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!
File D/M-16, obtained from John A. Traylor, Alta, Wyoming - Vessel name Beyond, hailing port Portland, Oregon, monohull cutter, designed by John Traylor, LOA 65' x LWL 56' x Beam 12' 8" x Draft 8' x 18 Tons - Fin keel - Drogue: Jordan series, 144 x 5" Diameter cones on 330' x 1"- 3/4"-5/8" nylon braid rode, with 24' of 3/8" chain at the end of the array - Deployed in a whole gale in deep water about 90 miles west of Point Conception, California, with winds of 40-60 knots and seas of 18-24 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 10° - Drift was about 68 nm in 33 hours of deployment.
Before setting off on a major ocean passage John A. Traylor equipped Beyond with a number of drag devices, including a Para-Tech sea anchor and a Jordan series drogue. The series drogue was used in a gale off Point Conception. Transcript:
The drogue took me personally about 24 man hours to construct, from a kit sold by Dave Pelissier (Ace Sailmakers). Once I had tied a few cones on the rode, construction was easy, but of course boring! The tow-rope specified for our 18-ton cutter is: first third 1" nylon braid, second third 3/4" nylon, and the last third 5/8" nylon. Total number of cones: 144. We did fabricate a bridle, each leg being about 25 feet long, leading to large port and starboard bronze cleats on the stern. The end weight was four fathoms of 3/8" chain.
It took me about thirty minutes to bring the gear up from below and lash the bag into deployment position, and rig the bridle. The most difficult task was to remove the Aries vane (one of Nick Franklin's last models, which can be quickly dismounted). This was a bit dangerous - I had to go down into our stern "sugar scoop" and unhinge the vane, all the while watching for the next wave which might sweep the scoop. Once the Aries was secured, deployment was very easy. Just drop the chain off the stern and stand clear.
There was no noticeable shock [when the drogue took hold], but I could clearly see the heavy nylon rode stretching and squeezing the water out as it absorbed the load. We had been running under bare poles. Over a period of perhaps 40 seconds our speed dropped from 8 knots to about 1 3/4" (one and three-quarters) knots. The rudder was lashed amidships with a nylon bungee. There were no signs of rudder stresses. Chafe was not a problem throughout the duration of the 44 hour gale, but would have been if we had not removed the Aries vane gear.
Our vessel is 65 feet long and has a center cockpit. We had no water shipped in the cockpit, so I cannot comment on the performance of the cockpit drains, companionway, etc. The rather large "sugar scoop" stern was frequently swept by the cresting seas, and the noise was occasionally quite loud. On several occasions large waves broke astern and completely filled the "scoop." But the series drogue kept the hull very well aligned into the seas, with at most 10 degrees of occasional yaw. Once the long narrow hull was held stern to the seas, the wild ride was much smoother. Either my wife or myself stood watch in the deckhouse, where we could look astern and watch the seascape.
The gale abated rather quickly in the early hours of 27 October. The seas were quite lumpy and with no wind to steady the ship, the strain on the rigging was a concern. We decided to attempt to retrieve the drogue immediately, rather than wait for the light of dawn. With a rolling hitch on the bridle, and line led to our largest coaming winches, we found we could retrieve the drogue, albeit slowly, without damaging the cones. We were about 15 minutes into this process (and had retrieved about ¼ of the total) when my wife noticed a tanker to the northwest, already well over the horizon and with leading lights lined up directly on us. After two attempts to raise him on VHF with no response, we could now see the foam under his bow from the bright moon overhead. I had my wife standby with a knife, ready to cut away the drogue if necessary. But much to our relief we were able to "rouse the watch" on the ship by playing our 600,000 candlepower spotlight on our mast and finally, I must admit, on the bridge of the ship, perhaps a mile away! We soon heard a voice (Greek?) in unmistakably angry tones on the VHF. After a short explanation, he bore away and wished us "Bon Voyage!"
All in all, we were most pleased with the performance of the drogue. My main concern with our particular installation is the necessity to remove the Aries vane gear. This exposes the crew to some definite risk of injury. If the gear is left in place, it will eventually be destroyed and the series drogue will probably be lost as well. One would hope to foresee the onset of serious weather and make preparations in advance, but as our experience with the rapid (and poorly forecast) onset of this gale shows, this is not always possible.
File D/M-15, obtained from Robert J. Burns, Townsville, Australia - Vessel name Peter Sanne, hailing port Detroit, MI, monohull, Contest 40, center cockpit ketch designed by Conyplex, LOA 39' 9" x LWL 29' x Beam 12'6" x Draft 6' x 8 Tons - Fin keel - Drogue: Jordan series, 120 x 5" diameter cones on 300' x 3/4" nylon double braid rode, with bridle arms of 15' each and 35 lb. anchor at the end of the array - Deployed in a whole gale in the Gulf Stream with winds of 45-55 knots and seas of 20 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 20° - Drift was about 12-15 nm during 6 hours of deployment, with a 3-4 knot current running.
Robert Burns made up his series drogue with the help of Professor Noël Dilly (previous file). En route to Newport from Bermuda he ran into a whole gale in the Gulf Stream and deployed it. Six hours later he lost the series drogue due to chafe. He then deployed a 2-ft. diameter conical parachute type drogue. This is an important file which provides an immediate comparison between the two different drogue concepts. The following are excerpts from Burns's article entitled Streaming A Drogue, appearing in the December 1993 edition of Yachting Monthly (reproduced by permission):
I've run before rising gales, but never with such menacing seas. There were three distinct inter-active wave patterns that combined to form massive pyramids which collapsed periodically in an immense surge of white water. As long as I could avoid the breaking portion of the waves there was little danger of sustaining damage from the mass of breaking seas colliding with the yacht.... We were truly surfing now, down wave faces that would break behind us, catching us as we increased speed, then engulfing the yacht in white water. Steering required intense concentration to keep the stern pointing in the direction of the breaking sea and present the minimum surface area, reducing risk of broaching. I was conscious of the forces of the rudder. The last thing we needed was to lose steerage.... If the storm was going to build for another four hours, it was time to try another tactic before it got too dark to see what we were doing.... The series drogue consisted of a 300ft length of 3/4" double braid nylon that had 120 5-inch diameter cones spliced onto the line through their axes. The drogue had an anchor attached to the outboard end for a weight and was attached to the stern with a bridle. The gusts were furious now. The seas were 25-30 feet with faces at 45 degrees and 50 degrees and breaking frequently. The shrieking of the wind in the rigging and the whip-like crackling of the ensign was making me most anxious. It was time to stop. We were above hull speed most of the time now, and it was hard to control the vessel. I sent Curley astern to kick the anchor over the side that would commence the deployment of the drogue.
The drogue had been rigged at the stern with anchor attached. As soon as the weight was released the drogue line paid itself out of its storage box. The tow line streaked out with dramatic speed and force. After less than a minute the drogue was deployed and the cones began to exert their resistive force on the bridle. The slowing effect was phenomenal. Deploying the drogue was like bungee jumping off a 30ft wave with a 40ft. yacht. The feeling of being elastically attached to the sea itself is hard to imagine. After a minute or so we had slowed from 8 knots to 1.5 knots. The stern was pointed aggressively into the wind and sea. It was as if we had entered a calm harbor of refuge. The yacht held her position near the top of the waves' crests. When a wave approached and threatened to break on board, the drogue would pull us up and over the top of the breaking waves. There was no possibility of a breaking wave hitting us broadside, as we were always above the majority of the white water.
We furled the remaining portion of the jib, tied off the helm, checked to make sure everything on deck was secured, and then went below. Inside the main cabin the noise of the gale was much less. With the reduction in the yacht's motion, our situation seemed not too bad. We were all exhausted and took the opportunity to try to get some sleep. The time was 2130. I got up several times to check the situation. Despite the roar of breaking seas as we were pulled over the tops of breaking waves, I slept surprisingly well....
At about 0230 the sound of waves falling on deck seemed to increase and the motion of the yacht changed. Gone was the elastic "bungee effect." I was about to climb out of my bunk and put on harness to inspect the rig, when the boat heeled sharply to port under the force of a wave striking the starboard quarter. The sound of flowing water was everywhere. In the next instant the companionway doors shattered, and an angry stream of water rushed into the saloon.... I reached for the nearest overhead light... it came on to reveal the main saloon with 2-3ft of seawater sloshing above the cabin sole. Debris of the splintered hatch floated with charts, books, wet blankets and sleeping bags. The cockpit was full to the top of the coamings with frothing sea water. The night was dark, but I could still make out the towering peaks of white water around and above us. I glanced at the wind instruments; we were lying with the wind just aft of the beam, we had no headway. "So," I thought, "this is what it is like to lie a-hull." The priorities were to clear the boat of water, and try to repair the shattered companionway in case we were boarded by another sea. And to check what had happened to the drogue. The crew were in favor of launching the life raft. I recalled previous conversations about abandoning a damaged yacht. In the 1979 Fastnet Race it had been a major contributor to loss of life. We were still very much afloat. The thought of taking to a life raft was not at all appealing to me.... My priority was to reset the drogue.
I found the bridle dangling over the transom, severed on both sides. The 3/4" nylon bridle had been abraded by the self-steering mounting brackets. There was damage to the stern pulpit and deck fittings, evidence of the forces and motion exerted on the hull by the drogue before it parted the bridle. It was imperative to get the stern facing the seas again. I pulled several lengths of anchor rode and mooring lines out of the aft lazarette, tied them together, and streamed them over the transom. This had little effect as the line was mostly polypropylene and skipped along the surface. Every moment we continued to lie a-hull we were at risk of being struck by another breaking monster. I recalled that I also had a small hand-made parachute-type sea anchor stowed below. My wife had constructed it some years ago for our coastal cruising around Tasmania and it had never been used.
The parachute sea anchor was a 2ft diameter cone made of synthetic canvas with ¼" polypropylene lines braided together to form the shrouds. It looked frail in comparison to what it had to stand up against. I tied the parachute to the longest length of line and let it slip over the side. Nothing happened at first. When all 300ft of line was out and the chute was subject to some forward motion the line came taut. There was no bridle now, so the tow line was only attached to the starboard stern cleat. The yacht yawed to port, aligning the stern almost into the wind and sea. Our forward velocity was about 2 knots. Big waves would cause us to surge forward and down the waves faces, as the chute didn't have sufficient surface area to slow us down against the push of big seas. We were much better off now. If the chute held we would be safe.
Gone was the feeling of "bungee jumping" [associated with the series drogue]. The forces exerted by the chute were sharper [jerkier] and nowhere near as powerful. However, the strategy of lying stern-to was still the most comfortable and safe. The little chute did well. We had no serious broadside wave strikes, even though there were still a lot of breaking seas around us. The chute was not able to pull us up and over the breaking waves, so the occasional wave dumped on the stern. As the yacht had a center cockpit, there was less danger of it being filled.... Dawn came slowly. The fury was fading from the wind and it seemed like the little chute would see us through the gale.... We cranked out a tiny bit of jib from the furling gear. The yacht pointed directly downwind, similar to riding with the series drogue. I wondered why I had not thought of using a bit of jib earlier.... By noon 6 June we had crossed the Gulf Stream axis into the cold water of the US continental shelf.
Robert Burns constructed another series drogue for his next boat, the 50-ft. aluminum Holman & Pye ketch, Eclipse, which he and his wife Kathryn sailed to Australia.
File D/M-14, obtained from Professor Noël Dilly, London, England - Vessel name Bits, hailing port Medway, Kent, monohull, Twister sloop designed by Holman and Pye, LOA 28' x LWL 25' x Beam 8' x Draft 5' x 5 Tons - Full keel - Drogue: Jordan series, 90 x 5" diameter cones on 320' x 3/4" Multiplat nylon braid rode, with bridle arms of 20' each and 35 lbs. of chain spliced into the end of the array - Deployed in a storm in deep water about 25 miles west of Cape Carvoeiro, Portugal, with winds of 50 knots and seas of 15 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 10° - Drift was about 50 miles during 50 hours of deployment.
Noël Dilly has been sailing for 40 years and is Yachting Monthly's correspondent for Medway and North Kent, having written numerous articles, including Making And Using A Series Drogue (May 1994 issue of Yachting Monthly). A professor at St. George's Hospital Medical School (University of London), Dilly is one of the planet's experts on drag devices. An associate of the late Geoff Pack (Yachting Monthly), and also Peter Bruce (editor of Heavy Weather Sailing), the professor has been wrestling with the subject of heavy weather tactics for decades. Apart from making several series drogues, he has numerous other drag devices in his possession, including a 9-ft. BUORD sent by Victor Shane, a Para-Tech sea anchor and Delta Drogue, an Australian Seabrake, etc.
On the occasion of this file Dilly and clan were sailing Bits to the Mediterranean when they ran into a storm near tiny Berlenga Islands (about 60 miles up the coast from Lisbon). Transcript:
Bits, a Twister, long keel, 28 ft. LOA, 8 ft. beam, Holman and Pye design. Weight when hanging from a crane, 5 tons. We built her over 3 years in the hospital car park, hence the students nicknamed me "Noah." Main influence on our fitting out was my experiences in a Contessa 32 in Fastnet '79. We use our series drogue whenever going to windward is a bore, that is, usually winds in excess of 30 kts. It is just not worth the bashing. Summer gales do not last above 30 kts much more than 15 hours and we do not seem to lose much more than 10-20 miles downwind of our starting position on the drogue.
The longest we have hung to the drogue is 50 hours off Portugal, on a passage to Gibraltar from Portsmouth. It was January, wind NW Force 7-11 for 3 days, sustained Force 9 for 18 hours. Our wind gauge does not go above 50 kts, but BBC said we had a Force 11. Position, off the Berlenga Islands, near Cape Carvoeiro. We saw the Berlenga Islands from wave crests when we deployed the drogue, and could still see them 3 days later when we recovered it. I suppose we had moved about 10-15 miles, but I was not in the mood for measurement. However we were fit enough to ignore the temptation to sneak into Lisbon for R & R and carry on towards Gibraltar.
Deployment: There are two ways of storing the drogue. We used to wind it onto a spool, weighted end first, with the bridle last. The idea was to attach the bridle, and feed out the drogue from the spool. But spools are awkward to store. Now what we do is store the drogue in a sports bag (zipper whole length of bag). We flake it in so that the bridle is at the top. This arrangement gives a great option of storage sites. We mark the two bridles with a piece of thick tape so that we know the correct lengths of the lines without having to adjust the deployed drogue, and, if necessary, we can deploy at night. Before we deploy the drogue, we remove the vane from the self steering and release the paddle. For deploying the drogue, we drop the trysail, but continue at about 15° from dead downwind under storm jib. Once the drogue is deployed we secure the tiller amidships with 1/4" bungee.
Riding sail: Our storm jib is much smaller than the average storm jib and we rig it on a removable inner forestay (another invention I have fiddled with). This jib is 5ft x 4ft x 3½ft. The forestay extends from the cross tree [mast spreader] to the samson post. The jib flies about 4 feet off the deck. It is tiny, I would hate to think of the conditions in which I would be forced to take it down. I think it stabilizes the boat directly downwind. I picked up the idea when fleeing before the Fastnet winds. I like this idea of using a riding sail with the series drogue, but I would also treat Don Jordan's comments with great respect. I suppose that he is worried that the wind and waves may be coming from different directions [Jordan designed the series drogue for use without riding sails]. Once the drogue is deployed, we harden up both jib sheets so that the sail is amidships, and leave it.
Motion of the yacht: I think the series drogue ride is a stable affair. Once deployed, description of the new motion of the boat as "bungee jumping" is a good one. Be prepared to hang on, or better still retire to your berth [Jordan recommends that everyone be strapped in by aircraft-types seat belts inside the boat]. In the troughs, she feels loose. As you rise up the wave and the wind hits with full force she hardens up. Surprisingly this is the best time to do things below deck. Usually that's all there is to it, but if you get accelerated by a crest, you can feel it and hang on for the quite dramatic deceleration. Once the crest has passed these things stop, and you are back to the up and down thing. It is all very slow and undramatic, until there is the violent motion associated with the odd crest strike.
Cones surfacing: A very rare event. I have seen them revealed when a particularly steep wave was approaching. I suppose there were about 10 cones visible, but I was trying to fix a second safety harness clip at the time, and found that pretty urgent. In Force 7,8,9 I have never seen the cones surface. In wind strengths above that it is so difficult to look to windward, the spray hurts too much. Indeed our storm gear includes a pair of industrial safety goggles so that we can try to inspect the drogue/sea interface during the storm.
Chafe: Chafe is the great enemy of all drag devices. To counter chafe at the weight end we enclose the chain-to-rope splice in a spiral whipping so it cannot move [Dilly uses a length of chain instead of the usual 35 lb. weight]. At the bridle end we enclose the lines in thick-walled polyethylene tube where they pass over the transom.
Hatches & life raft: We have massively strong washboards. We seal the cockpit hatch joints with 2" duct tape, also the cockpit locker lids (we have discovered how leaky allegedly waterproof locker lids can be). Finally we move the life raft into its gale storage position, which is on the cockpit sole. It is secured in place by two straps that are jointed by a long pin, such that if you pull the pin the straps are released. This storage has two advantages. First it reduces the weight of water in the cockpit when you get pooped. And second, it is a much more secure place for the life raft than exposed on deck where a breaking storm sea might easily take it, just when it might be needed.
Cockpit drain holes: Four 2-inch diameter cockpit drain holes are not adequate as it takes several minutes for the cockpit to drain. Next time I would try 4-inch diameter drains, but the hazard is then of sheets and lines being washed down them.
Recovery: We have a bridle long enough to use the genoa winch to wind in the drogue. I takes ages, but we have plenty of time. My daughter Sarah has suggested that next time we take a line to the bow, outside everything, release the drogue, and lie bow to it, then use a combination of the anchor winch and motoring to recover it, just like recovering an anchor.
In subsequent communications Victor Shane also asked Professor Dilly why he and other safety experts recommend that the angle subtended by the bridle arms be about 30° or less.
The principle applies to any storm bridling system, including those utilized by multihulls using sea anchors off the bow. As the bridle arms are shortened the angle increases and the toggle force on each attachment point can grow precipitously - farmers still use the principle to dislodge tree stumps. The professor's answer was brief and to the point:
Why 30°? There are good mechanical equations that show that as the angle between the two lines increases the load on them increases severely. 30° Is well within the safe angle. It is just about the same as the Hawaiian chappies idea of twice the transom width for the length of the bridle arms.
File D/M-6B, 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. 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.
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.
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.
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....
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.