D/M 23 Bruce Roberts V388

D/M 23

Monohull, Bruce Roberts Voyage 388 cutter

39' (12m) x 23 Tonnes, Fin keel

Jordan Series Drogue

Force 9+ Conditions

File D/M-23, obtained from Rob Skelly, Canada -  Vessel name Pauline Claire, hailing port Vancouver, monohull steel hulled cutter designed by Bruce Roberts and built by Rob Skelly himself, LOA 39' (12m) x LWL 34' x Beam 13'  (4m) x Draft 6' 10"  (2.1m) x 23 tonnes - Fin keel - Drogue: Jordan Series Drogue  100'  leader followed by 130 cones  on 7/8" (22mm) nylon double braid rode plus 6.8kg lead weight with 24' (7m) bridles of 7/8" 3-strand nylon - Deployed in  deep water 120 miles south of Madegascar while singlehanded midway on passage  from Reunion to Durban in winds of 50+ knots  and breaking seas of 16 - 23 ft. (5 -7m) - Speed was reduced to about 2.5 knots during 36 hours of deployment. Total drift was about 70 nm. 

Having built his boat himself, Pauline Claire ended up being considerably heavier than the design specifications. Rob then set off  from British Columbia, Canada, on a circumnavigation with no previous sailing experience.  All was well until the Indian Ocean when he was notified by his shore-based sister of the oncoming gale that he could not avoid at his cruising speed.

Rob's Jordan Series Drogue was permanently set up with the bridles in place attached by spliced eyes to  the cleats welded to the aft quarters. Below the cleats on each side were vents that opened below into the engine room. These vents were quickly ripped off by the bridles once the drogue was deployed. After that there was nothing to chafe the bridles and, fortunately, there were no waves that pooped the stern that might have flooded the engine room through the now missing vents.

The drogue itself was stored in a locker on the deck above the transom from where it could be quickly thrown aft into the water.

Knowing the storm was coming, Rob was running downind under bare poles and auto pilot. The wind vane was pinned to lock the hydrovane runner amidships. The wind at this point was maybe 45 kts but the waves had not yet built to maximum.

The drogue was then deployed by throwing out the weight. The drogue rushed out, but two of the cones did snag (and tear) on the swim platform on the way out.

Once the drogue was out everything settled down. Autopilot was turned off, and Rob retired below from where he could watch the drogue through his Lexan companionway hatch. He was then able to sleep and send emails to his sisters by Iridium to reassure them that life was getting to be 'a bit of a drogue'.

The drogue would cycle between full load and slack as the waves passed by underneath. When under full load the bridle would be fully stretched out, once the load reduced the bridle would then retract and twist over itself. This did not seem to affect the performance of the drogue but might, over time, have caused some chafing issues though none was noted.

After two nights the wind had dropped and progressively eased to 15 kts while the seas continue to be large. Because the boat speed had dropped, there were times when the drogue was quite slack and, because of the movement of the boat in the waves actually got wrapped around the hydrovane rudder.  Once the load came on again the rudder was taking all the strain. Rob attempted to unwrap it but was unable to do some. Eventually, fortunately, during a slack period on a wave it did unhook itself.

The drogue was rigged with a strong recovery line attached to the V of the bridle. This long line was brought back to a which with which Rob was able to then haul in the drogue while the bridles remained attached to the cleats.

Once the bridle V was onboard, the bridle arms were disconnected from the cleats and the rest of the drogue was winched on board in sync with the slack from the waves, hand-tailing as the cones would not go through the self-tailer. Totaly recover time was maybe two hours.

Lessons Learned

  1.  The number of cones used were correct for the design weight of the boat. However, the boat ended up being much heavier than intended and so the number of cones was insufficient. This resulted in a speed of 2.5kts  instead of 1.5kts when on the drogue.  Since he was headed in the right direction anyway this was not of any concern. Rob has since had another 25 cones added.
  2. Rob also changed the 3-strand bridles into double braid (25mm) to prevent the twisting.
  3. He has also added another 8 lbs (3.6kg) of lead to the end of the drogue, separated from the other one by about 6' (2m). These are shackled to an eye splice at the end of the rode.
  4. The vents have been replaced with flat deck plates so there is nothing to snag.
  5. Rob has not yet figured out how to solve the problem of the cleats on the swim deck snagging the cones on deployment.
  6. There is a small wooden platform on the hydrovane on which one can step while pinning the vane in place. This had a sharp corner which also snagged a cone on deployment. That has now been rounded off.
  7. Rob recommends retrieving the drogue as soon as possible when conditions improve. so as to prevent the risk of it wrapping around a rudder.

Having discovered that the retieval was not as hard as expected, especially with the retrieval line going to the V of the bridle, Rob has no hesitation in using the drogue.

D/M-21 Seastream 43

D/M 21

Monohull, Ian Anderson SeaStream 43 MKIII Cutter

43' (13m) x 18 Tons, Fin Keel 

Jordan Series Drogue

Force 9+ Conditions

File D/M-21, obtained from Tim Good, UK- Vessel name Shadowfax, hailing port Falmouth, monohull cutter designed by Ian Anderson and built by Seastream, LOA 43' x LWL 36' x Beam 13' 9" x Draft 6' 6" x 18 Tons - Fin keel - Drogue: Jordan Series Drogue on 360' (110m) x 7/8" (22mm)  nylon double braid rode plus 14kg chain - Deployed in  deep water just south of Madeira while singlehanded midway on passage upwind from Canary Islands to Azores in winds of 45+ knots  and breaking seas of 16 - 23 ft. (5 -7m) - Speed was reduced to about 1.5 knots during 36 hours of deployment. Total drift was about 42 nm. Yacht was pooped by a large breaking wave once.

Tim Good has over 20,000 miles of experience, mostly in the East Atlantic and North Sea, but this was his first singlehanded passage. After his mainsail was split by the wind, and then his engine died owing to a fuel pump fault, Tim was unable to heave-to, and so chose to deploy the drogue to minimise his downwind drift:

I was sailing singlehanded upwind to the Azores from Gran Canaria. I knew that a strong blow was forecast to arrive as I passed Madeira. I decided to continue on rather than stop in the shelter of Madeira. The blow was stronger than forecast and around dusk I decided to reduce sail and heave-to when the wind had picked up to 45 kts sustained.

While reducing sail, my mailsail split down the middle, making it impossible to heave to. I tried to make headway with staysail and engine at around 45 degrees to the sea. Breaking waves were knocking the bow off but the engine kept correcting. Around 1am the engine stopped due to a leaking lift pump and I had no option but to turn and run with the sea and wind. I decided then to deploy the JSD which was in a 100L drybag in the cockpit and the bridles already rigged. 

I had around 14kg of chain on the end and I threw this over the stern. The JSD then deployed out of the bag smoothly with no chaffe or handling. The boat slowed to around 1.5-2kts. 

The waves were strangely large and frequently breaking for the windspeed. They'd had a long fetch to gather size from NW Spain. Presumably as a result from the acceleration around Madeira it increased their size. Difficult to say the size. Perhaps 5-7m?

About 45 mins after being on the drogue a big wave pooped over the stern filling the very large cockpit. I got pooped a few times but nothing as large as that.

I had no issues with chaffe since I have large overhanging chainplates which prevent any chaffe and strong crosby shackles, rated with a breaking strength in excess of half the displacement of the boat.

After approx 36 hours I retrieved it single-handed in around 1.5hours. It was easier than I had anticipated as the leader would go around my main winch and with each wave, the leader would slacken sufficiently to winch in a meter or so.

I continued on to the Azores and had the mainsail repaired.

I made a video of the account here which includes info about the deployment, chainplates and bridle setup. 

My chainplate design can be seen here:

Tim's video is highly informative and demonstrates how well he had prepared his boat in advance of any extreme conditions. Like all of us he had hoped never to need to use the equipment he installed but, as we can see here, his preparations resulted in easy and stress-free management of the conditions. In fact, this is probably the best prepared boat of all our drogue reports, and the result of that is clear to see. His solution for preventing chafe is excellent. Yes, it was probably quite expensive to build and install, but completely eliminates the problem.

Had he not been so well prepared his experience would have been way more challenging. Once again the need for propert preparation is made.

D/M-20 SPARKMAN & STEPHENS 34 (Swarbrick)

S&S 34 monohullD/M 20

Monohull, Sparkman & Stephens

33' x 6 Tons, Fin Keel


Force 9+ Conditions

File D/M-19, obtained from Ben Tucker, Australia - Vessel name Gypsy2, hailing port Hobart, monohull sloop designed by Sparkman & Stephens and built by Swarbrick, LOA 33' x LWL 25' x Beam 10' x Draft 5' 10" x 6 Tons - Fin keel - Drogue: Seasquid on 150' (45m) x 7/16" (11mm) kermantle dynamic nylon double braid rode plus 6ft (2m) of 8mm chain - Deployed in  deep water midway on passage from Hobart, Australia to Bluff, New Zealand in winds of 45 knots gusting to 60kt and breaking seas of 20 - 30 ft. (6 - 10m) - Surfing down waves was inhibited, and speed was reduced to about 4 knots during 18 hours of deployment

Ben Tucker has over 70,000 miles of sailing experience, plus a million miles as an officer on a container ship. On this occasion he was sailing from Australia to New Zealand in early summer when he get caught in a strong gale:

On passage from Hobart to Bluff in early summer we got caught in a nasty low with strong westerly winds. Over the day the wind and seas built and quite suddenly it went from fun fast downwind sailing to dangerous just on dusk. We dropped the deep reefed main, and eventually ran with just a scrap of the roller reefing headsail set. As the seas built up we started surfing too fast for comfort down the front of the seas and deployed a sea squid on about 45 meters of 11mm kernmantle dynamic nylon rope that had previously been used for climbing.  About 2 meters of 8 mm chain was shackled between the drogue and the warp. 

The drogue immediately slowed us down and controlled the surfing. 

But a big problem with our setup was soon revealed, the stretch in the drogue warp, coupled with the short line and only a short length of lightweight chain caused the drogue to break free of the approaching wave and fly forward towards us through the air about 10 meters and then re-engage, this would allow the boat to accelerate quickly to 7 or 8 knots until the drogue reengaged and with a brutal jerk it then slowed us down again to around 4 knots, this would often rip the drogue back out of the water again, repeating the cycle.

It was clear that the wavelength was around 100 meters or so, as the drogue was visible behind us on the approaching crest when we were near the trough.

It was deployed off the port quarter with no bridle to keep it clear of the windvane. We added a length of 19mm polypropylene line approximately 100 meters long in parallel with the drogue. This slowed us down enough that the drogue remained in the water with a more steady pull. 

We rode out the night hand steering with a small scrap of jib sheeted tight amidships and the drogue and warp behind.  Many times the cockpit filled with water, and were buffeted badly by the bigger crests, bouncing down the wave face. But by early morning it had eased significantly. 

We found that the windvane had been damaged by the drogue line at some point, and the plastic sea squid drogue had a bad crack in it, probably due to the tumbling as it flew through the air, then tangled with the chain and reengaged. 

the biggest lesson was to avoid using a dynamic rope with a drogue, Have at least 100 meters of warp available and plenty of heavy chain on the end to keep it well under water.  

The next time I used a drogue sailing to Antarctica on my 33 foot yacht Snow Petrel I had no issues with a much longer line, approximately 120 meters of 18mm polypropylene and 10 meters of 10mm chain using a Seabrake HSD 300 and the pull was very steady and consistent.

Once again we have problems with drogues skipping out of the waves, in this case exacerbated by using a very stretchy climbing rope as a rode. Elasticity is crucial in the rode for a para-anchor so as to prevent shock loading, but in a drogue a non-stretchy rode, combined with some weight at the drogue end, helps to keep the rode submerged leading to a more constant rode tension.

Ben notes that the wave length was about 100m and the drogue rode about half that. One would expect that this might work well, placing the drogue on the back of the when one needs it most, ie surfing down the face of the same wave, but in this case the extreme stretching of the rode seems to have counteracted this, resulting in the drogue pulling out of the water with the concomitant rapid acceleration of the boat.

As the Furgusons on St. Leger (D/M 17) found, one needs to either have a long rode with more weight to cover a wider range of conditions (as did Ben Tucker on his next adventure), or else be able to adjust it from the cockpit to specifically tune it to the conditions at the time.

S/T-14 Trimaran, Cross


Trimaran, Cross

46' x 25' x 10 Tons

24-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 6 Conditions


File S/T-14, obtained from Ron Clisby, Grants Pass, OR. - Vessel name Nonchalant, hailing port Portland, trimaran ketch, designed by Norman Cross, LOA 46' 6" x Beam 25 ' x Draft 52" x 10 Tons - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 100' x 3/4" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 100' each, with 1" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip-line - Deployed in a low system in deep water about 450 miles NE of Tahiti with winds 25-35 knots and seas of 10-15 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed less than 10° - Drift was 12.7 n.m. in 38 hours at sea anchor.

The family of Ron and Sue Clisby sailed Nonchalant, a big, comfortable Cross trimaran, around the world in 1994. En route to Tahiti they ran into a blow. The weather fax was down and rather than take any chances they anchored her to the surface of the Pacific from 1330 hrs on 4/23/94 to 0330 hrs on 4/25/95. Here is a transcript of Ron's feedback, handwritten sometime during those two days:

Yesterday we deployed our 24' Para-Tech sea anchor for the first time, and are very impressed with the results. We were en route from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus when we encountered nasty weather, thunderstorms, lightning, etc., two nights ago. Our SSB and therefore weather fax are inoperative so we have been depending on a buddy boat for wx info. Yesterday they said we had been in a tropical depression during the night. We had winds around 20-25 k with gusts to 35 k and seas confused and around 10-15 feet.

It was still daylight and the kids were napping so we decided to deploy the chute. It worked beautifully and after some small adjustments we were inside baking bread. Today, our friends (hove-to 10 miles away) said the weather service is calling it a gale with winds to 43 k. They had wind gusts to 50 last night, but we had less (max 35 k) only 10 miles to the north.

This morning 0945 the seas are calm (gentle roll) and we have only 4 k wind at present. There are still lots of rain clouds in the area but I can see little holes of blue sky popping up to the west. After further clearing, we'll retrieve the chute and continue to Takaroa or Ahe.

P.S. With more complete weather fax info we likely would have continued on. But this has been a great learning experienced and we won't hesitate to use the chute when needed in the future.

S/M-32 Hunter 31 Sloop


Hunter 31 Sloop

31' x 5 Tons, Fin Keel

15-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8 Conditions


File S/M-32, obtained from Chris Brann, Sausalito, CA. - Vessel name Snow Dragon, hailing port Juneau, Hunter sloop, designed by Cortland Steck, LOA 31' x LWL 28' x Beam 11' x Draft 5' 10" x 5 Tons - Fin keel - Sea anchor: 15-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 150' x 5/8" nylon double braid with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip line - Deployed in a low system in deep water about 150 miles west of Noumea, with winds of 45 knots and seas of 15-20 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 30° - Drift was 8 n.m. (confirmed by GPS) during 5 hours at sea anchor.

Chris Brann was a participant in Compuserve's mammoth drag device and storm tactics debate. The debate has since been "packaged" and placed in the library of the SAILING FORUM. When in Compuserve click on the traffic icon, type GO SAILING and look for a file called Thread on Drogues, Sea Anchors and Storms in the "Seamanship and Safety" library.

Brann cruised Alaskan waters with Snow Dragon, a fin-keeled Hunter 31, before sailing her all the way to Brisbane, Australia. Aside from two incidents of rudder failure, the boat held up fairly well. The failures were caused by the rudder manufacturer's use of smaller shaft dimensions, a defect since corrected by Hunter Marine (owners of older Hunters should make certain that their boats are not affected). The second incident of rudder failure occurred on the Noumea leg of the journey, where Brann had to deploy a sea anchor for damage control and attitude stabilization purposes. Transcript:

0300 November 26, front passed, wind backed to southwest, over 30 knots. 0410 We suddenly lost steering. After mounting the emergency tiller, checking cables and movement of the rudder post we realized we'd lost our rudder again. The seas were over 12 feet and continuing to build. The wind was 40-50 knots. With no rudder we fell into the trough, lying parallel to the waves. 0510 We deployed a 15 foot diameter parachute sea anchor from the bow... to prevent capsizing, and to try and stabilize the vessel while we built an emergency rudder. This held the bow into the waves. By now the wave crests were breaking regularly. The anchor was attached to the bow, via 300 feet of 5/8 inch double braid nylon. This made things a bit more comfortable, and it was easier to drill holes and so forth. Unfortunately, the outer covering [of the double braid] chafed, so I pulled enough rode in to put sound line on the cleats. This resulted in about 150 feet between the sea anchor and the bow. This was not enough line to absorb the energy....

At about 1000 a large wave broke over most of the vessel, filling the cockpit, even though it came from forward. The bow cleats are welded to a 1/4" stainless plate that is in turn bolted through the sides of the vessel. The strain [of the breaking wave] curled this plate through more than 90 degrees, crushed the pipe forming the legs of the cleats, and then broke the 5/8" line (breaking strength 14,400 lbs.) I determined that the line had broken rather than chafed through by observing that the ends of the strands were all about the same length and were slightly fused. The strain also curled the main plate holding the forestay. Loss of this plate would have meant loss of the mast. The structure of the boat was also damaged, opening the joint between the hull and deck on the port side, and we started to take water in through the gap.

1040 I rigged a trysail to try and stabilize the boat a bit, though it didn't really head it into the seas, and we were pretty much parallel to the waves for the rest of the day. We had crests break on the hull several times each hour, fortunately none of them were big enough to capsize us. I hung over the stern and dismounted the paddle from the wind vane (self-steering device) for use in building an emergency rudder, which occupied us for the rest of the day.

About 1600 the wind and seas had moderated, and we hoisted a storm staysail, streaming a 36" Galerider drogue from the stern. This got us moving towards Australia, though our course was still determined by the direction of the wave troughs. At 1900 wind was SSE 20-25 knots.... The next day we rigged the emergency rudder. It broke after a few hours, but we redesigned it and put it back on. We spent the next week improving the rudder and sailing to Australia.... Directional control was eventually established by a combination of jury rudder and a light drag towed behind the boat.... We tied to the customs wharf in Brisbane at 0720 local time on December 4.

Comments: This was a normal low pressure system, with wind and seas that would present no danger to a well-found boat equipped with a rudder. Two other vessels were nearby and in radio contact with us. One was 32' long, and the other 43'. Neither of them suffered any damage from the weather, and in fact both were able to rendezvous with us to provide additional lumber for use in making another emergency rudder in case our first one failed. Our problems were solely a result of the rudder failure.

What we'd do next time: Shackle all 300 feet of nylon line to the [steel] anchor and let out the [steel] anchor and 100-150 feet of chain. This approach was used by some friends on a 42 ft. Lord Nelson with success in the Tasman sea. In our case, while it lasted the sea anchor stabilized the boat quite a bit, especially compared to our gyrations without a rudder. 

S/M-19 Aloha 30 Sloop


Aloha 30 Sloop

30' x 3.5 Tons, Fin Keel

9-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8-9 Conditions


File S/M-19, obtained from Richard Brooker, Winnipeg, Canada - Vessel name Crocodile Rock, hailing port Winnipeg, Aloha 30 sloop designed by Ron Holland, LOA 30' x LWL 26' x Beam 10' x Draft 6' x 3.5 Tons - Fin keel - Sea anchor: 9-ft. diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 1/2" nylon three strand with 3/8" swivel - Deployed in shallow water (50 fathoms) about 30 miles off the Oregon coast, NW of the mouth of the Columbia River, in a low system with winds of 40-45 knots and seas of 10 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 20° - Drift was 4 n.m. during 18 hours at sea anchor.

No written feedback accompanied the completed DDDB form. In answering the question, "How many degrees did this vessel yaw from side to side?" the owner has checked the "20°" box and written the words "very stable" next to it.

S/M-12 Carter 33 Sloop


Carter 33 Sloop

32' 7" x 4.5 Tons, Fin Keel

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8-9 Conditions


File S/M-12, obtained from Steven Callahan, Ellsworth, Maine - Vessel name Karpouzi, hailing port Lamoine, sloop, designed by Dick Carter, LOA 32' 7" x LWL 25' x Beam 11' x Draft 5' 6" x 4.5 Tons - Fin keel - Sea anchor: 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech on 250' x 5/8" nylon three strand with 1/2" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed during a gale in deep water north of Bermuda, with winds of 35-45 knots and seas of 8-12 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 30° off to each side with two opposing sets of waves approaching from dead ahead and dead astern - Drift was estimated to be 3.25 miles during 4 hours at sea anchor.

Steven Callahan is well-known for his best seller, Adrift. The book is a journal of the seventy-six days that he spent drifting in a life raft after his 21-ft. sloop Napoleon Solo hit an unidentified object and sank in the middle of the Atlantic on 4 February 1981. He journeyed to the limits of human despair in those seventy-six days, yet in the end cheated death and emerged a survivor. Adrift (1986, Houghton Mifflin Co.) won the Salon du Libre Maritime award and has been translated into twelve languages.

Callahan has been involved in many areas of the marine industry since 1968. He has logged tens of thousands of blue water miles, including one single-handed and three double-handed Atlantic crossings. A former contributing editor to SAIL and to SAILOR, he wa at the time of this writing associate editor of Cruising World.

Victor Shane delivered a 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor to Callahan in 1989, for use and evaluation on board his boat Karpouzi, a fin-keeled Carter 33 sloop. The para-anchor was used a year later, in a Force 8 gale north of Bermuda. Here is a transcript of Callahan's feedback

On 28 May, 1990, Karpouzi and her three merry crew were completing a delightful week of sailing from St. Martin, and approaching Bermuda. We planned to bypass the island and continue directly to Maine. Our weather, however, was deteriorating, and the forecast was for a day or so of rain and winds of 20 knots.

By midnight the barometer began to fall more rapidly - about .05 inches per hour, and we were broad reaching fast under double-reefed main and working jib. We could hear Bermuda Harbor Radio, about 30 miles east of us. Harbor radio was busy with incoming traffic problems and reports of a developing low that no one had paid much attention to. Through the night they logged winds to 42 knots and predicted seas to 25 feet.

As we proceeded north, the wind strengthened and backed slightly so that we ran dead before waves that I estimate to have been 10-15 feet. All was under control. The barometer began to rise by 06:00 on 29 May and the wind lightened slightly for about a half hour, but then the wind came up hard again and continued to back. In a very short time we were hit with heavy head winds and significantly rising seas from dead ahead, while we continued to surf down 10 foot waves from dead astern.

In 50,000 miles of offshore sailing I have often dealt with heavy seas from a variety of directions, but that was the first time that significant waves approached each other from precisely opposite direction. This, of course, set up a dreadful sea state. When crests coincided, the peaks jumped skyward and the wave slopes were very steep. (Note, in the attached DDDB form, wave height, period, and length are very approximate values because they were all extremely variable due to 180° wave collisions - a bit like being in a blender). I estimated wave height by standing on the cabin top - my eye level about 10 feet above water.

Karpouzi's beam is 11 feet, or the average size of the breaking waves, so I declined Neptune's invitation to get rolled by laying broadside to the waves. We could not carry much sail in the wind, and in any case, heaving-to or beating would put the boat too far off of the approaching waves, increasing the danger of being stalled, pushed back, and rolled. The only feasible solution was to put out the sea anchor. We decided to set the sea anchor just as we would a regular anchor.... We keep the anchor in its own locker in the head of the V-berth, with the rode flaked under it. This allows us to run the rode straight aft, out of the cabin, and forward over the anchor roller.... As I dunked the anchor over, we threw the engine in neutral and drifted back. The parachute opened perfectly and within thirty feet it began pulling, allowing us to pay out line and adjust things just right. A few waves towered above me and one slammed over the foredeck just irritatingly above boot level.

We payed out about 250 feet of the rode and adjusted the length every 30 minutes to avoid chafe. This length proved enough; the sea anchor sometimes neared the surface so we could see it and it rode about a wave trough away from us. I chose not to use a tripping line to avoid any possible foul up, but we tied a huge Norfloat ball to the float line, which we could easily see from far away.

The boat did sway from side to side, creating huge side loads on the anchor roller cheeks, so be advised to use either very sturdy chocks or heavy roller. Ours was a heavy duty universal roller that is advertised for boats to 54 feet, but I believe the side loads on a 54 foot boat would have bent the roller in half. As it was, I was a bit worried. To control sway and remove these side loads, next time I will likely set the sea anchor from a regular chock and possibly haul it off to the side with a rolling hitch and secondary rode to lay 20 to 30 degrees from nose onto the waves. Note that the rode jumps up as the bow plunges downward, so whatever chock you use should have a positive lock across the top.

The only real problem we encountered was a very heavy loading on the steering gear. Karpouzi is tiller steered and at first we just tied it off, but as large waves broke on her, she surged aft, stretching the anchor rode until stopped and pulled forward again. The rudder was yanked mightily by the backward motion and the tiller wiggled about like a snake. Our solution was to give the tiller a shock absorber, just as the nylon anchor rode acted as a shock absorber for Karpouzi. We tied half inch shock chord to the tiller, which allowed it to move 20 or 30 degrees without much problem but prevented the rudder from going hard over, where it could shear off its fittings.

After only four hours on the sea anchor, the wind continued to back and lightened, so that finally we were laying broadside to the now calming waves. It was quite uncomfortable and more dangerous than setting sail. With full throttle we were able to easily retrieve the rode as we steamed up to the pickup float, which we noted had enough windage to float to leeward of the anchor most of the time, so we had no worry about tangling the sea anchor lines. It was a simple matter to pick up the float, trip line, and anchor. Within 20 minutes all was stowed away and we were off.

We drifted 3.25 miles in those four hours, which is a bit more than I expected, but currents around Bermuda are very uncertain. Further tests will compare Karpouzi's normal drift rate with her drift with the sea anchor set. I will certainly be more eager to set the sea anchor in marginal conditions in the future.

It is disappointing to note that Karpouzi's bow was yawing 30° off to each side (i.e., through a total arc of 60°). By all tokens the sea anchor was big enough to have done a better job.

Victor Shane suspects that the conflicting waves - approaching from ahead and astern - might have had something to do with this. Certainly the angle of yaw will have a great deal to do with the amount of slack that finds its way into the system as well. Much of this slack can be a result of orbital rotation causing convergence between boat and sea anchor. Essentially the wind pushes the boat away from the sea anchor, keeping the system taut. Orbital convergence, however, can move the boat and sea anchor toward one another, introducing slack into the rode, sometimes by an amount equal to twice the wave height (twenty feet of slack rode in ten foot seas, for example). Callahan reports significant waves approaching each other "from ahead and astern." Here, not only do we have the rotation associated with the waves approaching from ahead, but also, possibly, the rotation associated with waves approaching from astern, as evidenced by the heavy loads on the rudder, mentioned. This combination could have the effect quadrupling the amount of slack - and attendant yaw - when the crests of the secondary waves coincide with the troughs of the approaching waves.


S/M-9 Hunter 40 Sloop


Hunter 40 Sloop

40' x 9 Tons, Fin Keel

9-Ft. Dia. BUORD Sea Anchor

Force 9 Conditions


File S/M-9, obtained from Captain Jerry Sidock, Fort Myers Beach, FL. - Vessel name Bounty Hunter, hailing port Fort Myers Beach, Hunter sloop, designed by Warren Luhrs, LOA 40' x LWL 32' 6" x Beam 13' 6" x Draft 5' x 9 Tons - Fin keel - Sea anchor: 9-ft. Diameter BUORD on 300' x 5/8" nylon three strand rode with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in a gale in shallow water about 100 miles off the coast of Venezuela, with winds of 40-50 knots and seas of 15 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 20°-30° off to each side - Drift was 11 n.m. (confirmed by Loran & Satnav) during 14 hours at sea anchor.

Bounty Hunter, a fin-keeled Hunter 40, was on her way to Rio from Florida when she ran into a gale some 100 miles off the coast of Venezuela. The owner of the boat, Captain Jerry Sidock, being single-handed and tired at the time, deployed a 9-ft. BUORD off the bow. In one of several telephone conversations with Victor Shane, Captain Sidock reported that the bow held into the seas in a satisfactory way, yawing as she would at ground anchor, 20-30° off to each side, but certainly no more than 30°.

Note the same parachute sea anchor being used by different boats with varying results. Compare Bounty Hunter's underwater profile with those of the Pilot Cutter and the Vancouver 27 in the preceding files. Bounty Hunter has a more symmetrical underwater profile, her center of lateral resistance being a little closer to the center of effort of her rig. Additionally she was in stronger winds as well. Note however that her bow did yaw up to 30° off to each side, indicating that the yacht could do with a larger sea anchor

Captain Sidock knows the Caribbean Islands well. In his voyages to the Caymans, Jamaica, Roatan, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and South America he often uses the BUORD off the stern for rest periods. There is then hardly any side-to-side yaw at all.

Note that there is nothing wrong with using a sea anchor off the stern for rest and recuperation, drift control and damage control in moderate conditions. Moreover, for non heavy weather use the rode need not be very long either. Deploy the parachute, pay out a hundred feet of line and cleat it off. Now you can rig the awning over the boom, prepare a meal in peace and relax for a while, the whole ocean your own private anchorage. From Captain Sidock's handwritten feedback:

I would like to say that I don't think that common sense would permit me to leave shore without my sea anchor. It is just too difficult at times to continue on when short-handed, or rather single-handed, as I am most of the time. It is at that time that I look for assistance from other sources, such as a sea anchor.

S/M-6 J-30 Sloop


J-30 Sloop

30' x 3.75 Tons, Fin Keel Sloop

9-Ft. Dia. BUORD Parachute

Force 11 Conditions

File S/M-6, obtained from Paul C. Brindley, Houston TX. - Vessel name Heaven & Hell, hailing port Houston, J-30 sloop, designed by Rod Johnstone, LOA 30' x LWL 25' x Beam 11' 6" x Draft 6' 6" x 3.75 Tons - Fin keel - Sea anchor: 9-ft. diameter BUORD on 300' x 3/4" nylon three strand rode with no swivel used - No trip line - Deployed during a storm in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico, about 120 miles Southeast of Galveston, with winds of 60 knots and combined seas of about 30' - Vessel's bow yawed about 10° - Drift was .5 -.7 knots during 4 hours at sea anchor.

This is the first file that Victor Shane documented after starting Para-Anchors International in 1981.He comments that it tends to stick in the mind, like that first high school date. It is an important file in other respects as well. The boat, a fin-keeled J-30, rode very well to the 9-ft. BUORD parachute. Up to that time conventional wisdom had it that sea anchors were useless on board so-called "modern fin-keeled sailboats." This was a turning point of sorts.

In a letter to Victor, dated 2 November 1986, Donald J. Jordan, author of widely publicized articles on capsize prevention and inventor of the series drogue wrote the following (reproduced by permission): "Dr. Brindley called and gave me a comprehensive description of his experience.... As you say, the J-30 rode very well in that type of wind and sea. This is the first well-documented instance of a modern sloop riding properly with a sea anchor from the bow."

The 9-ft. diameter BUORD pulled the bow of this yacht into 60-knot winds and 30-ft. seas in a satisfactory way. It kept it there for four hours. However, the crew had inadvertently omitted to use a swivel on the parachute terminal, and the canopy's rotation resulted in a fouled-up useless mess of parachute and kinked-up rode.

After retrieving the mess and stowing it the best they could the crew then used the boat's inboard engine to jog into the seas. Apart from a few near knock-downs, Heaven & Hell emerged from the ordeal intact. From Dr. Brindley's handwritten feedback:

The drogue [meaning sea anchor] worked well. We could have eaten soup below until it twisted shut as we had inadvertently left off the swivel. We made about .5-.7 knots sternway, checked by the Loran. It went to 4-5 knots when the chute twisted shut. I much preferred the bow into the waves.


S/C-4 Catamaran



40' x 20' x 3.5 Tons

12-Ft. Dia. Parachute

Force 7 Conditions


File S/C-4, obtained from Sackville J. Currie, Blaney, Ireland - Vessel name and design unspecified, hailing port Tokyo, catamaran, LOA 40' x Beam 27' x Draft 6' x 3.5 Tons - Sea anchor: 12-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 60' x 1/2" nylon braid with 1/2" galvanized swivel - Emergency deployment when the windward ama broke off in shallow water (100 fathoms) five miles off Cape Nojima, Japan, with winds of 30 knots and confused seas of 12-15 ft. - Occupants were taken off by a Japanese Coast Guard helicopter.

File S/C-4 illustrates the value of a sea anchor in one of many likely damage control situations. En route to Sendai this 40-ft. catamaran sailed out of Tokyo Bay and, rounding Cape Nojima to head north, ran into 30-knot winds blowing contrary to a local current.

After considerable heavy labor against 12-15' steep, confused and choppy seas the windward pontoon suddenly broke off, leaving the catamaran lame and disabled seven miles offshore, now rapidly drifting out into the open sea.

The owner's main concern was that the boat might tack and, with the one ama broken off, capsize. He immediately deployed a 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor off the bow of the remaining hull. The sea anchor held the lame boat more or less head-to-sea, preventing capsize and at the same time keeping the crippled vessel from drifting out of the shipping lanes and into the great Pacific. With the situation temporarily stabilized and the motion of the yacht eased, distress flares were then launched which were spotted by a passing freighter. The captain of the freighter radioed the Japanese Coast Guard, which sent a helicopter to the scene and plucked the survivors off the multihull. The boat was then abandoned to the raging seas, still tethered to its 12-ft. diameter, orange-colored parachute sea anchor.