ends of the strands were all about the same length and were slightly fused. The strain also curled the main plate holding the forestay. Loss of this plate would have meant loss of the mast. The structure of the boat was also damaged, opening the joint between the hull and deck on the port side, and we started to take water in through the gap.

1040 I rigged a trysail to try and stabilize the boat a bit, though it didn't really head it into the seas, and we were pretty much parallel to the waves for the rest of the day. We had crests break on the hull several times each hour, fortunately none of them were big enough to capsize us. I hung over the stern and dismounted the paddle from the wind vane (self-steering device) for use in building an emergency rudder, which occupied us for the rest of the day.

About 1600 the wind and seas had moderated, and we hoisted a storm staysail, streaming a 36" Galerider drogue from the stern. This got us moving towards Australia, though our course was still determined by the direction of the wave troughs. At 1900 wind was SSE 20-25 knots.... The next day we rigged the emergency rudder. It broke after a few hours, but we redesigned it and put it back on. We spent the next week improving the rudder and sailing to Australia.... Directional control was eventually established by a combination of jury rudder and a light drag towed behind the boat.... We tied to the customs wharf in Brisbane at 0720 local time on December 4.

Comments: This was a normal low pressure system, with wind and seas that would present no danger to a well-found boat equipped with a rudder. Two other vessels were nearby and in radio contact with us. One was 32' long, and the other 43'. Neither of them suffered any damage from the weather, and in fact both were able to rendezvous with us to provide additional lumber for use in making another emergency rudder in case our first one failed. Our problems were solely a result of the rudder failure.

What we'd do next time: Shackle all 300 feet of nylon line to the [steel] anchor and let out the [steel] anchor and 100-150 feet of chain. This approach was used by some friends on a 42 ft. Lord Nelson with success in the Tasman sea. In our case, while it lasted the sea anchor stabilized the boat quite a bit, especially compared to our gyrations without a rudder. 

S/M-27 Contessa 26 Cutter

CONTESSAS/M-27

Contessa 26 Cutter

26' x 2.7 Tons, Full Keel

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9-10 Conditions

File S/M-28, obtained from Brian Caldwell, Jr., Honolulu, HI - Vessel name Mai Miti Vavau, hailing port Honolulu, Contessa cutter, designed and built by J.J. Taylor and Sons of Toronto, LOA 26' x LWL 21' x Beam 7' 6" x Draft 4' x 2.7 Tons - Full keel - Sea anchor: 12-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 300' x 3/8" nylon braid rode with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - No trip line - Deployed in a gale about 12 miles east of Pt. St. Johns, South Africa, in shallow water (50 fathoms) with winds of 50 knots and seas of 12 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 30° - Drift was about 3 n.m. during 24 hours at sea anchor.

On 1 June 1995, amidst much fanfare, Brian - "BJ" - Caldwell cast off from the Hawaii Yacht Club aboard his Contessa 26 on the first of 13 planned legs, in an attempt to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe before his 21st birthday. On 28 September 1995 a flotilla of sailboats and other vessels welcomed BJ back to Honolulu with double the fanfare, as he accomplished his goal.

Mai Miti Vavau of Honolulu. Posing before, BJ Caldwell, was entered in the Guinness Book of Records as the youngest solo circumnavigator at that time. The yacht is a Contessa 26, designed and built by J.J. Taylor & Sons of Toronto. (BJ Caldwell photo).
Mai Miti Vavau of Honolulu. Posing before, BJ Caldwell, was entered in the Guinness Book of Records as the youngest solo circumnavigator at that time. The yacht is a Contessa 26, designed and built by J.J. Taylor & Sons of Toronto. (BJ Caldwell photo).

 

Don Whilldin, president of Para-Tech Engineering, had sponsored the young man's effort with a sea anchor and a drogue. BJ Caldwell ended up using both drag devices on numerous occasions, declaring them to be the most important pieces of equipment on his boat. Here are some excerpts from the interview conducted by Sailing (December 1966, courtesy of Sailing):

I don't know how our family cruised for six years without this. There's no excuse for leaving on a long cruise without a sea anchor and a drogue.... The sea anchor I used for the first time in the Indian Ocean. Eight days out of Cocos winds were blowing 50 knots. The seas were mountains coming in from all directions. I also used it in hurricane-force winds while rounding the Cape. The blow lasted for an hour and then subsided to about 50 knots.

The smaller drogue kept the mast above the water for about 10,000 punishing miles. I trailed it about 100 feet behind the boat whenever there was a risk of broaching. In the Indian Ocean I often had about 15 percent mainsail and 6 percent jib with the drogue out. I ended up using it for about a week during my 21-day passage from Cocos Island to Mauritius.

Mai Miti Vavau in the Indian Ocean with Para-Tech Delta Drogue in tow (visible left of center). (BJ Caldwell photo).

Here are transcripts of two reports Victor Shane obtained from BJ Caldwell, one dealing with his use of the sea anchor and the other with his use of the drogue. The two categories have been combined into a single file for ease of comparison:

Para-Tech Sea Anchor (12-ft. diameter)

Unique situation - big seas in the Agulhas current [off lower east coast of Africa], but much smaller inside the 100-fathom line. The axis of the current acted as a type of breakwater. Conditions in the current were utterly unpredictable. The seas very confused and powerful. It was much better inside the current line [meaning the area bounded by the current and the coastline]. Initially drogue was used outside of the continental shelf in Agulhas current and in 100 fathoms of water. As the wind increased I moved out of current and into shallow water for deployment of sea anchor. Both the drogue and sea anchor greatly enhanced safety.

The hardest part in deploying the sea anchor was in handling the 300 feet of rode. Rope gets stiff from saltwater and use. I wouldn't say the ride [at sea anchor] was comfortable. It was like a rodeo or a roadstead anchorage with no barrier to the fetch.

The waves broke down the length of the boat and exploded over the cabin top. Main concern: Chafe was definitely a problem. Before I leave on my next trip, I'm going to put a couple of feet of chain into every hundred feet [of tether] so chafe will be a non-issue. I was also concerned that the wind might switch from Nor'east to Sou'west, which would have created the 20-meter freak waves known for breaking ships in the Agulhas current. Fortunately this did not happen. I was able to sleep between switching chafe guards - let's say every couple of hours. The rudder was lashed to one side.

 

Para-Tech Delta Drogue (36-inch diameter)

My average speed with drogue in tow was approximately four knots. Without the drogue I would have been hitting seven, while averaging 5½ knots. I used the device on and off for the whole trip. Instead of yawing and broaching, the drogue would keep the stern aligned with the seas and allow me to still make four knots - and boil water for coffee. I never had to steer manually. The drogue helped the windvane steer in large following seas.

I've said from day one that conditions in the south Indian Ocean are unique. Because there's no stationary high pressure cell in the Southern Ocean, the systems are continually racing eastward. So at any given time you've got swells coming together from a variety of directions - a washing machine, if you like.

It was blowing a sustained 40 knots the night I got rolled 180°. Because the reinforced trades weren't that strong I abstained from switching to sea anchor. With the wind just a few degrees above a dead run with the drogue out, nothing but the staysail up and the boat sealed up, I heard a deafening roar approaching around midnight. Then everything hit the ceiling, including me. When I finally made it back to the cockpit and looked at my mast I couldn't believe it was still standing. I know it hit me broadside, so I think this is what happened: just before the freak wave broke over the boat the windvane lost the apparent wind in the trough and corrected for the loss of wind. As the boat veered upwind the monster erupted across the hull, rolling the boat through 180°.

Aside from the torn staysail, bent solar panels and a soaked single-sideband radio, the rollover caused no serious damage to the boat.

Mai Miti Vavau sailing out of Honolulu, with Diamond Head Crater in the background.
Mai Miti Vavau sailing out of Honolulu, with Diamond Head Crater in the background.

S/M-1 Canoe, “Tilikum” (Voss)

TILIKUMS/M-1

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.

D/T-10 Trimaran, Newick

SVALD/T-10

Trimaran, Newick

40' x 28' x 3 Tons

36" Dia. Galerider

Force 8-9 Condition

 

File D/T-10, obtained from Deborah Druan, Farmingham, MA. - Vessel name Greenwich Propane, hailing port Greenwich, CT, ocean racing trimaran designed by Richard Newick, LOA 40' x Beam 28' x Draft 5' 6" (2' 6" board up) x 3 Tons - Drogue: 36" Diameter Galerider on 250' x 5/8" nylon braid rode - No bridle - 5/8" Stainless steel swivel - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 400 miles NE of the Azores with winds of 40-45 knots and seas of 18 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 10° - Speed was reduced to about 3 knots during 10 hours of deployment.

Debbie Druan is the United States' foremost female multihull skipper - America's Florence Arthaud. She has won numerous first-to-finish trophies to date, the latest on her Formula 40 racing trimaran, Toshiba. Doubtless she will make it to the Whitbread. Debbie is also commodore of the New England Multihull Association and has written numerous articles about ocean crossing and heavy weather tactics in the journal of the NEMA. In May 1994 she arrived in Bermuda with David Koshiol and Joe Colpit to deliver the 40-ft. Newick trimaran, Greenwich Propane, to Plymouth, England. The owner of the boat, John Barry, was to race it in the 1994 Two Star Double Handed Transatlantic Race from Plymouth to Newport. On the Horta to Plymouth leg of the crossing Debbie and crew ran into a gale. The following is a transcript of her report, appearing in the September 1994 journal of the NEMA (reproduced by permission):

The gale hit us on May 23. We were 838 n.m SW of England and 424 n.m. NE of the Azores. It was good to know about the low in advance because by noon when it started building rapidly we knew why. We went from the full main, jib, and spinnaker to just the jib, surfing at 10-12 knots down 8 ft. seas in 18-22 knots of wind. We decided to just take the main down and not deal with reefing. We weren't racing and just needed to get the boat to England in one piece and on time, so we played it conservative. By 5:00 PM as the wind and waves increased we just kept rolling in more and more jib and took the rotation out of the mast. We were still going just as fast. It was tiresome, wet and cold on watch, so we went to a 2 hours on and 4 off system. Late that night it had moderated down to 30 knots and 12 ft. waves, so we started thinking the worst was over.

The next morning we started getting hit by rain squalls and an increase to 40 knots and 18 ft waves. There wasn't much jib left out so we started wondering what we were going to do when we ran out of jib. The problem was that the boat didn't have a barometer and we had no way of telling if we were moving along with this storm, or if it was intensifying. After much discussion between the pros and cons of setting the para-anchor or the Galerider, we decided on the Galerider because it seemed out of the question to turn the boat up broadside to the 18-20 ft steep seas to set the anchor off the bow. So we pulled out the Galerider and got it ready just in case. It wasn't the high wind that concerned us but the fact that the boat just was not steering down the steep waves very well. Occasionally she would surf madly down the face of a wave, the rudder would cavitate, we'd lose control and go down a wave sideways. You only needed for this to happen once and the boat could trip over itself. As Joe had once capsized in another trimaran, he was familiar with the warning signs.

Finally, after 24 hours of hand steering down these steep seas David, who was on watch, yelled down to us "hey these suckers are getting bigger, we better do something." As another large wave slammed us sideways, you could hear the nervousness in his voice. They were over 20 ft now. We determined that we must be moving along with this system, as the wind was supposed to change direction after it had passed, and it hadn't. We needed to stop and let it pass by us. We were all worried. None of us had ever set out a drogue before. The Galerider was constructed of thick 2" webbing in a criss-cross pattern with a 3 ft diameter opening. Attached was 6 ft of 3/8 chain and a 5/8 swivel. The line was 250 ft. of 5/8" nylon braid. The blocks on the ama sterns weren't strong enough to be used for a bridle, so we used the main stern anchor cleat to secure it.

While David steered, I made sure all the line was flaked and ready to pay out of the bag in the cockpit, and Joe stood on the main transom with the drogue. He looked like he was standing over the edge of a huge cliff with 20 ft deep troughs and 250 ft to the next wave crests. Joe took a wrap around the cleat and gently dropped the Galerider off the stern: instantaneously the Galerider took hold and you felt the boat take a huge tug backward. The transom was pooped instantly as a wave overtook us. Joe paid out 150 ft of line. We waited, wondering if the anchor cleat was holding. You could see the Galerider riding the crests of the waves, so he paid out another 100 ft of line to take the strain off the cleat. Now you could see only the line riding in the waves. Soon we were surrounded by mountains of waves and they just came up, passed under the boat, and away. We were calmly and slowly going down wind at three knots.

Our first reaction was "why hadn't we put it out sooner?" Even without a bridle, the Galerider stayed centered off the stern. It only yawed back and forth a little. It was now easier to steer. For anti chafe gear we used a rag on the cleat and kept and eye on it. Ten hours later the wind and seas had moderated enough and we simply pulled the drogue back in. Joe from the stern pulled it in hand over hand, waiting for the line to go slack between waves. David tailed the end of the line on the runner winch into the cockpit.

Two days from the onset of this low we were able to put the full main back up. For the next 800 n.m. to Plymouth we'd have 2-3 days of wet, bumpy and cold conditions to one day of dry and warm.... The last 300 n.m. was a beat to weather. As we were worried about the rig we sailed the boat as conservatively as possible. We made our approach to England by the Lizards.

D/T-9 Trimaran, Shuttleworth

SHUTLWTHD/T-9

Trimaran, Shuttleworth

60' x 40' x 10 Tons

12 Knotted Warps (300' each)

Force 12 Conditions

 

File D/T-9, derived from an article by Richard B. Wilson, appearing in the October 1991 issue of SAIL MAGAZINE - Vessel name Great American (ex-Livery Dole IV, ex-Travacrest Seaway) hailing port Boston, MA, maxi ocean racing trimaran designed by John Shuttleworth, LOA 60' x Beam 40' x Draft 11' (3' board up) x 10 Tons - Drags: 12 knotted warps, 300' each (3/4" and 5/8" nylon) - Deployed in a 940 milibar storm in deep water 400 miles west of Cape Horn with sustained winds of 70 knots and breaking seas of 50' - Vessel capsized on 22 November 1990 despite the 12 long warps - Crew of two were rescued by the M/V New Zealand Pacific.

On 22 October 1990 Rich Wilson and Cape Horn veteran Steve Pettengill set sail on the 60-ft. maxi ocean racing trimaran Great American determined to break the 76-day San Francisco to Boston record set in 1853 by the clipper Northern Light. Apart from wanting to beat the record, it was also Rich Wilson's goal to heighten public awareness of the activities of the American Lung Association and to prove the viability of corporate sponsorship in sailing. Wilson is a severe asthmatic.

Sailing out of San Francisco Bay Wilson and Pettengill put "pedal to the metal" and tried to imagine their opponent, Northern Light, beginning to trail behind. Having records of Northern Light's daily runs, they had their imaginary opponent in view, so to speak, trailing behind all the way down the coast of California and then Mexico. In skirting hurricanes Trudy and Vance off Mexico, however, the lead changed hands a few times as the ghost of the 200-ft., three-masted clipper ship would overtake the trimaran, only to be later overtaken herself. Once past the equator, Wilson and Pettengill began bashing full bore into the southeast trade winds. The going was rough and took a heavy toll in equipment failures. After passing Pitcairn Island they began to line up their approach to Cape Horn - and "the mother of all storms."

It began as a low system that "exploded" (to quote the words of meteorologist Bob Rice) into a 940 milibar storm, with Great American's number written all over it. Approximately 600 miles from Cape Horn the storm said hello to Wilson and Pettengill when the trimaran broached, tripped on her big daggerboard, and Wilson was thrown violently out of his bunk. The two dazed men found that they had to raise Great American's huge daggerboard all the way up to improve steering and avoid tripping on it.

Steve Pettengill then let out five knotted warps, 300' each, slowing the boat down a little. On the next day the boat broached again with the five warps in tow. But she side-slipped smoothly - raising the board had definitely helped. Pettengill added three more 300' long knotted warps. On Wednesday morning, 21 November, the boat's barograph tracer hit rock bottom. Four additional knotted warps were then added, making a total of twelve (12) to bring the speed back down to 9 knots in 70-knot winds and 50-foot seas.

On Thanksgiving morning, some 400 miles west of Cape Horn, a graybeard swept over the entire boat (this trimaran is 60 feet long and 40 feet wide!) carrying away the two wind generators. Great American then rushed down another steep mountain. The combined drag of the twelve knotted warps were not enough to keep her properly aligned. She slewed to starboard, probably dug the port ama, heeled, and capsized. The two men, fortunately OK, immediately donned their immersion suits, activated the 406 MHz EPIRB, and resigned themselves to the business of survival. As they were sorting out the debris in the inverted main hull, "the grandfather of all waves wrenched the water-laden trimaran out of the water, spun her, and slammed her violently back down, upright again." (Quoting from Wilson's article in SAIL).

So, Great American was right side up again! But the mast and the rigging were in pieces on deck and trailing in the water. The cockpit was awash and the main hull looked like a submarine, with the winches at sea level. Everything was in shambles. Everything had broken free down below. They wondered whether they would have been better off if they had remained upside down. Somehow, in the freezing cold, they managed to sort things out and get a little hot nourishment. Meanwhile, Scott Air Force Base in Illinois had received a "hit" from the EPIRB. Additionally the ARGOS, which had gone off when the second wave righted the boat, had alerted a base in France, which alerted Atlantic Rescue. AMVER (automated merchant vessel emergency routing) then found the nearest ship to be the New Zealand Pacific. In a feat of brilliant maneuvering, Captain Dave Watt brought his 62,000 ton ship - the world's largest refrigerated container carrier - alongside the awash Great American at 3:30 am in the dark. With the 815-foot ship rolling severely, Captain Watt coordinated the throttles and bow thrusters with such precision that Rich Wilson and Steve Pettengill were able to step onto the rope ladders hung down from the cliff-like side of the ship. They were then taken inside, cared for, and taken to Vlissingen, Holland.

Three years later, Rich Wilson and his new crew mate, Bill Biewenga, set out again from San Francisco. This time Wilson accomplished his goal. On April 7, 1993, Great American II finally arrived in Boston, 69 days and 20 hours out of San Francisco, beating Northern Light's record by six days. Wilson is currently head of Ocean Challenge, an educational institution dedicated to linking classrooms all over the world with ongoing adventures. Ocean Challenge has an interesting web site that readers may wish to explore: www.sitesalive.com

D/T-8 Trimaran, Piver

LODESTARD/T-8

Trimaran, Piver

35' x 20' x 3.5 Tons

4-Ft. Dia. Conical Drogue

Force 12 Conditions

 

File D/T-8, obtained from Warren L. Thomas, Charleston, SC. - Vessel name Lady Blue Falcon, hailing port Charleston, Lodestar trimaran designed by Arthur Piver, LOA 35' x Beam 20' x Draft 2' x 3.5 Tons - Drogue: 4-ft. Diameter cone, custom-made from heavy mesh (porous) material on 250' x 5/8" nylon three strand tether, with bridle arms of 60' each and bronze swivel - Deployed in an unnamed hurricane about 300 miles north of Bermuda with sustained winds of 80 knots and breaking seas of 30 ft. and greater - Vessel's stern yawed 30° and more with the owner steering.

To quote the immortal words of K. Adlard Coles in Heavy Weather Sailing, "When the wind rises to Force 10 or more and the gray beards ride over the ocean, we arrive at totally different conditions, and for yachts it is battle for survival, as indeed it sometimes may be for big ships." In July 1990, Lady Blue Falcon, one of Arthur Piver's original "Lodestar" designs, was off the northern coast of Maine sailing to Charleston, South Carolina, when she became entwined in a cyclonic system with sustained hurricane-force winds - an unnamed, minor hurricane. What followed was five days of sheer terror for the singlehanded sailor on board, Warren Thomas. The boat was driven without mercy round all points of the compass, eventually finding herself back in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The only drag device on board was a 4-ft. diameter cone, custom made from some sort of tightly knit, porous, nylon mesh material. Thomas deployed it off the stern on 250' of tether and a bridle with 60-ft. arms attached to the outboard sterns of the floats. The bridle would not allow the boat to be steered freely, a major disadvantage in Thomas' opinion. In the chaos that followed, Warren Thomas tried quartering the seas by bringing both bridle arms to one float. This turned out to be a bad idea - made things much worse. To compound matters, the cone would completely pull out of the water at times, allowing the boat to lurch ahead at incredible speeds. The whole experience was traumatic and Thomas' recollection of the details are hazy - "due to complete blank of mind & loss of charts & notes" (to quote Thomas). Transcript:

I used the drogue off the stern of my Piver Lodestar in a mild hurricane 300 miles north of Bermuda, approx. 360 miles east of Cape Cod. Got blown 570 miles in 5 days, running completely out of control. Drogue's bridle would NOT let me steer at high speeds of 22 knots on 2-3 minute continuous runs. (Once rode a gale in Albermorle Sound with 45-55 knots for thirteen hours. It was a walk in the park compared to this.)

Seas in excess of 25 ft. but running faster than HELL! Wave patterns rather organized but about every hour a series of oddballs would come. I could hand-steer them, except at night when I could not see them coming. All this under bare poles. I was alone, scared and just hanging on. It was the biggest horror of my life. The sea won the war! Cannot erase the fury from my mind. First time that I have ever cried like a baby, I believe just from nerves.... Eating raw Taster's Choice right out of the coffee jar.... Wind blew all around compass. Was hovering around 80, gusts exceeding 100. I knew I was going to die. Just did not know when. Mr. tough-guy did die out there. Now only a cautious, humble sailor remains. Took two years to shed the fear and exchange it for a healthy respect for the sea. Am sure I am alive today because of luck only. If I had had a para-anchor I would still have needed luck, but I would have been rested enough to appreciate it!

 

D/T-7 Trimaran, Searunner

BROWN37D/T-7

Trimaran, Searunner

37' x 22' x 7.5 Tons

Series Drogue - 120 x 5" Dia. Cones

Force 8-9 Conditions

 

File D/T-7, obtained from Philip & Marilyn Lange, Longwood, FL. - Vessel name Kuan-Yin, hailing port St. Augustine, trimaran, designed by Jim Brown, LOA 37' x Beam 22' x Draft 6' 11" (3' 6" board up) x 7.5 Tons - Drogue: Jordan series, 120 x 5" diameter cones on 200 x 3/4" & 5/8" nylon braid tether, with bridle arms of 75' each and 10' of 5/8" chain at the end of the array - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 500 miles east of the Bahamas with winds of 35-45 knots and seas of 20-30 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 10° - Drift was 18 nm during 46 hours of deployment.

 

Kuan-Yin was en route to Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands, from St. Augustine, Florida, when she ran into a gale. Philip and Marilyn Lange deployed a Jordan concept series drogue consisting of 120 x 5-inch cones. The drogue was homemade, with instructions received from Donald Jordan himself. See also Marilyn Lange's technical article and illustrations on how to fabricate a series drogue with an ordinary sewing machine, appearing in the March/April 1997 issue of Multihulls Magazine (back issues available from MULTIHULLS MAGAZINE, 421 Hancock St., Quincy MA 02171 - Tel: 617-328-8181). Transcript:

This was Kuan-Yin's maiden sea passage - and first long passage for captain & mate. Our gale was never mentioned throughout its duration on HF WWV! We were not prepared in advance. Wife/mate assembled Jordan series drogue components in our center cockpit and threaded bridle through aft snatchblocks (#3 Lewmars) and around transom, while I steered to avoid broaching. (Her Lirakis harness saved her at least once.) We used 10 feet of 5/8" chain as the weight on the end of the drogue. The Jordan series drogue deployed easily, and immediately slowed us down from 8 knots to 1.6 knots under bare poles. Our strongly-built stern lifted easily and smoothly to the oncoming waves. An occasional breaking wave dumped several quarts of seawater in, around the [stern castle] window gasket. Although the rushing and pounding noises were terrific below, we were able to rest because the movement of the boat was quite regular and predictable. We set a timer to remind us to freshen the nip [let out a few inches of line to shift the wear point and minimize chafe] and wrapped towels around potential chafe points on the bridle as it led to the Anderson 40 winches mounted on either side of our stern companionway.

The pressure on the drogue line alternated rhythmically between the two arms of the bridle - the tension was surprisingly light and the bridle winches could be adjusted easily. Our Autohelm wheel was bent when our first efforts to secure the rudder with line worked loose. The cheeks of our snatch blocks took a lot of wear. It took both of us to haul in the drogue hand-over-hand. Other than one wear point on the bridle it was in perfect condition!