S/T-15 Trimaran, Cross


Trimaran, Cross

42' x 23' x 7 Tons

18-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 12 Conditions


File S/T-15, obtained from Andrew Cserny, Eldorado, IL. - Vessel name Gold Eagle, hailing port Raleigh, IL, trimaran ketch, designed by Norman Cross, LOA 42' x Beam 23' x Draft 4' x 7 Tons - Sea anchor: 18-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 5/8" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 80' each, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - No trip-line - Deployed in an unnamed hurricane in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico, about 200 miles WSW of Tampa, with winds of 100 knots and seas of 30-50 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 30 n.m. during two days at sea anchor.

Dr. Andrew Cserny purchased Gold Eagle (File S/T-8) from Daniel York in 1992. In March 1993 he and his wife set off from Mobile Bay, Alabama, for Cape Sable at the southern tip of Florida - six hundred miles as the crow flies across the Gulf of Mexico. En route they were hit by an unforecast, unnamed hurricane that did considerable damage to the Florida peninsula, sinking one freighter (30 people rescued, a number missing), driving another freighter aground, and sinking a number of small craft, among them a 39-ft. monohull, whose owner and wife were lost at sea. Here is a transcript of Dr. Cserny's harrowing experience - a sobering reminder of what the unpredictable sea is capable of:

We departed Mobile Bay the afternoon of March 10, 1993, on a rhumb line from the sea buoy off the entrance to Mobile Bay heading toward Cape Sable at the southern tip of Florida. The weather was fine, the forecast on the VHF called for possible thunder showers that night along the southeast coast of Alabama and the Florida panhandle, with winds gusting to 17 knots, choppy inland waterways and seas rising to 6-8 feet from the coast to 50 miles offshore...

We sailed under a club footed jib, main sail and mizzen, this being a rather conservative sail plan for our boat, with the winds being anywhere from 8 to 18 knots during the night. Sea and wind conditions continued the same on the 11th and at daybreak we doused the club footed jib and raised the genoa instead, and continued on the rhumb line. Toward the latter part of the afternoon the wind started to head us and we kept going farther west of our rhumb line, so that by around five in the afternoon we were approximately fifteen nautical miles west of our rhumb line.

At this point rather than tacking back toward land, which would have put us in a northeasterly direction and amounted to almost going backwards rather than toward Cape Sable, we decided to deploy the sea anchor and so to speak "park" the boat for the night, rather than trying the motor or trying to sail and really pinch the boat close-hauled. I was not expecting deteriorating conditions, I just wanted to rest for the night and to see if the wind would perhaps change and come from a more favorable direction so we could continue on the rhumb line. I was not aware that the storm was coming, therefore I did not lash down the sails as I would have. Matter of fact, I probably would have taken the sails off if I had known the storm was coming.

After deploying the sea anchor successfully, and watching the boat ride with an easy motion up and down the waves while tethered to the sea anchor, in roughly 6-8 foot waves, we decided to go to bed for the evening. All sails were furled and tied down with bungee straps. I awoke sometime after dark to a rhythmic crunching noise in the aft portion of the boat, which did not sound normal. When I went to investigate, I found that the sea state and the wind had built up considerably and occasional waves were slamming into the open cockpit area. When I lifted the hatch covering the steering compartment, I saw that the Morse cables attached to the steering quadrant had ripped loose from the wooden supports that were used to anchor them, and the steering quadrant was swinging wildly about. We secured the steering quadrant with lines 5/8 inch and 3/4 inch diameter, two of these lines on each side of the quadrant. Within half an hour these had chafed completely through.

The winds and seas continued to build in the dark, and by two in the morning I thought we were probably in a Force 10 gale. Sometime during the night we were hit by an immensely strong burst of wind which I presumed must have been a twister, because the pressure inside the pilot house fluctuated rapidly, the windows rattled, the doors to the pilot house rattled, and the sliding hatches tried to come off the top of the boat [lift off their rails]. The front windshields flapped wildly up and down, the wind shrieked horribly with pitch and intensity I have never heard before although I have been in an automobile traveling at 135 miles per hour. It lasted maybe a minute to a minute and a half and it was during this time that the sails tore loose and began flapping wildly from the front to the back of the boat. The main sail was torn loose from its track in places. It was torn from the bolt rope, flopped wildly over the starboard side of the boat and self-destructed. In the same extremely high wind or twister that hit us, the mizzen sail was torn loose. The speaker for the loud hailer was torn loose from its mounting and carried away. The club-footed jib tore loose. It was shredded, and the boom flailed wildly about, causing holes and damages....

The seas continued to build, the wind shrieked, the sails continued to flog wildly, the spray was driven it seemed horizontally across the surface of the water and was leaking in around the top of the windshield and the left pilot house door fairly profusely. Waves were probably 25 to 30 feet in height, maybe higher, with breaking crests which regularly broke over the bow. One had to literally hold on all the time just to exist. Even sitting down, one had to hold on.

Then we were struck by what I would consider to be a rogue wave. I was holding on to the steering wheel in the pilot house at the time. I was thrown across the pilot house and crashed through the door on the right side and landed outside the cockpit on the right side of the boat. At the same time everything that was loose flew from the left side of the boat to the middle of the boat or over to the right side. For example, the toaster sitting on the left side of the boat on top of the kitchen cabinet flew across the boat and landed on the right side on top of the nav station, approximately two feet higher than where it was sitting on the kitchen counter. Everything in the boat literally got scrambled. Rest was possible only on the floor of the main salon, wedged between the icebox on the right and the dinette and the galley cabinets on the left.

I am not sure exactly when, but I suspect probably when the rogue wave hit, the sea anchor also tore loose a bridle leg, carrying with it the hardware for mounting the trampoline, because, sometime after daybreak we noted that the bridle for the right side of the sea anchor was totally gone. There was a hole in the bow on the right side [starboard ama], and the boat was riding to the sea anchor from one line, which was cleated off to the left side of the main bow. And sometime during the course of the day, this line chafed in two. But before it chafed in two, it periodically caught the [steel] anchor and flipped it out of its mounting on the bow, breaking part of the anchor bracket and bending another part - actually lifting the stainless steel plate that the anchor bracket and the pulpit were welded to. Eventually, the line to the sea anchor, now no longer being protected from chafe by the snatchblock on the float bow, chafed itself to destruction on the anchor bracket. I am not sure at what point the last attachment of the sea anchor parted, but after this, we were mostly broadside to the waves, and in a most vulnerable position for being flipped over.

Gold Eagle of Raleigh, showing damaged starboard ama after the trimaran survived a freak storm in the Gulf of Mexico. "I am not sure exactly when, but I suspect probably when the rogue wave hit, the sea anchor also tore loose a bridle leg, carrying with it the hardware for mounting the trampoline, because, sometime after daybreak we noted that the bridle for the right side of the sea anchor was totally gone. There was a hole in the bow on the right side [starboard ama], and the boat was riding to the sea anchor from one line, which was cleated off to the left side of the main bow." (Andrew Cserny photo).
Gold Eagle of Raleigh, showing damaged starboard ama after the trimaran survived a freak storm in the Gulf of Mexico. "I am not sure exactly when, but I suspect probably when the rogue wave hit, the sea anchor also tore loose a bridle leg, carrying with it the hardware for mounting the trampoline, because, sometime after daybreak we noted that the bridle for the right side of the sea anchor was totally gone. There was a hole in the bow on the right side [starboard ama], and the boat was riding to the sea anchor from one line, which was cleated off to the left side of the main bow." (Andrew Cserny photo).
gold_eagle2The storm continued to rage. The boat laid most of the time broadside to the waves which were breaking over the port float. The wind continued to shred the sails and I considered it almost suicidal to go outside and try to stow the sails which were basically destroyed by this time anyway.

On the morning of the 14th the wind had subsided sufficiently to enable us to get outside of the pilot house and at this point I rigged the mizzen sail, using the reef points in the mizzen to lash the upper part of the sail, which had shredded away from the lower part. I repaired the clew of the genoa. We used sails to steer the boat and were able to set a course heading toward Ft. Meyers, which was the nearest approach to land. We still had no steering. Once we got underway with the sails and were able to steer with the adjustments in the sails, the seas no longer broke over the transom and we were able to bail out the rear compartment, which gave us access to the steering quadrant. Fortunately I had numerous tools on board, as well as a good assortment of fasteners, and by cutting up some of the floor boards, and after hours and hours of jury rigging, we were able to effect a workable repair of the steering quadrant.... While I was effecting the above mentioned repairs, my wife June was able to make contact with a passing tanker, which was rather surprised to see us still out there afloat and under sail, and told us that they had been beaten up fairly badly, and we had just lived through a Force 12 storm with 30-50 ft. seas and 100 knot winds.

For the next three days we beat into seas ranging anywhere from 8-12 feet. The waves were coming directly at us, and at a normal cruising RPM of 1500 to 1700 RPMs we were making anywhere from two to four knots over ground as measured by the GPS. While beating into the wind and waves we took water in over the main bow where the trampoline attachment had torn loose, as well as where the cap for the anchor chain was torn loose, and everything in the front part of the boat got soaked. The starboard part of our float took on a considerable amount of water through the hole ripped out by the bridle. However, I used rags and fiberglass impregnated cloth to repair this defect, and was able to bail out the water from the right float. We dropped anchor in a bight just north of Matanzas Pass on the 17th. It was the first time we had been able to sleep in our bunks since the 10th.

Comments: The sea anchor was eighteen (18) foot diameter, manufactured by Para-Tech Engineering, with a 5/8" nylon rode 400 feet long and bridle arms of the same material, 80 feet long, with stainless steel swivels. There was a trip line at the apex of the parachute. Actually, the initial part of the trip line consisted of a nylon strap, maybe 10-12 feet long, possibly slightly longer than that, to which was attached a plastic float, possibly 8-10 inches long, maybe 4-5 inches in diameter. Then attached to this was a length of nylon line maybe about 30 feet long.

I made my first mistake here by taking the float off from the nylon strap, tying the nylon strap to the 30 foot nylon line, then attaching the float to the end of the nylon line. In retrospect, this was the wrong thing to do, and I suspect that the trip line kept fouling the parachute, causing the parachute to periodically collapse, then the parachute would unwind itself and it would hold again for a while and then it would collapse again, allowing the boat to surge backward to a much greater extent than it would have if the parachute had been fully opened out all the time. While riding to the sea anchor, at times we would head into the wind and waves and take the waves just fine, then all of a sudden we would start slipping and turning sideways with respect to the wind and waves. I'm sure at these times, the parachute anchor was collapsing. I went out on the bow and tried to pull the sea anchor in but this was impossible, even with the chute collapsed and taking the waves on the port beam, there was enough tension on the line that it made it impossible to pull it in. At times, the sea anchor would undoubtedly unwind and fully deploy itself and we would be riding quite securely on the bridle, heading into the waves again.

I suspect that when the rogue wave hit, the chute was collapsed, because the rogue wave hit us pretty much broadside on the port side of the boat. I suspect that at this time we came close to being capsized, and quite possibly the parachute anchor, even though it was collapsed and allowing us to lie broadside to the waves, probably kept us from going over. I do not know for a fact, but I suspect that the attachment points of the bridles were torn loose from the bows at this time, thereafter, the bridle was then attached to the bow of the main hull and really no longer acted as a bridle, chafing at times against the anchor and the anchor bracket. As a result of this, the lines eventually chafed through and we lost the sea anchor altogether. From then on we were lying a-hull, but always presented the port side and sometimes the port front quarter of the boat throughout the rest of the 1½ days that the storm lasted after this.

If we had been running downwind in these waves, I suspect that we might have been pitchpoled, and I'm certain that had we been running when the rogue wave hit we would have been pitchpoled. I also suspect that had the sea anchor been properly deployed and properly attached, that we would have survived the storm with only our sails blown out.

Lessons Learned: 1) I believe the weather forecast on the VHF is unreliable. Next time I venture offshore I will be listening to the weather forecast on the single side band. 2) When deploying the parachute anchor, next time the float will be attached at the end of the trip float line or the strap that comes directly off the apex of the parachute, then the longer trip line will be attached to the float. This float line will be fairly short and made of polypropylene line with float attached to it, making sure that it will not sink down and foul the parachute anchor. 3) I have replaced the sea anchor with another 18 foot parachute by Para-Tech. This one is now in a pack which can be deployed without taking the chute out of the bag. You can just throw the whole thing into the water, which I think is an improvement. The tether is 5/8" nylon, 500 feet long. There is an oversized stainless steel swivel. The bridle arms are longer now, made of 3/4" Dacron, which is less stretchy than nylon and hopefully better resistant to abrasion. The geometry of the attachment of the bridle to the boat is now different. I believe that it is significantly better. The two legs of the bridle now come through the points on the bows of the amas where the stainless steel plate holding the snatchblock is much more substantial than what was there before. The snatchblocks are considerably more substantial than the ones they are replacing. The bridle is led straight back onto the deck of the ama and tied off to a cleat which is through bolted to the main deck, and underneath is attached and through bolted to an L-shaped steel backing plate, in turn through bolted to the main crossbeam. With this geometry, all the strain will be taken by this oversized cleat and the snatchblock on the point of the ama will only act as a fairlead to be subjected to very little strain, and nothing like the forces that this same point was subjected to before, that being the reason why things pulled out. 4) The jacklines I had rigged before were of 1 inch nylon strap with 4800 breaking strength. I religiously used the harness and the tether whenever I ventured outside the pilot house. At the end of the storm the port jackline had chafed completely in two where it had been riding against the babyshroud on the port side. There were no cotter pins or rough or jagged edges on the babyshroud or on the turnbuckle. I'm sure that any round line would have also chafed in two. The new jacklines will be made out of stainless steel wire covered with plastic coating that will not chafe in two. 5) The Morse pushpull cables have been replaced with hydraulic steering. The attachment points are much more substantial than before. Previously, the anchor points for the cables were secured to a sheet of 3/4" plywood by four 1/4" stainless machine screws. The whole attachment point just literally ripped a 2 x 4" rectangle of the 3/4" plywood completely out and rendered the steering useless. The new steering parts are much more massive.

During the entire storm we moved approximately 30 nautical miles according to our GPS. However, during at least half of the storm, the anchor was totally gone and during the first half the storm the sea anchor worked off and on, so you can't really say that we drifted 30 miles at sea anchor. Having observed how the boat reacted to the sea conditions when she was being held by the sea anchor, and comparing the actions of the boat without the sea anchor, there is no doubt in my mind that the sea anchor is the ultimate survival tool in heavy weather offshore. I am also certain that had our sea anchor been deployed and attached properly we would have had a much easier time, and felt much more secure. The motion of the boat and therefore our comfort level inside the boat would have been much better. It is quite possible that the steering quadrant would not have torn up because we would not have surged backwards so much with each wave. I believe that with the sea anchor properly deployed, we would have had a frightening but manageable experience, instead of the almost three days of sheer terror that we lived through, not knowing from one wave to the next if we were going to be capsized.

S/C-20 Catamaran, Crowther


Catamaran, Crowther

49' x 24' x 8 Tons

15-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8-9 Conditions

SW gale vs Agulhas Current

File S/C-20, obtained from Jean Claude Barey, Montreal, Canada - Vessel name Chasse Galerie II, hailing port Montreal, Spindrift catamaran, designed by Lock Crowther, LOA 49' x Beam 23' 6" x Draft 3' x 8 Tons - Sea anchor: 15-ft. Diameter Shewmon on 300' x 3/4" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 40' each, with 5/8" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed in a whole gale in 500' of water about five miles SE of Port Elizabeth (South Africa) with winds of 40-45 knots and seas of 17-20 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed less than 10° - Drift was estimated to be 8 n.m. during 42 hours at sea anchor.

Jean Claude Barey took Chasse Galerie II on a circumnavigation in 1991. After transiting the Suez Canal he sailed her down to Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, and was en route to Cape Town when he ran into a blow on the continental shelf, in close proximity to the Agulhas current. Transcript:

The conditions were not bad, but we could not take long tacks against the wind, because we were too close to the Agulhas current. We then used the sea anchor. Other boats without sea anchors decided to run back [to Port Elizabeth] after a few hours because they were not making progress to windward. Our Shewmon sea anchor worked well in those conditions. The boat was very steady (less than 5° yaw I will say).

The Gulf Stream and the Kuroshio (Japan) notwithstanding, the Agulhas is likely the strongest and most articulated current on earth - with a reputation for breaking ships in two. Because of it, the southeast coast of Africa represents a gauntlet that mariners need to run with great care and prudence. Charts of the region warn: "Abnormal waves of up to 20 meters in height, preceded by a deep trough, may be encountered in the area between the edge of the continental shelf and twenty miles to seaward thereof. These can occur when a strong southwesterly wind is blowing."

The Agulhas runs mainly from northeast to southwest, following the two hundred meter contour of the continental shelf and dissipating over the Agulhas Bank south of Mossel Bay.

SW gale vs Agulhas Current
SW gale vs Agulhas Current

If the Agulhas could be likened to a great river - moving 80 million tons of water per second at speeds of up to six knots - the high-crested waves that form on it during southwesterly storms would be akin to the tidal bores that travel up the Amazon and the Bay of Fundy.

Since the current extends to depths of more than 1000 meters, and since it generally does not intrude onto the shelf regions, but tends to lie just offshore of the shelf edge, evasive procedure for cruisers has always been to stay clear of the area seaward of the edge of the continental shelf. What many sailors do after leaving Durban is to sail offshore just far enough to "kiss and ride" the current south, but not so far that they can't make a hasty retreat out of its axis and duck inshore at the slightest indication that there is a southwesterly gale brewing.

As always, the cardinal rule is never leave according to clock or calender, nor have a deadline at the other end. According to literature forwarded to Victor Shane by Chris Bonnet, Principal of the Ocean Sailing Academy in Durban, the best time of the year to travel south is January to March.

The gauntlet from Durban to East London is 250 miles with absolutely no safe place to duck into in between. Bonnet advises sailors to wait for a favorable window. Leave Durban at the tail-end of a southwesterly blow when the barometer has topped out, preferably at about 1020 milibars. Clear customs and immigration at the advent of a southwesterly, which will normally blow from 36 to 48 hours, then sail on to the two hundred meter line as soon as possible as this is where you can obtain a several-knot boost from the current.

It also means that in the event of not reaching East London before another southwester, you can quickly duck inshore and avoid being caught in the middle of the current - where sixty foot walls of water have been known to break ships in two. You will find that on average the two hundred meter line will give you a distance offshore - between Durban and East London - of approximately ten miles.

The gauntlet from East London to Port Elizabeth is shorter - 120 nautical miles. Kiss and ride the current, move inshore if caught. The Port Elizabeth to Cape Town leg is a little safer as there are decent places to anchor or put into - Knyasna, Cape St. Francis or Krombaai. But watch the charts and proceed with caution as there are rocks and reefs all about.

S/C-19 Catamaran, Catana


Catamaran, Catana

44' x 23' x 6.2 Tons

18-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 12 Conditions


File S/C-19, obtained from a number of reliable sources. - Vessel name Bayete, hailing port London, UK, designed by Lock Crowther & C. Barreau, LOA 44' x Beam 23' x Draft 5' 11" (2' 2" boards up) x 6.2 Tons - Sea anchor: 18-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 5/8" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 60' each, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - No trip line - Deployed in a severe Mediterranean Mistral in deep water about 150 miles South of Marseille, with winds of 80 knots and seas of 25-30 ft. - Vessel was capsized for undetermined reasons with loss of four lives.


The following information concerning the tragic capsize of Bayete came to Victor Shane by way of a number of sources, among them Jean Pierre Prade of Catana, to whom we are grateful, and George Brandes, who was kind enough to forward numerous French newspaper articles concerning the tragedy, to whom we are also indebted. Brandes is the owner of a sister ship almost identical to Bayete.

From a number of French newspapers, among them Le Var (nice-matin), Victor Shane - with the assistance of a translator - has been able to obtain the following outline. On 3 November 1995 a severe Mediterranean Mistral packing 80-knot winds and 25-30 ft. seas struck two yachting "flotillas" without much warning. Numerous sailboats participating in the Transat des Alizés ("Transatlantic Trade Winds Rally" - from San Remo to Point-à-Pître) and the Transat des Passionnés ("Transatlantic Rally for Sailing Enthusiasts" - from Hyères to Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canaries) were devastated by the storm offshore about 150 miles south of Marseille. While French meteorological services were at first blamed for the disaster, they did broadcast the morning of Friday, November 3, two storm warnings calling for Force 10 winds. Others found reason to criticize the race organizers and participants for their "lack of judgment" for going ahead with the race instead of seeking safe haven somewhere.

As EPIRBs were activated and maydays started coming in, rescue planes and helicopters of the French government, as well as French Naval forces, went all out to do what they could under trying circumstances. A hundred vessels set out on the Transat des Alizés; four were lost. According to press reports filed at the time the Italian yacht Parsifal sank with one dead, five missing (afterwards lost). Three members of the crew of Cristalin 3 were also helicopter-lifted to hospitals on Minorca. From the dismasted Maiaco 2 off Marseilles came distress calls and the efforts to save it and Parsifal went forward feverishly. Three persons of French nationality were rescued from Maiaco 2. The yacht Ango 2 was also dismasted. A vessel setting out from Cagliari rescued that crew and put them aboard a Greek freighter making for Marseilles.

As for the Transat des Passionnés, it was Bayete - the subject of this DDDB file - which signaled two dead, two missing and one survivor. Richard Charington survived twelve hours in frigid waters until a French Navy helicopter could make the 200 kms through the storm to save him. Charington was exhausted and suffering form hypothermia when the helicopter reached him. He said "I saw one of them drown!" before fainting.

From Chantier Catana's initial Communiqué concernant l'accident de BAYETE ("Communiqué concerning the BAYETE accident") Victor Shane - with the assistance of a translator - has been able to infer the following hypothetical scenario. We would like to emphasize that it is hypothetical - we are not dealing with known and verifiable facts. The capsize occurred in pitch black night. According to reliable sources, among them Catana's Jean Pierre Prade, the sole survivor - Richard Charington - was not a sailor, took no part in the setting of the para-anchor, was in his bunk at the time and, apart from possibly hearing a loud noise prior to the capsize, is to this day unclear about what might have happened:


Bayete chose not to leave at the beginning of the Transat des Passionnés on Tuesday, November 1, 1995 because of winds announced for that very evening. Friday morning Bayete got weather information from an unknown "German source" which called for increasing calm. To wit, Bayete's first few hours at sea were in fact under a light spinnaker, and later under power, a confirmation to the crew of the forecast they had received.

A large swell with no wind made the crew seasick. At mid-day a wind arose from the northwest and quickly gained in force. Bayete's crew, already worn out with seasickness, reduced sail. By nightfall the conditions were already serious - crew exhausted, no one with the strength to take the wheel - and it was decided to set out Bayete's safety gear, a "para-anchor" or heavily reinforced parachute to be submerged as a sea anchor and to be fixed to the vessel by a nylon line 150 meters long. Around eight in the evening (20h) the para-anchor was made fast by a bridle attached to the port stem and to the center of the forward beam - (French: Sur Bayete le para-anchor est ammarré par une patte d'oie sur l'étrave bâbord et le centre de la poutre avant vers 20h). The entire crew had taken shelter inside, two remaining dressed for rough weather while the rest undressed for bed. Around ten (22h) the vessel heeled sharply to port, the starboard hull lifted up and Bayete capsized.

The five crew made it to the survival deck - (French panneau de survie - the flat underwing area between the two main hulls). They found the anchor line lying across the vessel between the hulls, a fact which led them to think the vessel had pitchpoled to stern.

One of the crew set off with a rescue buoy [EPIRB] which he activated outside the vessel, but unfortunately a wave tore the device out of his hands. The helicopter which came to the rescue found the buoy right away but took a number of hours to find Bayete because the moon was no longer to be seen. When the vessel was at last found only one survivor was winched aboard the helicopter and taken to Toulon in a state of severe hypothermia.

The most reliable report of conditions is that of the C.R.O.S.S. MED rescue team, which noted 70 knot winds at 340°, which whipped up to 80 knots at the time of the rescue, and that in seas eight meters high. A number of vessels were in distress at the same time. Parsifal sank with six souls lost and three other vessels were abandoned following helicopter winching off of the crew after sustaining serious damage.

In subsequent fax communications Jean Pierre Prade informed Shane that the capsized Bayete had been towed to Corsica. She was not too badly damaged. None of the mooring cleats had been broken. Naval personnel had indicated that the para-anchor was still made fast. The forward aluminum beam, housing the seagull striker and the anchor roller, to which one leg of the bridle seems to have been led, was broken in the middle, "but the break was in the direction of the pull of the stay, probably on account of the strains on the rig when the vessel was capsized."

Like Jean Pierre Prade, we can only agonize and speculate as to what happened. Perhaps the catamaran was struck by a rogue wave. Perhaps the "half-bridle" that seems to have been used, in spite of instructions to the contrary, did not afford sufficient leverage to keep her fully facing into the seas. Or perhaps the lines and/or parachute were not correctly deployed in the dark and partially fouled, or perhaps it was any combination of the above. At this stage, instead of engaging in idle speculation, one should rather focus on what is known, and what could have been done to preserve the lives of those men. For example, since it is known that the forward aluminum cross-member was broken in the middle, and since one leg of the bridle does seem to have been led over the anchor roller situated there, Victor Shane feels compelled to take this opportunity - once and for all - to close this window of vulnerability on ocean going catamarans. Never attach one arm of the bridle, or even a single anchor rode, to the crossbeam - it just is not strong enough. See the Catamaran Bridle Advisory for the correct attachment of a bridle.

Pitch-up attitude showing how an anchor line leading over the bow roller situated in the middle of the relatively weak aluminum cross member may buckle it downward. Note that the strong downward pull of the anchor on the aluminum cross member is being opposed by thousands of pounds of displacement load as the steep wave tries to "lift" the boat horizontally. This sort of scenario might easily be encountered in a storm while at regular anchor inshore, or at para-anchor offshore. Note also: should the aluminum cross member break and the yacht capsize, the anchor line will likely fall between the hulls, perhaps giving the impression that the yacht had pitchpoled backwards.
Pitch-up attitude showing how an anchor line leading over the bow roller situated in the middle of the relatively weak aluminum cross member may buckle it downward. Note that the strong downward pull of the anchor on the aluminum cross member is being opposed by thousands of pounds of displacement load as the steep wave tries to "lift" the boat horizontally. This sort of scenario might easily be encountered in a storm while at regular anchor inshore, or at para-anchor offshore. Note also: should the aluminum cross member break and the yacht capsize, the anchor line will likely fall between the hulls, perhaps giving the impression that the yacht had pitchpoled backwards.


This was a terrible tragedy. Terrible because, with just a little more planning and foresight four lives might have easily been spared. It was reported that the sole survivor was the only one wearing a life vest, for example. The use of safety harnesses may have kept them from being swept off the slippery underwing. All might easily have come through in survival suits, or wet suits, and/or a life raft. Bayete was equipped with everything from microwave oven to radar to desalinization unit to the latest electronics and numerous safety devices, including a certified life raft. Tragically, four lives were still lost when she capsized.

Apart from re-emphasizing the need for full-width bridles there is another - much more important - lesson to be learned here as well, namely that one should always have a plan to put into effect in case of capsize. As evidenced by the 118-day survival of Rose-Noëlle's crew after she went over (File S/T-7), capsize need not be the end of the world. To quote the words of renowned multihull designer Jim Brown:

       A multihull capsize is not by itself an ultimate disaster. There is a wide gap between capsize and actual loss of life. Given the proper preparations and equipment, and a suitable capsize survival technique, turning over is not nearly as threatening - as final - as the familiar once-and-for-all finish of a boat that's sunk.

Sea anchors and drogues, properly rigged and deployed, will go a long way to prevent capsize on multihulls. Clearly however, beyond a certain point, say Force 12, a great deal will remain uncertain regardless of the tactic being used. Beyond such a point there is a crying need for a standardized capsize protocol.

The fundamental safety asset that multihulls have is that 99% of them are unsinkable. Bayete may have capsized, but unlike the monohull Parsifal she did not sink. Parsifal went down to the bottom. Bayete has been re-fitted and is now sailing the Mediterranean again. Although she turned turtle, there was nevertheless that sufficiency of food, water and flotation in her upturned hulls to sustain human life, at least until rescue. What was lacking here was the means - carefully laid out plan - for utilizing them.

Multihull sailors - in particular those sailing modern catamarans - MUST have a capsize survival strategy before they go offshore. All crew members must be informed as to what that strategy is, where the equipment - survival suits, EPIRB, life raft, emergency lighting, portable VHF, calamity pack, etc. - are located, and how they can be reached and activated in the initial period of panic and disorientation that usually follows capsize - those are the critical moments. The crew must be made to understand that capsize is not the end of the world. They must be handed a concrete guideline - standard procedure - to this effect. We have placed the skeletal framework of such a guideline in Appendix VII of this publication.

Four members of the sailing fraternity were lost in this tragedy. Jean-Claude Batault, Bayete's owner, his brother Philippe, associates Henri Cailau and Pascal Metois are no longer with us. We are all diminished by their passing. We bid defiance to the sea in honor of their memory, resolved to double our efforts against an ancient adversary. This means heightened awareness, education, preparation, organization and readiness. It means never taking anything for granted about the sea, and always remembering the last paragraph of the official inquiry on the Fastnet tragedy of 1979:

In the 1979 race the sea showed that it can be a deadly enemy, and that those who go to sea for pleasure must do so in the full knowledge that they may encounter dangers of the highest order.


S/C-18 Catamaran, Island Spirit


Catamaran, Island Spirit

34' x 22' x 6.7 Tons

18-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8 Conditions


File S/C-18, obtained from Colin Kenny, Riebeek, South Africa - Vessel name Manx, hailing port Cape Town, catamaran, designed by Phil Southwell, LOA 34' x Beam 22' x Draft 3' 4" x 6.7 Tons - Sea anchor: 18-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 500' x 5/8" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 60' each, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - No trip line - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 800 miles ESE of Rio de Janeiro with winds of 35-40 knots and seas of 30 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 20° - Drift was estimated to be 17 n.m. during 40 hours at sea anchor.


Colin Kenny sailed Manx to a first place finish (multihull class) in the 1996 Cape Town to Rio Race. He deployed a para-anchor because of a combination of injury and bad weather on the return trip. Transcript:

We took part in the Rothmans Cape to Rio race in MANX, a 35' Southwell-designed catamaran displacing 6.7 tons. She was fitted with an Aerorig - the first unstayed carbon rig seen in this country. After a race dogged (if you will excuse the pun) by light winds, we arrived in Rio in 26 days 4 hours to finish first overall in the multihull category by a matter of 40 hours.

After spending three weeks in the islands south of Rio, we left for Cape Town on 25 February. We were sailing double handed, myself and Sue, who has only been sailing for the past year. The winds were SE instead of the anticipated westerlies. Heading south with a view to picking up the south westerlies we made good progress.

On the afternoon of 4 March, after having put in a third reef because of increasing winds and a deteriorating sea state, I was struck by the boom whilst returning to the cockpit and knocked unconscious. I was only out for about five minutes but had sustained a nasty gash on the head, which bled profusely. After coming round, I was in a confused state of mind and Sue sought assistance by putting out a PAN PAN radio call, but to no avail. We were more successful when we tried Inmarsat C. In addition, we finally raised Cape Town Radio and received the necessary medical advice. Being so far from land (our position was 33° 30' S and 31° 25' W) all we could do was monitor vital signs for the next 12 hours and hope for the best. Suffice it to say that those were the longest hours imaginable. Fortunately there were no complications.

Twenty four hours after the accident, we had even more drama. We were on a reciprocal course heading NE (in case we needed assistance). Sailing with triple-reefed main and no headsail (damaged the previous day) and using engines for improved direction in very strange, mountainous seas, we were concerned as to how we were going to make it through the night. In addition I was extremely weak after the accident. On the radio we heard that Tigress, a 38' Prout catamaran [in the same region], had deployed her para-anchor. Speaking to them on the radio they were astonished at the difference in outlook subsequent to deploying the anchor. They urged us to do the same.

I had some misgivings as I did not have the necessary primary float, trip lines or recovery float. Instead we lashed two fenders together to act as the primary float, and a small fender as the recovery float, but without a [full] trip line. With great difficulty, we deployed the anchor to windward. I say with great difficulty since we did not have a trampoline to walk on - it had UV degraded and been ripped away by constant wave action. Since our bridle was to be cleated to primary cleats on the cross-beam and backed up by secondary cleats on the bow, it was tricky, to say the least, to crawl forward and cleat the bridle ends and get the tether through the stanchions on the cross-beam, thereby ensuring that they would not snag and run free. The para-anchor was deployed off the starboard (windward) bow. Initially it looked as if we had made a mistake, as the tether was swept under the bow and I had visions of it passing below the keel and snagging the sail-drive. I snubbed the tether, the anchor began deploying and the bow started to swing around. We released more tether, snubbing the line at intervals until the full 500 feet of tether was out on 60 foot bridles.

It was miraculous how easy the boat felt - as if someone had switched off the wind and sea conditions. Yaw was minimal - 10° (if that) to either side. It had taken us a fair amount of time to prepare both ourselves and the anchor, but we had no idea how satisfying our efforts would prove to be. It was now 20:00 and we settled down to a peaceful night. At 01:30 Sue, braving the black night, high seas, 35 knots of wind (and no trampoline), checked the bridle [leading directly off cleats, no chocks] for chafe - nothing! Similarly at dawn - no chafe. After lying at anchor for 40 hours, we were surprised to find no signs of chafe. I can only think that because we had a longer rode out than ordinarily required, the stretch of the nylon was such that there was next to no additional stress on the boat and the cleats, and hence the rode....

At 10:00 on 7 March, after 40 hours at anchor, we hauled it in - the rode was pulled through the bow roller and winched in using the winch on the boom. The two larger fenders (primary float) were missing, but the small additional fender we had attached to the float line was still there. The chute was partially collapsed and, as a consequence, tangled. However it was clearly still functioning, although not as effectively.

After visiting Tristan da Cunha for a medical check-up, we encountered four gales on the trot, but the sea state was never as severe as that which we had encountered on the Bromley Plateau. We sailed under storm jib alone, which proved effective. There were times when we took a lot of water over the boat, however the conditions were never bad enough to deploy the para-anchor again. But the simple knowledge of how effective it had been and that we could deploy it again and expect the same results gave us a great deal of confidence (not over-confidence!) in our ability to sum up the situation and continue sailing. We had an ace up our sleeve. We arrived back in Cape Town on Easter Monday, 8 April 1996. To say that I was impressed with the para-anchor would be a gross understatement - I am mightily impressed.... Any multihull skipper that goes to sea without a para-anchor is being foolhardy. 

S/C-16 Catamaran, Crowther


Catamaran, Crowther

40' x 26' x 2.75 Tons

16-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9 Conditions


File S/C-16, obtained from Dr. Gavin LeSueur, Mallacoota, Australia - Vessel name Windswept, hailing port Mallacoota, catamaran, designed by Lock Crowther, LOA 40' x Beam 26' x Draft 2' 6" x 2.75 Tons - Sea anchor: 16-ft. Diameter Para-Anchors Australia on 300' x 3/4" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 28' each, with 5/8" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed in a storm in shallow water (40 fathoms) in the Bass Strait with winds of 45-58 knots and seas of 30 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 20° - Drift was estimated to be 12 n.m. during 6 hours at sea anchor.

Dr. Gavin LeSueur is an Australian country doctor who lives in Mallacoota, Victoria. He is also among the world's leading multihull safety experts, having weathered storms, used a wide variety of drag devices on different multihulls, and pioneered an adjustable drogue that is now being manufactured by Para-Anchors Australia. The intrepid doctor windsurfed 750 miles from Melbourne to Sydney in 1982. He has written three books - Windswept, The Line, and Multihull Seamanship Illustrated (distributed in the United States by Multihulls Magazine). Transcript:

In January 1988 I raced two-handed from Sydney to Auckland (1000 nm) on my catamaran, D Flawless. This was a 37' x 24' x 4600 lbs. open bridgedeck offshore racing catamaran. My crew was 21 year old Catherine Reed [wife to be]. After rounding the northern tip of New Zealand, the fleet was hammered by cyclone Bola. This tropical cyclone followed an unusual route and was unforeseen by me due to lack of high seas forecasts at the time, because of an industrial dispute at the Australian Meteorological Bureau! By the time we realized what was on the way (we first heard about it on New Zealand commercial radio stations!) we were in 60 knots plus and 25-35 ft. seas - with a lee shore 30 miles away!

I carried a 12-ft. parachute made by Para-Anchors Australia on board without a float or trip line, and with 300 ft. of nylon anchor line. I was unable to set the parachute. The conditions were such that it was not possible to crawl forward on deck due to the sea state and wind. It was like trying to move with your hands full on the roof of a car going along a bumpy road at 80 mph. We had removed all sail (and boom) except a small storm jib, lashed the helm over to drive the boat into the wind, and raised both daggerboards. [Emphasis added.] Thus D Flawless tracked at 70 degrees off the wind for the next 36 hours. We moved at about 2 knots, passing the edge of the eye and were ejected out of the "bad" quadrant. Wind strengths on land reached 96 knots. It was not pleasant huddled in the hull in our survival suits, awaiting the capsize that did not happen. The boat remained remarkably intact and we sailed into Auckland to finish the race.

En route back to Australia two months later we struck a 43 ft. humpback whale at 3:00 am in 25 knots of wind. We were surfing with our centerboards not fully raised. The whale awoke as we embedded our port centerboard in its back. It took off with the centerboard, the case and a good portion of the side of our port hull. The mast came down and speared itself through the remaining "good" hull! Over the next 45 minutes the catamaran wrenched itself to pieces. There were four of us on board at the time and we were 60 miles off the Australian coast. So close, and yet so far.

With no option but to get into our life raft we left the tangled wreckage and joined many of the foam sandwich hull pieces drifting downwind. The life raft was an Australian Yachting Federation approved offshore raft. Sea conditions deteriorated to 45 knots and 20 ft. waves. We were on the edge of the continental shelf and occasional seas were higher and breaking. We were capsized out of the raft four times! The parachute drogue on the water ballasted raft was useless. The only way we could stop capsizing on most waves was to dive to the windward side of the raft on each wave. It worked some of the time. We were rescued nine hours after hitting the whale. Rescue was quick and by helicopter (thus accurate wind and sea condition measurements). We had drifted over 20 miles in that time and rescue was effected due to our initial Mayday, missed radio schedule, EPIRB (which later failed - waterlogged), hand-held VHF radio (helicopter got a directional fix on this) and rocket flares. We were in good condition in survival suits, with extra water and flares over and above what was already in the raft.

Catherine and I now sail three handed with our three year old daughter (and dog - but she doesn't count). We have continued to experiment with drogues and parachutes and have used both many times since. I have no major problems with our parachute system. We use a 16-ft. diameter one made by Para-Anchors Australia, and carry 400 ft. of braided nylon rope. We do not use a swivel, or a trip line. The parachute has a float on 30 ft. of line on it's vent hole. Only once have we added a catenary weight down the line with a snatch block. We used a 25 kg CQR. In the 40-knot conditions it made little difference and it was a trial. We winch the line in while motoring up to the float. The bridle is a separate line and is tied to the tether with a rolling hitch. When the load is taken back on the tether in the cockpit, the rolling hitch is easily undone.


NOTE: Dr. LeSueur was a participant in the rough and tragic 1988 Round Australia Race in which he used and destroyed several drogues (see also File D/C-8).

S/C-15 Catamaran, Bailey


Catamaran, Bailey

40' x 24' x 5 Tons

18-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 11+ Conditions


File S/C-15, obtained from Rob Mansell-Ward, UK - Vessel name Orinoco Flo, hailing port in the UK, catamaran, designed by Nick Bailey, LOA 40' x Beam 24' x Draft 8' (18" boards up) x 5 Tons - Sea anchor: 18-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 5/8" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 50'(?) each, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - No trip line - Deployed in a storm in the Agulhas current 98 miles from Richards Bay (South Africa) with winds of 70 knots and seas of 45 ft. - Angle of yaw and rate of drift unspecified.

Christmas 1995 Victor Shane received this feedback from Commander Rob Mansell-Ward from Durban, South Africa. Transcript:

Dear Para-Anchors, you asked for accounts of your product in use. Herewith my experience, together with the mistakes I made and the outcome. I hope it is instructive to future users and yourself, and that an element of Schadenfreude will make it as enjoyable for those who read it as it was miserable for us. The boat, Orinoco Flo. I built her myself. She is a fairly "hi-tech" catamaran of 40', vacuum-bagged Airex/glass sandwich in epoxy. Carbon wingmast. Daggerboards, lifting rudders, transom hung. Spartan but tough - not a race-boat.

We are entering the final stages of a pretty long circumnavigation which took us from the UK across Biscay (January '94) to the Canaries. Across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, thence through the Canal to Costa Rica, on via Isla Coco down to the Galapagos and on to Easter Island - September '94. Thence conventionally across the Pacific via the Tuamotus, French Polynesia, Tonga and Fiji to Brisbane, Australia. We went southabout Australia via the Bass Strait and hung in the Southwest of Australia, surfing before continuing to Indonesia via Darwin (from Northwest Cape 1,500 miles to windward - what a joy!) We set sail on October 21st from Sumatra for Mauritius, and left La Reunion Island for Africa just ahead of intense tropical cyclone Agnelle. We were 24 hours out of Durban in 28° South and 34° East, prematurely congratulating ourselves on being clever sailors not to get cycloned, when we got Southern-Oceaned instead.

This is not the place for a discussion of the peculiarities of the weather in this part of the world. Suffice to say, for one reason or another - it's a bit of a bastard. Weather reporting in this area is hampered by a paucity of satellites and shore stations. In addition, the South African weather center is in Pretoria [inland]. It appears they give a priority to the farmers, according to Chris Bonnet of the Ocean Sailing Academy here in Durban. I enclose a weatherfax from the day before we got hit. You see there are four secondaries and I doubt that this is the whole story. The most severe weather I had experienced before (I was in the British Royal Navy in the middle sixties and joining HMS Jaguar in Mauritius steamed directly into a tropical cyclone on my first night on board!) was an English Channel storm - also the product of secondary depressions forming along the cold front of a tired larger depression. A further point is this: the High coming in behind the front intensified quite dramatically, reaching something over 1040.

The crew consisted of myself and two young, non-sailing surfers - one English, one Kiwi. At 0600, 30 November 1995, I remarked in the log that we had "8 oktas of stratiform cloud" and a sunrise "definitely by Turner." Also, I saw my first Wandering Albatross since the Great Australian Bight. I wrote, unfortunately in the circumstance, quoting the Ancient Mariner:

            And all averred I'd killed the bird

            That made the wind to blow

I should add that we'd been at sea a fair while, and these were by no means odder-than-usual remarks. The wind had backed North. I expected a bit of a fuss along the lines you get when two Southern Highs change places. The wind goes round the clock with a puff before giving something like a steady tradewind again. I thought we were too far North to get storm winds. I see from the log we averaged 9 to 10 knots for the following 10 hours. At 1500 the wind backed further to NW and dropped to zero at 1600. At 1900 we had a partially clearing sky followed by a lot of lightning. Then, by starlight, we noted the approach of some distinctly sinister low-level black clouds - like smoke almost. I rebuked Jon who was watchkeeper for dropping all sail, and insisted that he haul it all up again! (Oh the folly of experience!) Suddenly we had very strong wind from the SW. We belayed hoisting the jib which we had been in the process of reefing (no roller-furler... Orinoco Flo is fractional-rigged and has a relatively small, 20 sq. meter jib) and hove-to on the port tack.

Heaving-to under wingmast is a relatively new item in the seamanship manual. I had read about it twice, once when the delivery crew of a Tektron 35 cat described it in Multihull International Magazine (they were delivering it to Europe from Canada) and again when Randy Smyth and a French crew, having a go at the Jules Verne Trophy on a French cat,- "parked her," in their words, in 80-knot winds off Cape Horn. You lower your windward daggerboard halfway, raise your leeward one totally; you rotate the mast to windward and tie your tillers off to lee, and the result (for us) was a fairly controlled fore-reach at 3.5 knots 100 degrees off the wind. In other words, we made WNW. Overnight we made 35 miles in that direction. I seem to remember thinking that Mozambique was about 36 hours away!

The disadvantage of heaving-to in this manner is that you are beam on to the seas. My log is neither enlightening nor coherent from this point on. I did seem to write down that the Ampair (wind generator) was "going moderately ape" (not Cruising Club medal stuff this). There is then a bit of a gap overnight whilst Mark and I sat up in foul weather gear anxiously watching the sea through the doors of the saloon. Nothing too spectacular at first. But we were impressed when some whitewater pitched over the boom whilst filling the cockpit. That is a clear pitch of at least nine feet, and if that was the top 20% of the wave perhaps.... Shortly thereafter the wind built to something well in excess of storm force and certainly achieved 70 knots. (American friends on the yacht Mora were in Richards Bay 98 miles from us at the time of the storm and the wind was recorded at 69 knots in the harbor there). Quoting from an article by Dr. Eckart Schumann, "Giant Wave - Anomalous Seas of the Agulhas Current:"

"Many waves, in fact, break because of their extreme steepness. The mechanism involved is not only a `squeezing up' of the wave profile but also an actual transfer of energy between the current and the waves. The extent of the transfer depends upon the current's strength and the wave's period.... a shorter-period wave will increase in height more than a longer period wave."

So the earlier "smaller" big waves were steeper because of

A) shorter wave length,

B) stronger current.

Remembering your remarks about the sailor who was hauled up-wind by his para-anchor off Pt. Conception, when we finally got out the para-anchor we discovered from the GPS that the current temporarily reversed under the weight of the sustained storm force wind and we made 1/2 knots northwards for a while. So, the fully-developed sea produced a longer wave-length and the current reversal reduced the energy transfer to the wave. Hence the more orderly later, larger, fully-developed sea.

On with the tale. By eight in the morning my nerves were fairly stretched (I'm not terribly tolerant of sustained fear). I looked out at what the dawn revealed and felt distinctly depressed with the situation. There was a very big sea running and some quite impressive chunks of whitewater breaking off the top. I've been surfing for thirty years and my two crew members were good surfers. We had surfed very big waves at Ombak Tujuh in Java. Surfers tend to call wave size down on what an oceanographer might call it. We reckoned 45 ft. I guess it was the doublers and triplers that kept us a bit shaky. Still, we probably wouldn't have set the para-anchor if the following had not occurred. (What? Go up on that scary trampoline netting and get strained through it like a pilchard? Not on your life.) A wave struck us hard on the port quarter at 0800. The port tiller - jerked by the movement of the rudder through the water as the boat slid sideways under the weight of the wave - snapped like a twig. (The tiller was constructed of laminated mahogany and carbon fiber). The thought of breaking the second tiller overcame our inertia and we decided the para-anchor had to be deployed.

Having managed without the para-anchor for two years and 30,000 miles, and having bought it on the principle that if you have an umbrella it certainly won't rain, I'm sure you will understand that the instructions had long since gone adrift, dissolved no doubt, in the solution of seawater and other more or less toxic effluent that swills about in most well-ordered cruising boats from time to time. In addition, the carefully spliced bridle lines and clean, break-free rode that had been set aside for use with the para-anchor two years previously had long since been co-opted into more worthwhile employment as anchor lines, mooring lines and baggy-wrinkle for crossing-the-line ceremonies. Some was lost, some chafed-through and some broken. In the event, the para-anchor went out without a float, without a recovery line, without a bridle and with four knots in the rode. In addition I made the mistake of placing the anchor chain next to the parachute and that made recovery a particularly tedious procedure. However I did remember the critical point - TO GET LOADSA LINE OUT. And it took quite a while to get it all out, one meter at a time as the bows pumped it up. Actually, we were lucky to get it out at all as I did set up a bridle which fouled - we released it prematurely and started to run over it as we continued for-reaching relentlessly. And you have to know: the load is phenomenal once the 18' diameter parachute pops open.

We came up head on to the seas. Bliss - Hamlet cigar, TV-ad music (Pachelbel's Canon). We still stressed a bit on the perfectly reasonable assumption that our cocktail of lines & chain, and our cat's cradle of knots (double sheetbends) would certainly part. But no... the worst that happened from then on was a sharp jerk as the bows were yanked down as we came up over a big steep one. Neither shall I describe the view from the netting down into the hellish pit of a steep one, nor the view up onto the deep blue walls with the crests hanging up there - awful and sublime, and slightly higher than the sky - nor the absurdity of clinging to the netting with your toes and fingers like a Galapagos Marine Iguana while deploying the para-anchor, because all that is an accepted part of the fun of going sailing. Thanks... the thing works! We actually slept that night as the storm blew itself out! We will get it more right the next time, though, as they say in Morocco, "only Allah is perfect."

S/C-14 Catamaran, Edel Cat


Catamaran, Edel Cat

35' x 19' x 3.5 Tons

15-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8-9 Conditions


File S/C-14, obtained from Jack Goodman, Arlington, VA. - Vessel name Cat Morgan, hailing port Lusby, MD, catamaran, designed by Maurice Edel, LOA 35' x Beam 19' 10" x Draft 2' 10" x 3.5 Tons - Sea anchor: 15-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 350' x 3/4" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 25' each, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip line - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 150 miles WNW of Bermuda, with winds of 40-50 knots and seas of 15-20 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 6 n.m. during 12 hours at sea anchor.

Bermuda bound sailors seem to be high on King Neptune's hit list. Transcript:

We were sailing to Bermuda from the Chesapeake Bay with the '95 Bermuda Cruising Rally. The second and third days it rained and blew. We were either beating in one squall, or becalmed and waiting for another one. The fourth morning found the wind blowing straight from Bermuda and strengthening. The waves grew much larger and more irregular than they should have been with 40 knots of wind. Very awkward. We seemed to be in between two different weather systems. The forecast was uncertain and we were growing tired. (We later found out that we had been sailing in the southern quadrant of a counter clockwise eddy, with the current against the wind. Had we beat southward ten more miles we would have been in much calmer seas).

By noon the irregular - pyramid shaped - waves had increased to 20 feet, so we decided to try out our 15 ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor. We took all sail down and ran with the wind at nine knots until the parachute was rigged and ready. With our outboard motor running at full bore we were just able to turn the boat 45° into the wind. I then dunked the parachute bag and float into the water on the windward side of the bow. Even though I was aware that the trip line could foul, and was therefore careful in full daylight, it still got wrapped around the shrouds of the parachute. The chute still opened, and since the [partial] trip line was not close by, I let it go (I could not have pulled it back anyway).

I slowly let out 350' of the 400' x 3/4" nylon braid rode and cleated it off to the port bow. Using a rolling hitch, I tied a 5/8" Dacron line to the 3/4" tether, let out 25 feet and cleated it off on the starboard side [re: Fig 38 in File S/T-6]. I then uncleated the port side and eased it out until the bridle sides were of equal length and re-cleated it. The boat rode bow to the wind, veering no more than 10° to either side. No water came on deck. Aside from the noise of the wind - and the going up and down like a mad elevator - it was quite comfortable inside. We cooked and ate a large steak dinner, left one crew member on watch and went to bed.

At midnight the wind dropped to about 20 knots and the boat sat 90° to the wind. We decided to retrieve the parachute. Motoring into the wind only allowed the chute to sink, causing more strain on the line. We found the best strategy was to wrap the line around a sheet winch and take in slack after every wave. This kept the chute close to the surface and was quite easy, albeit slow. When the chute was close enough we grabbed a shroud line with a boat hook and pulled it aboard. No strain on the boat or hard work - just two hours of time.

Notes: During the 12 hours with the sea anchor we drifted 6 miles east, with the wind from the southwest. I now believe that after the wind dies down a little and my boat wants to lie beam to the seas, I will tie the parachute off the stern until it is time to pull it in. When we got to Bermuda I removed the trip line. Getting the chute back is secondary. If we ever need to use the parachute again we won't mind the extra hour required to pull it in. Also, in order to set the sea anchor, the next time I will heave-to with only the reefed mainsail [sheeted in tight], instead of using the motor to bring the head up into the wind to deploy the parachute. One of the nice things about the Edel Cat is that the cleats are on top of a rounded deck with NO CHOCKS. The bridle lines went directly from the cleats to the parachute touching only the smooth deck or forward aluminum cross beam at extreme angles, hence hardly any chafe at all. From now on we will always carry a parachute when offshore. Not just for storms, but equipment failure and extreme fatigue.


S/C-12 Catamaran, Prout


Catamaran, Prout

39' x 18' x 9 Tons

18-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9-10 Conditions


File S/C-12, obtained from Sackville J. Currie, Blaney, Ireland - Vessel name An t-Iompodh Deisiol, hailing port Sligo, Ireland, "Escale" catamaran, designed by Prout, LOA 39' x Beam 18' x Draft 3' x 9 Tons - Sea anchor: 18-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 5/8" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 60' each, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip line - Deployed in a whole gale in deep water about 90 miles northeast of Casablanca, Morocco, with winds of 45-52 knots and seas of 15-18 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 20-30° - Drift was estimated to be 7-8 n.m. during 36 hours at sea anchor.

Sackville J. Currie is the envy of every landlubber on the planet earth. Having sailed multihulls all over Japan as Prout's agent over there, he had the Prout brothers custom-design a 39-ft. Escale for himself, which he named An t-Iompodh Deisiol (pronounced Aan Umple Jesshul), Gaelic for "the place of turning sunwise."

After launching her in 1993 in Ireland he went on a three year - 18,000 mile - cruise. He sailed her down the Iberian Peninsula to North Africa, and then across the Atlantic to Brazil. After spending six months in Brazil, it was on to Venezuela, and then exotic Central American locations, and then the Leeward Islands, and finally onto Miami.

His article entitled Xcalac Con Escala, appearing in the November/December 1996 issue of Multihulls Magazine, gives the reader an inside view of what modern catamaran cruising is all about. Reading it will make any sailor's mouth water.

Imagine exploring the Caribbean on a seaworthy, handsome, luxurious, comfortable catamaran. Imagine swift passages to Trinidad and Tobago, Port of Spain, Bonaire and the Dutch Antilles, Curacao, Aruba, Cartagena, Bay Islands of Honduras and Roatan. Imagine a leisurely foray up Guatemala's Rio Dulce, which is navigable forty miles inland and is punctuated by numerous lakes that teem with gentle manatees. Imagine exploring the heart of the Central American rain forest on a spacious, ocean going catamaran, using twin diesels to power into mile-long winding canyons festooned with lush vegetation, cormorants, snowy egrets and thousands of green butterflies, to say nothing of running into the occasional lost Mayan city. Some people have all the luck.

Sackville's J. Currie's good luck is more than earned by his careful attention to details and planning, however. He knows the territory, so to speak, picking his routes and seasons carefully, always ready and prepared to run the unexpected gauntlet. And the gauntlets that Currie has run include a number of vicious ladies, among them Opal and Roxanne - hurricanes that devastated Yucatan and Guatemala in 1994. Currie barely managed to escape with the skin of his teeth.

Ah but then a miss is as good as a mile!

And as for the storms that he couldn't avoid, well that's what the parachute sea anchor was for. He deployed one in a nasty blow on the way to the Canaries from Casablanca. The bows of the Escale were yawing 20-30°, occasionally knocked to 40° by breaking waves. Currie said he was not worried about it, seeing how that it was a shock absorbing mechanism. (The yacht absorbs much of the shock of a breaking wave by pivoting on her CLR). A few lives were lost elsewhere in this storm. Transcript:

From Casablanca we set off for the Canaries. Within 24 hours the wind was up to F-7 on the nose, and still rising. Gale/storm lasted for 3 full days. For the first 12 hours we sailed into it to get searoom. About 95 miles off the African coast we hove to under staysail. The boat lay 50° off the wind and waves. Made 2 knots of drift, also took a lot of damage from waves crashing into our side (cockpit dodger broken, autopilot, wind instruments and GPS out of action). Once we deployed the parachute, we took waves on the bow, much better. The new deployment bag works very well. Motion on parachute was not nice though, we got seasick and some whip-lashing at stern.

We used a partial trip line with two fenders. The polypropylene trip line got twisted up - we will try a swivel here next time. In retrospect we should have deployed the parachute earlier, then we would have had no damage. To recover, we waited till wind and seastate moderated, then motored up to the fender.

We also use the parachute when we want a rest or when we have to go up the mast at sea, and to avoid nighttime landfalls, deploying it when still 20 miles offshore, and retrieving it in the early hours to allow arrival in daylight. 

S/M-40 Monohull, Alden Ketch


Monohull, Alden Ketch

50' x 15 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

18-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9-10 Conditions


File S/M-40, obtained from Steven McAbee, Lihue, Hawaii - Vessel name Celtic, hailing port Dutch Harbor (Alaska), monohull, cruising ketch designed by John Alden, LOA 50' x LWL 33' x Beam 12' 6' x Draft 5' 6" x 15 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Sea anchor: 18' Diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 3/4" nylon three strand rode and 150' chain, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - Deployed in a whole gale in deep water about 500 miles south of Dutch Harbor with winds of 45-50 knots and seas of 20-25 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° with reefed mizzen flying - Drift was about 22 n.m. during 5 days at sea anchor.

Celtic is a 45-ft. center cockpit ketch built by Fuji Shipyards in 1975. In June 1996 she left Dutch Harbor, Alaska, headed for Hawaii and the South Pacific. On board were owner Steven McAbee, wife Pamela and son Zach. A few days out they ran into a succession of gales in the Gulf of Alaska. McAbee was well-prepared and deployed an 18-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor. Celtic spent the next five days at sea anchor, her heavy, reefed mizzen keeping her bow nicely snubbed into the seas. The following is a transcript of Steven McAbee's article Crossing Gale Alley, appearing in the November/December 1997 issue of Ocean Navigator Magazine (reproduced by permission):

We had fully expected gales and had made preparations for them. Up on the bow, ready to deploy, was a Para-Tech sea anchor complete with trip line, buoys, 3/4-inch rode, and chain catenary. In the lazarette we had stowed a Seabrake Drogue with its own dedicated rode/catenary and bridle. We had Mustang exposure suits for foul weather on deck, harnesses and snap lines for each of us, immersion suits for abandon ship, flares, handheld VHF and GPS, survival supplies, and a 406 EPIRB. We also had Celtic, a proven storm survivor.

Nevertheless, as the low continued to deepen and it became apparent that we would have to deal with it, an old familiar dread began to live in my guts. How bad would it get? Would the sea anchor and drogue work? Although we had practiced deploying them, it had been in relatively calm conditions. We were 500 miles from the nearest land and out of the shipping lanes on a big and lonely ocean. There would be no help coming. Whatever happened, we would have to deal with it ourselves. At night we listened on the SSB to other vessels, some in distress. A 49-foot ketch 400 miles south of Adak lost her rudder and was pummeled by 25-ft. seas. Kamishak Queen, a vessel we were familiar with, sank in Nuka Bay. A tripped EPIRB had been detected in Bristol Bay. The weather forecast called for 45-knot winds and 25-ft. seas. If the low stayed on track we would be in the worst possible place: south of the center and on the backside, the zone of highest wind and seas.

Throughout the day the winds and seas increased. As the wind shifted around from northwest to west to southwest and then south, our progress slowed until we found ourselves beating into 30-knot winds and eight-foot seas. The time had come to make a major strategy decision: Should we bear off to the west or east and try to make a few miles of southing in the worsening conditions? Or would it be better to deploy the sea anchor and sit out the gale?

After due consideration, we decided to use the sea anchor. The Para-Tech was connected to 400 feet of 3/4-inch nylon rode with a stainless steel swivel. All rode ends had spliced eyes with steel thimbles, and in the middle of the rode we had spliced in 20 feet of 1/2-inch galvanized chain to act as a catenary. After a practice deployment before the trip, we had decided to connect the bitter end of the rode to the chain anchor rode and deploy 150 of that. Additionally, we lashed the anchor chain to the bow roller to prevent it from jumping out as Celtic rode the waves into the trough.

We had packed the sea anchor, trip line, and rode into a large canvas bag and lashed it to the bow rail with the bitter end hanging out a hole cut in the bottom. All we had to do was unlash the bag, shackle the bitter end to the anchor chain (the [steel] anchor had been disconnected and stored below for the open ocean), attach the buoys to the trip line, and let her go. Everything went smoothly, and soon we were securely moored to the Para-Tech. We hoisted a reefed mizzen, secured everything on deck, and went below. As night fell we began to feel the full fury of the storm. The rising wind was blowing a steady 40 knots, gusting to more than 50, while the seas built.

I was really pleased with the performance of the sea anchor and the way Celtic rode. During the five days of gale winds at 40 to 50 knots and seas of 18 to 25 feet, I never felt we were in any immediate danger. As the storm worsened and seas began to break over Celtic, I began to wish I had some way to attach all that chain and rode to the bobstay eye on Celtic's stem so her bow would ride higher, but there was no changing anything once it was set. As each monster wave approached, Celtic would back up, much like a retreating Muhammed Ali against a charging Joe Frazier, and let the impact roll under her. Huge waves would break on us, darkening the cabin as green water rolled over the ports.

We were alone. We thought about all the stories we'd heard about vessels slowly breaking up under similar onslaughts: seams opening, through-hulls loosening, cockpit drains plugging. We had made all the preparations we could; all we could do was remain alert and deal with whatever happened.

We set up a radio schedule with the Kodiak Coast Guard Communication Base, better known as CommSta Kodiak, and every four hours we gave them our position, weather conditions, and vessel status. It was a comfort to speak with someone, and the sound of the radio operator's voice and the obvious concern of everyone at the station about our safety was really comforting.... By the time the storm abated, we'd had our fill of granola bars, crackers, and pop. We'd also had our fill of gales. For the last week it had been hard sleep, except for Zach, who was unflappable and able to sleep while weightless and bouncing off the ceiling. We were exhausted.

Unfortunately, the weatherfax showed another developing low headed in our direction, and we decided to make a run for it. The wind had switched around to the west but had dropped to near calm. I proposed that we fire up the engine and run south for 48 hours. That would get us about 300 miles farther and hopefully get us out of what we had come to refer to as "gale alley." Pamela and Zach both agreed, and in short order we were underway.

Forty-eight hours later, on July 8, 13 days after leaving Unalaska, we shut down the engine for the last time. We estimated that we had about 10 gallons of fuel left, and we had consumed much of our perishable food supplies. Counting four days in English Bay and the five days hove to during the gale, we had spent a total of nine days going nowhere. We still had a long way to sail, so after considering everything, we decided to head for Hawaii, where we could re-supply and recuperate before going on to the Marshall Islands. With the wind out of the west and Hawaii just 1,200 miles due south of us, we suddenly felt eager and optimistic....

Twenty-seven days after casting off from Dutch Harbor, Celtic entered Nawiliwili Bay on the southeast corner of the island of Kauai. 

S/M-38 Tayana Surprise


Tayana Surprise

46' x 13 Tons, Fin Keel

18-Ft. Dia. Para-Anchor

Force 12 Conditions

File S/M-39, obtained from Stephen Edwards & Deborah Schutz, Henley Beach, South Australia - Vessel name Prisana II, hailing port Adelaide, Tayana Surprise ketch, designed by Pieter Beeldsnidser, LOA 46' x LWL 40' x Beam 13' 4" x Draft 6' 10" x 13 Tons - Fin keel - Sea anchor: 18-ft. Diameter para-anchor (Para-Anchors Australia) on 410' x 3/4" nylon three strand rode with 3/4" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip-line - Deployed in a storm in deep water about 75 miles west of Cape Bouvard (Western Australia), with winds of 65-80 knots and seas of 40-60 feet, with microbursts evident - Vessel's bow yawed 20-30° during 59 hours at sea anchor. Drift was affected by a southerly current.

This important file was initially forwarded by Alby McCracken of Para-Anchors Australia, to whom we are indebted. The sea anchor used was 18 feet in diameter, manufactured by Para-Anchors Australia. Stephen Edwards and Deborah Schutz are quite certain that it saved the boat. The winter storm that they ran into may have been reinforced by microbursts, judging by the thunderstorm activity, and by the tornado that left a 2-mile long swath of destruction through South Perth.

Deborah Schutz was kind enough to send a clipping from the July 17, 1996 edition of The West Australian. The headline reads "South Perth Hit by Rare Tornado." Accompanying photographs show the twister's fury as it rampaged through South Perth, taking roofs off of houses and uprooting trees. The Australian Weather Bureau's severe weather meteorologist, Tony Bannister, said the tornado probably originated west of Rottnest Island, traveling at about 80 km/h at sea, increasing in intensity and sporting 200 km/h winds when touching down at Perth.

Prisana II is heavy, with a lot of windage - two equal height masts, both with in-mast furling. She was en route to Dampier, Western Australia, from her home port of Adelaide, South Australia, when she ran into this freak storm.

Perhaps we have a recurrence of the same sort of freak events that Gold Eagle ran into in File S/T-15, where we find Dr. Andrew Cserny writing, "Sometime during the night we were hit by an immensely strong burst of wind which I presumed must have been a twister, because the pressure inside the pilot house fluctuated rapidly, the windows rattled, the doors to the pilot house rattled, and the sliding hatches tried to come off the top of the boat.... The wind shrieked horribly with pitch and intensity I have never heard before." Gold Eagle was later struck by a rogue wave. So was Prisana II, leading your authors to believe that these may have been microburst-generated ESWs - extreme storm waves. Transcript:

Sunday July 14th, 1996: By nightfall we were almost abeam Cape Naturaliste. Our weather fax showed a complex low was fast approaching. Due to our position, the unfamiliar coastline and the wind direction (40 knots NNE) there were no safe anchorage along the coast here in these conditions. Our motor was playing up and the option of using our sea anchor already considered, but due to the number of ships in the vicinity, we decided to keep going. We reduced sails, expecting the winds to swing SW with the approaching front, which we'd use to get us to Fremantle. We were wrong! Throughout the night Mother Nature unleashed a storm of unrelenting fury, NNE to 50 knots with large seas - our only choice to head out to sea [starboard tack].

Monday July 15th: At first light we came about [port tack]. Perth Radio issued another gale force warning. The barometer read 996 and was rapidly falling. By evening strong west winds were in force, the barometer now at 990, though seas had moderated. As the night progressed, squalls reached 60 knots and lightning could be seen behind us as we traveled in a northerly direction [parallel to the coast of Western Australia]. The ferocity of the storm was intensifying. The needle on our wind indicator went beyond the last notch (65 knots) and the seas were dramatically increasing in height. At approximately 0500 hrs a huge wall of water knocked us down. The helmsman stood chest-high in water (thankfully harnessed) and our masts leaned to starboard, touching the surface of the ocean. We deployed the sea anchor, then all crew below and hatches battened. At this point we were 30 nautical miles off Rottnest Island.

Tuesday July 16th: During the morning I ventured above to the cockpit and was immediately awestruck. The seas were incredibly huge. I soon retreated below. I later found out the seas were reported to be 11 meters on top of a 9 meter swell - the faces of the waves around 60 feet. We currently had plenty of sea room and were drifting in a southerly direction at 1 knot. The parachute anchor held us steady, as the winds, sounding cyclonic, whirled over 70 knots. Waves drenched the deck as we rolled from side to side. For 24 hours we drifted in this direction, towards Naturaliste Reef.

"Tuesday July 16th: During the morning I ventured above to the cockpit and was immediately awestruck. The seas were incredibly huge. I soon retreated below.... The parachute anchor held us steady, as the winds, sounding cyclonic, whirled over 70 knots." (Photo credit: Deborah Schutz).
"Tuesday July 16th: During the morning I ventured above to the cockpit and was immediately awestruck. The seas were incredibly huge. I soon retreated below.... The parachute anchor held us steady, as the winds, sounding cyclonic, whirled over 70 knots." (Photo credit: Deborah Schutz).

Wednesday July 17th: We were drifting east and we now know that we were in the Leeuwin Current. The Leeuwin Current runs southward down the continental shelf from Indonesia, bringing masses of warm water. It begins flowing around April each year, through October, seldom moving faster than 1 knot in a band approximately 50 kilometers wide. The weather remained unchanged. All day long the winds continued to blow over 70 knots and we were now down almost as far as Bunbury, having crossed over, above the Naturaliste Reef. A large cargo ship had just lost 30 containers off Cape Leeuwin. The Adelaide media reported that a cyclone had hit Perth.

Thursday July 18th: Conditions were moderating, winds now down to 50 knots and the barometer slowly began to rise - seas still large but easing. Late in the afternoon we retrieved the para-anchor (which wasn't easy), and she came up with a hole in her. Our 130 meters of rope had stretched an extra 20 meters. The wind now blowing 30-40 knots - felt like a mere breeze as we set course for Rottnest Island. Friday July 19th, around 1030 hrs we motored into the Fremantle Sailing Club, grateful that we had decided to purchase a parachute anchor. With it we were able to ride out and survive the conditions - our bow held into the seas. The Weather Bureau in Perth described the freak weather as a rare winter tornado. It struck the coast with 200 km/h winds.

In the face of this important file, Victor Shane contacted Deborah Schutz & Stephen Edwards regarding a few more questions, and received additional answers as follows:

Was the deployment fairly easy? We preformed a "Flying Set" and deployment was relatively easy. The anchor rode was fixed to a strong point at our bow, led aft and held in position by plastic cable ties at 6-inch intervals along the port side toe rail to a deployment bag containing 125 meters of 18mm 3-strand nylon anchor rode. This was set up prior to our departure from Adelaide to cross the Great Australian Bight. Deployment simply involved reaching from the safety of the cockpit to the rode deployment bag, unlacing the top - removing the end of the rode and shackling it to the parachute anchor. Trip line floats were then fed overboard, followed by para-anchor in deployment bag. Within approximately 30 seconds, we had taken up all the rode and the vessel was gently pulled into the wind, allowing us to lower the sails.

How did the boat behave at sea anchor? Generally it appeared to be falling off 20 to 30 degrees, though it's difficult to be precise as we were below deck for nearly the whole duration of the storm. Occasionally we fell back on the rode and fell away to somewhere near 45°, approx. once every half hour, maybe due to rogue waves coming in on a different angle - hard to tell from down below.

What about the disposition of the rudder? The rudder was lashed to center at the quadrant, which broke twice - 6mm pre-stretched cord broke first, then 16mm nylon braid also didn't hold. We managed to make it hold on 18mm nylon anchor rode. Small twist, 10-15° in 2-inch 316 stainless steel rudder shaft at the point where quadrant is fixed.

What about chafe? Due to the set up of 1 meter of chain at the bow we had no chafing.

Any green water come on deck? Yes, Steve said there was a small amount, compared to the 2-3 foot of white water that washed over the deck.

General impressions of strains involved? We've realized the attachment point on bow needs to be extremely strong. Parachute anchor was shackled to 1/2 inch chain link welded to ship's anchor. Our ship's anchor was stored below deck level via custom bow fitting [as with large ships, the forward part of the anchor left protruding out of the bow, and the para-anchor rode shackled directly to the ship's anchor by a 1 meter length of chain], then secured aft by 3/8 inch Ronstan rigging screws, secured to a 10mm stainless steel plate, bolted under the anchor winch. Winch and plate fastened by 6 x 3/8 inch stainless steel studs. Both the fixing point to the ship's anchor and to the plate were backed up by secondary systems. Ronstan rigging screw had 10mm chain back-up. Fixing to anchor was backed up by 5/8 inch stainless steel bolt, through anchor cheeks. Both systems failed! Ronstan rigging screw had 8 turns of thread removed. Back-up held, but ship's anchor smashed around, causing damage to our stainless steel bow fitting. Chain-link welded to ship's anchor was torn off and secondary chain from nylon rode took up the weight on 5/8 inch stainless steel bolt through anchor cheeks.

Did you use a full trip line? No, partial trip line - 2 floats and 2 x 15 meter lines with swivels.

Was retrieval easy? Not really. Wind was still strong (40-45 knots) and seas were still huge and getting steeper due to the shallowing depths as we got close to the coast - running out of sea room. Due to the noise from the wind and seas it was difficult to hear skipper's instructions from the bow to the helm and we fouled the rode on the propeller.

How big was the tear in the para-anchor? Two large, well frayed holes in two separate panels, between the venthole and the skirt.

Did the para-anchor save the boat? Absolutely!!! In the conditions we were caught in, we believe having our para-anchor set up, ready for deployment prior to leaving port, was crucial in the safe and easy deployment. Seas were huge - by far the biggest we had ever seen. Parachute rode was spanning one swell, being ripped out of the troughs and pulled taut. There was much white water being swept from the swell tops - large rolling loads of white water. Prisana II took many loads of white water across the deck, (maybe 2-3 feet of white water coming over the bow). The conditions were so bad that it was impossible to be anywhere on deck. We used a harness just to visit the cockpit - almost all of our time was spent below deck. The noise of the wind whirling outside was incredible.

We had a close encounter with a container ship slowly jogging into the storm, headed our way on the dawn of day two. Our radio contact was first answered by another ship, Australian, six miles away, and they informed us that this container ship was a foreign vessel, also mentioning that they didn't envy us one bit. After ten long minutes the container ship finally answered our call and his broken English caused us a minor panic - he didn't seem eager to alter his course! He told us he had no ballast and that he couldn't even see us! After persuading him to alter course by 10-15 degrees he passed us by only 0.4 nautical miles away - confirmed by our radar. The seas were so big that we were totally losing sight of this container ship (approx 400 foot long with an extensive bridge structure) behind the swells.