File S/P-9, obtained from Captain G.T. Bodiford, Jr., Panama City, FL. - Vessel name Arizona, hailing port Galveston, TX, Tuna longliner designed by Master Marine, LOA 79' x LWL 70' x Beam 24' x Draft 8' 9" x 87 Tons - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 300' x 7/8" nylon three strand rode, with 5/8" galvanized swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in storm in deep water about 400 miles SSE of New Orleans with winds of 50 knots and seas of 20 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 18 n.m. during 40 hours at sea anchor.
Two generations of Bodifords have been fishing the Gulf of Mexico for tuna, using parachutes for station keeping and sea layovers. On the occasion of this file the F/V Arizona was approximately 400 nautical miles south-south-east of New Orleans when she was overtaken by a Tropical Depression. She was too far offshore to duck back into port so Captain Bodiford decided ride it out on the 24-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor.
At the height of the storm the wind was sustained at 55 knots out of the NE, occasionally gusting to 80. Seas were about 17-20 feet. Arizona is a large, heavy boat, weighing in at almost 90 tons. She was hove to the para-anchor for a total of 40 hours without any problems. She drifted about 18 miles in that time.
File S/P-8, obtained from Captain Clark B. Fay, Pelican, Alaska - Vessel name Arch Angel, hailing port Alaska, commercial fishing schooner, LOA 65' x LWL 56' x Beam 16' x Draft 11' x 49 Tons - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 600' x 1" nylon three strand rode, with 3/4" bronze ball bearing swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in a storm in deep water in the Gulf of Alaska with winds of 75 knots and seas of 30 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was uncertain due to 3-4 knot westerly current.
Captain Clark B. Fay is also a veteran of the Alaskan fisheries. He has been through many a gale and not too few storms. Arch Angel weighs in at 49 tons, has a draft of 11 feet and, according to Fay, has been tethered to her 24-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor hundreds of times.
On the occasion of this file, winds were hurricane strength with occasional gusts to 90 knots. Seas were as great as 30 ft. Shock absorption was provided by a full spool - 600'- of one inch nylon three strand. Transcript:
I use the sea anchor almost daily during the spring when I am offshore, and occasionally during bad weather in the summer and fall. Only an idiot fishes up here in the winter. A good swivel is an absolute must. I use a commercial fishing swivel that salmon purse seign vessels use on their purse lines, rated at 32,000 lbs. It has three races of stainless steel ball bearings, and the body is made from bronze. Cost is about $200.00, available from Redden Net Co., Bellingham, Washington.
With enough line payed out I've never found a catenary (chain) system at all necessary and I wouldn't want to have to haul back the extra weight. I use a Poly-Pro trip line and run it all the way back to the boat, using a power winch to haul the rig back.
File S/P-6, obtained from Captain Paul Clampitt, Everett, WA - Vessel name Majestic, hailing port Seattle, converted 1923 wood schooner, LOA 65' x LWL 58' x Beam 16' x Draft 13' x 33 Tons - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 600' x 3/4" nylon braid rode, with 3/4" bronze ball-bearing swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in a southeasterly gale in 300 fathoms of water about 40 miles south of Yakutat Bay, Alaska, with winds of 40-50 knots and seas of 20-30 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 20°
Washington fisherman Paul Clampitt is the owner of the 65-ft. schooner Majestic. While longlining, he routinely uses a 24-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor for station keeping, allowing the crew to get a good night's sleep offshore. On the occasion of this file the same 24-ft. sea anchor was used in a southeasterly gale in the Gulf of Alaska. The para-anchor did a good job of holding the bow of the boat into the seas - bearing in mind that this is a converted 1923 wood schooner with a full keel and stern draft of 13 feet. Transcript:
The parachute sea anchor requires some skill to learn how to properly deploy. We deploy it using a "flying set," by setting the chute off the stern and allowing it to open, then turning the helm upwind with the engine in neutral. The main advantage in using the anchor is in getting a good night's sleep without having to man the helm through a gale. We have yet to use the chute in true storm conditions, because in life-threatening situations I don't want to experiment, and prefer to have a man on constant watch - so we might as well maintain steerage way by jogging up into the seas. But it is a comfort to know the chute is available for deployment in case of loss of power.
In our case the chute doesn't really help that much in stopping the boat from drifting, however, because most of our drift occurs from strong tides in our areas of operation and the vessel and chute drift at the same rate in these situations.
File S/P-5, obtained from Captain Dennis Crosby, Youngstown, FL. - Vessel name Ashly G, hailing port Panama City, FL, Thompson trawler, LOA 55' x LWL 50' x Beam 18' x Draft 10' x 60 Tons - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 3/4" nylon three strand rode, with 3/4" galvanized swivel - Partial trip line - Deployed in low system in deep water about 150 miles south of Mobile, Alabama, with winds of 35-45 knots and seas of 15 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 4-5 n.m. during 24 hours at sea anchor.
Ashly G's partially torn sea anchor came back for repairs a number of years ago. Upon inspection the first thing Victor Shane noticed was that the canopy was inside out! The skipper of the boat could not recall how this came about. Most sea anchors and parachutes have a heavier, skeletal, web framework that cradles and reinforce the lighter canopy material. If the parachute is used inside out high loads may tear the canopy away from the radial basket, which is probably what had happened here.
Upon further inspection Shane also noticed heavy damage in the vent-hole area.
The vent-hole is the discharge orifice incorporated into the top of the canopy to afford stability and shock absorption. This is a very critical area where there is tremendous water pressure trying to squeeze through a small hole. The nylon cloth of the parachute is not strong enough to withstand the pressure, so the vent-hole has to be heavily reinforced with webbing - it is the strong webbing that takes up the strain, and not the lighter canopy material. And indeed, in this case it had been redundantly reinforced.
So what could have happened?
Further investigation revealed the culprit: CHAFE! The trip line has to be tied off to something. Usually that something is the webbing that reinforces the vent-hole. In daily use the trip line rubs and pulls against the webbing. Chafe does the rest. Once the reinforcing webbing has chafed through the high loads have to be born by the lighter canopy itself, usually resulting in failure of major proportions.
Shane was quick to bring the matter to the attention of Para-Tech's Don Whilldin. A master parachute rigger and veteran skydiver (more than 1000 jumps), Whilldin went to work and redesigned the critical vent-hole area.
All Para-Tech sea anchors now have a separate recovery bridle, to which the trip line may be attached independently of the critical webbing that reinforces the vent-hole.
File S/P-4, obtained from Captain Bobby Lucas, Youngstown, FL. - Vessel name Captain Gorman III, hailing port Panama City, FL, commercial F/V, designed by Davis, LOA 70' x LWL 66' x Beam 20' x Draft 7' x 30 Tons - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 600' x 7/8" nylon braid rode, with 5/8" galvanized swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in a whole gale in deep water about 150 miles SE of Morgan City, Louisiana, with winds of 45-60 knots and seas of 15-20 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was 8-10 n.m. during 48 hours at sea anchor.
Captain Gorman III is one of numerous commercial F/Vs that work the Gulf of Mexico out of Panama City, Florida. Many are equipped with sea anchor. Some carry 1000 feet of nylon rode on a hydraulically operated reel. Captain Gorman III routinely uses her 24-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor for sea layovers and station-keeping offshore. In March 1988 her skipper, Bobby Lucas, deployed it about 150 miles south of the Louisiana coast in a gale. Transcript:
I am a longliner fisherman for tuna and swordfish, and I fish anywhere from 100 to 200 miles offshore. During the winter I am in a lot of rough weather. I used to idle into the sea or idle with the sea to keep from lying dead in the water and getting hit broadside by big waves. It is very dangerous not to have any way of anchoring. Now I always carry my 24-ft. sea anchor so that I can get my bow around into the sea and keep from lying in the trough in rough weather. I have been anchored in 50 knot winds, gusting 70, and seas of 12-20 ft. for as long as 48 hours. Without the sea anchor it would have been a very uncomfortable ride and possibly I would have had to steam in to port. Offshore, it is necessary to have a sea anchor.
File S/T-20, obtained from Gary Habersetzer, Raymond, WA - Vessel name Amenity, hailing port San Diego, Tri-Star ketch designed by Ed Horstman, LOA 40' x Beam 24' x Draft 38" x 6 Tons - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter military parachute on 400' x 5/8" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 60' each, with 1/2" galvanized swivel - No trip-line - Deployed in a gale in Mexican coastal waters about ten miles from Magdalena Bay with winds of 35-50 knots and seas of 8 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was minimal during 12 hours at sea anchor.
Gary Habersetzer is one of the original group of multihull builders/sailors who learned how to use parachute sea anchors directly from John Casanova (File S/T-1). The group included Carol Donovan, owner of the 35-ft. Horstman Tri-Star Lion's Paw, Jim Staggs, owner of the 41-ft. Nottingham trimaran Whither, Jack Beadle, owner of a 32-ft. Simpson Wild "Shifter" trimaran, and Bob and Marilyn Braggins, owners of the very first flush deck Horstman Tri-Star ever built, Puffin.
Gary bought his first surplus military parachute from John Casanova in 1975, using it in a whole gale aboard his first multihull, a 31-ft. Piver AA trimaran off Cape Mendocino, California. When Gary, along with Bob Braggins, was invited to fly over and help sail a newly-built Horstman Tri-Star from Seattle to San Diego, he brought along two parachutes.
The story about him boarding the plane with two 28-ft. C-9 parachutes rolled up under each arm - causing not too little anxiety among the passengers - is well known in multihull circles. Bringing those parachutes turned out to be a wise decision, however, because the Tri-Star ended up having to use one in a gale off the mouth of the Columbia River.
In the July/August 1979 issue of Multihulls Magazine Joan Casanova wrote about the dangerous behavior of the boat prior to deployment (reproduced by permission):
The small Tri-Star rose above the monstrous waves, sliding swiftly down each face. Every few waves which passed under the boat were just a little larger than the last ones. It sent the tri skidding off at a 45° angle, nearly coming to complete broaching position in the trough. the action gave the helmsman anxious moments before the boat would respond to the helm. All aboard knew the dangers of that position. They were aware that the tri exceeded a safe speed. Below decks all gear was rolling in the aisle. It was only a matter of time before the growing seas would roll the lightweight trimaran over. Bob Braggins, skipper of Puffin, reflects in his tone of voice those anxious hours, as if reliving them.
"I'm sure we would've gone over if we hadn't put out the chute. We had difficulty putting it over the side at first. The wind got hold and wanted to open it on deck. As soon as it took hold in the water, the boat began to ride easily and we began to relax. It was my first time using a chute, and believe me, I am sold!!"
Gary has used the parachute sea anchor too many times to list all of them. On the occasion of this particular file he and his wife Karen were sailing Amenity from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas when the wind and seas suddenly came up near Magdalena Bay. Amenity was hove-to for twelve hours, after which she resumed her cruise south. There is a photograph of Gary and Karen folding the parachute on Amenity's deck in the July/August '79 issue of Multihulls. The photo was taken by Joan Casanova.
In 1976 Gary Habersetzer went into business for himself as head of Marine Repair Service in San Diego. After two decades of multihull building experience he founded Pedigree Cats in Seattle in 1995. The company now builds large multihulls. At this writing there are several large Horstman Tri-Stars in the works, including one that is 105 feet long. A 52-ft. Shuttleworth design with a high-tech Aero-Rig is nearing completion. Pedigree Cats has also received an offer to build catamarans for an Austrian concern.
The short note that Gary sent in along with the filled out DDDB form reads thus:
I think you now know why we list the chute as standard equipment on all the cats we build. We have used them and know that you should not leave the dock without one.
File S/T-19, obtained from Mel Pearlston, Petrolia, CA. - Vessel name Surrender, hailing port Petrolia, trimaran ketch, designed by Arthur Piver, LOA 55' x Beam 25' x Draft 4' 7" x 15 Tons - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 600' x 3/4" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 75' each, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - No trip-line - Deployed in a North Pacific storm in deep water about 500 miles west of Humboldt Bay (California) with winds of 70-80 knots and seas of 50 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10°.
Mel Pearlston was sailing Surrender back to California from Hawaii in 1992 when she ran into a September storm. A 24-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor was then deployed, which kept her three bows snubbed into the seas for about three hours. The anchored trimaran was then struck by a rogue wave coming in at an angle of 30-40°. As to what happened next, the best that Pearlston and Shane could determine after long telephone conversations is as follows. Either the trimaran was picked up and carried sideways, inducing considerable slack in the system, which allowed the yacht to lie a-hull temporarily. Or the sea anchor itself was picked up and thrown - possibly fouled - by the same rogue wave, causing the line to go slack and the yacht to lie a-hull. Or a combination of both (Fig. 40).
Although mercifully rare, large breaking rogues are capable of dealing swift and unexpected death blows to small craft. One needs to try to come up with additional tricks that might improve one's odds of survival in the event of such an encounter. Perhaps one such trick would be to deploy an auxiliary - smaller - sea anchor on a much shorter line off the approach ama, if one knew which side the rogue was going to come from. Or possibly the main hull, if one did not. This sort of strategy was once used on some of Richard Newick's earlier Vals, the idea being that if a capsize couldn't start it couldn't finish. Several OSTAR Vals, among them Three Cheers, rode out storms on double sea anchors. Perhaps this auxiliary sea anchor could be a weighted, 3-5 ft. diameter cone with a wire hoop sewn into the skirt to keep the mouth permanently open, deployed on 30-50 feet of line.
Conditions being life-threatening Pearlston made a quick decision to cut away the rig and run downwind. Transcript:
Surrender left Kauai, Hawaii in early September, 1992, when hurricane Iniki was just leaving the coast of Baja and turning west across the Pacific. There were three of us aboard Surrender, a modified Piver Enchantress, stretched to 55'. Surrender had been lovingly and heavily built over a twenty year period by a master craftsman, and I had been sailing her for five years in the Eastern Pacific. After sailing north on a port tack for a week, we turned right and headed across the top of the North Pacific High for our home port of Humboldt Bay. Just about this time hurricane Iniki was devastating Kauai, destroying every boat on the island. The distress channels were full of incoming calls, spread over a thousand mile radius. We were counting our blessings for having left when we did, thinking that we were home free.
I awoke three mornings later about five hundred miles west of Cape Mendocino to the blackest and most ominous horizon I had ever seen. The forecast was for a low pressure system to produce 40 knots of wind and seas of from 15 to 20 feet, but I didn't believe a word of it. The wind built quickly from the NNE to 45 knots, at which point I made the decision to deploy our 24' Para-Tech sea anchor. The anchor was attached to 600' of new 3/4" three strand, 75' bridle arms, a 5/8" SS swivel, and was secured to the boat by massive, custom-made stainless steel bails on the bow of each ama. No trip line was used, but two 24" diameter mooring balls were used for floats, together with a man overboard pole to make visual observations and recovery easier.
By the time the sea anchor was deployed and the boat buttoned up (which included lashing the helm amidships), the wind had built to fifty knots and the seas were building quickly. Over the next three hours we rode extremely comfortably to the sea anchor while conditions continued to deteriorate. The wind increased to a sustained 70 knots, gusting over 80. The larger waves were in the fifty foot range, and the swells were 600 feet apart. While riding to the sea anchor Surrender did not yaw perceptibly. As we rose to each wave the boat would rise and begin to be carried back until the anchor rode came up tight. Then, like a huge rubber band, it would gently pull us through the top of the swell. It was truly a testament to the use of the sea anchor. To this day I remember thinking how eerie it was that we could be so comfortable in such conditions.
At the height of the storm I felt the boat rising to a particularly large swell. At some point I realized that this wave had come from a point some 30 to 40 degrees off our starboard bow. At the top of the wave, after the anchor rode had stretched out and we were being pulled through the crest, something happened and the tension on the rode was suddenly released. Surrender free fell backwards down the face of the wave, and upon landing was completely submerged. Sometime during this fall one of the forward salon windows was broken. After assuring myself that the boat was still upright, I took stock of our situation. The main cabin had three feet of water in it. All of the items stowed on the starboard side of the boat were now on the port side. Upon going topside, I found that our decks had been swept clean of all stowed gear, including items that had been secured with heavy webbed strapping. I nailed a piece of plywood, with a closed cell foam gasket secured to one side, over the broken window. Next I went forward and cut loose the sea anchor bridles because the boat was broadside to the swell and there was no appreciable tension on the rode, and I assumed that the sea anchor was gone. I did this so that the rode would not foul our prop or rudder as my intention was to run down swell and deploy drogues. In retrospect, this was a poor decision. I did not consider the possibility that the anchor was tumbled and/or fouled. All I could think of was not spending one more moment than necessary with Surrender broadside to those huge seas.
While I unlashed the helm, I made my next mistake. I attempted to start the engine for maneuverability without checking the engine room. Apparently the starter had gotten wet and it immediately shorted out causing billowing clouds of smoke to emerge from the engine room. At the same time I realized that the helm was not responding and when I inspected the rudder post my worst fears were confirmed. The two inch bronze post had snapped below the steering quadrant. It appeared to have twisted like a piece of plastic almost 90 degrees before breaking. There was less than half an inch of mangled post left to work with - far less than that needed for my emergency tiller to attach to. The next eighteen hours passed in a blur. We bailed the boat out with buckets, as the books and food on the cabin sole of the salon turned the water into a thick gruel that foreclosed the use of either our electric or hand pumps. The wind had subsided to fifty knots, and the seas to the 30 foot range by this time, and a small amount of headsail allowed Surrender to ride hove-to quite comfortably. By the end of this period I was able to jury rig a steering quadrant to the rudder post utilizing a modified clamp-on quadrant from an Alpha auto pilot, and we got back underway. The next five days were spent limping into Humboldt Bay fighting the cold (we had no dry cloths or blankets) and our dwindling supply of amps.
Better decisions would have left us with an answer as to whether some part of the sea anchor system had failed, or if the sea anchor had merely been tumbled and/or fouled, and if so, whether it might have eventually recovered and restored its pull. In any event, I have never traveled offshore since without two complete sea anchor rigs aboard, and would never hesitate to recommend their use for rest, repairs, or as a defensive storm tactic. I consider it the single most important tool we carry.
File S/T-16, obtained from Gary Cagné, Vancouver, BC. - Vessel name Spirit Of Tsitika, hailing port Victoria BC, trimaran, designed by Jay Kantola, LOA 35' 6" x Beam 24' x Draft 5' 6" (2' 6" board up) x 3 Tons - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter military chest reserve on 300' x 9/16" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 50' each, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - No trip-line - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 50 miles off the coast of Baja California with winds of 35-45 knots and seas of 12-15 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 9 n.m. during 17 hours at sea anchor.
There is a certain grace and elegance associated with Jay Kantola's designs that one has to see to appreciate. His boats tend to remind one of certain benign and beautiful birds that roam across vast oceans on great wings. Not the feisty, competitive, acrobatic Frigate bird, whose flying skills and prize-winning antics one might associate with one of Richard Newick's masterpieces, but perhaps the magnificent, gentle, white-winged, black-browed Albatross of the Southern Ocean.
At least this was Shane Victor's impression when he first saw Spirit Of Tsitika tied up in Santa Barbara harbor. Two months after visiting with him, Gary Cagné and his companion Claire ran into a gale off the coast of Baja California. Transcript:
On the way to Cabo San Lucas we discovered an incredible lagoon on the east side of Mag Bay, in which we spent several days lounging and hiking and bird watching. It's finally beginning to warm up a bit. Just left this morning with a nice offshore light westerly filling the new spinnaker we found at a thrift store in Santa Barbara for $25!
As you can see we finally had a good opportunity to use the parachute sea anchor, and we're ever happy we did. We had the wind on the nose for 24 hours or more with torrential rain the whole time, and with a long offshore tack we ended up 65 miles NW of Cape Lazaro (near Bahia Santa Maria) when the wind got up to 35 kts at 1500 hrs. So we opted to set the chute, rather than continue beating to windward in those conditions. As soon as we were deployed (the deployment bag worked fantastic) the wind increased to 45 kts and gusting higher, with a steep short chop (8-10 ft.) on top of a large westerly swell of about 12-15 ft.
The seas lengthened later on as the gale continued, enabling the bows to ride a bit higher. Initially they were picking up the tops of the [short, steep] waves and spraying the whole boat, pouring rain all the while and the barometer continuing to drop. Pretty easy ride once the waves began lengthening, and about 0300 next morning the wind eased off a bit and switched to SW 25-30. By first dawn we had a light westerly and very confused seas coming from various directions. We got underway after winching in the chute (very easy) and arrived safely, with no damage, later that night in Bahia Santa Maria. The next day we heard about Whistlin, a 37-ft. Searunner and several other boats that ended up having to power [jog] through the storm, suffering miscellaneous damage - mostly losing gear over the side and diesel problems. One monohull suffered a knockdown, and the group closer in to shore reported gusts to 60 kts! Whistlin has a surplus parachute on board but still needs to re-sew the shroud lines to it.
Note: When we retrieved the parachute, we found that the float line had twisted itself many times, and even part of it was caught in two of the parachute shroud lines. So we learned that it is necessary to have a swivel for the float line as well. Claire and I are feeling more confident now that we've had our first parachute sea anchor experience and know how well it works.
File S/T-14, obtained from Ron Clisby, Grants Pass, OR. - Vessel name Nonchalant, hailing port Portland, trimaran ketch, designed by Norman Cross, LOA 46' 6" x Beam 25 ' x Draft 52" x 10 Tons - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 100' x 3/4" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 100' each, with 1" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip-line - Deployed in a low system in deep water about 450 miles NE of Tahiti with winds 25-35 knots and seas of 10-15 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed less than 10° - Drift was 12.7 n.m. in 38 hours at sea anchor.
The family of Ron and Sue Clisby sailed Nonchalant, a big, comfortable Cross trimaran, around the world in 1994. En route to Tahiti they ran into a blow. The weather fax was down and rather than take any chances they anchored her to the surface of the Pacific from 1330 hrs on 4/23/94 to 0330 hrs on 4/25/95. Here is a transcript of Ron's feedback, handwritten sometime during those two days:
Yesterday we deployed our 24' Para-Tech sea anchor for the first time, and are very impressed with the results. We were en route from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus when we encountered nasty weather, thunderstorms, lightning, etc., two nights ago. Our SSB and therefore weather fax are inoperative so we have been depending on a buddy boat for wx info. Yesterday they said we had been in a tropical depression during the night. We had winds around 20-25 k with gusts to 35 k and seas confused and around 10-15 feet.
It was still daylight and the kids were napping so we decided to deploy the chute. It worked beautifully and after some small adjustments we were inside baking bread. Today, our friends (hove-to 10 miles away) said the weather service is calling it a gale with winds to 43 k. They had wind gusts to 50 last night, but we had less (max 35 k) only 10 miles to the north.
This morning 0945 the seas are calm (gentle roll) and we have only 4 k wind at present. There are still lots of rain clouds in the area but I can see little holes of blue sky popping up to the west. After further clearing, we'll retrieve the chute and continue to Takaroa or Ahe.
P.S. With more complete weather fax info we likely would have continued on. But this has been a great learning experienced and we won't hesitate to use the chute when needed in the future.
File S/C-13, obtained from Captain William H. Price, Valdez, Alaska - Vessel name Rose Marie, hailing port San Diego, catamaran, designed by Vince Bartalone, LOA 65' x Beam 30' x Draft 3' 3" x 22 Tons - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter military reserve parachute on 600' x 1¼" nylon braid rode (no bridle, but reefed mizzen flown), with 5/8" galvanized swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in a low system in deep water about 1250 miles SW of Los Angeles, with winds of 55-60 knots and seas of 20 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 20° - Drift was 11 n.m. during 20 hours at sea anchor.
This is the second file involving the catamaran Rose Marie. In the previous file (S/C-1) she hove to a 28 ft. diameter C-9 parachute off Point Conception, California, where a strong coastal current pulled her directly upwind against 35-40 knots of sustained wind.
In this file she ran into a winter storm on her way to Hawaii from San Diego. Captain William H. Price (200,000 miles experience) was delivering the boat to her new owner in Singapore at the time. No bridle was used on this occasion, just 600 feet of 1¼" nylon braid leading to the centrally located anchor roller ( CAUTION: multihulls should always use full width bridles anchored to the extreme outboard ends of the hulls). Transcript:
Rose Marie departed San Diego for Honolulu 25 January 1993. Pt. Loma light finally slipped below the horizon in the twilight hours. The next eight days saw variable winds NW to SE up to 20 kts. as a succession of frontal systems swept our course to Hawaii. Rose Marie had a personal computer and WFAX on board by means of which every readable weatherfax transmission was captured and stored for planning and review. The afternoon of February 2, noon position 22° 54' N and 137° 47' W, some 1256 miles out, the wind went light and we were forced to keep pace by motorsailing through the evening hours.
By the mid watch a breeze had hauled SE and piped up so that the main required a double reef put in. The yankee and mizzen were struck, and we carried on with deep reefed main and stays'l. February 3 at 0600 hrs. saw 35 knots SE across the deck and continuing to freshen. Nothing in the way of a front showed on the latest WFAX to warn of what was coming, though it was obvious what was happening. 1000 hrs. saw wind 40 kts rising to 50, and 20 ft. seas breaking sporadically down on the weather side. Rain came horizontally so hard as to sting the face. Motion aboard the cat was so irregular. Any movement but hanging on was a chore. Seas trying to cross our course got their tops trapped between the hulls and hammered the underside of the bridge deck mercilessly. The decision was made to lay to the parachute anchor until the wind blew itself out. The frontal squalls had been lasting only about 12 hrs. in previous encounters.
Upon attempting to round up and drop sail it was discovered that the steering did not respond to turns on the wheel. In fact the rudders were free to flop, lock to lock, with the rolling pressure of the seas. An axle pin had come adrift from one of the rudder cable turning blocks. The cable was completely slack and one rudder quadrant was already in the process of dashing itself to destruction against the stops! Without stops, the large flag rudders were free to swing around and bang the hull (foam core construction probably would not stand much of that action).
A 24 ft. dia. chute was deployed from the weather waist and bow, after careful flaking out of the rode, trip line and float to avoid any fouling. The float and [full] trip line over first and streaming out downwind very nicely. Next the swivel-parachute connection went in and sunk well down. The [lightweight] canopy itself was wetted before hand pretty well by rain, and went over last in a heap. The parachute blossomed and immediately there was strain applied to the rode. The entire 600 ft. of rode paid out under control from purchase turns around the windlass drum and snubbing horns. The last point of fairlead was the anchor roller mounted just to the port of the headstay tack.
Rose Marie came round to within a couple points of SE immediately. The mizzen was then reset with the reef in and bowsed taut on center between sheet and vang tackle. This brought her right up into the wind and made her lie within a point on the port bow.
By 1130 we were lying to, very steady in 50-60 kts of breeze over the deck. Damage control parties were sent into the steerage compartments of both hulls and the rudder stocks blocked into submission. The starboard quadrant was smashed beyond use and had to be replaced. The only other casualty, indeed fatality, was our faithful wind generator, "WINDY." He lost an arm at 60+ kts across the deck, throwing it down hard against the mizzen and into the deck right between my feet. Failure was due to the irregular pitching about of his perch up on the mizzen. While his arms were trying to make perfect circles [gyroscope effect], complex pitch and roll changed the direction forces on them and metal fatigue did the rest. The crew had to belay his remaining arm with a halyard to prevent his efforts continuing in the unbalanced state.
Lying-to, we were able to walk normally about the ship. Except for the 20 ft. plus rise and fall with each wave there was little indication below of conditions outside. Parachute was 24 ft. diameter military surplus. It was the back-up to the original main 28 footer which had rotted and was discarded prior to departure. 5/8" Galvanized jaw & eye swivel and 5/8" galvanized shackle connecting rode to parachute. 600 Ft. x 1¼" dia. yacht braid nylon rode with a thimble spliced into the eye at the overboard end. Cylindrical inflatable fender (approx. 2 ft. long x 10" dia.) float, secured to canopy head by 50 ft. ½" yachtbraid line. Trip line - 3/8" dia. x 600 ft. yellow polypropylene line, secured to float line eye on the surface.
Notes: The anchor rode had to be pinned into the fairlead roller with a 3/8" bolt and chafe guarded with a 3 ft. length of heavy hose lashed solidly about the section stretching and contracting through the fairlead. In the end the fairlead was bent to weather about 15 degrees, and the retaining bolt bent up in a distinct vee-shape by the rode pitching up and trying to escape [when the bows were pointing sharply down]. 600 Ft. was adequate for those conditions. It served very well, though I could have wished for more in the locker, had the seas been higher, or more frequently breaking.
Using Parachutes, Sea Anchors and Drogues to Cope with Heavy Weather – Over 130 Documented Case Histories