S/M-32 Hunter 31 Sloop


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. 

D/T-10 Trimaran, Newick


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/C-4 Catamaran, Lagoon


Catamaran, Lagoon

46' x 25' x 11 Tons

48" Dia. Galerider

Force 9 Conditions

File D/C-4, obtained from Dr. Tim King, Elkhart, IN. - Vessel name Ariel, hailing port Juneau, Alaska, Lagoon catamaran designed by Jeanneau, LOA 46' 3" x Beam 24' 11" x Draft 3' 11" x 11 Tons - Drogue: 48" Diameter Galerider on 350' x 5/8" nylon braid tether, with bridle arms of 70' each and stainless steel 5/8" swivel - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 300 miles SW of Cape Finisterre, Spain, with winds of 40-45 knots and seas of 20 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 10° - Speed was reduced to about 3 knots during 24 hours of deployment.


Dr. Tim King had a Valiant 41 monohull named Foggy Mountain. In June 1989 Foggy Mountain won a fifteen-round bare knuckle fight with a life-threatening storm in the Gulf of Alaska. No drag devices were used. It was a survival saga, with fatigue and hypothermia playing significant roles. At the height of the storm King and crew witnessed enormous "holes and pyramids" on the surface of the sea. In an article appearing in the Jan/Feb 1990 issue Ocean Navigator Tim King wrote that some of these "holes" were 30 feet deep. They were barreling along at 30 knots and it was only by blind luck that the boat didn't fall into one. Dr. King has since sold the Valiant and purchased a Jeanneau Lagoon 47 catamaran. In March 1992 he and crew took delivery of Ariel in France and set sail for the U.S. The boat was equipped with an 18-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor and a 48" Galerider drogue. En route to the Canary Islands they ran into a gale and used the Galerider to slow the boat down. There was a copy of the Drag Device Data Base on board and crew members took turns reading it during the gale! Transcript:

Like all catamarans, Ariel tends to be very fast on all points off the wind. Specifically her fine entry and rapid flaring of the hulls allows her to surf without difficulty. The majority of the steering, even during surfing, was handled by the Autohelm autopilot. After 48 hours of building wind conditions, we found ourselves sailing under a broad reach with maturing seas. Our speeds were consistently 15-20 kts. under jib and/or triple-reefed main. The ride was relatively smooth except for the slamming of occasional waves under the bridge deck. The boat handled exceptionally well during prolonged surfs under autopilot control.

At 0600 (on the beginning of the 3rd day of the gale), before sunrise, the boat was lifted by the stern on the crest of a very large wave. There was a slight hesitation as the boat approached the crest, whereupon a second wave apparently augmented the first one and lifted us even higher up the new crest. (This second wave must have come from about 30-60° off the prevailing wave direction). Three things then occurred. First, the now confused breaking wave crest broke over the dinghy davits (the dinghy was stored upside down on top of the davits) and crashed chaotically into the cockpit (which rapidly drained off due to a well-designed drain system). Secondly, the boat was turned sideways and heeled some (10-25° ?) to starboard. The boat apparently then slid sideways for a short distance, being carried on the breaking crest of the wave, until the leeward hull and keel finally dug in. Thirdly, poised as she was at the crest of a larger than normal wave, she took off at an angle down the face of the wave and reached a speed clearly in excess of 20 kts. (We did not see the knot meter, but judged the speed from the vibration of the hull/rudder system.)

It was at this point that it was decided to deploy the Galerider in order to slow the boat down and prevent uncontrolled surfing. The Galerider was deployed via a bridle and 2 x 100' lengths of rode. Extreme care was taken in its deployment, but there were no injuries or hardware problems (remember, it was still dark). The result was that the vessel immediately slowed to 2-4 kts. and no surfing occurred at speeds greater than 5 kts. This slower speed allowed cross wave patterns to more easily catch up to us and pass by, thus creating more bridgedeck slamming and leeward hull pounding, but NOT with the intensity that had occurred while surfing. The boat would not self-steer in these conditions and continued to require an active autopilot. She was, however, well-balanced under bare poles and the autopilot did not have to work very hard.

Daylight showed us a sea with multiple well-developed wave trains coming at angles off the beam and stern. During the next 12 hours we saw several wave interactions that could have accounted for our early morning incident. However, it was never repeated while under drogue. Speed and steering were well under control. The yellow drogue could be seen (fully submerged at all times) under the surface about two full wave trains behind. After 24 hrs. it was winched in without incident and we proceeded under jib and triple-reefed main in 28-30 kts. of wind.

I think in retrospect a slightly longer rode would have prevented some of the bridle's vertical "slapping" of the waves as the rode stretched and contracted. There were, however, no chafe or hardware problems. We were well-prepared with the proper equipment, shackles and rodes. Therein lies the key to success.

D/M-17 Monohull, Cutter


Monohull, Cutter

41' x 8 Tons, Modified Fin Keel

36" Dia. Galerider Drogue

Force 11 Conditions


File D/M-17, obtained from Michael & Doreen Ferguson, Auckland, NZ - Vessel name St. Leger, hailing port Vancouver, monohull, G.R.P. cutter, LOA 41' x 8 Tons - Modified fin keel - Drogue: 36" Diameter Galerider on 250' x 3/4" polypropylene three strand rode, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - Deployed in the Queen's Birthday Storm in deep water about 400 miles south of Fiji with winds of 60 knots and seas of 40 ft. and greater - Speed was reduced to about 3.5 to 4 knots during 60 hours of deployment.

St. Leger was in the same June 1994 "Queen's Birthday Storm" that claimed three lives and numerous yachts. Her Canadian owners, Michael and Doreen Ferguson, sent the following report to Skip Raymond of Hathaway, Reiser and Raymond, who then forwarded it to Victor Shane for inclusion in the database. Transcript:

We launched St. Leger in 1 May 1982. She is a 41 ft. G.R.P. cutter with modified fin keel and fully unbalanced rudder, using a "Sayes Rig" self-steering vane. We moved aboard St. Leger the day before the launching and have lived aboard since 1982. We retired in 1991, Mike was a Sargent with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police - the NCO I/C of Marine Services with commercial maritime qualifications. After a hair raising experience in severe weather in Queen Charlotte Strait in 1989, we purchased a Galerider drogue directly from Hathaway, Reiser and Raymond after seeing an advertisement in a yachting magazine.

In May of 1991 we left our home port of Vancouver, Canada, and headed for Alaska. Thus began our life as full time cruisers. In April 1993 we crossed the Pacific from Mexico, arriving in New Zealand in November of that year.

In June 1994 we departed Tauranga, New Zealand, bound for Fiji, with only Michael and I aboard. At 1600 hrs on our second day out and approximately 75 miles from the North Cape of New Zealand, we first heard of a low pressure system situated over Vanuatu, predicted to track southeast into our intended path. The weather forecast in our area predicted southeast winds 35-40 knots, not particularly severe, so we decided to continue on our course under reduced sail. Later, under bare poles and in deteriorating conditions, we ran before it in very steep, short seas, and the wind sustained at 50 knots, with higher gusts.


At about midnight on day 2 of the storm we decided to deploy the Galerider as our boat speed was now 11-12 knots in precipitous seas. We deployed the Galerider using a single line off the starboard quarter, approximately 250 feet of 3/4 inch three strand polypropylene line. We selected polyprop three strand because of its floating ability. Our plan was to slow St. Leger down, whilst still maintaining steerage using the "Sayes Rig" vane, due to shorthanded crew. Immediately upon deployment our boat speed was reduced to 3.5 to 4 knots and we felt much more comfortable.

The wind vane continued to steer beautifully, but as St. Leger slowed down in the troughs of the huge seas the tow line and Galerider tried to catch up to us, leaving a loose coil of 12 to 15 feet of tow line floating in close proximity to the vane's trim-tab steering paddle. Fearing that the slack line might tangle in the trim-tab and surely tear it off, Mike began bringing in the slack each time we were in a trough, using a primary cockpit winch, until the Galerider was approximately 80-90 feet behind the boat. The drogue was in the same wave as St. Leger, but on the other side of the crest [on the back side]. We observed the Galerider for hours! A small "half-moon" section of the drogue was visible at times, and we noted the three strand polypropylene tow line did not unwind, nor did the Galerider oscillate or rotate. And best of all, this enabled the wind vane to steer the whole time.

We towed the Galerider without incident for 60 hours, with winds at 60+ knots (our "Swoffer" wind gauge was pegged at its limit). At approximately 0800 hrs on day 5 the wind had dropped to 18-20 knots. The low pressure system was east of the Kermadec Islands and moving away from us. The seas were still high, but we readily retrieved the Galerider, which was in almost new condition with no damage or excessive wear after a tough workout!

We should also mention that the New Zealand Air Force Orion aircraft searching the area [for other vessels in distress] made a low pass over us and we advised them by radio that we were OK and not in need of their assistance. Our sails were set and we spent the next week hard on the wind in light northerly winds with very lumpy, confused seas. We arrived safely in Suva, Fiji, where we exchanged tales of the "Queen's Birthday Storm" that claimed three lives and seven cruising yachts. Everyone involved was interested in what "worked" and what didn't.

D/M-11 Monohull, Islander


Monohull, Islander

29' x 4 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

36" Dia. Galerider Drogue

Force 8 Conditions


File D/M-7, obtained from William A. Forest, San Luis Obispo, CA. - Vessel name Seraphim, hailing port Morro Bay, CA, monohull, Islander Wayfarer, LOA 29' x LWL 24' x Beam 9.5' x Draft 4' x 4 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Drogue: 36" Diameter Galerider on 200' x 1/2" nylon braid rode, with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 500 miles west of San Francisco, with winds of 35-45 knots and seas of 15-20 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 20° - Speed averaged out to about 4 knots during 40 hours of deployment.


William A. Forest sailed Seraphim to Hawaii and back singlehanded in July 1989. On the way back he ran into a gale about 500 miles west of San Francisco. The wind was blowing out of the northwest, so he used a Galerider to slow Seraphim down and stabilize her attitude while continuing on in the right direction. Transcript:

I made the trip just to see if I could, and having done it I don't have to prove to myself that I can any more. The trip was made in 1989, when I was 66. The problem wasn't the boat, equipment or weather, but the chance that, as a single hander, I might get injured or break something. I did take a fall on the return trip, and cracked two lower ribs. I had not followed my own rule of wearing sneakers when on deck, and my bare feet went out from under me. Lucky it wasn't worse.

Until the time I deployed the Galerider on the way back, I had forgotten I had it on board. When the seas built up, the Monitor [wind vane] was unable to keep course as I sailed down into the troughs. The boat was surfing at that time, and the natural tendency was to try and round up, making it a dangerous broaching situation. This involved several hours of hand steering. Very tiring, at best. I took down the reefed main, hoisted the storm jib, and deployed the Galerider at 0200 hrs. on July 20th. I let out the Galerider rode to 150' initially, but later adjusted it between 125-200' to get best response, control and ride. The rode came in through the port after chock, taking half a turn on a corner cleat, then to my jib winch and onto another cleat. This way the strain was distributed between the first cleat and the winch, and I could take in or let out as the situation changed. As soon as the Galerider was deployed and the rode adjusted I had instant control. It was amazing. A note here that chafing gear must be used at the chock or the rode will easily wear through and the drogue be lost. It should also be noted that I had a 90 sq. ft. storm jib up. In order for the drogue to work properly it is necessary to have forward motion.

I adjusted the rode so that the Galerider was on the same side of the wave as the boat. In my case it was two waves back [on the same part of the wave as the boat]. I found that the strain was less on the line, and there were no jerks or rapid slowing as the boat moved forward. After deployment it was never necessary to hand-steer again. Once the Monitor wind vane was engaged I was able to unlash the tiller and my course became more exact. Sometime during early daylight hours a rogue wave from the port side carried away the wind vane sail and the dodger, filling the cockpit.

The Galerider worked well. There was plenty of searoom and the wind was blowing in the direction I wanted to go. However, in a situation of a dangerously close lee shore, and the loss of a rudder or sails, there is no doubt in my mind that a sea anchor would have been required. There is no law about not having both on board. In the unlikely event that I should go cruising again I would have both.

In subsequent telephone conversations Victor Shane asked William Forest why he didn't position the drogue on the back side of its wave when the yacht was surfing down the face of its wave (see Fig. 52). His answer was that he tried that, but given the particular situation - 35-knot winds - the yacht had a tendency to stall and wallow in the troughs. He added that in 50-knot winds he likely would have positioned the drogue on the "meatier" part of the wave.

In answer to the question as to whether he would prefer to take the seas squarely on the transom or on the quarter, Forest indicated that he would prefer to take them on the quarter with the drogue in tow, although it would depend on the particular circumstance. He stressed that every gale is different, every boat is different, and decisions such as where to position the drogue, or whether to use a bridle or not, or whether it is better to run directly downwind or to take the seas on the quarter are fluid decisions that need to be tailored to existing circumstances and conditions

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

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.

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-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-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-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.