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-17, obtained from Richard R. Barrie, Van Nuys, CA. - Vessel name Fifth Fox, hailing port Channel Islands, CA, trimaran designed by Jay Kantola, LOA 34' x Beam 24' x Draft 3' x 3 Tons - Sea anchor: 28-ft. Diameter C-9 military class parachute on 400' x 3/4" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 100' each, with 3/4" galvanized swivel - No trip-line - Deployed in a Pacific storm in deep water about 1000 miles west of Guadalajara, Mexico, with winds of 55-70 knots and seas of 20 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 12 n.m. during 72 hours at sea anchor.
Sailing to Los Angeles from Panama, Richard Barrie decided to take one long - 1000 mile - tack out to sea and back, avoiding the Pagagayos, Tehuantepeckers and other hazards that one ordinarily associates with the Central American coast. However, Fifth Fox ran into a storm well offshore. Transcript:
During the last week of May, 1984, my wife and I with our two daughters left the Las Perlas Islands in Panama, and headed back to California. The first two weeks of the trip north were idyllic, 15-20 knots beam reaching with the spinnaker and the Tiller-Master doing all the work. During the second week of June the wind gradually went northwest and increased.
Before noon on the second day of the wind shift, a strong gust hit us (we had put a reef in the main, but still had a 120 genoa up) and the lower after stay on the port side parted at deck level. My first thought was to deploy the parachute, fix the shroud and continue on. We deployed the chute off the stern [on the fly] going downwind without a trip line in moderate conditions. I fully expected to replace the lower shroud and continue on. While sitting to the chute during the first hour or so, I went up the mast with a new Sta-Lock attached to a new lower stay. While I was at the spreaders attempting to exchange the wire, the wind quickly increased from a steady 30-35 knots to a steady 50 knots with higher gusts, with the sea state increasing rapidly. I had never been seasick in all my life, yet I became nauseous. I could not continue with the work aloft so came down the mast and jury-rigged the lower at the deck with some wire clamps. That took the S-curve out of the mast so we could sail if the chute let go.
After sitting on the parachute anchor for a few hours, I was in the cockpit when a huge wave pushed the boat up to the crest and back on the rudder. The rudder had been locked in place amidships with the Tiller-Master. In the middle of this particularly large cresting wave, I heard a sickening crack and looked down and saw the tiller head starting to swing independently of the tiller. It was very apparent what was wrong. Fortunately there was a hole in the rudder blade itself, so with a stout line tied to the port float near the transom, I dove in the sea and rove this line through the rudder blade, with a knot on either side, then on to the starboard float. This action no doubt saved the rudder....
For the next three days we were anchored to the parachute, with the wind screaming and the waves cresting. While it was difficult to sleep soundly, we could at least sleep. As time wore on, it became apparent that we and the boat were safe, even with the wind flicking salt water bullets at us at 50 or 60 knots. The wind moderated to 35 knots after the third day and we cast off the lines and sailed up to the float and retrieved the parachute quite easily. Previously we had deployed the parachute with a trip line and it fouled rather quickly. I resolved then never to use a trip line again. I will now carry two parachutes for insurance.
I took star shots each evening and morning during our three day stay in this part of the ocean and was quite surprised to find that we moved only 12 miles in a southeasterly direction.
File S/T-15, obtained from Andrew Cserny, Eldorado, IL. - Vessel name Gold Eagle, hailing port Raleigh, IL, trimaran ketch, designed by Norman Cross, LOA 42' x Beam 23' x Draft 4' x 7 Tons - Sea anchor: 18-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 5/8" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 80' each, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - No trip-line - Deployed in an unnamed hurricane in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico, about 200 miles WSW of Tampa, with winds of 100 knots and seas of 30-50 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 30 n.m. during two days at sea anchor.
Dr. Andrew Cserny purchased Gold Eagle (File S/T-8) from Daniel York in 1992. In March 1993 he and his wife set off from Mobile Bay, Alabama, for Cape Sable at the southern tip of Florida - six hundred miles as the crow flies across the Gulf of Mexico. En route they were hit by an unforecast, unnamed hurricane that did considerable damage to the Florida peninsula, sinking one freighter (30 people rescued, a number missing), driving another freighter aground, and sinking a number of small craft, among them a 39-ft. monohull, whose owner and wife were lost at sea. Here is a transcript of Dr. Cserny's harrowing experience - a sobering reminder of what the unpredictable sea is capable of:
We departed Mobile Bay the afternoon of March 10, 1993, on a rhumb line from the sea buoy off the entrance to Mobile Bay heading toward Cape Sable at the southern tip of Florida. The weather was fine, the forecast on the VHF called for possible thunder showers that night along the southeast coast of Alabama and the Florida panhandle, with winds gusting to 17 knots, choppy inland waterways and seas rising to 6-8 feet from the coast to 50 miles offshore...
We sailed under a club footed jib, main sail and mizzen, this being a rather conservative sail plan for our boat, with the winds being anywhere from 8 to 18 knots during the night. Sea and wind conditions continued the same on the 11th and at daybreak we doused the club footed jib and raised the genoa instead, and continued on the rhumb line. Toward the latter part of the afternoon the wind started to head us and we kept going farther west of our rhumb line, so that by around five in the afternoon we were approximately fifteen nautical miles west of our rhumb line.
At this point rather than tacking back toward land, which would have put us in a northeasterly direction and amounted to almost going backwards rather than toward Cape Sable, we decided to deploy the sea anchor and so to speak "park" the boat for the night, rather than trying the motor or trying to sail and really pinch the boat close-hauled. I was not expecting deteriorating conditions, I just wanted to rest for the night and to see if the wind would perhaps change and come from a more favorable direction so we could continue on the rhumb line. I was not aware that the storm was coming, therefore I did not lash down the sails as I would have. Matter of fact, I probably would have taken the sails off if I had known the storm was coming.
After deploying the sea anchor successfully, and watching the boat ride with an easy motion up and down the waves while tethered to the sea anchor, in roughly 6-8 foot waves, we decided to go to bed for the evening. All sails were furled and tied down with bungee straps. I awoke sometime after dark to a rhythmic crunching noise in the aft portion of the boat, which did not sound normal. When I went to investigate, I found that the sea state and the wind had built up considerably and occasional waves were slamming into the open cockpit area. When I lifted the hatch covering the steering compartment, I saw that the Morse cables attached to the steering quadrant had ripped loose from the wooden supports that were used to anchor them, and the steering quadrant was swinging wildly about. We secured the steering quadrant with lines 5/8 inch and 3/4 inch diameter, two of these lines on each side of the quadrant. Within half an hour these had chafed completely through.
The winds and seas continued to build in the dark, and by two in the morning I thought we were probably in a Force 10 gale. Sometime during the night we were hit by an immensely strong burst of wind which I presumed must have been a twister, because the pressure inside the pilot house fluctuated rapidly, the windows rattled, the doors to the pilot house rattled, and the sliding hatches tried to come off the top of the boat [lift off their rails]. The front windshields flapped wildly up and down, the wind shrieked horribly with pitch and intensity I have never heard before although I have been in an automobile traveling at 135 miles per hour. It lasted maybe a minute to a minute and a half and it was during this time that the sails tore loose and began flapping wildly from the front to the back of the boat. The main sail was torn loose from its track in places. It was torn from the bolt rope, flopped wildly over the starboard side of the boat and self-destructed. In the same extremely high wind or twister that hit us, the mizzen sail was torn loose. The speaker for the loud hailer was torn loose from its mounting and carried away. The club-footed jib tore loose. It was shredded, and the boom flailed wildly about, causing holes and damages....
The seas continued to build, the wind shrieked, the sails continued to flog wildly, the spray was driven it seemed horizontally across the surface of the water and was leaking in around the top of the windshield and the left pilot house door fairly profusely. Waves were probably 25 to 30 feet in height, maybe higher, with breaking crests which regularly broke over the bow. One had to literally hold on all the time just to exist. Even sitting down, one had to hold on.
Then we were struck by what I would consider to be a rogue wave. I was holding on to the steering wheel in the pilot house at the time. I was thrown across the pilot house and crashed through the door on the right side and landed outside the cockpit on the right side of the boat. At the same time everything that was loose flew from the left side of the boat to the middle of the boat or over to the right side. For example, the toaster sitting on the left side of the boat on top of the kitchen cabinet flew across the boat and landed on the right side on top of the nav station, approximately two feet higher than where it was sitting on the kitchen counter. Everything in the boat literally got scrambled. Rest was possible only on the floor of the main salon, wedged between the icebox on the right and the dinette and the galley cabinets on the left.
I am not sure exactly when, but I suspect probably when the rogue wave hit, the sea anchor also tore loose a bridle leg, carrying with it the hardware for mounting the trampoline, because, sometime after daybreak we noted that the bridle for the right side of the sea anchor was totally gone. There was a hole in the bow on the right side [starboard ama], and the boat was riding to the sea anchor from one line, which was cleated off to the left side of the main bow. And sometime during the course of the day, this line chafed in two. But before it chafed in two, it periodically caught the [steel] anchor and flipped it out of its mounting on the bow, breaking part of the anchor bracket and bending another part - actually lifting the stainless steel plate that the anchor bracket and the pulpit were welded to. Eventually, the line to the sea anchor, now no longer being protected from chafe by the snatchblock on the float bow, chafed itself to destruction on the anchor bracket. I am not sure at what point the last attachment of the sea anchor parted, but after this, we were mostly broadside to the waves, and in a most vulnerable position for being flipped over.
The storm continued to rage. The boat laid most of the time broadside to the waves which were breaking over the port float. The wind continued to shred the sails and I considered it almost suicidal to go outside and try to stow the sails which were basically destroyed by this time anyway.
On the morning of the 14th the wind had subsided sufficiently to enable us to get outside of the pilot house and at this point I rigged the mizzen sail, using the reef points in the mizzen to lash the upper part of the sail, which had shredded away from the lower part. I repaired the clew of the genoa. We used sails to steer the boat and were able to set a course heading toward Ft. Meyers, which was the nearest approach to land. We still had no steering. Once we got underway with the sails and were able to steer with the adjustments in the sails, the seas no longer broke over the transom and we were able to bail out the rear compartment, which gave us access to the steering quadrant. Fortunately I had numerous tools on board, as well as a good assortment of fasteners, and by cutting up some of the floor boards, and after hours and hours of jury rigging, we were able to effect a workable repair of the steering quadrant.... While I was effecting the above mentioned repairs, my wife June was able to make contact with a passing tanker, which was rather surprised to see us still out there afloat and under sail, and told us that they had been beaten up fairly badly, and we had just lived through a Force 12 storm with 30-50 ft. seas and 100 knot winds.
For the next three days we beat into seas ranging anywhere from 8-12 feet. The waves were coming directly at us, and at a normal cruising RPM of 1500 to 1700 RPMs we were making anywhere from two to four knots over ground as measured by the GPS. While beating into the wind and waves we took water in over the main bow where the trampoline attachment had torn loose, as well as where the cap for the anchor chain was torn loose, and everything in the front part of the boat got soaked. The starboard part of our float took on a considerable amount of water through the hole ripped out by the bridle. However, I used rags and fiberglass impregnated cloth to repair this defect, and was able to bail out the water from the right float. We dropped anchor in a bight just north of Matanzas Pass on the 17th. It was the first time we had been able to sleep in our bunks since the 10th.
Comments: The sea anchor was eighteen (18) foot diameter, manufactured by Para-Tech Engineering, with a 5/8" nylon rode 400 feet long and bridle arms of the same material, 80 feet long, with stainless steel swivels. There was a trip line at the apex of the parachute. Actually, the initial part of the trip line consisted of a nylon strap, maybe 10-12 feet long, possibly slightly longer than that, to which was attached a plastic float, possibly 8-10 inches long, maybe 4-5 inches in diameter. Then attached to this was a length of nylon line maybe about 30 feet long.
I made my first mistake here by taking the float off from the nylon strap, tying the nylon strap to the 30 foot nylon line, then attaching the float to the end of the nylon line. In retrospect, this was the wrong thing to do, and I suspect that the trip line kept fouling the parachute, causing the parachute to periodically collapse, then the parachute would unwind itself and it would hold again for a while and then it would collapse again, allowing the boat to surge backward to a much greater extent than it would have if the parachute had been fully opened out all the time. While riding to the sea anchor, at times we would head into the wind and waves and take the waves just fine, then all of a sudden we would start slipping and turning sideways with respect to the wind and waves. I'm sure at these times, the parachute anchor was collapsing. I went out on the bow and tried to pull the sea anchor in but this was impossible, even with the chute collapsed and taking the waves on the port beam, there was enough tension on the line that it made it impossible to pull it in. At times, the sea anchor would undoubtedly unwind and fully deploy itself and we would be riding quite securely on the bridle, heading into the waves again.
I suspect that when the rogue wave hit, the chute was collapsed, because the rogue wave hit us pretty much broadside on the port side of the boat. I suspect that at this time we came close to being capsized, and quite possibly the parachute anchor, even though it was collapsed and allowing us to lie broadside to the waves, probably kept us from going over. I do not know for a fact, but I suspect that the attachment points of the bridles were torn loose from the bows at this time, thereafter, the bridle was then attached to the bow of the main hull and really no longer acted as a bridle, chafing at times against the anchor and the anchor bracket. As a result of this, the lines eventually chafed through and we lost the sea anchor altogether. From then on we were lying a-hull, but always presented the port side and sometimes the port front quarter of the boat throughout the rest of the 1½ days that the storm lasted after this.
If we had been running downwind in these waves, I suspect that we might have been pitchpoled, and I'm certain that had we been running when the rogue wave hit we would have been pitchpoled. I also suspect that had the sea anchor been properly deployed and properly attached, that we would have survived the storm with only our sails blown out.
Lessons Learned: 1) I believe the weather forecast on the VHF is unreliable. Next time I venture offshore I will be listening to the weather forecast on the single side band. 2) When deploying the parachute anchor, next time the float will be attached at the end of the trip float line or the strap that comes directly off the apex of the parachute, then the longer trip line will be attached to the float. This float line will be fairly short and made of polypropylene line with float attached to it, making sure that it will not sink down and foul the parachute anchor. 3) I have replaced the sea anchor with another 18 foot parachute by Para-Tech. This one is now in a pack which can be deployed without taking the chute out of the bag. You can just throw the whole thing into the water, which I think is an improvement. The tether is 5/8" nylon, 500 feet long. There is an oversized stainless steel swivel. The bridle arms are longer now, made of 3/4" Dacron, which is less stretchy than nylon and hopefully better resistant to abrasion. The geometry of the attachment of the bridle to the boat is now different. I believe that it is significantly better. The two legs of the bridle now come through the points on the bows of the amas where the stainless steel plate holding the snatchblock is much more substantial than what was there before. The snatchblocks are considerably more substantial than the ones they are replacing. The bridle is led straight back onto the deck of the ama and tied off to a cleat which is through bolted to the main deck, and underneath is attached and through bolted to an L-shaped steel backing plate, in turn through bolted to the main crossbeam. With this geometry, all the strain will be taken by this oversized cleat and the snatchblock on the point of the ama will only act as a fairlead to be subjected to very little strain, and nothing like the forces that this same point was subjected to before, that being the reason why things pulled out. 4) The jacklines I had rigged before were of 1 inch nylon strap with 4800 breaking strength. I religiously used the harness and the tether whenever I ventured outside the pilot house. At the end of the storm the port jackline had chafed completely in two where it had been riding against the babyshroud on the port side. There were no cotter pins or rough or jagged edges on the babyshroud or on the turnbuckle. I'm sure that any round line would have also chafed in two. The new jacklines will be made out of stainless steel wire covered with plastic coating that will not chafe in two. 5) The Morse pushpull cables have been replaced with hydraulic steering. The attachment points are much more substantial than before. Previously, the anchor points for the cables were secured to a sheet of 3/4" plywood by four 1/4" stainless machine screws. The whole attachment point just literally ripped a 2 x 4" rectangle of the 3/4" plywood completely out and rendered the steering useless. The new steering parts are much more massive.
During the entire storm we moved approximately 30 nautical miles according to our GPS. However, during at least half of the storm, the anchor was totally gone and during the first half the storm the sea anchor worked off and on, so you can't really say that we drifted 30 miles at sea anchor. Having observed how the boat reacted to the sea conditions when she was being held by the sea anchor, and comparing the actions of the boat without the sea anchor, there is no doubt in my mind that the sea anchor is the ultimate survival tool in heavy weather offshore. I am also certain that had our sea anchor been deployed and attached properly we would have had a much easier time, and felt much more secure. The motion of the boat and therefore our comfort level inside the boat would have been much better. It is quite possible that the steering quadrant would not have torn up because we would not have surged backwards so much with each wave. I believe that with the sea anchor properly deployed, we would have had a frightening but manageable experience, instead of the almost three days of sheer terror that we lived through, not knowing from one wave to the next if we were going to be capsized.
File S/C-20, obtained from Jean Claude Barey, Montreal, Canada - Vessel name Chasse Galerie II, hailing port Montreal, Spindrift catamaran, designed by Lock Crowther, LOA 49' x Beam 23' 6" x Draft 3' x 8 Tons - Sea anchor: 15-ft. Diameter Shewmon on 300' x 3/4" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 40' each, with 5/8" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed in a whole gale in 500' of water about five miles SE of Port Elizabeth (South Africa) with winds of 40-45 knots and seas of 17-20 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed less than 10° - Drift was estimated to be 8 n.m. during 42 hours at sea anchor.
Jean Claude Barey took Chasse Galerie II on a circumnavigation in 1991. After transiting the Suez Canal he sailed her down to Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, and was en route to Cape Town when he ran into a blow on the continental shelf, in close proximity to the Agulhas current. Transcript:
The conditions were not bad, but we could not take long tacks against the wind, because we were too close to the Agulhas current. We then used the sea anchor. Other boats without sea anchors decided to run back [to Port Elizabeth] after a few hours because they were not making progress to windward. Our Shewmon sea anchor worked well in those conditions. The boat was very steady (less than 5° yaw I will say).
The Gulf Stream and the Kuroshio (Japan) notwithstanding, the Agulhas is likely the strongest and most articulated current on earth - with a reputation for breaking ships in two. Because of it, the southeast coast of Africa represents a gauntlet that mariners need to run with great care and prudence. Charts of the region warn: "Abnormal waves of up to 20 meters in height, preceded by a deep trough, may be encountered in the area between the edge of the continental shelf and twenty miles to seaward thereof. These can occur when a strong southwesterly wind is blowing."
The Agulhas runs mainly from northeast to southwest, following the two hundred meter contour of the continental shelf and dissipating over the Agulhas Bank south of Mossel Bay.
If the Agulhas could be likened to a great river - moving 80 million tons of water per second at speeds of up to six knots - the high-crested waves that form on it during southwesterly storms would be akin to the tidal bores that travel up the Amazon and the Bay of Fundy.
Since the current extends to depths of more than 1000 meters, and since it generally does not intrude onto the shelf regions, but tends to lie just offshore of the shelf edge, evasive procedure for cruisers has always been to stay clear of the area seaward of the edge of the continental shelf. What many sailors do after leaving Durban is to sail offshore just far enough to "kiss and ride" the current south, but not so far that they can't make a hasty retreat out of its axis and duck inshore at the slightest indication that there is a southwesterly gale brewing.
As always, the cardinal rule is never leave according to clock or calender, nor have a deadline at the other end. According to literature forwarded to Victor Shane by Chris Bonnet, Principal of the Ocean Sailing Academy in Durban, the best time of the year to travel south is January to March.
The gauntlet from Durban to East London is 250 miles with absolutely no safe place to duck into in between. Bonnet advises sailors to wait for a favorable window. Leave Durban at the tail-end of a southwesterly blow when the barometer has topped out, preferably at about 1020 milibars. Clear customs and immigration at the advent of a southwesterly, which will normally blow from 36 to 48 hours, then sail on to the two hundred meter line as soon as possible as this is where you can obtain a several-knot boost from the current.
It also means that in the event of not reaching East London before another southwester, you can quickly duck inshore and avoid being caught in the middle of the current - where sixty foot walls of water have been known to break ships in two. You will find that on average the two hundred meter line will give you a distance offshore - between Durban and East London - of approximately ten miles.
The gauntlet from East London to Port Elizabeth is shorter - 120 nautical miles. Kiss and ride the current, move inshore if caught. The Port Elizabeth to Cape Town leg is a little safer as there are decent places to anchor or put into - Knyasna, Cape St. Francis or Krombaai. But watch the charts and proceed with caution as there are rocks and reefs all about.
File S/C-18, obtained from Colin Kenny, Riebeek, South Africa - Vessel name Manx, hailing port Cape Town, catamaran, designed by Phil Southwell, LOA 34' x Beam 22' x Draft 3' 4" x 6.7 Tons - Sea anchor: 18-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 500' x 5/8" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 60' each, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - No trip line - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 800 miles ESE of Rio de Janeiro with winds of 35-40 knots and seas of 30 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 20° - Drift was estimated to be 17 n.m. during 40 hours at sea anchor.
Colin Kenny sailed Manx to a first place finish (multihull class) in the 1996 Cape Town to Rio Race. He deployed a para-anchor because of a combination of injury and bad weather on the return trip. Transcript:
We took part in the Rothmans Cape to Rio race in MANX, a 35' Southwell-designed catamaran displacing 6.7 tons. She was fitted with an Aerorig - the first unstayed carbon rig seen in this country. After a race dogged (if you will excuse the pun) by light winds, we arrived in Rio in 26 days 4 hours to finish first overall in the multihull category by a matter of 40 hours.
After spending three weeks in the islands south of Rio, we left for Cape Town on 25 February. We were sailing double handed, myself and Sue, who has only been sailing for the past year. The winds were SE instead of the anticipated westerlies. Heading south with a view to picking up the south westerlies we made good progress.
On the afternoon of 4 March, after having put in a third reef because of increasing winds and a deteriorating sea state, I was struck by the boom whilst returning to the cockpit and knocked unconscious. I was only out for about five minutes but had sustained a nasty gash on the head, which bled profusely. After coming round, I was in a confused state of mind and Sue sought assistance by putting out a PAN PAN radio call, but to no avail. We were more successful when we tried Inmarsat C. In addition, we finally raised Cape Town Radio and received the necessary medical advice. Being so far from land (our position was 33° 30' S and 31° 25' W) all we could do was monitor vital signs for the next 12 hours and hope for the best. Suffice it to say that those were the longest hours imaginable. Fortunately there were no complications.
Twenty four hours after the accident, we had even more drama. We were on a reciprocal course heading NE (in case we needed assistance). Sailing with triple-reefed main and no headsail (damaged the previous day) and using engines for improved direction in very strange, mountainous seas, we were concerned as to how we were going to make it through the night. In addition I was extremely weak after the accident. On the radio we heard that Tigress, a 38' Prout catamaran [in the same region], had deployed her para-anchor. Speaking to them on the radio they were astonished at the difference in outlook subsequent to deploying the anchor. They urged us to do the same.
I had some misgivings as I did not have the necessary primary float, trip lines or recovery float. Instead we lashed two fenders together to act as the primary float, and a small fender as the recovery float, but without a [full] trip line. With great difficulty, we deployed the anchor to windward. I say with great difficulty since we did not have a trampoline to walk on - it had UV degraded and been ripped away by constant wave action. Since our bridle was to be cleated to primary cleats on the cross-beam and backed up by secondary cleats on the bow, it was tricky, to say the least, to crawl forward and cleat the bridle ends and get the tether through the stanchions on the cross-beam, thereby ensuring that they would not snag and run free. The para-anchor was deployed off the starboard (windward) bow. Initially it looked as if we had made a mistake, as the tether was swept under the bow and I had visions of it passing below the keel and snagging the sail-drive. I snubbed the tether, the anchor began deploying and the bow started to swing around. We released more tether, snubbing the line at intervals until the full 500 feet of tether was out on 60 foot bridles.
It was miraculous how easy the boat felt - as if someone had switched off the wind and sea conditions. Yaw was minimal - 10° (if that) to either side. It had taken us a fair amount of time to prepare both ourselves and the anchor, but we had no idea how satisfying our efforts would prove to be. It was now 20:00 and we settled down to a peaceful night. At 01:30 Sue, braving the black night, high seas, 35 knots of wind (and no trampoline), checked the bridle [leading directly off cleats, no chocks] for chafe - nothing! Similarly at dawn - no chafe. After lying at anchor for 40 hours, we were surprised to find no signs of chafe. I can only think that because we had a longer rode out than ordinarily required, the stretch of the nylon was such that there was next to no additional stress on the boat and the cleats, and hence the rode....
At 10:00 on 7 March, after 40 hours at anchor, we hauled it in - the rode was pulled through the bow roller and winched in using the winch on the boom. The two larger fenders (primary float) were missing, but the small additional fender we had attached to the float line was still there. The chute was partially collapsed and, as a consequence, tangled. However it was clearly still functioning, although not as effectively.
After visiting Tristan da Cunha for a medical check-up, we encountered four gales on the trot, but the sea state was never as severe as that which we had encountered on the Bromley Plateau. We sailed under storm jib alone, which proved effective. There were times when we took a lot of water over the boat, however the conditions were never bad enough to deploy the para-anchor again. But the simple knowledge of how effective it had been and that we could deploy it again and expect the same results gave us a great deal of confidence (not over-confidence!) in our ability to sum up the situation and continue sailing. We had an ace up our sleeve. We arrived back in Cape Town on Easter Monday, 8 April 1996. To say that I was impressed with the para-anchor would be a gross understatement - I am mightily impressed.... Any multihull skipper that goes to sea without a para-anchor is being foolhardy.
File S/C-16, obtained from Dr. Gavin LeSueur, Mallacoota, Australia - Vessel name Windswept, hailing port Mallacoota, catamaran, designed by Lock Crowther, LOA 40' x Beam 26' x Draft 2' 6" x 2.75 Tons - Sea anchor: 16-ft. Diameter Para-Anchors Australia on 300' x 3/4" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 28' each, with 5/8" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed in a storm in shallow water (40 fathoms) in the Bass Strait with winds of 45-58 knots and seas of 30 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 20° - Drift was estimated to be 12 n.m. during 6 hours at sea anchor.
Dr. Gavin LeSueur is an Australian country doctor who lives in Mallacoota, Victoria. He is also among the world's leading multihull safety experts, having weathered storms, used a wide variety of drag devices on different multihulls, and pioneered an adjustable drogue that is now being manufactured by Para-Anchors Australia. The intrepid doctor windsurfed 750 miles from Melbourne to Sydney in 1982. He has written three books - Windswept, The Line, and Multihull Seamanship Illustrated (distributed in the United States by Multihulls Magazine). Transcript:
In January 1988 I raced two-handed from Sydney to Auckland (1000 nm) on my catamaran, D Flawless. This was a 37' x 24' x 4600 lbs. open bridgedeck offshore racing catamaran. My crew was 21 year old Catherine Reed [wife to be]. After rounding the northern tip of New Zealand, the fleet was hammered by cyclone Bola. This tropical cyclone followed an unusual route and was unforeseen by me due to lack of high seas forecasts at the time, because of an industrial dispute at the Australian Meteorological Bureau! By the time we realized what was on the way (we first heard about it on New Zealand commercial radio stations!) we were in 60 knots plus and 25-35 ft. seas - with a lee shore 30 miles away!
I carried a 12-ft. parachute made by Para-Anchors Australia on board without a float or trip line, and with 300 ft. of nylon anchor line. I was unable to set the parachute. The conditions were such that it was not possible to crawl forward on deck due to the sea state and wind. It was like trying to move with your hands full on the roof of a car going along a bumpy road at 80 mph. We had removed all sail (and boom) except a small storm jib, lashed the helm over to drive the boat into the wind, and raised both daggerboards.[Emphasis added.] Thus D Flawless tracked at 70 degrees off the wind for the next 36 hours. We moved at about 2 knots, passing the edge of the eye and were ejected out of the "bad" quadrant. Wind strengths on land reached 96 knots. It was not pleasant huddled in the hull in our survival suits, awaiting the capsize that did not happen. The boat remained remarkably intact and we sailed into Auckland to finish the race.
En route back to Australia two months later we struck a 43 ft. humpback whale at 3:00 am in 25 knots of wind. We were surfing with our centerboards not fully raised. The whale awoke as we embedded our port centerboard in its back. It took off with the centerboard, the case and a good portion of the side of our port hull. The mast came down and speared itself through the remaining "good" hull! Over the next 45 minutes the catamaran wrenched itself to pieces. There were four of us on board at the time and we were 60 miles off the Australian coast. So close, and yet so far.
With no option but to get into our life raft we left the tangled wreckage and joined many of the foam sandwich hull pieces drifting downwind. The life raft was an Australian Yachting Federation approved offshore raft. Sea conditions deteriorated to 45 knots and 20 ft. waves. We were on the edge of the continental shelf and occasional seas were higher and breaking. We were capsized out of the raft four times! The parachute drogue on the water ballasted raft was useless. The only way we could stop capsizing on most waves was to dive to the windward side of the raft on each wave. It worked some of the time. We were rescued nine hours after hitting the whale. Rescue was quick and by helicopter (thus accurate wind and sea condition measurements). We had drifted over 20 miles in that time and rescue was effected due to our initial Mayday, missed radio schedule, EPIRB (which later failed - waterlogged), hand-held VHF radio (helicopter got a directional fix on this) and rocket flares. We were in good condition in survival suits, with extra water and flares over and above what was already in the raft.
Catherine and I now sail three handed with our three year old daughter (and dog - but she doesn't count). We have continued to experiment with drogues and parachutes and have used both many times since. I have no major problems with our parachute system. We use a 16-ft. diameter one made by Para-Anchors Australia, and carry 400 ft. of braided nylon rope. We do not use a swivel, or a trip line. The parachute has a float on 30 ft. of line on it's vent hole. Only once have we added a catenary weight down the line with a snatch block. We used a 25 kg CQR. In the 40-knot conditions it made little difference and it was a trial. We winch the line in while motoring up to the float. The bridle is a separate line and is tied to the tether with a rolling hitch. When the load is taken back on the tether in the cockpit, the rolling hitch is easily undone.
NOTE: Dr. LeSueur was a participant in the rough and tragic 1988 Round Australia Race in which he used and destroyed several drogues (see also File D/C-8).
File S/C-14, obtained from Jack Goodman, Arlington, VA. - Vessel name Cat Morgan, hailing port Lusby, MD, catamaran, designed by Maurice Edel, LOA 35' x Beam 19' 10" x Draft 2' 10" x 3.5 Tons - Sea anchor: 15-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 350' x 3/4" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 25' each, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip line - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 150 miles WNW of Bermuda, with winds of 40-50 knots and seas of 15-20 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 6 n.m. during 12 hours at sea anchor.
Bermuda bound sailors seem to be high on King Neptune's hit list. Transcript:
We were sailing to Bermuda from the Chesapeake Bay with the '95 Bermuda Cruising Rally. The second and third days it rained and blew. We were either beating in one squall, or becalmed and waiting for another one. The fourth morning found the wind blowing straight from Bermuda and strengthening. The waves grew much larger and more irregular than they should have been with 40 knots of wind. Very awkward. We seemed to be in between two different weather systems. The forecast was uncertain and we were growing tired. (We later found out that we had been sailing in the southern quadrant of a counter clockwise eddy, with the current against the wind. Had we beat southward ten more miles we would have been in much calmer seas).
By noon the irregular - pyramid shaped - waves had increased to 20 feet, so we decided to try out our 15 ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor. We took all sail down and ran with the wind at nine knots until the parachute was rigged and ready. With our outboard motor running at full bore we were just able to turn the boat 45° into the wind. I then dunked the parachute bag and float into the water on the windward side of the bow. Even though I was aware that the trip line could foul, and was therefore careful in full daylight, it still got wrapped around the shrouds of the parachute. The chute still opened, and since the [partial] trip line was not close by, I let it go (I could not have pulled it back anyway).
I slowly let out 350' of the 400' x 3/4" nylon braid rode and cleated it off to the port bow. Using a rolling hitch, I tied a 5/8" Dacron line to the 3/4" tether, let out 25 feet and cleated it off on the starboard side [re: Fig 38 in File S/T-6]. I then uncleated the port side and eased it out until the bridle sides were of equal length and re-cleated it. The boat rode bow to the wind, veering no more than 10° to either side. No water came on deck. Aside from the noise of the wind - and the going up and down like a mad elevator - it was quite comfortable inside. We cooked and ate a large steak dinner, left one crew member on watch and went to bed.
At midnight the wind dropped to about 20 knots and the boat sat 90° to the wind. We decided to retrieve the parachute. Motoring into the wind only allowed the chute to sink, causing more strain on the line. We found the best strategy was to wrap the line around a sheet winch and take in slack after every wave. This kept the chute close to the surface and was quite easy, albeit slow. When the chute was close enough we grabbed a shroud line with a boat hook and pulled it aboard. No strain on the boat or hard work - just two hours of time.
Notes: During the 12 hours with the sea anchor we drifted 6 miles east, with the wind from the southwest. I now believe that after the wind dies down a little and my boat wants to lie beam to the seas, I will tie the parachute off the stern until it is time to pull it in. When we got to Bermuda I removed the trip line. Getting the chute back is secondary. If we ever need to use the parachute again we won't mind the extra hour required to pull it in. Also, in order to set the sea anchor, the next time I will heave-to with only the reefed mainsail [sheeted in tight], instead of using the motor to bring the head up into the wind to deploy the parachute. One of the nice things about the Edel Cat is that the cleats are on top of a rounded deck with NO CHOCKS. The bridle lines went directly from the cleats to the parachute touching only the smooth deck or forward aluminum cross beam at extreme angles, hence hardly any chafe at all. From now on we will always carry a parachute when offshore. Not just for storms, but equipment failure and extreme fatigue.
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.
File S/C-12, obtained from Sackville J. Currie, Blaney, Ireland - Vessel name An t-Iompodh Deisiol, hailing port Sligo, Ireland, "Escale" catamaran, designed by Prout, LOA 39' x Beam 18' x Draft 3' x 9 Tons - Sea anchor: 18-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 5/8" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 60' each, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip line - Deployed in a whole gale in deep water about 90 miles northeast of Casablanca, Morocco, with winds of 45-52 knots and seas of 15-18 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 20-30° - Drift was estimated to be 7-8 n.m. during 36 hours at sea anchor.
Sackville J. Currie is the envy of every landlubber on the planet earth. Having sailed multihulls all over Japan as Prout's agent over there, he had the Prout brothers custom-design a 39-ft. Escale for himself, which he named An t-Iompodh Deisiol (pronounced Aan Umple Jesshul), Gaelic for "the place of turning sunwise."
After launching her in 1993 in Ireland he went on a three year - 18,000 mile - cruise. He sailed her down the Iberian Peninsula to North Africa, and then across the Atlantic to Brazil. After spending six months in Brazil, it was on to Venezuela, and then exotic Central American locations, and then the Leeward Islands, and finally onto Miami.
His article entitled Xcalac Con Escala, appearing in the November/December 1996 issue of Multihulls Magazine, gives the reader an inside view of what modern catamaran cruising is all about. Reading it will make any sailor's mouth water.
Imagine exploring the Caribbean on a seaworthy, handsome, luxurious, comfortable catamaran. Imagine swift passages to Trinidad and Tobago, Port of Spain, Bonaire and the Dutch Antilles, Curacao, Aruba, Cartagena, Bay Islands of Honduras and Roatan. Imagine a leisurely foray up Guatemala's Rio Dulce, which is navigable forty miles inland and is punctuated by numerous lakes that teem with gentle manatees. Imagine exploring the heart of the Central American rain forest on a spacious, ocean going catamaran, using twin diesels to power into mile-long winding canyons festooned with lush vegetation, cormorants, snowy egrets and thousands of green butterflies, to say nothing of running into the occasional lost Mayan city. Some people have all the luck.
Sackville's J. Currie's good luck is more than earned by his careful attention to details and planning, however. He knows the territory, so to speak, picking his routes and seasons carefully, always ready and prepared to run the unexpected gauntlet. And the gauntlets that Currie has run include a number of vicious ladies, among them Opal and Roxanne - hurricanes that devastated Yucatan and Guatemala in 1994. Currie barely managed to escape with the skin of his teeth.
Ah but then a miss is as good as a mile!
And as for the storms that he couldn't avoid, well that's what the parachute sea anchor was for. He deployed one in a nasty blow on the way to the Canaries from Casablanca. The bows of the Escale were yawing 20-30°, occasionally knocked to 40° by breaking waves. Currie said he was not worried about it, seeing how that it was a shock absorbing mechanism. (The yacht absorbs much of the shock of a breaking wave by pivoting on her CLR). A few lives were lost elsewhere in this storm. Transcript:
From Casablanca we set off for the Canaries. Within 24 hours the wind was up to F-7 on the nose, and still rising. Gale/storm lasted for 3 full days. For the first 12 hours we sailed into it to get searoom. About 95 miles off the African coast we hove to under staysail. The boat lay 50° off the wind and waves. Made 2 knots of drift, also took a lot of damage from waves crashing into our side (cockpit dodger broken, autopilot, wind instruments and GPS out of action). Once we deployed the parachute, we took waves on the bow, much better. The new deployment bag works very well. Motion on parachute was not nice though, we got seasick and some whip-lashing at stern.
We used a partial trip line with two fenders. The polypropylene trip line got twisted up - we will try a swivel here next time. In retrospect we should have deployed the parachute earlier, then we would have had no damage. To recover, we waited till wind and seastate moderated, then motored up to the fender.
We also use the parachute when we want a rest or when we have to go up the mast at sea, and to avoid nighttime landfalls, deploying it when still 20 miles offshore, and retrieving it in the early hours to allow arrival in daylight.
Using Parachutes, Sea Anchors and Drogues to Cope with Heavy Weather – Over 130 Documented Case Histories