S/M-16 Cape George 31 Cutter


Cape George 31 Cutter

31' x 9 Tons, Full Keel

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8 Conditions


File S/M-16, obtained from Steve Lockwood, Portland, OR. - Vessel name Halo, hailing port Portland, Cape George cutter designed by Nolan Atkins, LOA 31' x LWL 27' 6" x Beam 9' 6" x Draft 5' x 9 Tons - Full keel - Sea anchor: 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech on 300' x 1/2" nylon 3-strand and 50' of 5/16" chain, with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Deployed in deep water about 100 miles northwest of San Francisco in a gale with winds of 35-40 knots and seas of 14 feet - Vessel's bow yawed up to 90° at times - Drift was about 6 miles during 20 hours at sea anchor.

In May 1993 Halo was en route to the Bay Area from Portland, normally a downwind run. When she ran into a southerly gale her owner tried beating into it for a while, and then decided to deploy a 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor. Halo was sea anchored for 20 hours, drifting only 6 miles. Transcript:

Boat was held off the wind an increasing amount as wind strength increased. Very uncomfortable roll and some waves broke on deck. Our boat is exceptionally strong so we were not very concerned. We forgot to add a swivel, but noticed no difference in boat motion over time. There was some twisting [of the nylon rode], but not severe at all. Rode was 300' x 1/2" nylon with 50' of 5/16" chain at sea anchor. Certainly no survival storm, but we thought it would be interesting to try it out and that a break from beating into the gale would be nice if we didn't lose too much ground.

S/M-15 Whitby 42 Ketch


Whitby 42 Ketch

42' x 11.75 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8 Conditions


File S/M-15, obtained from Bruce Stewart, Ithaca, NY. - Vessel name Osteoflyte, hailing port Ithaca, Whitby ketch designed by Ted Brewer, LOA 42' x LWL 33' x Beam 13' x Draft 5' x 11.75 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Sea anchor: 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech on 300' x 3/4" nylon three strand with 5/8" galvanized swivel - Deployed in deep water 150 miles east of Cape Hatteras in a low system with winds of 35 knots and seas of 20 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 45° - Drift was about 2.5 miles during 20 hours at sea anchor.

Ordinarily the ketch rig places the CE (center of wind effort) a great deal more forward than sloop, cutter, or yawl rigs. Unless a mizzen can be flown most ketches will tend to "hunt" at anchor. Transcript:

We were 150 miles off Cape Hatteras in 20' seas and deteriorating weather, when we fouled our prop reducing sail. We needed a break so I decided to deploy the chute (this was the first time other than a fair weather practice). We sent the unit off the stern [flying set] on a new 3/4" three strand nylon rode and it went out so fast I got a rope burn I'll never forget. The bow swung as expected and the rode went out a smooth bow skene chock with a good fairlead.

We hung on the chute for 20 hours. The conditions were NASTY, but we could still get to the bow and fuss with the rode. We had a terrible problem with chafe. We tried "freshening the nip" and all sorts of commercial and fabricated chafe gear - it either split or migrated very quickly. In those conditions I think we would have lost the chute to chafe failure of the rode. The second problem was the bow "hunted" back and forth, giving us a most unpleasant motion, and may well have contributed to the chafe. Both of these problems make me question - would a bridle that held the bow a little off center help? And how do you deal with chafe when conditions are really bad?

A few comments. Despite my para-anchor being clearly undersized by your current brochure it held us like a brick wall and seems quite large enough. In 20 hours we drifted 2.5 miles by Loran. I didn't have a suitable trip line and was afraid of a tangle, so just used a float. When the wind dropped to 20-25 we decided to "pull in" the chute and get going. It took two of us (both 220 lbs. and in good shape) to pull us up to the para-anchor and 90 minutes of cranking the anchor windless and then tailing to the genoa winches.

S/R-1 Aluminum Dory


Aluminum Dory

28' x 2.5 Tons, Dagger Boards

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 5 Conditions

File S/R-1, obtained from Ned Gillette and Mark Eichenberger - Vessel name Sea Tomato, aluminum rowing dory designed & built by Ned Gillette, LOA 28' x LWL 24' x Beam 7' x Draft 18" x 2.5 Tons - Dagger boards - Sea anchor: 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech on 300' x 1/2" nylon three strand rode with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Full trip line - Deployed during passage of frontal troughs in deep water in the Drake Passage and off the coast of Antarctica with blizzard & winds of 25 knots - Drift was estimated to be 10 n.m. during 21 hours at sea anchor.

Victor Shane's company sponsored the team of Ned Gillette and Mark Eichenberger in their successful attempt to row a specially designed dory, Sea Tomato, from Cape Horn to the Antarctic, a distance of 1000 miles across the treacherous Drake Passage. They supplied the expedition with a small speed-limiting drogue, a Jordan series drogue (88 cones on 300 ft. of line), a 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech (main sea anchor) and a 9-ft. diameter BUORD (backup sea anchor).

Taken in the waters off Punta Arenas, Chile. Mark Eichenberger test-deploying the Jordan series drogue supplied by Victor Shane of Ned Gillete's Antarctic row - see File S/R-1 (Ned Gillete photo)
Taken in the waters off Punta Arenas, Chile. Mark Eichenberger test-deploying the Jordan series drogue supplied by Victor Shane of Ned Gillete's Antarctic row - see File S/R-1 (Ned Gillete photo)

Shane saw in this expedition an opportunity to put several drag devices to the test. As it turned out, however, the crew never did get into a storm, other than the one that blasted them off in the beginning, which was driving them exactly where they wanted to go.

They did derive benefit from the 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor in terms of drift control, however. When Mark Eichenberger afterwards visited Shane in Santa Barbara he said that no sooner had they sighted the coast of Antarctica than the weather turned sour and a Force-5 blizzard started pushing them back out to sea. They then deployed the sea anchor, which kept them more or less in place for 21 hours. He said icebergs, driven along by the wind, were drifting by the boat during that period.

Ned Gillette is both mountaineer and sailor, having conquered Everest and now Cape Horn. Author of the book Everest Grand Circle, he is also a free-lancer for the National Geographic Society. His article, Rowing Antarctica's Most Mad Seas, appeared in the January 1989 issue of National Geographic Magazine. Mark Eichenberger was a long time sailor and adventurer. The following is a transcript of the feedback obtained from Mark:

The sea anchors were key to our strategy on our expedition to row from Cape Horn to Antarctica, and the 12' diameter `FORCE 10' worked remarkably well. It was easy to deploy and retrieve, and it was effective in practically eliminating our wind drift. The only reason we did not use them more than we did is that we were blessed with very fortunate weather, the winds being mostly favorable and moderate.

During the third day out, 24 Feb. 1988, the winds from the gale which had blasted us off from the coast diminished gradually until in the evening they were W to WNW about Force 5. We had begun rowing at 0900 that morning and continued throughout the day until midnight whereupon it became too dark to row effectively. So we put out the sea anchor and lay to it until 0940 the following morning, about 10 hours during which our average drift was 0.9 knots. We most likely would have had a current of .5 knot or more in this part of the Drake Passage. On the seventh day, around midnight, a frontal system passed over us and the wind shifted from WNW eventually to settle on SW with overcast and rain. The conditions were not rough; however, the wind was contrary to our purpose and, in order to hold the southing and westing that we had gained, we once again deployed the sea anchor. From 0230 until mid-afternoon we lay to the sea anchor, nearly 13 hours. Our average drift had been 0.6 knots. Interestingly, in the morning we had a pair of Southern Bottlenose Whales, about 30 feet long, come by to investigate this enormous orange jelly fish - the sea anchor. They swam between us and the sea anchor, but fortunately decided it was inedible and left.

The third and final use of the sea anchor came on our approach to the Antarctic coast on the 13th day out. A light westerly wind gave way to a fresh breeze (Force 5) out of the southeast, so at 1930 hrs. we deployed the sea anchor to hold what ground we had gained, and lay to it from late on the 4th of March, throughout the night and following day until 1630, a total of 21 hours. We kept an "anchor watch" throughout the period as there were icebergs scattered around and occasionally growlers and bergy bits would drift down past us.

EPILOGUE: In December 1991 Mark Eichenberger was working on the ice breaker Erebus in the Strait of Magellan when a devastating storm blew into Punta Arenas. Two great waves washed over Erebus' decks in rapid succession. Mark was swept overboard and lost at sea. He was a good friend of Shane's and an accomplished seaman. We are all diminished by the passing of a comrade. We bid defiance to the sea, in honor of his memory.

S/M-12 Carter 33 Sloop


Carter 33 Sloop

32' 7" x 4.5 Tons, Fin Keel

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8-9 Conditions


File S/M-12, obtained from Steven Callahan, Ellsworth, Maine - Vessel name Karpouzi, hailing port Lamoine, sloop, designed by Dick Carter, LOA 32' 7" x LWL 25' x Beam 11' x Draft 5' 6" x 4.5 Tons - Fin keel - Sea anchor: 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech on 250' x 5/8" nylon three strand with 1/2" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed during a gale in deep water north of Bermuda, with winds of 35-45 knots and seas of 8-12 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 30° off to each side with two opposing sets of waves approaching from dead ahead and dead astern - Drift was estimated to be 3.25 miles during 4 hours at sea anchor.

Steven Callahan is well-known for his best seller, Adrift. The book is a journal of the seventy-six days that he spent drifting in a life raft after his 21-ft. sloop Napoleon Solo hit an unidentified object and sank in the middle of the Atlantic on 4 February 1981. He journeyed to the limits of human despair in those seventy-six days, yet in the end cheated death and emerged a survivor. Adrift (1986, Houghton Mifflin Co.) won the Salon du Libre Maritime award and has been translated into twelve languages.

Callahan has been involved in many areas of the marine industry since 1968. He has logged tens of thousands of blue water miles, including one single-handed and three double-handed Atlantic crossings. A former contributing editor to SAIL and to SAILOR, he wa at the time of this writing associate editor of Cruising World.

Victor Shane delivered a 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor to Callahan in 1989, for use and evaluation on board his boat Karpouzi, a fin-keeled Carter 33 sloop. The para-anchor was used a year later, in a Force 8 gale north of Bermuda. Here is a transcript of Callahan's feedback

On 28 May, 1990, Karpouzi and her three merry crew were completing a delightful week of sailing from St. Martin, and approaching Bermuda. We planned to bypass the island and continue directly to Maine. Our weather, however, was deteriorating, and the forecast was for a day or so of rain and winds of 20 knots.

By midnight the barometer began to fall more rapidly - about .05 inches per hour, and we were broad reaching fast under double-reefed main and working jib. We could hear Bermuda Harbor Radio, about 30 miles east of us. Harbor radio was busy with incoming traffic problems and reports of a developing low that no one had paid much attention to. Through the night they logged winds to 42 knots and predicted seas to 25 feet.

As we proceeded north, the wind strengthened and backed slightly so that we ran dead before waves that I estimate to have been 10-15 feet. All was under control. The barometer began to rise by 06:00 on 29 May and the wind lightened slightly for about a half hour, but then the wind came up hard again and continued to back. In a very short time we were hit with heavy head winds and significantly rising seas from dead ahead, while we continued to surf down 10 foot waves from dead astern.

In 50,000 miles of offshore sailing I have often dealt with heavy seas from a variety of directions, but that was the first time that significant waves approached each other from precisely opposite direction. This, of course, set up a dreadful sea state. When crests coincided, the peaks jumped skyward and the wave slopes were very steep. (Note, in the attached DDDB form, wave height, period, and length are very approximate values because they were all extremely variable due to 180° wave collisions - a bit like being in a blender). I estimated wave height by standing on the cabin top - my eye level about 10 feet above water.

Karpouzi's beam is 11 feet, or the average size of the breaking waves, so I declined Neptune's invitation to get rolled by laying broadside to the waves. We could not carry much sail in the wind, and in any case, heaving-to or beating would put the boat too far off of the approaching waves, increasing the danger of being stalled, pushed back, and rolled. The only feasible solution was to put out the sea anchor. We decided to set the sea anchor just as we would a regular anchor.... We keep the anchor in its own locker in the head of the V-berth, with the rode flaked under it. This allows us to run the rode straight aft, out of the cabin, and forward over the anchor roller.... As I dunked the anchor over, we threw the engine in neutral and drifted back. The parachute opened perfectly and within thirty feet it began pulling, allowing us to pay out line and adjust things just right. A few waves towered above me and one slammed over the foredeck just irritatingly above boot level.

We payed out about 250 feet of the rode and adjusted the length every 30 minutes to avoid chafe. This length proved enough; the sea anchor sometimes neared the surface so we could see it and it rode about a wave trough away from us. I chose not to use a tripping line to avoid any possible foul up, but we tied a huge Norfloat ball to the float line, which we could easily see from far away.

The boat did sway from side to side, creating huge side loads on the anchor roller cheeks, so be advised to use either very sturdy chocks or heavy roller. Ours was a heavy duty universal roller that is advertised for boats to 54 feet, but I believe the side loads on a 54 foot boat would have bent the roller in half. As it was, I was a bit worried. To control sway and remove these side loads, next time I will likely set the sea anchor from a regular chock and possibly haul it off to the side with a rolling hitch and secondary rode to lay 20 to 30 degrees from nose onto the waves. Note that the rode jumps up as the bow plunges downward, so whatever chock you use should have a positive lock across the top.

The only real problem we encountered was a very heavy loading on the steering gear. Karpouzi is tiller steered and at first we just tied it off, but as large waves broke on her, she surged aft, stretching the anchor rode until stopped and pulled forward again. The rudder was yanked mightily by the backward motion and the tiller wiggled about like a snake. Our solution was to give the tiller a shock absorber, just as the nylon anchor rode acted as a shock absorber for Karpouzi. We tied half inch shock chord to the tiller, which allowed it to move 20 or 30 degrees without much problem but prevented the rudder from going hard over, where it could shear off its fittings.

After only four hours on the sea anchor, the wind continued to back and lightened, so that finally we were laying broadside to the now calming waves. It was quite uncomfortable and more dangerous than setting sail. With full throttle we were able to easily retrieve the rode as we steamed up to the pickup float, which we noted had enough windage to float to leeward of the anchor most of the time, so we had no worry about tangling the sea anchor lines. It was a simple matter to pick up the float, trip line, and anchor. Within 20 minutes all was stowed away and we were off.

We drifted 3.25 miles in those four hours, which is a bit more than I expected, but currents around Bermuda are very uncertain. Further tests will compare Karpouzi's normal drift rate with her drift with the sea anchor set. I will certainly be more eager to set the sea anchor in marginal conditions in the future.

It is disappointing to note that Karpouzi's bow was yawing 30° off to each side (i.e., through a total arc of 60°). By all tokens the sea anchor was big enough to have done a better job.

Victor Shane suspects that the conflicting waves - approaching from ahead and astern - might have had something to do with this. Certainly the angle of yaw will have a great deal to do with the amount of slack that finds its way into the system as well. Much of this slack can be a result of orbital rotation causing convergence between boat and sea anchor. Essentially the wind pushes the boat away from the sea anchor, keeping the system taut. Orbital convergence, however, can move the boat and sea anchor toward one another, introducing slack into the rode, sometimes by an amount equal to twice the wave height (twenty feet of slack rode in ten foot seas, for example). Callahan reports significant waves approaching each other "from ahead and astern." Here, not only do we have the rotation associated with the waves approaching from ahead, but also, possibly, the rotation associated with waves approaching from astern, as evidenced by the heavy loads on the rudder, mentioned. This combination could have the effect quadrupling the amount of slack - and attendant yaw - when the crests of the secondary waves coincide with the troughs of the approaching waves.


S/M-11 Venture 222 Sloop


Venture 222 Sloop

22' x 1 Ton, Centerboard Keel

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 3-4 Conditions

File S/M-11, obtained from Harley L. Sachs, Houghton MI. - Vessel name Gamesmanship, hailing port Houghton, Venture 222 sloop, designed by Roger MacGregor, LOA 22' x LWL 18' 6" x Beam 7' 4" x Draft 4' 6" x 1 Ton - Centerboard swing-keel - Sea anchor: 12-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 100' x 3/8" dia. nylon three strand rode, with 5/16" stainless steel swivel - No trip line - Deployed during passage of frontal trough in shallow water (7 fathoms) on Lake Superior with wind gusting to 20 knots - Vessel's bow yawed 10° with the swing-keel down and 45° with the swing-keel fully raised.

Way back in June 1988 Victor Shane sent a letter to the editor of Cruising World Magazine, asking for feedback on sea anchors and drogues. Mr. Harley Sachs read the letter and responded with the following feedback:

For your database: Vessel, MacGregor Venture 222 sailboat, swing keel, transom hung spade rudder, LOA 22 feet, weight about 2,000 lbs. Conventional wisdom (Chapman and the boating supply catalogs) suggested a 30-inch conical drogue sea anchor. This does not work with my boat.

My wife and I decided to test this equipment on a breezy day with four-five foot waves on Lake Superior. I launched the 30-inch cone from the bow on about fifty feet of line and lowered all sail. The boat assumed a position with the seas abeam and would not face into the waves no matter what the rudder position was. With the sea anchor shifted to the stern, the result was the same. The motion of the boat was violent and I could hardly move about on deck.

I hoisted a small riding sail on the back stay. This had an immediate, remarkable damping effect on the boat's motion but did not cure the beam-on attitude of the boat to the seas. The 30-inch conical drogue was pronounced a failure.

Sachs turned out to be a multi-faceted sailor who was, among other things, writing a book on nautical humor (Irma Quarterdeck Reports, Wescott Cove Publishing, 1990). Shane mentioned the similarity between his disappointing experience with the small cone and those documented by Adlard Coles in Heavy Weather Sailing, and then asked if Sachs would consent to trying out a 12-ft. diameter parachute sea anchor. This was to be a "controlled experiment" - same boat, same conditions, but a much larger sea anchor. He agreed, and Shane sent him the sea anchor. Three months later he tried it out in similar conditions and sent back the following report:

Subject: Test of 12-ft. diameter para-anchor. With westerly winds gusting to 20 mph after the passage of a cold front, we motored offshore to a point outside the Lower Entry harbor on Keweenaw Bay of Lake Superior. With the engine shut off we drifted about 1 knot downwind with the wind and waves off the stern quarter, the same attitude I experienced when unsuccessfully testing my 30-inch conical drogue.

About a mile offshore, in about forty feet of water, I set up the 3/8" laid nylon rode to launch the para-anchor.... As instructed, I launched the float first, which functions as a pilot chute, drawing the para-anchor away from the boat as the boat drifts downwind. This could hardly be easier, for the chute slid overboard and in two or three minutes filled beautifully. Once it filled, it stuck in the water almost like a post and the Venture 222 bow came right up into the wind exactly.

With the keel down the Venture did not yaw more than 10°. With the keel retracted, there was 30°-45° of yaw, as the Venture bottom has almost no lateral resistance with the keel retracted. Rudder was tied amid-ships.CB
When retrieving the sea anchor, one cannot pull the anchor to the boat. One pulls the boat to the anchor, and that takes strength. I'm glad it wasn't a three ton vessel! Once I could reach the parachute strings, it was dead easy to spill the water out and haul it aboard. Took no effort at all, pulling one string. Once spilled, the para-anchor is a limp sack.

We did drift slightly with the anchor. In six minutes the bearing on the lighthouse half a mile away had shifted by ten degrees.... In spite of the holding power, the para-anchor is in a fluid, and the force exerted against it will cause it to slip through the water.

Apart from showing the improvement that can be expected with the use of sea anchor that is large enough, this file reveals something important about centerboards and swing keels as well.

It was previously thought that sailboats would yaw less at sea anchor with their centerboards and keels raised. Not so. At least not on this boat. Apart from tripping on the rudder as the boat surges backward, the CLR moves aft as well. With the CE now so far forward the bow will tend to yaw excessively. When the swing keel is again lowered, however, the CLR moves closer to the CE and the wind doesn't have the same lever. Notwithstanding, boards - and swing keels - should NOT be lowered all the way down in storms.

CAUTION: Lowering board/s and keels, or lowering them all the way, may give the yacht something to trip over in life-threatening storms. By and large, and as an important rule of seamanship, boards and keels should be raised in heavy weather. Or at least raised enough so that the yacht can "slip-slide," and not have a large appendage to hang up on and trip over.

S/M-10 Hinckley Bermuda 40 Yawl


Hinckley Bermuda 40 Yawl

40' x 10 Tons, Full Keel & Centerboard

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8 Conditions


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

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

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

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

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

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

S/M-4 Cutter, “Taleisin”


Cutter, "Taleisin"

29' 6" x 9 Tons, Full Keel Cutter

12-Ft. Dia. BUORD Parachute

Force 11-12 Conditions


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S/C-4 Catamaran



40' x 20' x 3.5 Tons

12-Ft. Dia. Parachute

Force 7 Conditions


File S/C-4, obtained from Sackville J. Currie, Blaney, Ireland - Vessel name and design unspecified, hailing port Tokyo, catamaran, LOA 40' x Beam 27' x Draft 6' x 3.5 Tons - Sea anchor: 12-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 60' x 1/2" nylon braid with 1/2" galvanized swivel - Emergency deployment when the windward ama broke off in shallow water (100 fathoms) five miles off Cape Nojima, Japan, with winds of 30 knots and confused seas of 12-15 ft. - Occupants were taken off by a Japanese Coast Guard helicopter.

File S/C-4 illustrates the value of a sea anchor in one of many likely damage control situations. En route to Sendai this 40-ft. catamaran sailed out of Tokyo Bay and, rounding Cape Nojima to head north, ran into 30-knot winds blowing contrary to a local current.

After considerable heavy labor against 12-15' steep, confused and choppy seas the windward pontoon suddenly broke off, leaving the catamaran lame and disabled seven miles offshore, now rapidly drifting out into the open sea.

The owner's main concern was that the boat might tack and, with the one ama broken off, capsize. He immediately deployed a 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor off the bow of the remaining hull. The sea anchor held the lame boat more or less head-to-sea, preventing capsize and at the same time keeping the crippled vessel from drifting out of the shipping lanes and into the great Pacific. With the situation temporarily stabilized and the motion of the yacht eased, distress flares were then launched which were spotted by a passing freighter. The captain of the freighter radioed the Japanese Coast Guard, which sent a helicopter to the scene and plucked the survivors off the multihull. The boat was then abandoned to the raging seas, still tethered to its 12-ft. diameter, orange-colored parachute sea anchor.

S/C-3 Catamaran, Prout Snowgoose


Catamaran, Prout Snowgoose

37' x 16' x 6 Tons

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9 Conditions


File S/C-2, obtained from William E. Masters, Columbus OH. - Vessel name Rhayader, Snowgoose catamaran, designed by Prout, LOA 37' x Beam 16' x Draft 2'6" x 6 Tons - Sea anchor: 12-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 300' x 3/8" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 12' each, with 5/8" galvanized swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in a whole gale in the Bay of Biscay, and also in a low system near the Bahamas with winds of 35-60 knots and seas of 20-30 feet. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 12 n.m. during 66 hours at sea anchor.

Rhayader, a handsome 37-ft. "Snowgoose" designed and built by the Prout brothers, was purchased in England and sailed across the Atlantic in April 1987. The owner, William Masters, used a 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor in a gale in the infamous Bay of Biscay. Winds were then sustained at 45 knots, gusting to 60. The sea anchor was used again about a year later when Rhayader ran into a low system stalled off Bermuda. When a low system gets stalled for an extended period of time, even if it is only packing thirty knot winds it will eventually begins to generate huge waves and swells. On the DDDB form that Masters sent back he indicated that some of the combined seas were higher than 30 ft. On this second occasion Rhayader was tethered to the sea anchor for 66 hours. Transcript:

During the 66 hour period, the seas and wind averaged 040° True. Our drift was 262° True, probably tidal set onto the Bahamas Banks. Also, in April of '87 while sailing to the Canary Islands from England, we deployed the para-anchor off the Continental Shelf, depth unknown. Winds were easterly, sea from the northwest. Nasty. Seas were short and steep (200-250' crest to crest. Winds were steady 45 knots, gusts to 60 knots. Hove to the para-anchor for 22 hours. Drift was 2 n.m. west. Thanks, para-anchor, and of course the Casanovas. I wouldn't leave port without it.

S/T-10 Trimaran, Searunner


Trimaran, Brown Searunner

31' x 18' x 2.2 Tons

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 7-8 Conditions


File S/T-10, obtained from Donald Longfellow, Garden Grove, CA. - Vessel name Take Five, hailing port Ventura, Searunner trimaran designed by Jim Brown, LOA 31' x Beam 18' 6" x Draft 5' (2' 6" board up) x 2.2 Tons - Sea anchor: 12-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 300' x 7/16" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 45' each, and 1/2" galvanized swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in Papagayo conditions in shallow water (25 fathoms) about 20 miles off the coast of Nicaragua with winds of 30-40 knots and choppy seas of 6-8 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 3 n.m. during 6 hours at sea anchor.


Papagayo winds can come up unexpectedly. They are caused by an intensification of the trade winds in the southwestern Caribbean, blowing offshore through narrow gaps in the mountains of Central America, setting up a short, nasty chop that may run at a 30-50° angle to the predominant wave train. The real difficulty for small craft is not the size, but the steep and confused nature of the seas. Papagayos can last for a few hours, subside slowly, then come back up again. They are most prevalent from December to March. The name Papagayo comes from the Gulf of Papagayo - northern Costa Rica - where they probably blow the hardest. Their southern limit is fairly distinct, being about 10 miles south of Cabo Velas in Costa Rica. The Papagayo is harder to predict than its cousins to the north, the intimidating Tehuantepeckers of the Gulf of Tehuantepec (Mexican isthmus) and the Santa Anas of Southern California. The owner of Take Five has equipped her with a number of drag devices, including a Galerider. On 29 January 1991 he deployed a 12-ft. diameter sea anchor to cope with Papagayos. Transcript:

Because the wind was coming out of the breaks in the coastal mountains it was blowing 30 degrees off the direction of the primary wave track (120° magnetic). Adjusting the length of one bridle arm didn't rotate the boat sufficiently so I re-led the starboard bridle arm to a snatch block near the stern of the starboard float. This allowed the boat to face into the large waves coming from farther down the coast, which I considered more important than facing directly into the wind. The centerboard was up but side-to-side yaw wasn't a problem. Despite the atrocious looking sea state I eventually noticed that the boat decks were dry and, except for an occasional errant wave slapping the hull, the boat was quite comfortable. Drift was more than what I've experienced on other occasions that I've used the para-anchor. Perhaps there was a current present or perhaps it could be attributed to turning the hull 30 degrees to the wind.