S/M-34 Tahitian Ketch


Tahitian Ketch

55' x 40 Tons, Full Keel

24-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 12 + Conditions


File S/M-34, obtained from Robin and Maggi Ansell, Campbell River, B.C. - Vessel name ORCA, hailing port George Town (Cayman Islands) - Tahitian Ketch, designed by R. Hartley, LOA 55' x LWL 47' x Beam 13' 6" x Draft 7' x 40 Tons - Full keel - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 500' x 1" nylon braid rode with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - No trip line - Deployed in cyclone Justin in deep water about 200 miles off the coast of Queensland, with winds of 65-85 knots and seas of 33-40 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 25°- Drift was 80 n.m. during 53 hours at sea anchor.

ORCA was on the Pacific leg of her planned circumnavigation when she was caught in the web of cyclone Justin 200 miles off the Queensland coast. The largest cyclone in 20 years, Justin caused millions of dollars in damage, capsized barges, left two people dead, twenty three missing and many homeless. Scores of RAAF and US fighter aircraft and fifty warships had to be evacuated from Townsville as Justin tore into a massive joint military exercise - Operation Tandem Thrust.

ORCA might have emerged intact had the cyclone moved on, instead of stalling overhead. Finding themselves boxed in against the Great Barrier Reef, ORCA's skipper and first mate decided to put down the sea anchor.

"Without the sea anchor, they would have found us on the reef," said owner Robin Ansell in a telephone conversation with Victor Shane.

Deployment of the large sea anchor and 500' of 1-inch line was difficult and further exacerbated by some sort of toxic, chemical mist emanating from the wet rope itself. All told ORCA remained tethered to the sea anchor for 53 hours, lying about 50° to the wind (no bridle).

One can only imagine what the conditions must have been like. In an interview with the Townsville Bulletin, Robin and Maggi said "It was like the water was boiling... it didn't have a pattern to the swell. It just hit us from all sides."

The yacht was eventually holed by a rogue wave. "We were hit by a wave which put a hole in the galley and a similar rogue wave tore two ventilator boxes off the deck. We tried to stuff them to stop the water coming in but we realized we couldn't keep up with it."

The couple had to put out a Mayday. Senior Queensland Emergency Services helicopter pilot Peter Hope said it was the worst weather he had ever flown in. He said, "The majority of the swells were 10m but the mast of the yacht was 18m and there were times when you couldn't see it over the top of the waves." Here is a transcript of the DDDB file Shane obtained from Robin and Maggi Ansell:

We were already in very rough sea conditions when we deployed the para-anchor, because for as long as was viable, we motored across the seas to give us as much distance from the Great Barrier Reef as possible. We deployed it through our starboard side bow roller, and once the parachute had opened up, gradually let out the line by having it wound round the mooring bits. The scariest part of the whole thing was being temporarily blinded, which appeared to be caused by the acrid-tasting spray emanating from the rope, which was wet from the rain and salt spray, and squeezed out as a fine mist when it was pulled extremely tight as it was being run out round the mooring bits when we were struggling to let out the line with some control.... In any case, it is a potentially lethal situation, when one can only see vague shapes, and it is impossible to read instruments, etc. for 24-36 hours. (I couldn't even read the bright green of the radar screen). The absolute agony of the burning feeling under the eyelids, and the constant running of the eyes trying to rid themselves of the foreign matter was unbelievable, similar to a severe case of "arc eye." Fortunately we just stayed on the para-anchor, and vision started improving after 24 hours. There was absolutely no possibility in our weather conditions of being able to go forward each hour to check for chafe, also the load on the anchor line made the line like a steel rod, and one could never have got any slack to be able to replace a chafe guard. Realizing this from the start, Robin attached a ten foot length of half-inch section anchor chain to the eye of the line, which ran through the starboard bow roller. This took care of the chafe, as it was impossible to go forward again as far as the bow during the rest of the 53 hours at anchor before our rescue. The next day, only by peering through the window by the internal steering station, when the vessel was at the bottom or top of a trough, could we sometimes catch sight of the white line leading away from the boat. Then as vision improved we could watch the drift on the GPS, which seemed to average out at about 1.5 knots.

We had deployed the whole 500 feet of line, which probably was not enough in those conditions, but once deployed, it was too dangerous to consider adding further line (of which we actually had another 800 feet). Also we did not employ chain for catenary, on this our first use of the anchor. We would guess that the wave length was probably about 150 feet. The rescue pilot said that the yacht was coming off the waves at 12 knots, since he had to reverse at 12 knots to maintain distance from the top of the mast as we rolled up the waves. He was probably hovering at about 100 feet from the water, and the top of our mast was 70 feet from the water.

There were occasional maverick waves, which were double-crested. The result of which was that we rolled over the first crest straight into the advancing front of the second crest, instantly halting the vessel's roll. Roll rate was up to something like 60 degrees per second, so not only were tons of green water dumped over the vessel but the impact on the hull and superstructure was phenomenal. This is what lifted sealed and battened-down hatches pouring in gallons of water and later broke the galley portlight, and subsequently ripped off the starboard dorades and smashed the safety line stanchions. We probably had about 6 [rogue waves] during the 53 hours before being rescued, each sounding and feeling as if one had been hit by an express train. Each increased in severity until the last two were responsible for the physical damage to the vessel.

Once we had issued the Mayday, we spoke via Townsville Radio and subsequently Sydney Radio to the rescue operations center at Canberra, and were informed that a rescue operation was being put in hand. Within an hour we heard that there was a US Hercules in the area to locate us, that a Rescue Helicopter had departed Townsville with an ETA at our position in 50 minutes, and that a Flying Doctor Service Beechcraft King Air with life rafts would be on station if the helicopter had to abort. We activated our Class 1, Type 406 Satellite EPIRB when instructed. Later we were told by our rescuers that without the EPIRB there was no way they could have located us in such atrocious conditions. We then followed their instructions to the letter, to enable the rescue to take place.

We were rescued on 9th March. We have subsequently heard that Townsville took a double hit from Cyclone Justin on 22nd March and suffered significant damage. For a couple of days following our rescue, Townsville Radio issued the position of ORCA as a hazard to shipping. Then the bulletins stopped, and she is assumed sunk.

ORCA of George Town. This Tahitian Ketch used a 24-ft. diameter sea anchor to stand off the Great Barrier Reef in cyclone Justin. "There was absolutely no possibility in our weather conditions of being able to go forward each hour to check for chafe.... Realizing this from the start, Robin attached a ten foot length of half-inch section anchor chain to the eye of the line, which ran through the starboard bow roller." (Maggi Ansell photo).
ORCA of George Town. This Tahitian Ketch used a 24-ft. diameter sea anchor to stand off the Great Barrier Reef in cyclone Justin. "There was absolutely no possibility in our weather conditions of being able to go forward each hour to check for chafe.... Realizing this from the start, Robin attached a ten foot length of half-inch section anchor chain to the eye of the line, which ran through the starboard bow roller." (Maggi Ansell photo).

S/M-30 Venus 46 Ketch


Venus 46 Ketch

46' x 19 Tons, Low Aspect Fin/Skeg

24-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9 Conditions


File S/M-30, obtained from F. Bradford Smith, Newton PA. - Vessel name Kindred Spirit III, hailing port Baltimore, Venus Ketch, designed by Bob Salthouse, LOA 46' 6" x LWL 36' 6" x Beam 13' 6" x Draft 5' x 19 Tons - Low aspect fin keel & skeg rudder - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 500' x 3/4" nylon double-braid rode with 3/4" stainless steel swivel - No trip line - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 600 miles east of Miami, with winds of 40-50 knots and seas of 20-25 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 10° with the mizzen up - Drift was minimal during 18 hours at sea anchor.

Kindred Spirit III was designed by Kiwi naval architect Bob Salthouse for New Zealand waters. She is a 46-ft. double headsail ketch displacing about 38,000 lbs. In late October 1985 she was being sailed from St. Croix USVI to Baltimore MD when she ran into foul weather. On board were the owner and skipper, age fifty four, himself an experienced sailor with moderate offshore experience, his wife, and a male crew member, age fifty six, an experienced coastal sailor. A 24-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor was deployed on 500' of 3/4" nylon rode. This is the largest sea anchor Para-Tech makes for small craft and requires at least two crew members to deploy and retrieve. F. Bradforth Smith provides a compelling - step by step - account of the logistics that are involved in the deployment and retrieval of a large sea anchor on a large yacht:

Kindred Spirit III was newly purchased by her owners, who had spent the previous two months planning the delivery and preparing themselves and the boat for the trip. The preparations included the purchase of a parachute-type sea anchor system consisting of a 24' diameter Para-Tech model; 600' of 3/4" braided nylon rode made up in two 300' shots so that the rode was of manageable weight, each shot having heavy duty thimbles (one with thimbles at both ends, and one with a thimble at only one end); a 3/4" stainless swivel for connecting the rode to the anchor shackle; and a 7/8" galvanized shackle for connecting the two shots of rode to each another. Additionally, the owners installed heavy duty hawse holes in the forward bulwarks approximately three feet aft of the stem. These were specifically intended as the lead for the sea anchor rode, and were deemed necessary because Kindred Spirit III's bow chocks were open top chocks and were located atop a 6-inch bulwark, resulting in an unfair lead to the bow cleats seated on deck. The presence of twin steel anchor roller and a large deck-mounted winch made a chafe-free lead directly over the bow problematic.

Six days out of St. Croix Kindred Spirit encountered a line squall which destroyed the leach of her 135% roller furling Kevlar tape drive genoa, rendering it useless and unrepairable with the materials and equipment on board. Proceeding under staysail, reefed main and mizzen, Kindred Spirit was faced with backing wind, and in late afternoon of 2 November was motorsailing into building wind and seas under staysail and mizzen only. Although the boat was moving comfortably and under full control, at 2000 the skipper decided to heave-to because the wind continued to be unfavorable, the seas were continuing to build, and he was concerned that the crew not become fatigued.

Hove-to with staysail and unreefed mizzen, Kindred Spirit rode out the night in comfort, and the skipper enjoyed a full night's sleep. At 0600 on 3 November the skipper decided to deploy the sea anchor because both wind and seas had continued to build during the night and, while the vessel continued to ride comfortably hove-to, the failure of the genoa caused the skipper to have concerns that the other heretofore undetected gear weakness could result in damage to the staysail, the mizzen, or the running rigging, any one of which could produce a dangerous situation.

Additionally, the barometer was reading 1020 and above, indicating that what was being experienced was not a passing low pressure front or cell, and thus no reasonable estimation could be made of the current situation's expected duration. (It was later determined that what was experienced was probably a strong local enhancement of the NE trades, occasioned by a deep low pressure trough which had fallen off the US southeast coast the previous day, creating tightly-spaced isobars between it and the high pressure ridge around whose backside Kindred Spirit's route was planned).

The sea anchor, rode and related hardware, all stowed in the V-berth forward, were brought to the center cockpit and assembled. Both the movement of the equipment and its assembly were difficult due both to weight (even at 300', the rodes weighed in with thimbles at almost 70 lbs. each) and to the motion of the boat as it rode 20+ foot waves. This process, which required managing 600' of 3/4" line in the center cockpit in a manner which permitted access to both ends of each of the 300' shots without creating any tangles, was slow, tedious work which took almost two hours to complete. In the skipper's opinion, attempting to accomplish this task hurriedly in an emergency situation is a recipe for disaster, and attempting it on an open foredeck in any kind of severe weather is unwise.

Once fully assembled and checked, including double mousing of the shackles, the bitter end of the rode was led forward outside all rigging and lifelines and was inserted through the hawse hole from the outside in and about 150' of rode was pulled through the hawse hole and made neat and fast on the foredeck. This rather awkward process was required because the heavy duty thimbles on the 3/4" line would not fit through the hawse holes, even though the hawse pipes installed were the largest available from boating catalogues. A six foot length of fire hose was slipped over the rode's bitter end using a boat hook as a needle, and was then run down the rode to the hawse hole, where it was made fast to the bow cleat. This was accomplished by cutting a "V" shaped notch in one edge of the flat fire hose, and then running a short piece of 3/8" line with a stopper knot through the hole and tying the fire hose to a cleat [so it could not migrate]. This was the only trip to the foredeck required during the entire deployment operation. A 20" round fender buoy to serve both as a locator and as a trip line float was attached to the short nylon web tether provided with the sea anchor. No other trip line was used.

The sea anchor was then deployed from the relatively protected amidships weather deck adjacent to the center cockpit with the boat still hove-to. During deployment, the rode was snubbed about every 50' both to encourage the anchor to emerge from the storage/deployment bag and to help assure that the rode was running free. The boat did not respond to the sea anchor until almost all the rode was deployed and some substantial load was on the rode, at which point she came smartly round to windward and lay about 20° off the wind. The staysail was then doused and secured before it could drive the bow further off the wind and broadside to the waves.

The unreefed mizzen, of approx. 195 sq. ft., was left up as a riding sail the entire time at sea anchor, the intent being to get the boat to lie 40+ degrees off the wind in an attitude similar to that achieved when hove-to. While this did stabilize her motion somewhat, the sheeting angle needed to bring the bow down the desired amount was, in the skipper's opinion, such that too great risk of sail damage existed, so closer sheeting resulted in a stable wind angle of about 30 degrees.

Laying relatively quietly to the sea anchor, Kindred Spirit received only spray on her deck for the 18 hours she lay-to, except for one boarding wave which was the second of two very steep and large waves so closely spaced that her bow was unable to rise from the back of the first to ride the face of the second. The sea anchor consistently "pulled" her bow through the face and crests of waves. Although the anchor rode was bar tight, no jerkiness was experienced, and the rode seemed, between stretch and catenary action, to exert a constant pressure on the deck cleat to which it was secured.

The sight of the 20" round red float bobbing happily on the crest of the next wave in the train was a sight reassuring beyond description. On the other hand, the 3/4" rode, so massive in the cockpit, looked every bit like a string, from which it seemed Kindred Spirit was hanging for dear life. On several occasions the skipper was grateful that he had gone up a size from the rode size recommended.

Every two hours or so a foot or two of rode saved on deck for the purpose was released to even out any chafe. No chafe or even black marks from the inside surface of the fire hose was ever noted. Because the load on the rode was very high, the paying out of rode was a testy business. To avoid even the possibility of a runaway rode and possible loss of the sea anchor, an amidships cleat was used as a second securing point, and the rode was secured to this cleat with enough slack to permit both the paying out of the desired foot or two and the reattachment of the rode to the primary bow cleat. While this arrangement was never tested to its fullest, there were small mishaps which proved the value of the double attachment. Serious injury to hands and fingers is a real danger here, and must be taken seriously.

The skipper had intended to utilize a "Pardey bridle" to bring the bow 40-50° off the wind, primarily for comfort. The riding snatch block normally used in this setup was not attached to the rode before the rode was under load due to the risk of mishap during deployment. After deployment, it was discovered that the 6 foot chafing gear extended so far down the rode that it was impossible safely to reach beyond it to attach the snatch block. The load on the rode was so great that the skipper decided to not risk mishap by attempting to bring the rode alongside to permit attachment of the snatch block, and the bridle idea was scrapped. While the boat's motion was not extreme, it was uncomfortable and enervating. The relative comfort of lying hove-to was significantly higher than the motion experienced lying to the sea anchor without the benefit of a twin attachment point scheme. During future deployments a shorter chafing gear rig will be used and the snatch block will be deployed as a high priority.

During the morning of 4 November the wind and sea began to abate, and by noon the sea anchor retrieval process began. The initial retrieval of the rode was relatively straightforward, as Kindred Spirit was slowly motored toward the sea anchor guided by the orange float, which proved invaluable for this purpose. Due to the remaining wind and sea, constant attention was required to assure progress in the direction of the anchor, and prearranged hand signals from the foredeck to the helm were an absolute necessity. As the rode came aboard, the problem of a now wet 600 feet of 3/4" line on the foredeck became serious. As a practical matter, there was nothing to be done during the retrieval process except to assure that the rode was securely on board and not underfoot. As the float came to be retrieved a significant unexpected problem presented itself.

Upon securing the float aboard, attention was given to the retrieval of the sea anchor itself. Buoyed (no pun intended) by the successful sea anchor experience, the foredeck crew failed to anticipate the extreme load still on the nylon web [float line] tether due to the weight of the now deflated but wet 24 foot nylon parachute and to the strong motion of the boat as she bobbed in the sloppy leftover seas. The male crew member got his upper arm tangled in the webbing, and caught between the webbing and the upper lifeline. Before he was able to extract himself the loads badly bruised his upper arm. Had the tether been smaller in diameter, or had the crew member caught a wrist or finger, broken bones would have been distinct possibilities. It is strongly recommended that much greater consumer education emphasis be placed on the loads and resultant potential dangers associated with anchor retrieval. In the skipper's opinion, retrieval is at least as dangerous as deployment and is especially tricky due to the random load cycling resulting from the uneven motion of the boat as the anchor rode and tether become shorter at the late retrieval stage. Visions of plucking a deflated sea anchor from the water while hanging over the bow with a boat hook are not only fantasies for all but the very smallest equipment, but are also downright dangerous because they so grossly misrepresent the actual loads and associated dangers of sea anchor retrieval.

Upon final retrieval, the anchor, rode and miscellaneous hardware was stowed on the large afterdeck. While this exposed the rode to sunlight, no practical alternative was found which did not involve dragging 600 feet of salt water soaked rode through the salon to the forward head. Minimum sea anchor equipage should include a tarp or other device with which the retrieved rode and sea anchor can be securely protected from the sun and still remain on deck. Future enhancements to Kindred Spirit's storm preparations will include two life raft canisters permanently attached to the aft cabin roof, customized with adequate drain holes and thus intended to permit both dry and wet storage of the sea anchor, rode, and miscellaneous hardware. An anticipated benefit of this arrangement is the ability to substantially make up the sea anchor assembly before departure, thus significantly reducing the time required to deploy.

In summary, the parachute type sea anchor performed in a flawless manner during deployment in moderate gale wind and sea conditions. The ride while at sea anchor was uncomfortable but is expected to be substantially enhanced by use of a bridle off the side of the vessel, thus permitting the adjustment of the vessel's attitude to wind and seas. The 24' diameter sea anchor and its 3/4" rode are large, heavy pieces of equipment whose assembly, deployment and retrieval require very detailed planning and a realistic understanding of the conditions on a vessel in circumstances which make such deployment desirable. Finally, the notion that a 24' diameter sea anchor is a practical means of stopping for lunch is just not a realistic expectation. Heave-to for lunch, leave the sea anchor for when conditions make lunch an effort.

This skipper is grateful that his first deployment was in conditions which were relatively forgiving, and I encourage anyone purchasing a sea anchor to fully deploy, lie-to and retrieve it in moderate conditions. The education thus obtained cannot be described. And, don't leave home without one.

S/C-9 Catamaran, Crowther


Catamaran, Crowther

36' x 17' x 6 Tons

24-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor

Force 8-9 Conditions


File S/C-9, obtained from Gary Jones, Rockville, MD. - Vessel name Corinthian XIII, hailing port Chester River, MD, "Witness" catamaran, designed by Lock Crowther, LOA 36' x Beam 17' x Draft 2' x 6 Tons - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter military chest reserve parachute on 450' x 3/4" nylon three strand rode and bridle arms of 25' each, with 5/8" galvanized swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in low system in shallow water (12-15 fathoms) about 50 miles SE of Cape Fear, NC, with winds of 35-45 knots and seas of 8-12 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 5 n.m. during 10 hours at sea anchor.

Parachute sea anchors are worth their weight in gold in difficult coastal situations with the wind on the rise and the crew sick and exhausted. Their low rate of drift means that they require practically no sea room, making them the only viable means of stopping the boat and calling "time out" in close quarters. Transcript:

Wind and sea started building about 1800 hrs as we came up on Frying Pan Shoals. With the wind on the nose and the sea becoming choppy we weren't making any progress toward Charleston, South Carolina. At midnight the wind had turned the sea white and many waves were coming over the bow. We were heavy with provisions for a long cruise and five people were aboard. One crew member got sick and the rest were exhausted from fighting the weather.

The prospect for weather during the next 8 hours sounded bad and we knew the chances of being set into the shoals were great, so we decided to set the chute. Holding onto the heaving deck with one hand and setting the chute was tough due to water coming over the bow. It took 1.5 hours to deploy the rig, but it worked great and gave us time to go below and get much-needed rest.

S/M-21 Hinckley Sou’wester 51 Yawl


Hinckley Sou'wester 51 Yawl

51' x 24 Tons, Full Keel & CB

24-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9 Conditions


File S/M-21, obtained from Captain Eric F. Roos, Mt. Desert, ME. - Vessel name Windcrest, hailing port Bar Harbor, Hinckley Sou'wester yawl, designed by McCurdy and Rhodes, LOA 51' x LWL 37' 6" x Beam 14' x Draft 6' (11' with CB down) x 24 Tons - Full keel & auxiliary centerboard - Sea anchor: 24-ft. diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 3/4" nylon braid and 100' of 5/16" chain with 3/4" stainless steel swivel - Deployed in deep water about 120 miles south of Nantucket Island in a whole gale with winds of 40-50 knots and seas of 20 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 15° - Drift was 14 n.m. during 23 hours at sea anchor.

Windcrest was en route to Bermuda from Bar Harbor when she ran into bad weather. Transcript of feedback obtained from Captain Eric F. Roos:

Para-Anchor was deployed due to deteriorating weather conditions close to the North wall of the Gulf Stream. Our weather forecast indicated that if we continued on our present course a large frontal system would pass over us just as we entered the Gulf Stream. We chose to sail away from the building seas near the stream and set our para-anchor while conditions were still tolerable and we still had daylight.

There was no sudden wind change, but rather a consistent increase in wind speed and building seas (max 50 knots with max 25-30' seas.) Since we deployed our para-anchor before conditions were too bad, the deployment was fairly straightforward. We chose to attach the shackle of the rode directly to our 60# plow anchor's welded cross-bar (v). After seizing the shackles we let out the 400' rode, anchor and 100' of 5/16" chain over the stainless steel bow roller. The weight of the anchor and chain provided an excellent catenary to absorb the shocks we experienced during the worst conditions. Our biggest concern the whole time we sat on the para-anchor was the strength of the cross-bar on the plow anchor. Though it held just fine, I wonder if I should have used a different attachment point.

Windcrest performed very well while on the sea anchor. She yawed from side to side a total of 30° [total arc]. At one point the anchor chain jumped out of the stainless steel roller (we forgot to put pin through top of roller) and found its way down the starboard side and into the stainless steel chock causing only cosmetic damage. Due to the rugged nature of our chocks, we would intentionally place the chain in the chock in the future.

After 23 hours the seas subsided to 15-20' and the winds moderated to less than 25 knots and began coming from a different direction than the seas. At this point Windcrest insisted on pointing into the wind rather than the seas. This caused considerable rolling and was the ultimate reason we retrieved the para-anchor when we did. The smashing/crashing sounds below were enough to make a man go mad. The retrieval was straightforward but more difficult than the deployment. We felt it was next to impossible to retrieve the tackle in an orderly fashion. We ended up with a heaping mess of rode and para-anchor lines. However, when we repacked the gear at a later date it was not as bad as we had anticipated. In summary, I have nothing but good things to say about the para-anchor equipment and would not go offshore without one.

(CAUTION: The steel anchor should be taken off in storms lest a breaking wave smash it against the boat.)


CAUTION: A big, heavy steel anchor may provide added catenary shock absorption hanging on the rode, but in a Fastnet type storm it may also get turned into a lethal object if it gets smashed against the boat by a breaking wave. It should be taken off, and the rode attached the chain itself.

S/M-2 Little Harbor 40 Yawl


Little Harbor 40 Yawl

39'11" x 11 Tons, Full Keel & Centerboard

24-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor

Force 9-10 Conditions


File S/M-2, obtained from Charles W. Turner, Marblehead MA. - Vessel name Mambo, hailing port Marblehead, Little Harbor 40 yawl, designed by Ted Hood, LOA 39' 11" x LWL 29' 7" x Beam 11' x 11 Tons - Full keel with bronze centerboard drawing 10' 6" when down, (draft 4' 3" with board raised at sea anchor) - Sea anchor: 24-ft. diameter cargo type parachute on 120' x 1" dia. three strand rode & 1/2" swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in 1964 in deep water, approx. midway between Bermuda and Nantucket Light, within the Gulf Stream, with the wind estimated at between 40-60 knots with seas 25' and greater - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 40 n.m. during 12 hours at sea anchor - mainly due to the motion of the Gulf Stream.


Chapter eighteen of Coles's Heavy Weather Sailing is entitled Twice Rolled Over. It is about the trials and tribulations of the 39-ft. centerboard yawl Doubloon, whose 3/4-inch-thick bronze centerboard was "bent about 30 degrees, probably when it hit the water as the yacht came back to even keel after the roll over." Doubloon was forced to run before 60-knot winds off the Carolina coast in the spring of 1964. The skipper, Joe Byars, tried a variety of traditional tactics in an effort to "keep the sea."

First, he tried running before the wind under bare poles. It worked for a while, but after taking five full smashes from astern (resulting in one crewmember being temporarily swept overboard) he changed course and put Doubloon on a broad reach, trying to work the boat out of the storm and the Gulf Stream.

This new tactic seemed to work for a while. Three hours later, however, the yacht was unexpectedly struck by a breaking wave and knocked down on her beam end.

Byars tried lying a-hull next. With her centerboard down Doubloon lay quietly with her bow some 70° off the wind for four hours. Then, suddenly, a wave broke and rolled her completely - 360-degrees in about five seconds. Six hours later she was smash-rolled for the second time. All the crew sustained injuries - Byars broke a rib - and there was havoc down below.

The next day the crew managed to improvise "sea anchors," one of which consisted of a working jib, with the head attached to the tack to create more drag. Two mattresses were also lashed onto the remains of the stern pulpit in order to create windage aft. Doubloon took no more knockdowns.

A few months later, in June 1964, another sailboat called Mambo, practically identical to Doubloon, encountered similar conditions in the same area of the Gulf Stream, but used a parachute sea anchor. Mambo was on the homeward leg of the Bermuda Race when, at daybreak, the wind freshened from the NE and quickly built up to Force-9. This was followed by a build-up of the seas, and it wasn't long before the waves were big enough to completely blanket the wind when Mambo was in a trough.

Mambo's skipper, Charles W. Turner of Marblehead, Massachusetts, a moderately experienced sailor, had the boat running before the seas initially. A short time later, as conditions continued to deteriorate, a trusted and more experienced crewmember suggested that it seemed high time to turn the boat around and face into it.

The decision was then made to try to heave-to in the traditional way - by using sails. However severe cross-waves made it impractical to do this.

Another crewmember then pointed to the 24-ft. diameter para-anchor on the cabin sole which the owner had purchased. He stated, "Since you had us practicing with that thing off Marblehead, why not try it now?" The skipper decided that this was a good time to try it, since the man who had ridiculed it in Marblehead now appeared to favor its use.

It took three tries to accomplish proper deployment. On the first attempt the parachute blew under the bow until the keel was on top of it. It was then pulled back, straightened out and again tried. This time it flew up in the air, reaching a position where a mizzen staysail would normally be flown. It was again recovered.

On the third attempt it stayed in the water and, as the boat drifted back, it was payed out to the full length of its line, with the trip line float right above it. The line was secured to a bow cleat, although they were not sure it would hold. Mambo then faced nicely into seas of about 25-30 ft. In this posture she rode out the rest of the storm safely, albeit cork-screwing annoyingly because of the cross-seas which were running up the troughs. Mambo, tethered to the 24-ft. diameter para-anchor, sustained no knockdowns or "barrel rolls" as did her sistership, Doubloon.

S/C-2 Catamaran, Gemini 3000


Catamaran, Gemini 3000

30' x 14' x 3.5 Tons

24-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor

Force 7 and 8 Conditions


File S/C-2, obtained from R.P. King, McCune, KS. - Vessel name King Kat, Gemini 3000 catamaran, designed by Robin Munster and Tony Smith, LOA 30' 6" x Beam 14' x Draft 4' 6" (1' 6" board up) x 3.5 Tons - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter military chest reserve on 300' x 1/2" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 40' each, with 1/2" galvanized swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in an Atlantic gale in deep water near Flores Islands (Azores) with winds of 35-40 knots and seas of 10-15 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was reported to be minimal.

King Kat was the fifth production "Gemini" catamaran to be built by Performance Cruising, Inc. of Mayo, Maryland. It was a prototype, without the large pilot house that has since become a characteristic of the Gemini. It was purchased by Dr. and Mrs. Robert King, who sailed her to Europe in 1984, this being the first Gemini to have crossed the Atlantic - a great many more have crossed since. Your author received a letter from the Kings in 1985. The envelope had a French stamp on it. Transcript:

Dear Para-Anchors International, we received your newsletter. Since you mention testimonials, we are glad to contribute ours. We cannot equal the high drama of some of your other testimonials; but we hope we can always use our para-anchor because we choose to - not because we have to. A trans-Atlantic sailor sold us his spare para-anchor in the spring of 1984. In June, my wife and I left Tampa Bay for England in our 30' Gemini. We are both 56 years old. These synopses, mostly from the log, explain why we would not be without our para-anchor:


      June 19: Had rough, wet night. Winds over 30 knots, waves of showers, irregular 12 ft. waves from all directions. Autopilot out. Jib alone since 0330. Gave it up at dusk and tried para-anchor for first time. Boat swung directly toward wind, still active in the waves, but much slower, easier motion. Both slept like babies. It works!

      June 20: Woke refreshed and sailed on. Still overcast. Third day no celestial fixes. Worried about reef west of Bermuda. Set para-anchor before dark. Later saw beacon clearly. Good night's sleep (then went into Bermuda refreshed).

      July 11: Waves have been building for five days with winds usually over 30 knots. We must be running with the storm. Autopilot out again. Another day under storm jib alone. Winds today 35-38 knots steady, gusts to 45 in squalls. Para-anchor deployed 2100 hours. Boat dipping bows under breaking waves (about every 20th wave). Slept soundly for 12 hours!

      July 12: Arrived off Flores (Azores) Island about midnight. Set para-anchor to sleep until morning. Need daylight to enter the tiny, rockbound unlit harbor. Checked position with beacons. Don't think we drifted a foot in 8 hours.

      July 29: Hit by fast-moving front. Winds hit 45 with gusts up to 55. Had para-anchor out before then, however. Good evening playing scrabble.


We have logged 20,000 miles on King Kat including passages to the Caribbean and back, and to Europe and back. In short, the para-anchor gives us the option of taking a breather whenever we choose. It's like being able to call "time out." A para-anchor takes the fear and sweat out of passage-making.


S/T-7 Trimaran, “Rose-Noëlle”


Trimaran, "Rose-Noëlle"

41' x 26' x 6.5 Tons

24-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor

Force 8-10 Conditions

File S/T-7, obtained from John Glennie, New Zealand - Vessel name Rose-Noëlle, hailing port Nelson, New Zealand, trimaran designed and built by John Glennie, LOA 41' x Beam 26' x Draft 3' x 6.5 Tons - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter military chest reserve parachute on 300' x 3/4" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 40' each, with 1/2" galvanized swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 150 miles southeast of the East Cape of New Zealand with winds of 40-60 knots and seas of 20 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Fouled trip line collapsed the parachute after 10 hours, allowing the trimaran to lie a-hull and be capsized by a rogue wave - Crew survived 118 days adrift inside the inverted hull.


On 4 June 1989 the trimaran Rose-Noëlle capsized some 140 miles east of the Wairapa coast of New Zealand. The crew of four spent 118 days adrift inside the upturned hull. The incident subsequently became a source of some controversy, leading to an investigation by the New Zealand Ministry of Transport. John Glennie's exclusive story was first published in the November 1989 issue of New Zealand Yachting. Later, John wrote a book about the ordeal called Spirit of Rose-Noëlle.

John Glennie is an institution in the land of Down Under. New Zealand and Australian magazines have referred to him as Free Spirit of the Pacific. John and his brother David started out by building a 35' Piver Lodestar trimaran in their Father's Marlborough farm shed in America. They named it Highlight and sailed away. After spending eight years roaming all over the Pacific, John and David wound up in Australia, where they worked on and delivered many famous boats, including Mike Kane's Spirit Of America, a Kraken 55 trimaran of Lock Crowther design.

Glennie's own boat, Rose-Noëlle, took nineteen years of intermittent work to build and launch. John sailed it to the Great Barrier Reef, then across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand, where he gained boat-building work at Paremata, working with the brother of New Zealand's America's Cup helmsman, David Barnes. Every cent that he earned went into equipping Rose-Noëlle for self-sufficiency on high seas. Innovative rigging, water still, solar panels, radios, radar, etc., and a 24-ft. diameter parachute sea anchor.

Rose-Noëlle set sail from Picton New Zealand on June 1st (winter Down Under), headed for warm waters and Tonga. The crew consisted of John Glennie, Philip Hoffman, Rich Hellriegel and Jim Napelka. On the third day out they ran into a southerly gale and for a while used a Sea Squid (bullet-shaped Australian plastic drogue) to slow the boat down. Later they stopped the boat and deployed the parachute sea anchor. It pulled the three bows of Rose-Noëlle into 20-ft. seas and kept them there for the next ten hours.

The full trip line, probably left hanging loose in the sea, must have fouled with the parachute because sometime after those ten hours the trimaran began to yaw increasingly from side to side, until finally she was lying a-hull. It was night and little could be done. An hour or so later, the crew heard the approach of a great roaring noise, much like that of a huge - Hawaiian - surf wave. The rogue wave hit the boat broadsides and rolled her over very quickly. In the article that appeared in New Zealand Yachting Glennie stated that just before the capsize the wind had eased and he was concerned that without the wind "regulating" the seas, two or three waves might "ring hands and turn into rogues."

After the capsize it took the crew a while to settle down to the business of survival. Wrote Glennie, "I had to keep their hopes up and get them over the shock of the first stage. If people give up, they die." Eventually they all adapted, surviving the next 118 days adrift inside the inverted hull of the trimaran. There was plenty of food left inside, and the problem of fresh water was solved when John devised a system for collecting and storing rain water. From then on it was patience and perseverance, despite numerous gales, saltwater sores, and the occasional brawl that one might expect in such dire and cramped circumstances.

The inverted trimaran drifted "all over the place." It is estimated that she covered, ignominiously, a journey of nearly 2,000 miles, during which the cramped crew experienced somewhere between 17-20 gales - an average of one every week! And astonishingly enough, four months after the Royal New Zealand Air Force planes had given up the search for Rose-Noëlle she washed back up unto Great Barrier Island, at the edge of the Hauraki Gulf, the well-populated sailing area of New Zealand. Transcript of hand-written notes that accompanied John Glennie's feedback:

The para-anchor worked well and I was most impressed till it fouled.... The trip line fouled the chute and with the chute partially collapsed we lay a-hull.... The wave was so big that it would have rolled the Cutty Sark! They [rogue waves] are out there. I think three waves got together, so it was probably 60 feet high. I saw a similar 60-ft. vertical wall of water in 1968, mid-winter, 43° south, below Tahiti. Water was running down its face and I remember the noise it made as it came towards us.... Next time I won't use a trip line. I could have got the chute back in with the electric capstan in the calm after the storm.


Full trip lines should be kept FAIRLY TAUT so they do not hang down in the sea and foul the rode and parachute.
Full trip lines should be kept FAIRLY TAUT so they do not hang down in the sea and foul the rode and parachute.

A reminder that the Casanovas used full trip lines for eighteen years with seldom a foul-up. According to John Casanova, the trick is to have a small swivel at the float, and keep the trip line fairly taut - no excess slack hanging loose in the sea to foul with the parachute or rode. Bear in mind, also, that if the wind force increases the main rode will elongate, requiring that the full trip line be slackened off accordingly (otherwise it may trip the canopy). By checking the trip line tension on a regular basis, one can tell if it is too loose, or too tight. One should also use the binoculars to keep an eye on the big red float itself. If it is behaving awkwardly - as though it had hooked onto a big fish - it may mean the trip line is too tight and needs to be slackened off a little.

S/T-2 Trimaran, Kismet


Trimaran, Kismet

31' x 18' x 2.5 Tons

20-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor

Force 10+ Conditions


File S/T-2, condensed from the writings of Randy Thomas - Vessel name Celerity II, hailing port Victoria BC, "Kismet" trimaran designed by Bill Kristofferson, LOA 31' x LWL 29' x Beam 18' 6" x Draft 30" x 2.5 Tons - Sea anchor: 20-ft. Diameter cargo parachute on 300' x 7/16" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 100' each, with 1/2" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed in hurricane Freida in deep water in the South Pacific, with winds of 50-60 knots and seas of 30 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 20°.


This file was condensed from articles by Randy Thomas and additional information provided by others, among them Bob Wilson of the British Columbia Multihull Association, to whom the author is indebted.

Celerity II, a Kristofferson-designed, light displacement Kismet 31 was en route to Kosrae from Rabaul (Solomon Islands) when she had an encounter with hurricane Freida in February 1982. As the wind and seas continued to build, Randy Thomas found options narrowing. Running off was out of the question. It would take Celerity II into a screen of low-lying atolls, and toward the eye of the storm. And Randy had once tried lying a-hull in a blow off Point Conception, California. It had been a bad experience.

With her reefed main set as a riding sail and the tiller lashed amidships, Celerity II lay quietly hove-to for a while. But the wind was building in 5-knot increments and soon it became clear to Randy that the mains'l would have to come off altogether - taken off the boom. It was time to set the parachute sea anchor. Randy had never set the chute before. With safety harnesses snapped on, he and his companion Thea carried the 20-ft. diameter parachute on deck. Crests broke over the boat as Randy crawled onto the narrow floats to shackle each end of the bridle to the heavy duty U-bolts which he had installed three feet inboard. "`Next time rig the bow bridle before you leave port,' ran my mental memo." (Writing in the article that appeared in SAIL Magazine). They dunked the chute and watched, as the boat's drift payed out the 400' of tether and bridle. But Celerity II continued to lie-ahull!

Bridle should be attached to the extreme outboard ends of the floats to obtain maximum leverage possible.

Overcome with dismay, Randy wanted to get the knife and cut the whole rig away, but Thea shouted above the noise of the wind that he should try leading the bridles off the extreme outboard tips of the floats before doing so. Randy was skeptical at first, but then decided to give it a try. He would have to unclip the two snatchblocks from the U-bolts (three feet inboard), wriggle out to the ends of the narrow floats and re-attach them to pad-eyes forward. It was a formidable struggle, but it did the trick. Celerity II immediately rounded up and began facing the seas. In his article appearing in the June 1982 issue of SAIL, Randy describes Celerity II's behavior (reproduced by permission of SAIL Magazine):

She bobbed easily over the upwelling crests, first backing swiftly, then popping upward like a suddenly released balloon. I was certain we would be buried under each seemingly perpendicular wall. No water came on deck. The bridle led perfectly, never coming into contact with either the hulls or the deck. There was no jerking at the blocks - only a gradual tension and relaxation as the nylon "springs" dissipated the heavy loads. We were anchored in mid-Pacific. We might have been anchored in a monsoon-torn harbor, except for the longer periods between each extraordinary rise and fall.

With the situation in hand they went down below and prepared a meal. Radio reception faded in and out, but they were able to piece the fragments together: tropical storm Freida had been upgraded to a hurricane, and her eye was 150 miles to the north! Just before dark Randy estimated the wind speed at about 50 knots sustained, with seas of 30 feet from trough to crest. Many of the waves were observed to be breaking heavily along their full lengths, but Celerity II had settled down into predictable cycles and seemed to be doing OK.

The night was a lonely vigil for the two. Randy writes that lying in the dark cabin they were mentally overwhelmed by the noise of the combers, rising in pitch as they approached the boat and then falling in pitch as they receded - like approaching and receding freight cars. The wind was shrieking through the rigging and the radar reflector up on the mast, creating an incessant racket that tore at their nerves. It was impossible to sleep. At dawn they were able to prepare a breakfast, and the radio informed them that the eye of the storm - packing 100 knot winds - had re-curved and was passing to the north for the second time! Thea put her head into the plastic observation bubble in the coach roof and surveyed the white seas around them. Suddenly she exclaimed she could see the parachute in the distance. As the boat climbed the next wave, Randy saw it too, "a shimmering disc, suspended like a huge jellyfish in the face of the bottle-green sea. The shroud lines reached out like tentacles, holding us safely in their grasp. We knew we were safe as long as our chute held." Well, the chute did hold, and, other than some minor damage to the trim-tab on her self-steering rudder, Celerity II emerged from her encounter with the lady Freida intact. In the same article Randy Thomas sums up his opinions:

Cruising safety depends on having options. And the parachute sea anchor can offer you a crucial alternative when the chips are down. Lying a-hull in heavy seas can result in damage, capsize, or worse aboard a light-displacement boat that is easily "tripped" by a fin keel or a submersible float. A parachute will hold such craft safely head-to-the-seas, minimizing drift and the danger of breaking crests.