S/R-2 Carbon / Kevlar Morrison


Carbon / Kevlar Morrison 24ft classic ocean row boat

24' x 1 Tonne

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9 Conditions

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

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

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


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

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

S/P-9 Commercial F/V


Commercial F/V

79' x 87 Tons

24-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 10 Conditions

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.

S/P-8 Commercial F/V


Commercial F/V

65' x 49 Tons

24-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 12 Conditions

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.


S/P-7 Commercial F/V


Commercial F/V

50' x 35 Tons

28-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor

Force 7-8 Conditions

File S/P-7, obtained from Captain George W. Newson, Comox, B.C. - Vessel name Kella Lee, hailing port Comox, commercial F/V, designed by Monk, LOA 50' x LWL 47' x Beam 15' x Draft 9' x 35 Tons - Sea anchor: 28-ft. Diameter C-9 military class parachute on 500' x 1/2" nylon braid rode, with 5/8" bronze ball bearing swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in a gale in shallow water (70 fathoms) about 40 miles west of lower Vancouver Island with winds of 30-35 knots and seas of 12-15 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 13 n.m. during 13 hours at sea anchor.

Captain George Newson is the president of Newson Fisheries and a veteran of many gales in the Pacific Northwest. Whether longlining for halibut, trolling for salmon, or gillnetting for herring, the sea anchor has always played an important part in enhancing the safety, comfort and efficiency of his crew. Even as a young man he was accustomed to using government surplus parachutes while fishing Cape Flattery's stormy waters.

On the occasion of this file he used a 28-ft. diameter military surplus (C-9) parachute on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

He has since obtained - and used - a much heavier 24-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor.

Newson was using a dedicated tether consisting of 500 feet of 1/2" nylon braid! Kella Lee is a 50-ft. Monk trawler with a dry weight of 35 tons, yet her skipper - with many years of experience - initially chose 1/2" line for the tether, a size that one would ordinarily associate with the ground tackle of a 26-ft. sailboat weighing three tons! This says something about the importance of incorporating elasticity into parachute anchoring system. Transcript:

I used a regular 28 ft. chute years ago while trolling salmon off the Washington coast. It was common practice for most of the West Coast troll fleet. We worked the area above Gray's Harbor, known as the Prairie. Most of the area was too deep for anchoring and too far away to run in, so we used parachutes for sea anchors. We rode out many NW gales in relative comfort, averaging 1 nautical mile of drift per hour to leeward in gale force winds. The boat always rode bow to the sea.

The Para-Tech 24' diameter chute, being somewhat smaller and considerably heavier, tends to set easier than the government surplus 28-footers.... We pay out 500 ft. of 1/2" Samson double braid nylon rode, which is shackled to the bow.... The drift is reduced by two thirds. The ride is reasonable because of the elasticity of the long, thin rode.

Update: Two years later Shane received another letter from Captain Newson, indicating that the 1/2" nylon braid had in fact broken in a gale. The break occurred right at the thimble area of the splice. Newson was able recover the parachute by powering up to the float. He now uses 5/8" nylon braid.

S/P-6 Commercial F/V


Commercial F/V

65' x 33 Tons

24-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9-10 Conditions

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.

S/P-5 Commercial F/V


Commercial F/V

55' x 60 Tons

24-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8-9 Conditions

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.

S/P-4 Commercial F/V


Commercial F/V

70' x 30 Tons

24-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9-10 Conditions

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.

S/P-3 Commercial F/V


Commercial F/V

66' x 120 Tons

32-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9-10 Conditions

File S/P-3, obtained from Captain Michael Monteforte, Kenyon, RI. - Vessel name First Light, hailing port Point Judith, RI, commercial F/V, designed by Walter Bechman, LOA 66' x LWL 62' x Beam 21' x Draft 12' x 120 Tons - Sea anchor: 32-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 150' x 1¼" nylon three strand rode, with 3/4" stainless steel swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in a whole gale in shallow water (60 fathoms) about 150 files from Boston with winds of 55 knots and seas of 20 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10°.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, commercial fishing ranks as one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States.

Those of us who sail offshore for pleasure can pick our season and our route, and change both if necessary. But the skipper of a commercial F/V is up against an economic imperative. "Breaking up a trip" can be an expensive proposition. He has spent hundreds of dollars in fuel, ice and provisions, and the crew has to get paid whether they catch fish or not. So what happens when the Weather Service issues an untimely bulletin? Given today's shaky economic picture, the skipper has to make a difficult decision as to whether to go ahead with the trip, or to abort and head back for port with the holds empty.

In the course of interviewing scores of offshore fishermen, Victor Shane discovered that, as a general rule, most will stay on the fishing grounds and ride out the average gale, especially if the trip is still young. The majority will steam back for port in the event that the forecast is upgraded from "gale" (34-40 knots sustained) to "storm" (48-55 knots sustained). Sometimes they get caught out there in between.

Now when a commercial F/V runs into an offshore gale it is standard procedure to "jog into it" - an expression used by commercial fishermen themselves. The engine is placed in slow forward and the F/V makes just enough way to enable the helmsman to keep the bow pointed as high into the teeth of the gale as possible. Fuel is spent in jogging into the seas; the hull may pound some; there is the wear and tear on everything and everyone. And if the vessel loses power, if she springs a bad leak, or if something major - like a pump - breaks down, she may end up needing the assistance of the Coast Guard.

This is why commercial fishermen were among the first to use parachutes at sea. With the parachute set they can shut down all engines and stay on top of the fishing grounds, anchored to the surface of the ocean in relative comfort. Transcript of Captain Monteforte's testimonial:

I used sea anchors for four years on my last boat, the Dyrsten. She was 60' long by 20' wide, made of yellow pine planks with oak ribs. Her gross weight was 38 tons. We used surplus parachutes then, but suffered with the problem of the chutes blowing out, so we always carried a spare. I thought about a chute for my new boat, First Light, but because she is at least three times heavier than Dyrsten, I didn't follow up on the idea, until last January, when I called Para-Tech, after seeing their ad in National Fisherman. I purchased a 32' diameter chute... a well-made, extremely rugged looking sea anchor.

We started using it on the very next trip. We would fish all day, and lay to the chute during the night. What we experienced at sea anchor was a very peaceful motion, as the bow of the boat tracked its way into the oncoming swells. The ride was different than if you were to jog into it. I suppose there was just less pitch, allowing for a good night's sleep. On one particular trip in March '88 we were fishing at least 150 miles offshore when, on the second or third day of the trip, the barometer started to fall rapidly. Now, ordinarily, we are left with two choices if the weather deteriorates: steam home, or lay to. Unless the forecast is really bad, we invariably lay to. At any rate, we set the chute before dark and when I got up at dawn the wind had already shifted to the northeast and was blowing 30 knots. Having noticed that the barometer was still low, I decided to remain at sea anchor a while longer. As it turned out we remained at sea anchor for another day and night. The wind increased to fifty five, sixty knots, with higher gusts.

The whole time that we were hove to the sea anchor we were comfortable and relaxed. When it was over, we were rested, in good shape, and anxious to get back to work. In my opinion, a sea anchor, used with good judgment, is an invaluable tool.

S/P-2 Commercial F/V


Commercial F/V

65' x 43 Tons

28-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor

Force 9-10 Conditions

File S/P-2, obtained from Captain Marc Palombo, Sandwich, MA. - Vessel name Holly & Michael, hailing port Sandwich, commercial F/V, designed by Washburn and Doughty, LOA 65' x LWL 60' x Beam 16' x Draft 6' x 43 Tons - Sea anchor: 28-ft. Diameter C-9 military class parachute on 450' x 3/4" nylon three strand rode, with 5/8" galvanized swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in a whole gale in shallow water (45 fathoms) about 75 miles SE of Nantucket with winds of 45-55 knots and seas of 18 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 15 n.m. during 24 hours at sea anchor.


Captain Marc Palombo is president of Calico Lobster, Inc.. He has a number of commercial F/V's that work out of Sandwich, Massachusetts. These lobster boats, designed by naval architect Bruce Washburn, have proven to be extremely stable platforms at sea. Because of their hard chines they don't roll very much. Their low profile allows them to fish in high winds, and their wide open after decks can accommodate hundreds of lobster traps. Palombo called Victor Shane's company a number of years ago about C-9 parachutes for the boats. It seems that a member of his crew, Arthur Davey by name (see previous file), kept insisting that they should have one on board.

Shane explained to Captain Palombo that he had a few C-9's in stock, but that in his opinion they were not suitable for a big, 40-ton commercial F/V. He reminded Palombo that they were parachutes, designed for one man jumping out of an airplane. Captain Palombo insisted that he wanted three of them. He said Arthur Davey had told him they should be adequate.

Shane said "O.K", but went to great lengths to explain the importance of the long rode, "Remember, the long rode acts as a load buffer. THE LONGER THE RODE, THE LESS THE STRAIN ON EVERYTHING!"

Those C-9 parachutes were subsequently used by the Calico fleet in heavy weather, in conjunction with 400-500 feet of nylon rode. They didn't tear, and some were still in use years later. In 1986, for instance, the Holly & Michael used one in a November gale on the Georges Bank - 45 fathoms. Transcript:

I am writing to compliment you on the usefulness of the PARA-28 [28-ft. C-9]. As an offshore Lobster Fisherman I have deployed the parachute many times. I am completely satisfied with its operation. In one instance, we deployed the chute in a November 1986 gale, 75 miles south-east of Nantucket. The weather conditions deteriorated rapidly and we found ourselves sitting in 45 knot winds with about twelve foot seas....

Holly tethered to a 28-ft. diameter C-9 parachute in 18-ft. seas during a November gale about 75 miles SE of Nantucket. Note the breaking crest to the left, and the rode leading to the sea anchor. "Through the toughest twenty hours of the storm we lay to the parachute.... The PARA-28 kept our bow into the seas as we drifted. We did not pound into the seas, nor did we lie beam-to. It was a soft, comfortable manner to ride out the storm." (Photo courtesy of Captain Marc Palombo, Calico Lobster, Inc.)
Holly tethered to a 28-ft. diameter C-9 parachute in 18-ft. seas during a November gale about 75 miles SE of Nantucket. Note the breaking crest to the left, and the rode leading to the sea anchor. "Through the toughest twenty hours of the storm we lay to the parachute.... The PARA-28 kept our bow into the seas as we drifted. We did not pound into the seas, nor did we lie beam-to. It was a soft, comfortable manner to ride out the storm." (Photo courtesy of Captain Marc Palombo, Calico Lobster, Inc.)

For about twelve hours the National Weather Service out of Boston had storm warnings up. Through the toughest twenty hours of the storm we lay to the parachute. We were as comfortable as could be expected under these conditions. The PARA-28 kept our bow into the seas as we drifted. We did not pound into the seas, nor did we lie beam-to. It was a soft, comfortable manner to ride out the storm. The parachute enabled us to stay and ride out the storm. Some of the other vessels went into port with broken trips. We stayed and were able to complete our trip. In this respect the anchor paid for itself tenfold. I must stress that there is no substitute for good common sense in some of the decisions to either go home or stay out. But if I were to decide to stay and ride out a storm, I would definitely want a parachute sea anchor out.

Holly & Michael of Sandwich, Massachusetts. This commercial F/V uses parachute sea anchors to stay on top of the fishing grounds offshore.  (Photo courtesy of Captain Marc Palombo, Calico Lobster, Inc.)
Holly & Michael of Sandwich, Massachusetts. This commercial F/V uses parachute sea anchors to stay on top of the fishing grounds offshore. (Photo courtesy of Captain Marc Palombo, Calico Lobster, Inc.)

S/P-1 Commercial F/V


Commercial F/V

50' x 22 Tons

28-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor

Force 10 Conditions

File S/P-1, obtained from Captain Arthur Davey, Yarmouth Port, MA. - Vessel name Sea Roamer, hailing port Hyannis, MA, commercial F/V, designed by Gallagher, LOA 50' x LWL 48' x Beam 16' x Draft 6' x 22 Tons - Sea anchor: 28-ft. Diameter C-9 military class parachute on 150' x 3/4" Poly-Dacron rode with 5/8" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed in a storm in shallow water (60 fathoms) 75 miles east of Chatham, Massachusetts, with winds of 50 knots and seas 20-30 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Parachute disintegrated after 20 hours (probably due to short, low-stretch rode).

This file was derived from numerous telephone conversations with Captain Arthur Davey, along with an article called The Wreck Of The Sea Roamer by William P. Coughlin of the Boston Globe (courtesy Boston Globe).

At the time, Captain Arthur Davey was a 30-year veteran of the commercial fisheries. He has been through more storms than he can remember. This one was different, however.

On the night of Tuesday 15 December 1981, Sea Roamer, a steel-hulled gillnetter out of Hyannis, was about 75 miles offshore, riding to her 28-ft. diameter parachute in 30-knot winds. The rode consisted of about 150 feet of 3/4" low-stretch Poly-Dacron. The barometer was dropping. There were warnings of two weather fronts, with an interval of 12-18 hours forecast between them. A faster moving upper altitude TROUGH was about to overtake and reinforce a surface LOW (classic "bomb" type storm development, similar to Fastnet '79.)

By 8 a.m. the next morning it was blowing 45 knots as Sea Roamer's bow, snubbed to her parachute, lifted in what now were 30 ft. combined seas. One and a half hours later it was blowing 50 knots - with 90-knot gusts recorded at Chatham Weather Station.

The 150 feet of Poly-Dacron rode was not long enough, nor did it have sufficient elasticity to absorb the dynamic loads imposed by the wind and the seas on the 22-ton commercial F/V. Those loads were being transmitted directly to the lightweight surplus parachute in the water, and it began to fail - panels began to blow out.

Sea Roamer's bow began to swing off the wind in an increasing arc. The parachute finally disintegrated and Captain Davey had to cut away its remains. Sea Roamer came beam to the seas and began rolling heavily, rails buried. The skipper fired up the engine and put her on a westerly course, the 300 horsepower Caterpillar Diesel chugging at 1200 RPM. That was when the two weather fronts came together. They fell into synch, "Right on top of us," Captain Davey said. No 12-18 hour interval. No window of escape for Sea Roamer. The forecast had been wrong.

The seas rapidly built until some of them started to curl over and break. Arthur Davey was at the helm, trying to call them. He had to steer carefully, using Searoamer's bow as a shield. When he saw one coming he would head into it by putting down the wheel and easing off on the throttle. The wave would slam against the bow, making the hull pivot on its CLR. The skipper would then apply throttle again, inching westward, rounding up north to parry off another wave, then inching westward....

Captain Davey: "Once in a while, one would break over the bow, but I wasn't concerned. I had been caught in it before. And, if worse came to worse, I figured we could go further to south'ard and go in the deep water route by Great Round Shoal Channel."

An hour later the wind was screeching at hurricane force - 75 miles per hour sustained. The sea had become white with foam and was now delivering hammer blows at Sea Roamer's steel hull.

Already the Coast Guard had its hands full. For that was the dreadful night in which the 94-ft. F/V Pioneer went down and all hands had to be rescued. Meanwhile, Marjorie and Arthur Davey Sr., the skipper's parents, had been calling Sea Roamer over the base station from their home at South Yarmouth - to no avail. Their concern mounted until finally a call was put through to the Coast Guard. Soon they were listening on Channel 16 as the Coast Guard station at Chatham put out its own calls: "Come in Sea Roamer. Come in Sea Roamer." There was no answer.

Sea Roamer, apparently out of range, continued to inch her way through streaked, white mountains of water until 3:40 in the afternoon. That was when the hands on the ship's clock stopped - a watery giant, coming from a different direction, curled and exploded right on top of her.

"It was a rogue. A rogue wave of good proportions," Captain Davey said later, "I was at the wheel. I was on watch. That's all I remember to this day. How it hit, I don't know. I can vaguely remember the chopper, then the brain scan machine at the hospital. That's about it."

The wave ripped open and devastated Sea Roamer's heavily built oak and plywood wheelhouse. It also knocked the skipper unconscious. According to Roy McKenzie, mate for two years, "Everything was blown out in the wheelhouse. The captain was on the floor... the doorway was gone. Blood was pouring out of both his ears, his forehead and mouth. His eyes were open, rolled back."

Somehow McKenzie and deckhand Jack La France managed to get the unconscious Arthur Davey into a survival suit, and then put their own suits on. Sea Roamer lay dead in the water, with three of her five watertight compartments flooded forward. "The sea had gone to just foam. It was all white. Terrifying. You could hear the wind. That shrieking noise. That roaring," said McKenzie.

They deployed the life raft and struggled with it, but had to cut it loose, unable to put the unconscious captain in. The seas were now breaking regularly and Sea Roamer was lying a-hull, rolling heavily - up to 60°. Twilight descended. A tanker passed by, but didn't see the lights that they flashed at it - it was having troubles of its own. Exhausted, the men lay down on the steel deck next to their unconscious captain. Both recall having lifelike visions of their past lives.

By dawn the next day, the Coast Guard had a helicopter and a fixed wing Albatross out of Otis Field searching for Sea Roamer. On board the boat, Captain Davey suddenly groaned, opened his eyes, and looked around. "What happened?" he asked. "Get on the radio. Call the Coast Guard. And, Jack, Jeeze, will ya close the door. It's cold in here." There was no door to speak of - it had been blown away. The radio had been damaged - and the EPIRB lost - when the rogue wave hit. But McKenzie and La France bailed and managed to reconnect the battery line to the engine. They found the starter switch in the jumble of wires and hit it. The big diesel turned, stopped, turned again, caught and started to chug.

Sea Roamer was under way again, but her captain lapsed back into unconsciousness. The men steered for the west and kept bailing with buckets. At 12:39 p.m. on Thursday Dec. 17th, Lt. Steve Hilfery and co-pilot Lt. Ted Ohr, flying an Albatross seaplane out of Otis Field, spotted the little white hull of Sea Roamer in the rough sea below and a message quickly crackled back to the air station: "Located F/V Sea Roamer. Position, 41-dash-31 North latitude, 68-dash-50 West longitude, proceeding 330 degrees at five knots. Appears disoriented. There is damage to the pilot house."

The twin engined plane banked, turned and made a low-level pass over the boat. When the men heard the aircraft roar overhead they began sobbing uncontrollably. They came out and waved their hands.

CHOPPERAt 2:55 p.m. a Coast Guard helicopter lifted the unconscious Captain Arthur Davey to safety, the seventh human life it had plucked from the ocean on that day.

The ordeal ended the next morning when the cutter Point Bonita eased into her berth at Woods Hole, having put three Coast Guard seamen on board Sea Roamer for the slow tow to Hyannis, and having taken La France and McKenzie on board the cutter for initial treatment for "harsh exposure." Roy McKenzie's wife Melody and his son, Roy Jr., were standing at the dock as lines were heaved to the Point Bonita. Jack La France stepped onto the concrete dock and made a vow never to go to sea again, a vow that he has yet to break.

But Captain Arthur Davey? Well, no sooner did he get released from the hospital than he was right back offshore, staring down another winter gale on the Georges Bank. For cryin' out loud Arthur.

How would Sea Roamer have fared at sea anchor if she had used 600 feet of elastic nylon rode instead of only 150 ft. of low-stretch Poly-Dacron? Would she have been able to ride out the storm without damage? We will never know, but Arthur Davey told Victor Shane that he was never too old to learn. He still uses parachutes at sea. But now with a long NYLON rode.