S/R-2 Carbon / Kevlar Morrison


Carbon / Kevlar Morrison 24ft classic ocean row boat

24' x 1 Tonne

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9 Conditions

File S/R-2, obtained from Chris Martin - Vessel name Bojangles, Carbon / Kevlar 24ft classic ocean row boat designed by Phil Morrison, LWL 24' x Beam 6' x Draft 18" x 1 tonne - Sea anchor: 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech on 80m (260')  x 1/2" polypropylene three strand rode with 3" stainless steel swivel - Full trip line - Deployed during ocean passage in deep water from Choshi, Japan to San Francisco, USA in early September 2009 with winds of 40 knots+ and cycloidal steep breaking waves of 30' - 50' - Drift  during 36 hours at sea anchor is not known.

Chris Martin and Mick Dawson were the first pair of rowers to successfully cross the Pacific Ocean, doing so in 189 Days, 10 Hours and 55 Minutes after an adventure that included storm force winds, running out of food, an onboard fire and, of course, the shear grind of rowing day and night for over 6 months.

Bojangles  is Carbon Kevlar foam sandwich classic hull row boat. Built by Woodvale. Originally intended as a solo the bulkheads were cut into three and the central section angled more vertically to provide the deck space required for two rowers. Because rowing boats are often double ended, with a pointed stern, there is no concern about anchoring from the stern instead of the bow.


Parachute anchor was deployed off the stern (not off the bow). There is a specific mounting position above the rudder for the attachment of the deployment line. This means that all the waves hitting the boat strike the aft cabin but do mean that it is possible to exit the aft cabin without risking a wave breaking over the boat and slamming into the main hatch. It also reduces the wiggle on the boat during the time the boat is deployed as the boat naturally windvanes to point with the wind and waves minimizing lateral motion of the boat.

The deployment line we used was stored on deck between two large cleats about 18" apart allowing easy deployment and storage on recovery.  The deployment line was 1/2" three strand and the recovery line was 1/4". In hindsight a buoyant recovery line with a float fitted would have been better.

S/T-21 Trimaran, Farriar


Trimaran, Farriar

27' x 19' x 1.3 Tons

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8 Conditions

File S/T-21, obtained from Steven C. Wann, Williamsburg, VA. - Vessel name Dancer, hailing port Williamsburg, trailerable trimaran designed by Ian Farriar, LOA 27' x Beam 19' x Draft 5' (14" board up) x 1.3 Tons - Sea anchor: 12-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 300' x 9/16" nylon three strand rode and 1/2" galvanized swivel - No bridle - Partial trip-line - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 200 miles SSW of Block Island, RI, with winds of 40 knots and seas of 8-10 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 30° - Drift was estimated to be about 2 n.m. during 10 hours at sea anchor.

The F-27 trimaran is trailerable, fast and seaworthy. Steven Wann used a para-anchor on his in a gale seventy miles off the New Jersey coast. Transcript:

I feel that I should mention that I have made one Pacific and four Atlantic crossings. While all of my ocean crossing have been in monohulls, I have made a few ocean passages in multihulls and expect that I will be doing more multihull ocean sailing in the future. I am aware of the differences between monos and multis, especially in regards to what I call "offshore tactics." For example, I have found that lightweight trimarans like the Corsair series do not go well to windward with waves coming from windward. As Sheldon Bacon mentions in his chapter entitled "Wind Waves" in the latest edition of Coles's Heavy Weather Sailing, seas take some time to build, and the "sea state" often lags behind the "wind state." Thus skippers of multis sailing offshore have to be aware that even though the wind might remain constant in strength and direction over a period of time, the ability of some mutihulls to continue to windward can diminish if the seas build.

In the case of my DDDB form for 19 July '97, it should be noted that the waves were not commensurate in size with the wind force: they were smaller. However, I deployed the sea anchor because

1) the wind and waves were from my destination,

2) I was single-handed and tired,

3) I was in no hurry, and

4) there was sufficient traffic in the area to make me feel that maintaining way and a good lookout would be impossible.

I would like to point out that I was not in any danger, I did not need assistance. In other words, I used the sea anchor not as an emergency device, but as part of my "normal" offshore tactics. I feel this is an important point.

In the case of my DDDB form for 16 August '97, I felt I was in an unsustainable situation: I had considerable gear failure (instrumentation, bowsprit and autopilot mounting, to mention a few), the wind and seas were from my destination and building, the weather forecast was for more of the same for the next two days, and I was exhausted. Thus I felt that I was unable to continue under those situations.

I would add that there are at least three situations in which I would use a sea anchor:

1) "I don't want to continue under the current weather conditions."

2) "I can't continue, but I don't need assistance."

3) "I can't continue and will need assistance when the present weather conditions moderate."

For the second deployment I had removed the trip line and float. I saw no advantage in their use during the first deployment and was concerned that the trip line could foul the chute in some way. Regarding bridles, I felt that Corsair's eyes near the bows of the outer amas were inadequate for the load that might be placed on them, were I to use a bridle. As I see it, the only advantage of a bridle on a multihull is to stop the boat from yawing, and in my case I did not see the yawing to be a problem. The yawing, which I felt was considerable, was in no way apparent belowdecks, and in any case is something that most multihull sailors have probably become accustomed to at ground anchor.

On deployment the first time, I was surprised how easy the movement of Dancer became instantly, and how things quieted down. It was a "time out." This was repeated on the second deployment.

I was also surprised at how much stretch there was in the rode, and how difficult it was to retrieve the rode and the sea anchor. The effort was much greater than just hauling in on a ground anchor rode, for at the time there was still considerable wind and sea. Even though the F-27 only displaces 2600 pounds, considerable effort was required to winch in the rode and sea anchor, and in the time it took to do so I worked up a good sweat. I had run the rode from the port fairlead to starboard of the bow cleat and back along the deck to the port winch, just forward of the cockpit. I would recommend this lead to other F-27 owners. There was so much strain on the rode that it would stretch six inches just from the bow to the winch!

Another surprise was that the sea anchor [without float] took a position not near the surface of the water, but down maybe 30° from parallel to the surface of the water. While I didn't have any chain on the rode, the weight of the sea anchor, fitting, swivel and line were enough to sink the setup considerably, possibly because of relatively light wind conditions [at retrieval time]. On retrieval, I learned to watch the bow drop into a trough and then winch like mad!

S/C-17 Catamaran, MacGregor


Catamaran, MacGregor

36' x 18' x 2.5 Tons

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9-10 Conditions


File S/C-17, obtained from H.L. Andersen, Copenhagen, Denmark, - Vessel name Silver Heels, hailing port Copenhagen, catamaran, designed by MacGregor, LOA 36' x Beam 18' x Draft 18" x 2.5 Tons - Sea anchor: 12-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 5/8" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 40' each, with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip line - Deployed in a whole gale in deep water 120 miles NW of Cape Finisterre, Spain, with winds of 45-55 knots and seas of 20-30 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 30° - Drift was estimated to be 12 n.m. during 23 hours at sea anchor.

Silver Heels is a MacGregor 36 catamaran, modified with hard deck and small cockpit. Her Danish owner H.L.Andersen has put close to 110,000 blue water miles on her, having crossed the Atlantic a number of times. In September 1995, en route to Ibiza, Spain, he ran into what BBC radio first announced as "severe gale, Force 9" shortly to be followed by those dread words, crackling as they do over the shortwave bands: "FORCE 10 IMMINENT." Transcript:

For my modified MacGregor 36 catamaran (see articles in Multihulls Magazine, Nov/Dec 1992 & July/August 1994) I use the 12' para-anchor. First time I deployed the sea anchor was in a Force 10 storm (BBC Radio 4) 120 miles NW of Cape Finisterre (Spain). This severe gale was the first major low pressure of the 1995 fall season to sweep across the North Atlantic, reaching from Portugal to the Irish Sea, a huge area, and I had nowhere to run to, ergo I put all my faith in the para-anchor.

I am convinced it saved the catamaran and me. The backing wind (to storm) made the seas real nasty. The temperature dropped to 7° C in the cabin. I'll never forget how peaceful it became as soon as the para-anchor took command. It was a blessing - rain and wind whipped the seas but we lay still.

My mistake was to attach the bridle to the 400' tether using a bowline instead of a proper splice & thimble, and that's where the line eventually chafed through. But it held for 23 hours. I did not use a full trip line - only a partial one & two floats, regrettably, but I was worried about the lines tangling since I had to deploy everything in the middle of the night. After I lost the para-anchor several freak waves went right over the hulls, so I used the spinnaker [as a jury-rigged sea anchor]. But it got ripped to pieces after 1½ hours and I had to hoist a storm jib and sail the cat through the worst of the seas for 6 hours, after which it moderated and I headed for La Covina, Spain [sea anchor replaced there].

I used the new para-anchor 50 miles off Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina, and twice in the Mediterranean, both Force 8 - sudden gales with little sea room. After 110,000 nautical miles I still have a lot to learn about the para-anchor. I now attach a length of chain between the bridle and tether, and use a full trip line. Deployed correctly, I am sure the para-anchor will protect my vessel and my hide in the future.

S/C-11 Catamaran, Stiletto


Catamaran, Stiletto

29' x 16' x 1.4 Tons

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8 Conditions


File S/C-11, obtained from Thomas E. Cooke, Euclid, OH. - Vessel name Battle Cat, hailing port Sandusky, OH, catamaran, designed by Stiletto Catamarans, LOA 29' 4" x Beam 16' x Draft 48" (12" boards up) x 1.4 Tons - Sea anchor: 12-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 300' x 1/2" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 50' each, with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip line - Deployed in a low system in shallow water (45 feet) on Lake Erie, about 30 miles NW of Cleveland with winds of 40 knots and choppy seas of 8-10 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be about 300' per hour during 10 hours at sea anchor.

Another difficult situation involving a lightweight multihull, shallow water, low visibility (night), uncertain position, crew fatigue, impaired judgment, vicious squalls and nasty seas, all brought under control by the use of a parachute sea anchor. Transcript:

I have sailed Lake Erie now for four years with the sea anchor on my boat. This is the first time I had a real life-threatening situation where options were limited, and thank God the sea anchor was one of them. To make a long story short, we tried to beat a low pressure system moving in from the southwest, and couldn't. In our haste to outrun this system I made some bad navigation calls, and we ended up following a freighter for about an hour and a half out into Lake Erie's open water, mistaking its lights for the lights of Cedar Point Amusement Park at Sandusky Bay. By the time we figured out we were following a freighter, weather conditions began to deteriorate.

It was 3:00 a.m. when we saw lightning in the west. Diminishing visibility along with increased wind and waves quickly followed. Within 15 minutes we went from 10 knots of wind, 1-2' waves, a starry sky and some lights visible on shore, to 20-25 knots of wind, 5-6' waves, a black sky, literally no horizon and thunder on the increase. The only means of navigation on board were two Horizon compasses. We had no auto-pilot and had been up for 20 hours. We were extremely fatigued and totally disoriented. With no horizon and our brains not functioning too well, (extreme fatigue does funny things to the mind) we decided to deploy the sea anchor and wait until daylight before doing anything else. We deployed the sea anchor in text book fashion. We have the DSB (deployable storage bag). Nothing fouled up, it was almost too easy. The boat slowly drifted downwind and when the rode ran out she swung straight into the wind. At that point we just rode the waves. We lashed sails down and made sure everything was secured and that was all there was to it. On board with me was my sailing buddy, Tom, and my two sons Michael & Bruce. Mike is 9 yrs. old, Bruce is 12 yrs. old and Tom is 37 yrs. old. We contacted the Coast Guard to let them know approx. where we were & what we were doing. At this time the wind was blowing a steady 28 knots & seas were building. It was hard to see how big the waves were with just a flashlight, but the white caps were all over & easy to see.

Tom & I went down below to get some sleep while my son Bruce sat in the cockpit and kept an eye out for freighter lights. By daybreak the wind was blowing steadily in the upper 30's and low 40's, occasionally hitting 48 & 50 knots. The waves were averaging 8' with 3 sets of 10'+ waves every 13th wave. The high wind & waves lasted about six hours & eventually died down to 20-25 knots and 5-6' waves. While we were on sea anchor, listening to channel 16, the Cleveland, Detroit and Fairport Coast Guards were looking for two fishing boats reported overdue the previous night. Both were power boats, one with two adults the other an 18' Bayliner with two adults and three children on board. I can't tell you the compassion we had for them knowing what they had to be dealing with, and at the same time the security we felt while at sea anchor. By the way, both boats and all aboard were found safe the following day, having been blown across the lake to Canada.

Eventually when the wind & waves died down we just powered up to the chute trip line, pulled it, the chute collapsed, we pulled it on board and the rest is history.

A few observations:

1) I never ever thought I would be caught out on Lake Erie in those conditions and survive to tell about it.

2) The sea anchor worked better than I had ever imagined. The boat rode the waves beautifully, up and down, never burying a bow. Came close, but never happened.

3) We would get sea sick only if we went down below and kept our eyes open. If we went down to sleep we were OK. We spent most of our time in the cockpit looking at the waves and how well the sea anchor worked.

4) The boat yawed very little, almost unnoticeably. We tracked drift by movement past commercial fishing nets.

5) The security we felt while being at anchor under those conditions was unbelievable. I would never have thought it possible.

6) After this experience, it is my opinion that no boat should venture offshore without the safety and security of a good sea anchor, tailored for specific boats. At the time, the sea anchor was more important to us than any other piece of safety equipment we had, including the VHF and EPIRB.

S/M-39 Lotus 9.2 Cutter


Lotus 9.2 Cutter

30' x 4 Tons, Low Aspect Fin/Skeg

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 10 Conditions


File S/M-39, obtained from Ann and Jim Wilson, Christchurch, New Zealand - Vessel name Karoro, hailing port Moncks Bay, NZ, Lotus 9.2 sloop, designed by Alan Wright, LOA 30' 2" x LWL 26' 3" x Beam 11' x Draft 5' 6" x 4 Tons - Low aspect fin keel & skeg rudder - Sea anchor: 12-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 2 lengths of 220' x 5/8" nylon three-strand rode plus 120' of chain and a 35 lb. plow anchor, with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip-line - Deployed in a storm in deep water about 400 miles ENE of the North Cape of New Zealand, with sustained winds of 50 knots and seas of 20 feet and greater - Vessel's bow yawed 20° - Drift was about 10 n.m. during 15 hours at sea anchor.

In March 1966, New Zealander Jim Wilson used a 12-ft. Para-Tech sea anchor on Karoro in a gale during a coastal passage from Dunedin to Christchurch. Four months later, en route to Tonga, he used it again in a much heavier storm.


The sea anchor - deployed on two lengths of 220' x 5/8" rope, knotted together with bowlines - held the bow into the waves for a period of fifteen hours, the vessel yawing through a total arc of about 30-45° (about 20° off to each side). The sea anchor was then lost when the rode failed at one of the knots.

Sometime after losing the sea anchor, Karoro was rolled while lying a-hull. This incident confirms the opinion rendered by Peter Blake in File D/T-1: "I don't think lying a-hull is a mode of survival that one should contemplate if conditions are really severe. In moderate conditions, if you're not too worried about the sea state, maybe it's OK. But lying a-hull in a storm is a recipe for being rolled, or having the deck or the cabin top stove in and heavy water come inside. I think that the other approaches are better. Even though lying a-hull is natural and sort of easy, I definitely don't think it's a tactic that people should use, unless they haven't got another option." Most safety experts concur that lying a-hull in a storm is a recipe for disaster.

Here is a transcript of the feedback obtained from Ann and Jim Wilson:

After three good days of sailing to the northeast, out of Gisborne, making over 120 miles a day, we began to feel anxious about warnings of storm-force winds heading our way. The wind increased gradually in intensity and it became clear we would soon be in the storm. Jim went out and put both storm sails up. The mainsail had to be completely removed from the mast to make room for the small orange trysail. The storm jib was hanked onto the [removable] inner forestay, and the furling headsail rolled up completely and lashed. This took some time and Jim finally staggered below, wet and weary. The sails felt comfortable [with the vessel hove-to], but the wind kept gaining in intensity and the forecast was frightening - a band of storm-force winds, 50 knots, 400 miles wide. Soon the waves had become mountainous. I was too scared to look at them.

About 1500 hrs Jim decided to take the storm sails down and put out the sea anchor. He collected three lots of chain, one from under the floor boards, and quietly deliberated on which to use. Then the slow ritual of dressing up and harnessing and emerging into the wild, wet cockpit to sort out sea anchor, buoys and buckets of rope, tying everything up. The sails had to be removed and stowed below, and he finally moved all the gear to the bow. It was starting to get dark. He said he had to get it right the first time or we'd have had it. That put me into a mild state of panic. I followed his movements like a hawk, terrified he'd be washed overboard by a crashing wave and left dangling by his harness. He was wedged in the bow trying to untangle a maze of rope. The wind and waves crashing over were making it worse and his life line kept getting tangled as well. I suddenly felt he'd never sort it out on his own. I began to knock on the hatch window and yell over the sound of the storm, asking if I should come and help. He finally beckoned me out, so I took the headlamp and clipped onto the safety line. Once outside, the force of the wind was terrifying. I was so scared of getting washed off I practically crawled up to the bow and between us we went about untangling the mess of rope.

I found the free end he was looking for, tied the first buoy on and threw it over on Jim's instructions. I hurriedly played out the line which floated backwards. "Bring it in again," shouted Jim, "it's gone under the boat!" I suddenly saw the futility of it all. "It's hopeless," I shouted. At that he said, "OK, OK, throw out the other buoy." Over it went and then finally over went the sea anchor at last. Jim played out the warp and then the chain, and slowly we swung around into the waves. I found it hard to believe it was so much trouble. The whole performance had taken over three hours. (We have since devised a much easier system of deploying it from the cockpit, with chain already through the bow anchor roller fitting, with restraining pin in place, and the chain led back along the toerail, lashed in easy-release fashion, to the cockpit. We should, of course, have devised and tried this system before setting off.)

I crawled back inside. The gentle hove-to movement had changed to a jerky sideways rock, but now we were parting the waves with the bow and not taking them every which way. Jim finally came below and after a cup of hot chocolate we crashed into bed. I discovered that the high pitched whine of the wind, and the way it ascended the scale as it increased in volume, was what depressed me most. That, and the way it stayed at a high pitch for long periods without dropping, and all the frantic rattles and quivering in the rigging and the sudden loud bang as a wave hit us and the water pouring over the decking. I suddenly remembered the wax ear plugs I'd brought along for diving. I jammed a couple in my ears and blissfully all sound disappeared. Only the motion remained. It got me through the night. I think we all had a reasonably good sleep.

Saturday morning, June 22, suddenly Guy said "We're going backwards." Jim saw the loose chain out of the front hatch and said, "My God I think we've lost the sea anchor." My hand flew to my mouth in horror as Jim raced about. "It's OK," said Guy, "it's a much nicer motion now" [the vessel now lying a-hull]. I thought of the sea anchor floating away behind us. Poor Jim was struggling away at the bow, winding in the chain. He'd put so much effort into researching, buying and setting up the sea anchor, and phutt! Just like that, it was gone. He came in and said that the sea anchor warp had broken. He could hardly believe it. It was the same one he'd been towed by, off Akaroa, when the skeg and rudder went. Though he had been towed on these warps, under wild conditions, and therefore thought them tried and true, they were getting old; worse, we only had thimbles spliced in one end of each of the two, the other ends being bowline-knotted, which although tested before under tow (and afterwards, amazingly, the bowlines were undone quite easily) we should have known that a knot is a weak point; and it was at one of the knots that the rope broke.

Jim lashed the tiller to one side and we lay a-hull with no sails. The motion was certainly more comfortable. We put the wooden washboards in the lower half of the companionway and the clear, perspex panel in the top, and slid the hatch cover shut as usual. Sheer stupidity - had we had all the washboards in, instead of this flexible clear upper panel, we would have taken in very little water later.

It was mid-afternoon when we were knocked down. There was no warning. No roar as the rogue wave approached us. It was deceptively quiet and I had momentarily undone my car seat belt that Jim had rigged up in my bunk. I'm not sure why, but I certainly paid for that folly. It seemed like slow motion as I rolled out and hit the table, breaking it off the wall. Then the sound of rushing water. I looked up and saw a waterfall pouring through the gap in the companionway. The clear perspex panel had popped out like a cork. Then Jim was hauling me under the armpits. He said, "We've just been knocked down - we'll come up again." I don't remember coming back up. I was too busy making horrible groaning noises as I struggled to get air into my lungs. My legs were caught in a swirling tangle of quilt, twisting like seaweed in the water. Then I was tossed onto my bed. I seem to remember Jim and Guy baling with buckets.

There was a sharp pain in my ribs and I was straining to breathe, but only getting a small amount of air in. I hoped my lungs weren't perforated. Jim left off baling and raced to the radio. He got through to T.M. [Taupo Maritime] Radio and told them what had happened. "I think I've broken my ribs," I chattered through my teeth, while shivering. A doctor came on the radio and said to take my pulse and respiration, and to keep me as dry as possible. The storm was still raging. We had all the wooden washboards in but there was no guarantee that it wouldn't happen again. Jim and Guy were now as scared as me that we might have another knock down. Jim had strung me in my bunk even more firmly, but every time there was a loud bang on the side of Karoro I'd grab the rail and give a terrified shout.

By Sunday morning, June 23, the storm was over, but we were a depressing sight. I was immobile and on pain killers. The inside was a mess. The radar was out. The new spray dodger had ripped out its attachments, the frame and stainless steel grab rails bent. The VHF aerial was ripped off, and the wind arrow and lights on top of the mast were gone. Blessedly the sun came out. Jim wanted to carry on to Tonga, saying at least we'd be in warm waters then. I couldn't envisage another week at sea. Jim unhappily agreed to go back to New Zealand, although later he realized we'd done the sensible thing. He started the motor, checked out the chart, and found our closest option to be Great Barrier Island. We felt so lucky to have dry batteries, engine and GPS, and the SSB still working. Apart from me getting thrown out of my bunk, we had gotten knocked down on the best side, leaving the batteries high and dry. We turned and headed back. By evening there was some semblance of order.

The next few days are pretty much blurred in my mind. I remember constantly asking "what day is it?" Time seemed to go so slowly. Nights were quicker with escape into sleep. We ran into strong northwesterlies. By Monday we were beating into 40-knot winds.... On Tuesday night we were closing in, but Taupo Maritime Radio had for some time been broadcasting navigational warnings of the New Zealand Navy's target practice along the Coromandel Coast... we were right in their firing line! Jim contacted T.M.R. and told them we'd been knocked down, on our way back, and in the line of fire. It was comic. Racing into stormy winds and big waves, saved from the depths of the sea, only to be fired on by our own navy. Guy and I were cracking up - me painfully....

On the quiet, still, cloudy morning of Thursday June 27, 1996 we motored into Tauranga. I had dropped into a deep sleep. I finally came to with the sound of voices. Jim was talking to a man who was helping us tie up alongside the marine. We'd made it!

Did the Wilsons sell the boat and buy a cozy little sheep farm inland? No! Ann & Jim recently returned from another long trip! Jim Wilson's hand-written note on the filled out DDDB form that Victor Shane had been anxiously waiting for reads thus: "Just returned from 6 months on Karoro, to Tonga and back. No need for sea anchor this time - no knockdowns! But very glad we had a replacement on board. Wouldn't now go to sea without one."



S/M-36 Arpège 29 Sloop


Arpège 29 Sloop

29' x 3.6 Tons, Low Aspect Fin/Skeg

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8-9 Conditions


File S/M-36, obtained from Eleanor Tims, West Hagbourne, England - Vessel name Moon River, hailing port Southampton - Arpège sloop, designed by Dufour, LOA 29' x LWL 22' x Beam 10' x Draft 5' x 3.6 Tons - Low aspect fin keel & skeg rudder - Sea anchor: 12-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 300' x 5/8" nylon braid rode with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip line - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 50 miles north of Casablanca, with winds of 35-45 knots and confused seas - Vessel lay broadsides to the seas due to fouled sea anchor - Drift was about 80 n.m. in 32 hours.

Eleanor Tims has been a die-hard sailor for twenty years and has her own sailing school in the UK, offering practical boat handling and confidence-building courses. She has cruised her Dufour Arpège 30 out of Hythe Marina in England, sailing nearly 5,000 miles a year, now and then shaking a white-knuckled fist at Fastnet Rock on a passage to the fair harbors of Ireland, or waving a hasty goodbye to Ushant Island on a wind-driven - compulsive - jaunt to Santander harbor on the northern coast of Spain.

Eleanor is addicted to sailing. She has written many articles describing some of her hair-raising experiences at sea, the most infamous of which took place in the Bay of Biscay in 1994 - Force 9 and 25-foot seas, the mast about to come down, crew seasick, the diesel and the VHF dead, a roller furling genoa in ribbons and turned into screaming banshee, rocky islands and shoals looming close in the night, etc. etc.

Somehow the indefatigable, indomitable Eleanor Tims manages to emerge from such ordeals with a wave, a nod, a wink and a wicked sense of humor. Where would we all be without our sense of humor at sea?

In November 1996 Eleanor and friend Tom were sailing Moon River to the Canaries from the Moroccan harbor of Mohammedia when they ran into a gale and tried to deploy a sea anchor. What follows is a hard-won lesson that the lady would like to pass on to others:

We left Portugal for the Canaries with a favorable NE wind and decided to divert to Casablanca, Morocco, in order to break the long 600 mile leg into two stages and also to visit an "exotic" country. After leaving the harbor of Mohammedia our tack lay to the SW, but the wind, which had been from the NE for a long period, did a complete volte-face and came from the SW. I decided, nevertheless, to leave, as the forecast was for Force 5/6 and I thought that I could lay in a long tack to the NW and then to the South and perhaps the front would pass over in that time. However, things did not work out according to plan, as firstly there were very big seas running and secondly the wind increased past Force 6, to 7 and then 8. We were already becoming very tired and it was obvious that the time had come - indeed was past, as it was now dark - to put out the para-anchor.

Because it was dark, I took a long time in carefully preparing everything to ensure that is would run smoothly when launched, perhaps an hour. When I went up onto the foredeck, it was found that the deck-light was not functioning, so I had only the fitful light of a flashlight shone from the cockpit towards me. First of all I launched the pickup buoy and line, followed by the float buoy, but these were torn from my hands by the wind (nearly 40 knots) and by waves sweeping over the deck and over me. I then realized that the genoa furling line made things complicated and that I ought to have launched all this gear beneath the furling line instead of above it, so I pulled it in and tried to stuff it back into the sea under the line instead of over. Trying to do this caused a tremendous snarl-up, so I was forced into spending a long time lying sprawled on the deck in the almost continuous dark, with waves washing over me, trying to sort it all out. Eventually I decided I had it just about right and once more launched it all, following it finally with the para-anchor and 100 metres of rode. This done we turned in. However, things didn't seem right somehow. The bow was clearly not pointing into the waves, as every wave swept us over sideways, sometimes very nearly beam on, is how it felt. We were quite clearly lying ahull, and an inspection of the wind instrument confirmed that wind and waves were beam on. We passed an entirely wretched night, and were so tired the following day, with the wind steady at about 40 knots, that we were too tired to do anything much about remedying the situation. I did realize that the para-anchor hadn't opened, and as I could see both buoys close together, I also realized that the whole lot had snarled up together. We attached the rode to the [steel] anchor and let out a few metres of chain, so that it now ran out of the boat through the bow roller instead of through a deck fair-lead. This didn't improve things at all, in fact it probably worsened them, as I suffered some damage to the bow roller as a result. We had another perfectly horrible day, drifting backwards for the Strait of Gibraltar, far beyond our original starting point [more than 60 miles].

Day 3 saw me in more positive mood. "We have to get this thing in," I told Tom, so he did the muscle work. The wind was still 30+ knots and it took us about 50 minutes to bring the bundle in, and then the sad story could be seen. What had happened was that the tripping line had twisted round and round itself until it was as stiff and unwielding as a metal spring and that this metal-like mess had ensnarled with it some of the shroud lines of the para-anchor. (The latter had not opened - had just lain in the water like a lump of cloth). Later, on arriving at a harbor near Cadiz when I was able to put it all out onto a dock and try to disentangle it, I found I had to cut away the tripping line - it had practically fused into a couple of "springs." These had abraded 11 of the 12 shroud lines and had indeed broken three of them. I knew I should return it to the factory [for repairs] but I did not dare let it out of my hands. I knew I would need it again and I intended to use it again. So I took it to a local sailmaker, spread it out on his floor and we agreed as to how to repair it. He sewed some very strong sailmaker's tape into the shroud lines, restoring them all to a good state and ensuring that they were all the original length.

On Christmas day we left again for the Canaries. Same story. Weather got bad, decided to put out the para-anchor and this time to do so before dark. I had bought a new tripping line, 50 metres of floating line. This went out OK, then the float buoy.... Got the float out and the parachute. Absolutely brilliant! The bow came right round into the waves and yawed from side to side, but I could see the parachute had opened. Good, so far, I thought. I then uncleated the pickup buoy, stood up and tossed it into the sea over the pulpit. I had cleated off the anchor rode at about 20/30 metres, and was going to let more out in progressive lengths. However, I never got as far as that because in a twinkling the parachute had opened, the rode-tightened to steel-bar tautness, and, horror of horrors, not only was it leading OVER the pulpit, which folded down as if made of butter, but it was also once round the forestay and my precious furling gear. How that happened I have next to no idea because I thought I had been very careful... I think this story illustrates the dangerous effect of being tired and maybe also of being short-handed.

OK, still enough daylight, probably, to winch it in and start again. However, we were hampered by the weather conditions from doing anything at a reasonable sort of speed. Rain, like a dense monsoon, fell like rods of iron, flattening the sea, doing a sort of white-out and flattening me too! Eventually got the chute back on deck. Exhausted. And dark now. OK, why didn't I motor up to the pickup buoy and pick it up? Because as I hadn't stitched the damned knot up, just tied it to the [float-line] swivel, it had come undone and is now floating happily around the north Atlantic, trailing its new rope!

Well, it was dark, I was soaked and exhausted, and felt unable to sort out the mess of lines, so bungeed it all away and off we went into the night and Force 7/8 - increasing - big seas, 4-6 metres. Later the night turned into a nightmare. I was making very poor progress with small sails, only about 2 knots, and a ship (whose Officer on Watch was clearly not on watch as I even fired a flare) collided with us! In order to prevent the mast from falling (an upper shroud was torn away) I decided to go back - 200 miles - to Cadiz. I think I am lucky to be alive, as after that the wind increased to 40+ kn steadily, gusting up to 55, and we had to hand-steer under the most minute sails, in waves that must have been 8-10 metres high....

Somehow - by hook or by crook - Eleanor managed to outdo Neptune and bring her ship back into safe harbor at Cadiz, whence she contacted Victor Shane. Shane then passed her feedback on to Don Whilldin of Para-Tech Engineering in Colorado.

Although it would appear that in this case the para-anchor and float line assembly may have been fouled even as they hit the water, Whilldin nevertheless went to work on the design of the Deployment Bag, to see if there was any way in which he could somehow further reduce the chances of float line foul-ups. The simplest solution, of course, would have been to forego the float-line altogether. Unfortunately the float line and float are necessary to keep larger para-anchors from sinking straight down when the wind dies.

So Whilldin made a modification to the deployment bag instead. The thirty feet or so of colored float line, previously coiled outside the Deployment Bag, is now tucked into a "kangaroo pouch" under it. With this minor design change there is less chance of float line foul-ups. Whilldin reasons that once the parachute has opened up and is under stable tension the chances of float line foul-ups are greatly reduced. Likely most of those foul-ups occur in the pre-inflation stage, when the parachute is a shapeless mess of loose cloth and shrouds.

Don Whilldin sent the English lady stranded in Spain a brand new sea anchor, in appreciation of her contribution to design improvement. The redoubtable Eleanor Tims has since crossed the Atlantic.

S/M-35 Fast 40 Sloop


Fast 40 Sloop

40' x 3 Tons, Lifting Keel

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 7-8 Conditions


File S/M-35, obtained from Robert J. Bragan, Bethesda MD. - Vessel name Javelin, hailing port West River - Fast 40 sloop, designed by Alan Adler, LOA 40' x LWL 36' x Beam 8' x Draft 7.5' (with keel down) x 3 Tons - Lifting keel (fiberglass-encapsulated 2000 lb. lead bulb on end) - Sea anchor: 12-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 300' x 5/8" nylon braid rode with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - No trip line - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 300 miles west of Bermuda, with winds of 30-40 knots and seas of 12-15 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 30° with riding sail on backstay - Drift was about 5 n.m. during 12 hours at sea anchor.

An ultralight ocean racer designed by Alan Adler, this yacht was one of fifteen Fast 40's built in the 1980's by North End Shipyards of Rockland, Maine. Given her narrow beam, slender profile, low displacement, and high-tech construction, she was aptly named Javelin by her owner.

En route to Bermuda in May 1996, Javelin ran into bad weather and hove to a sea anchor. After the weather moderated she got underway again. And that's when her 2000 lb. lifting keel fell off. The yacht rolled over and subsequently had to be abandoned. Rob Bragan's brief hand-written note on the back of the DDDB form reads, "the 12 ft. sea anchor performed beautifully once anchor riding sail set on backstay."

The following is a transcript of Rob Bragan's article about the incident, appearing in the September/October 1996 issue of Ocean Navigator (reproduced by permission of Ocean Navigator Magazine):

We sailed Javelin extensively on the [Chesapeake] bay in all sorts of weather, including winter gales. Experience caused us to add stand-up blocks on the cabin top for double-sheeting the trysail, as well as a 12-foot Para-Tech sea anchor, a wind vane self steering system, anchor riding sail, detachable furling system for the Yankee jib, and many other improvements. In two years I hauled the boat twice, initially for a survey that found no problems and later to fair and paint the keel and hull. The keel assembly [2000 lb. fiberglass encapsulated lead bulb] was inspected each time, but only after losing Javelin did I learn that the previous owner had found broken bolts among those that secure the Delrin blocks and had replaced all four bolts twice. (A good maintenance log might have saved the boat by recording such details for subsequent owners).

On Friday, May 24, 1996, after picking up a rented Viking life raft and an ACR Type B 121.5/243 MHz EPIRB (406 MHz units cannot be rented) from Outfitters/USA services in Annapolis, we left our mooring in Galesville, MD....

Transitioning from Chesapeake Bay sailing to ocean sailing as night fell, we left the coast behind. Our course of 150° magnetic led to a waypoint NE of Cape Hatteras where the [Gulf] stream was only 80 nautical miles wide.... A pod of 30 to 50 spotted dolphins greeted us as we entered the stream, and they stayed until a tail slapped to starboard calling them off to the south. Were they moving away from impending bad weather?

The wind strengthened from the NNE on May 30, reaching a sustained 28 to 32 knots (Force 7) at the masthead anemometer by afternoon. The sea state increased from a few feet in the morning to 10 to 15 feet with occasionally larger, breaking waves, by evening. The 65° water temperature, knotmeter, and GPS readings all suggested we were in the wrong quadrant of a cold eddy which was aggravating the sea state. We put the second drop boards in place, secured the sliding hatch and hand-steered a beam reach, turning up and over bigger waves. The back sides of some waves were as steep as the fronts, requiring another turn at the wave top to set a good angle down the back and avoid slamming the boat....

After battling the waves for hours, the prospects of further exhausting ourselves with hand steering or deploying a drogue and losing miles by running off to the SSW were unacceptable. Lying ahull or heaving to were out of the question since Javelin had been too lively in past attempts and since the steep, breaking waves could roll the boat if she were caught broadside. Our position was approximately 400 miles from Bermuda, 10 to 20 nm south of the rhumb line. It was the right time to deploy the sea anchor. I had made up a dual-purpose sea anchor/drogue bridle of 3/4 inch three strand nylon line a few weeks before that would be strong and resist chafe. The bridle, shackled to stainless steel lifting plates on the aft end of the keel case, ran forward and through the rubber bow anchor rollers, terminating in a heavy thimble clamped in place. Three hundred feet of 5/8-inch braided nylon anchor rode was now shackled between the bridle thimble and the sea anchor. Strong attachment points on the boat, chafe protection, and a long, braided elastic rode are necessary components of a sea anchor system.

Deployment involved Tim's steering us through a 150° turn to point up into the wind, at which time I fed out the sea anchor float, trip line, deployment bag, and rode from the bow. The boat immediately fell off onto port tack before Tim could drag the trysail down. I fed rode and Tim wrestled sail until finally the rode came taught and we were pulled around.... A few minutes after the messy set, we were riding to the sea anchor and Javelin began her anchor dance. She was sailing through a 90° arc, so that breaking waves threatened to throw her sideways.... Setting the 15- to 20 square-foot anchor riding sail on the backstay with double sheets led forward to the toerails reduced the boat's arc to less than 60°.... With the cockpit secured, we closed ourselves up inside the boat to rest. Both the boat and we had taken a pounding during the last 12 hours. We needed food and sleep....

The next day and a half brought NE winds at 18 to 25 knots and six-to 10-foot seas, so we recovered the sea anchor and set sail that day, continuing on through the night making good speed and staying on course. We lay to the sea anchor on the night of June 1 as the wind clocked to east and strengthened. On June 2 we again set sail, but 20 to 30 knots of wind out of the ESE nearly halted our progress, and we made only 40 nm to the south. Early that evening we again set the sea anchor to hold our position while awaiting a better wind direction. Sounds from the keel that were louder than usual caused Tim to raise it into its case for support....

We awoke on the morning of June 3 to the first beautiful day of the trip. The wind had rounded to the SW at last and moderated to 10 knots. The sky was clear for the first time, the waves were running three to five feet and we only had a couple of hundred miles to go.... We lowered the keel and put the aluminum brace back in place.... Upon recovering the sea anchor, we raised the mainsail. As it filled, the boat heeled a little... a lot... and continued to lay over until flat on her side. It happened so gently.... After pausing for a few seconds, Javelin finished turning turtle, leaving us alongside trying to comprehend what had happened in less than a minute. We climbed onto the hull and peered into the empty keel case. The four bolts that had secured the keel to the Delrin blocks on either side were sheared off, leaving the heads on one side, tails on the other, and nothing but air in between....

After getting over the initial shock, Rob Bragan and son Tim inflated the life raft and quickly resigned themselves to the serious business of survival, diving and retrieving 20 gallons of water, food, blankets etc. from Javelin's upturned hull. The EPIRB was then turned on and the raft allowed to drift free of the mothership.

A short while later they spotted a passing ship and fired off parachute flares, but it did not see them. Just before sunset however, a Coast Guard C-130 roared overhead. Crew members on the aircraft reportedly saw Javelin's upturned hull first, and Bragan reckons that they should have remained tethered to the hull for as long as possible to be easier to see. Later the Italian bulk carrier Ursa Major was diverted to the scene and plucked the waterlogged sailors out of the Atlantic.

S/M-27 Contessa 26 Cutter


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/C-10 Catamaran, Iroquois Mk II


Catamaran, Iroquois Mk II

30' x 14' x 3.5 Tons

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8-9 Conditions


File S/C-10, obtained from Rudolph L. Kirse, III, Palm Desert, CA. - Vessel name Banana Split, hailing port Palm Desert, Iroquois Mk II catamaran, designed by McAlphine Downie, LOA 30' 6" x Beam 14' x Draft 5' 6" (18" board up) x 3.5 Tons - Sea anchor: 12-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 500' x 1/2" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 40' each, with 1/2" galvanized swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 200 miles east of New York with winds of 40-50 knots and seas of 18-20 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was about 5-6 n.m. during 15 hours at sea anchor.

Rudolph Kirse III, singlehander, mariner and author, was sailing Banana Split to Bermuda from Montauk, Long Island, when the barometer began to fall. The first paragraph of the following is an excerpt from an article entitled Gunkholing, by Rudolph Kirse III, appearing in the March/April 92 issue of Multihulls Magazine (reproduced by permission). The second paragraph is a transcript of the feedback Shane Victor received from Rudolph Kirse III:

By 4 p.m. a storm had sprung up off the south New Jersey coast. It was traveling north, winds gusting to 45 knots and creating 20-25 ft. seas. By 5 p.m. all sails were down, and I was running before the wind... back to Long Island. With a lee shore fast approaching and night setting in, I decided to come about and set a para-anchor on 500' of 1/2" line, with an accompanying float and trip line. It did all, and more, of what it was supposed to do. According to both the GPS and the Loran, I drifted no more than a third of a mile per hour, with the bows held into the waves and only spray coming on board. By noon of next day, the storm had passed (later I learned that three boats had sunk, and one person was lost).

Neither I nor the boat would be here without the sea anchor. This storm came up with no warning (VHF, NOAA, Fax, etc.). Everything worked well on deployment. Boat rode easily with some pounding on hulls (lee boards half down as per your suggestion) rudders up & lashed, virtually no pounding on cabin underside. Chafing was solved on bridle by putting "poly-tubing" on line, 3' sections before eye-splicing, then held in place by whippings. Float was 3' inflated ball type anchor float. At approx. 1:30 p.m. a commercial fishing boat ran over and cut the [full] trip line. Later on had many problems trying to get anchor in - dislocated my wrist while trying to winch in the parachute. Anchor was finally brought in by removing bridle from bow and floating it off, tied to four life jackets [then powering up to the recovery float].


S/M-17 Crealock 34 Cutter


Crealock 34 Cutter

34' x 6.75 Tons, Low Aspect Fin/Skeg

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8-9 Conditions


File S/M-17, obtained from Sandy and Les Bailey, Honolulu, HI. - Vessel name N'ISKU, hailing port Honolulu, Pacific Seacraft cutter designed by Bill Crealock, LOA 34' 1" x LWL 26' 2" x Beam 10' x Draft 4' 11" x 6.75 Tons - Low aspect fin keel and skeg rudder - Sea anchor: 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 1/2" nylon three strand with 50' of chain and 3/8" swivel - Deployed in deep water near 15° 49' N, 159° 48' W, in a gale with winds of 40-45 knots and seas of 16 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was 15 miles during 14 hours at sea anchor.


N'ISKU was en route to Palmyra Atoll from Honolulu, when she ran into something akin to a Kona storm. A 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor was then deployed, which held the bow of the yacht into the seas in a most satisfactory way. Transcript:

This was not a survival situation in the usual sense. On this passage, my wife and I had endured four successive days of 25+ knot easterly trade winds, all from ahead of the beam, with 12 to 14 foot seas from the same direction. The boat handled beautifully and we never felt threatened nor out of control, logging 150 to 160 miles per day. Unfortunately, persistent mal de mer had flattened my wife from the first day and then a streptococcal throat infection laid me low. These tribulations significantly reduced the pleasure of the sail and severely taxed our stamina. Nevertheless, we maintained our watches and did not feel it was unsafe to continue as long as conditions remained the same - which they didn't.

The wind piped up to 40 knots with higher gusts and veered a bit to the south. The seas built and became confused. The motion became most uncomfortable with a yaw component that made it very difficult for a couple of arthritic sexagenarians to get around. We then decided it was time for a little "rest and rehabilitation." We tried heaving-to under sail, but this did not prove satisfactory under those conditions. Over the side went the sea anchor and immediately our habitat became more livable. The major motion of the boat was now an almost gentle pitch, with occasional episodes of roll, but amazingly the uncomfortable yaw motion had vanished.

We used a 12 foot Para-Tech nylon parachute specifically designed as a sea anchor in a deployable storage bag. A large fender (8" x 24") served as the primary float and a smaller dinghy fender (3" x 12") at the end of 100 feet of 1/4" polypropylene was the trip line. Our rode consisted of 200 feet of three strand 1/2" nylon, 50 feet of 5/16" BBB chain and a second 200 feet of 1/2" nylon for a total of 450 feet. Swivels were used to attach the nylon rode to the anchor and to the chain (overkill perhaps). The nylon rode was led through a bow roller to cleats. Sufficient rode was released so that the bright yellow canopy of the sea anchor was visible in the crest of an oncoming swell as we were atop the crest of another wave. Three to four layers of fire hose were used for chafe protection at the roller.

We did not observe surge or shock loads on the rode. The boat always seemed to head into the wind and seas at the same angle (<10°) and did not sail about at anchor. The entire system worked perfectly, probably because of a) the length of the rode, b) the catenary induced by the chain in the middle of the rode, and c) the boat and anchor were in crests and troughs in synchrony. By morning the winds had abated to about 30 knots and backed into the east. The crew, still bruised, but very much refreshed by a night of rest, was eager to head south again.