S/M-40 Monohull, Alden Ketch


Monohull, Alden Ketch

50' x 15 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

18-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9-10 Conditions


File S/M-40, obtained from Steven McAbee, Lihue, Hawaii - Vessel name Celtic, hailing port Dutch Harbor (Alaska), monohull, cruising ketch designed by John Alden, LOA 50' x LWL 33' x Beam 12' 6' x Draft 5' 6" x 15 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Sea anchor: 18' Diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 3/4" nylon three strand rode and 150' chain, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - Deployed in a whole gale in deep water about 500 miles south of Dutch Harbor with winds of 45-50 knots and seas of 20-25 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° with reefed mizzen flying - Drift was about 22 n.m. during 5 days at sea anchor.

Celtic is a 45-ft. center cockpit ketch built by Fuji Shipyards in 1975. In June 1996 she left Dutch Harbor, Alaska, headed for Hawaii and the South Pacific. On board were owner Steven McAbee, wife Pamela and son Zach. A few days out they ran into a succession of gales in the Gulf of Alaska. McAbee was well-prepared and deployed an 18-ft. diameter Para-Tech sea anchor. Celtic spent the next five days at sea anchor, her heavy, reefed mizzen keeping her bow nicely snubbed into the seas. The following is a transcript of Steven McAbee's article Crossing Gale Alley, appearing in the November/December 1997 issue of Ocean Navigator Magazine (reproduced by permission):

We had fully expected gales and had made preparations for them. Up on the bow, ready to deploy, was a Para-Tech sea anchor complete with trip line, buoys, 3/4-inch rode, and chain catenary. In the lazarette we had stowed a Seabrake Drogue with its own dedicated rode/catenary and bridle. We had Mustang exposure suits for foul weather on deck, harnesses and snap lines for each of us, immersion suits for abandon ship, flares, handheld VHF and GPS, survival supplies, and a 406 EPIRB. We also had Celtic, a proven storm survivor.

Nevertheless, as the low continued to deepen and it became apparent that we would have to deal with it, an old familiar dread began to live in my guts. How bad would it get? Would the sea anchor and drogue work? Although we had practiced deploying them, it had been in relatively calm conditions. We were 500 miles from the nearest land and out of the shipping lanes on a big and lonely ocean. There would be no help coming. Whatever happened, we would have to deal with it ourselves. At night we listened on the SSB to other vessels, some in distress. A 49-foot ketch 400 miles south of Adak lost her rudder and was pummeled by 25-ft. seas. Kamishak Queen, a vessel we were familiar with, sank in Nuka Bay. A tripped EPIRB had been detected in Bristol Bay. The weather forecast called for 45-knot winds and 25-ft. seas. If the low stayed on track we would be in the worst possible place: south of the center and on the backside, the zone of highest wind and seas.

Throughout the day the winds and seas increased. As the wind shifted around from northwest to west to southwest and then south, our progress slowed until we found ourselves beating into 30-knot winds and eight-foot seas. The time had come to make a major strategy decision: Should we bear off to the west or east and try to make a few miles of southing in the worsening conditions? Or would it be better to deploy the sea anchor and sit out the gale?

After due consideration, we decided to use the sea anchor. The Para-Tech was connected to 400 feet of 3/4-inch nylon rode with a stainless steel swivel. All rode ends had spliced eyes with steel thimbles, and in the middle of the rode we had spliced in 20 feet of 1/2-inch galvanized chain to act as a catenary. After a practice deployment before the trip, we had decided to connect the bitter end of the rode to the chain anchor rode and deploy 150 of that. Additionally, we lashed the anchor chain to the bow roller to prevent it from jumping out as Celtic rode the waves into the trough.

We had packed the sea anchor, trip line, and rode into a large canvas bag and lashed it to the bow rail with the bitter end hanging out a hole cut in the bottom. All we had to do was unlash the bag, shackle the bitter end to the anchor chain (the [steel] anchor had been disconnected and stored below for the open ocean), attach the buoys to the trip line, and let her go. Everything went smoothly, and soon we were securely moored to the Para-Tech. We hoisted a reefed mizzen, secured everything on deck, and went below. As night fell we began to feel the full fury of the storm. The rising wind was blowing a steady 40 knots, gusting to more than 50, while the seas built.

I was really pleased with the performance of the sea anchor and the way Celtic rode. During the five days of gale winds at 40 to 50 knots and seas of 18 to 25 feet, I never felt we were in any immediate danger. As the storm worsened and seas began to break over Celtic, I began to wish I had some way to attach all that chain and rode to the bobstay eye on Celtic's stem so her bow would ride higher, but there was no changing anything once it was set. As each monster wave approached, Celtic would back up, much like a retreating Muhammed Ali against a charging Joe Frazier, and let the impact roll under her. Huge waves would break on us, darkening the cabin as green water rolled over the ports.

We were alone. We thought about all the stories we'd heard about vessels slowly breaking up under similar onslaughts: seams opening, through-hulls loosening, cockpit drains plugging. We had made all the preparations we could; all we could do was remain alert and deal with whatever happened.

We set up a radio schedule with the Kodiak Coast Guard Communication Base, better known as CommSta Kodiak, and every four hours we gave them our position, weather conditions, and vessel status. It was a comfort to speak with someone, and the sound of the radio operator's voice and the obvious concern of everyone at the station about our safety was really comforting.... By the time the storm abated, we'd had our fill of granola bars, crackers, and pop. We'd also had our fill of gales. For the last week it had been hard sleep, except for Zach, who was unflappable and able to sleep while weightless and bouncing off the ceiling. We were exhausted.

Unfortunately, the weatherfax showed another developing low headed in our direction, and we decided to make a run for it. The wind had switched around to the west but had dropped to near calm. I proposed that we fire up the engine and run south for 48 hours. That would get us about 300 miles farther and hopefully get us out of what we had come to refer to as "gale alley." Pamela and Zach both agreed, and in short order we were underway.

Forty-eight hours later, on July 8, 13 days after leaving Unalaska, we shut down the engine for the last time. We estimated that we had about 10 gallons of fuel left, and we had consumed much of our perishable food supplies. Counting four days in English Bay and the five days hove to during the gale, we had spent a total of nine days going nowhere. We still had a long way to sail, so after considering everything, we decided to head for Hawaii, where we could re-supply and recuperate before going on to the Marshall Islands. With the wind out of the west and Hawaii just 1,200 miles due south of us, we suddenly felt eager and optimistic....

Twenty-seven days after casting off from Dutch Harbor, Celtic entered Nawiliwili Bay on the southeast corner of the island of Kauai. 

S/M-15 Whitby 42 Ketch


Whitby 42 Ketch

42' x 11.75 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

12-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8 Conditions


File S/M-15, obtained from Bruce Stewart, Ithaca, NY. - Vessel name Osteoflyte, hailing port Ithaca, Whitby ketch designed by Ted Brewer, LOA 42' x LWL 33' x Beam 13' x Draft 5' x 11.75 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Sea anchor: 12-ft. diameter Para-Tech on 300' x 3/4" nylon three strand with 5/8" galvanized swivel - Deployed in deep water 150 miles east of Cape Hatteras in a low system with winds of 35 knots and seas of 20 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 45° - Drift was about 2.5 miles during 20 hours at sea anchor.

Ordinarily the ketch rig places the CE (center of wind effort) a great deal more forward than sloop, cutter, or yawl rigs. Unless a mizzen can be flown most ketches will tend to "hunt" at anchor. Transcript:

We were 150 miles off Cape Hatteras in 20' seas and deteriorating weather, when we fouled our prop reducing sail. We needed a break so I decided to deploy the chute (this was the first time other than a fair weather practice). We sent the unit off the stern [flying set] on a new 3/4" three strand nylon rode and it went out so fast I got a rope burn I'll never forget. The bow swung as expected and the rode went out a smooth bow skene chock with a good fairlead.

We hung on the chute for 20 hours. The conditions were NASTY, but we could still get to the bow and fuss with the rode. We had a terrible problem with chafe. We tried "freshening the nip" and all sorts of commercial and fabricated chafe gear - it either split or migrated very quickly. In those conditions I think we would have lost the chute to chafe failure of the rode. The second problem was the bow "hunted" back and forth, giving us a most unpleasant motion, and may well have contributed to the chafe. Both of these problems make me question - would a bridle that held the bow a little off center help? And how do you deal with chafe when conditions are really bad?

A few comments. Despite my para-anchor being clearly undersized by your current brochure it held us like a brick wall and seems quite large enough. In 20 hours we drifted 2.5 miles by Loran. I didn't have a suitable trip line and was afraid of a tangle, so just used a float. When the wind dropped to 20-25 we decided to "pull in" the chute and get going. It took two of us (both 220 lbs. and in good shape) to pull us up to the para-anchor and 90 minutes of cranking the anchor windless and then tailing to the genoa winches.

S/M-8 Vancouver 27 Cutter


Vancouver 27 Cutter

27' x 5 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

9-Ft. Dia. BUORD Parachute

Force 7 Conditions


File S/M-8, obtained from Anthony Gibb, Victoria, B.C. - Vessel name Hejira, hailing port Victoria, Vancouver cutter, designed by Robert Harris, LOA 27' x LWL 22' x Beam 8' 6" x Draft 4' x 5 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Sea anchor: 9-ft. diameter BUORD on 275' x 1/2" nylon three strand rode with 1/2" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed during passage of frontal trough In deep water in the Tasman Sea with winds of 35 knots and confused seas of 12 feet - Vessel's bow yawed as much as 90° off to each side.

Hejira, a Harris-designed Vancouver 27 on a world cruise, crossed from Nelson, New Zealand, to Sydney, Australia in 15 days, a distance of 1,265 miles.

As with most other crossings of the Tasman this one was not a pleasant one. The crew was harassed by a confusion of waves and swells from both southwest and northeast, which harassment did not end until the last two days of the crossing.

During a period of 30-35 knot south-westerly winds and 12-foot seas the crew deployed a 9-ft. diameter BUORD. As in the previous file, the parachute did not do a satisfactory job. Transcript:

The BUORD never set straight forward off the bow. It remained directly off the beam. It gave one the feeling of lying a-hull. It was only when a particularly large wave approached and took up the slack in the rope that the BUORD brought the bow through the wave....

The only other time that the BUORD brought the bow into the waves was when, after 4 hours, I decided to pull it in. When the line was pulled in so that there was only 50 feet out, then it seemed that the bow wanted to stay pointed upwind. I did not leave it there long enough to test it, so I don't know what the BUORD would do in the long run....

Again it might be asked why the same parachute that pulled the bow of a fin-keeled J-30 into the seas (File S/M-6) would not do the same thing for a Vancouver 27. And again, the answer has to do with the amount of wind, the keel configuration, the rig, and the relative positions of the CLR and CE on the different boats. The J-30 has a small, centrally located fin keel. The Vancouver 27 has a full keel with a cutaway forefoot. The J-30 had sustained winds of 60 knots. The Vancouver had winds of 35 knots.

A larger parachute sea anchor might have made a difference as well. We would like to emphasize that the canopies of these BUORDs are made of coarsely woven mesh material, "the sort of thing you would use to strain plankton out of the sea with" as one sailor described it. Although they have a nominal diameter of about 9 feet, they do not have the holding power of a 9-ft. diameter, zero-porosity sea anchor. Remember, they are designed for dropping torpedoes into the sea and need to have a great deal of "give" built into their canopies.

By coincidence, the Pardeys ran into Anthony Gibb in Australia, and had this to say to Victor Shane in another letter: "Later discussions make us wonder if he had enough wind, or possibly her laying so far off the wind might have been caused by her high bow, the tanks stowed on her foredeck and a very high deck house, combined with a cutaway forefoot."

S/M-7 Pilot Cutter


Pilot Cutter

32' x 5 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

9-Ft. Dia. BUORD Parachute

Force 8 Conditions


File S/M-7, obtained from Dennis Lueck, Pensacola FL. - Vessel name Wind Song, hailing port Pensacola, Pilot Cutter designed by Frank Parrish, LOA 32' x LWL 20' x Beam 9' x Draft 5' x 5 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Sea anchor: 9-ft. Diameter BUORD on 300' x 1/2" nylon three strand rode with 1/2" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed during passage of frontal trough in shallow water (6 fathoms) off the Florida coast with winds of 35-40 knots and choppy seas of 8 feet - Vessel's bow yawed as much as 90° off to each side in the gusts.

Wind Song, a brand new Pilot Cutter, was being sailed from Tampa to her home port of Pensacola when a weather front arrived. The crew decided to play it safe with the new boat and deployed a 9-ft. BUORD, in 6 fathoms of water, about 30 miles offshore and due west of Bayport, Florida. The parachute did not do a satisfactory job of pulling the bow of Wind Song into the seas. The boat would get beam-on to the seas in the gusts. Notwithstanding, the motion was still much better than lying a-hull. Here is a transcript of her owner's feedback:

After rounding up to deploy the sea anchor, we forgot to return the rudder amidships, so it was hard to port all night (and not discovered till morning). As a result (I believe) the boat would get beam-on to the seas in the gusts and then roll. As it was, the motion was still much better than lying a-hull....

The rode did hit the bobstay and whisker stays quite often but did not chafe. We tried the "Pardey Bridle," but the snatch block stayed against the hull and we were afraid of chafe....

Incidentally, the boat was brand new and we were bringing it home. It had been dead calm and we were motoring north about 50 miles north of St. Petersburg when the front came through. As we had no sailing experience with this boat and it was night, we elected to heave-to with the sea anchor. Today, with similar conditions, we would sail the boat reefed down.

Why didn't the sea anchor pull the bow of this yacht into the seas? The problem of side-to-side yaw is related to the shape of the hull and keel, the position of the CLR (center of lateral resistance), the type of rig and the position of the CE (center of effort). It is most aggravated when the CLR is well aft and the CE well forward. This gives the wind a larger lever to push the bow off.

Boat design has always been the art of compromise and naval architects have seen the cutaway forefoot as something that enhances the course-keeping qualities of a yacht and lessens her tendency to broach in strong following seas. As long as such a yacht is sailing forward her underwater profile resembles an arrow in flight. The trade off, of course, is her behavior at anchor.

More than likely, however, Wind Song just didn't have enough wind. Seraffyn has unevenness associated with her underwater shape as well, but recall the Pardeys' words in File S/M-3, "If there was a lot of wind, the para-anchor held her pretty close to head to wind."

S/M-3 Pocket Cruiser, “Seraffyn”


Pocket Cruiser, "Seraffyn"

24' 7" x 5 Tons, Full Keel Cutter

9-Ft. Dia. BUORD Parachute

Force 8-10 Conditions


File S/M-3, derived from writings of Lin & Larry Pardey - See article on "Heaving To" in August '82 issue of Sail Magazine, also pages 268-274 of Seraffyn's Oriental Adventure (W.W. Norton & Co., 1983) and the Pardeys' book entitled Storm Tactics (Pardey Books, 1995) - Vessel name Seraffyn, pocket cruiser, built by Lawrence F. Pardey, LOA 24' 7" x LWL 22' 2" x Beam 8' 11" x Draft 4' 8" x 5 Tons - Full Keel - Sea anchor: 9-ft. diameter Naval Ordnance (BUORD) parachute on 250' x 5/8" nylon three strand rode with Pardeys' own bridle arrangement & 3/8" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed in the Gulf of Papagayo off Mexico and in the North Pacific during storms with winds of 40-70 knots - Bridle arrangement held the bow 50° off the wind - Drift was estimated to be about 5/8 of a knot.


Blue water veterans Lin and Larry Pardey have been using para-anchors since 1970. The one they used on Seraffyn was BUORD MK 2 MODEL 3. This parachute is government surplus and has been in use by fishermen for decades. The canopy is fabricated from heavy, nylon mesh material and it has sixteen shroud lines of 1000 lb. Dupont braid. Patrick M. Royce, author of Sailing Illustrated, did a series of tests on this parachute in 1969 and nicknamed it Two Pennant Storm Anchor (see page 157 of Royce's Sailing Illustrated).

Your author refers to these parachutes as "BUORDS" because they were originally developed for anti-submarine warfare use by the Navy's former BUreau of ORDnances - now Naval Sea Systems Command. Carrier-based S-3 Viking aircraft use such small diameter, heavy gauge parachutes to deliver torpedoes and other ordnances from the air. On page 269 of Seraffyn's Oriental Adventure the Pardeys show two photographs of the BUORD MK 2 MODEL 3. There is also a picture of Larry Pardey holding one up on page 36 of Storm Tactics.

In their original article in SAIL, Lin and Larry reported using this para-anchor in conjunction with a steadying sail in the Gulf of Papagayo (off Mexico) in gale force winds. The steadying sail would luff and flog violently as the boat was frequently pulled head-to-wind. Then it would fill and the head of the boat would fall off. This cycle would repeat itself once every four or five minutes - an uncomfortable and noisy affair. So Larry Pardey later rigged up an adjustable fairlead that kept the bow some 45-50° off the wind, at the same time causing the triple-reefed main to fill quite nicely and dampen the roll. This made the boat heel and lie much more comfortably. As a bonus, Larry found that in this attitude (45-50° off the wind) the boat would "scrape her keel" as she slid slowly downwind, leaving in her turbulent wake a significant "slick" that smoothed the seas, lessening their effect on the boat and gear. "You would be amazed at how this slick breaks down waves and steals their power," wrote the Pardeys to your author. Here is an excerpt from subsequent correspondence (reproduced by permission):

We have a preference for the BUORD surplus chute because 1) it is heavily built, with shrouds on our's almost strong enough to lift Taleisin, 2) it can be purchased quite inexpensively second hand, 3) as it is heavy weight fabric it does not have a tendency to fill with wind when you are deploying it, 4) we have used it since 1970 without problems, and finally, 5) because its fabric stretches when unusual strains come on it, the fabric becomes porous and lets some water sieve through, this absorbs shock loads.

Add this to the stretch of the nylon anchor line and we feel that the catenary curve-effect of chains or weights is redundant. We prefer a dead simple system - no floats, no trip lines, no catenary chains. We are also concerned about the move to bigger and bigger chutes. The bigger they are, the harder they are to store, handle and use. We are not sure they stop drift much better - once a chute is 8 to 15 feet in diameter, the drifts recorded by us on our boats, and during tests with modern sailboats off the Cape of Storms [South Africa], showed that the drift rate with the relatively small BUORD chute was about the same as that listed throughout the Drag Device Data Base for boats using much larger chutes, a drift of between 5/8 and one knot. For monohulls laying at a hove-to position, a smaller chute, combined with the considerable drag of the keel, as shown in the diagram, will produce a wide, effective slick. We can see that multihulls laying head to wind would need the largest chute possible as only the sea anchor is working to create a protective slick.

A further thought on chain. As chafe in the bowroller or fairlead is a major concern with any nylon anchor rode (onshore or offshore), we have considered using a 30 foot length of chain for the inboard end of the rode. But as we have not yet done so, we can make no actual comment on this idea.



Sea anchor rode is led off the bow. Pennant line from cockpit winch causes the bow to lie 50° of the wind. Storm trysail is set and the tiller lashed to leeward. As the boat is pushed downwind her keel begins to shed vortices, which gradually merge into a turbulent field upstream. The intense mixing effect of this turbulence will tend to cancel molecular rotation - the stuff that waves are made of. Note that this strategy requires square drift. The boat must not forereach - sail out of her protective "slick." The Pardeys have practical suggestions for ensuring that it does not in their book, Storm Tactics - required reading.

To what extent does the turbulence generated by the square drift of the keel affect the shape and ferocity of the waves? The "slick" mentioned by Lin and Larry Pardey is not to be confused with the superficial effects of oil on the surface of the water. It is a more profound phenomenon. It has to do with the turbulent field created by a succession of vortices, technically known as the Von Karman Vortex Street.

Vortices are eddies, created by the motion of irregular shapes in fluids. They flow away from the boundary layer and gradually merge into a homogeneous turbulent field in which the turbulence in one part of the field is the same as that in any other part.

Since non-homogeneous ocean waves are created by the orbital rotation of water particles, anything that interferes with that rotation can have an effect in a seaway. Logically, and if the interference is great enough, the resulting turbulent field can de-stabilize - or at the very least smooth down - the wave formations directly ahead of the boat.

D/M-11 Monohull, Islander


Monohull, Islander

29' x 4 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

36" Dia. Galerider Drogue

Force 8 Conditions


File D/M-7, obtained from William A. Forest, San Luis Obispo, CA. - Vessel name Seraphim, hailing port Morro Bay, CA, monohull, Islander Wayfarer, LOA 29' x LWL 24' x Beam 9.5' x Draft 4' x 4 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Drogue: 36" Diameter Galerider on 200' x 1/2" nylon braid rode, with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 500 miles west of San Francisco, with winds of 35-45 knots and seas of 15-20 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 20° - Speed averaged out to about 4 knots during 40 hours of deployment.


William A. Forest sailed Seraphim to Hawaii and back singlehanded in July 1989. On the way back he ran into a gale about 500 miles west of San Francisco. The wind was blowing out of the northwest, so he used a Galerider to slow Seraphim down and stabilize her attitude while continuing on in the right direction. Transcript:

I made the trip just to see if I could, and having done it I don't have to prove to myself that I can any more. The trip was made in 1989, when I was 66. The problem wasn't the boat, equipment or weather, but the chance that, as a single hander, I might get injured or break something. I did take a fall on the return trip, and cracked two lower ribs. I had not followed my own rule of wearing sneakers when on deck, and my bare feet went out from under me. Lucky it wasn't worse.

Until the time I deployed the Galerider on the way back, I had forgotten I had it on board. When the seas built up, the Monitor [wind vane] was unable to keep course as I sailed down into the troughs. The boat was surfing at that time, and the natural tendency was to try and round up, making it a dangerous broaching situation. This involved several hours of hand steering. Very tiring, at best. I took down the reefed main, hoisted the storm jib, and deployed the Galerider at 0200 hrs. on July 20th. I let out the Galerider rode to 150' initially, but later adjusted it between 125-200' to get best response, control and ride. The rode came in through the port after chock, taking half a turn on a corner cleat, then to my jib winch and onto another cleat. This way the strain was distributed between the first cleat and the winch, and I could take in or let out as the situation changed. As soon as the Galerider was deployed and the rode adjusted I had instant control. It was amazing. A note here that chafing gear must be used at the chock or the rode will easily wear through and the drogue be lost. It should also be noted that I had a 90 sq. ft. storm jib up. In order for the drogue to work properly it is necessary to have forward motion.

I adjusted the rode so that the Galerider was on the same side of the wave as the boat. In my case it was two waves back [on the same part of the wave as the boat]. I found that the strain was less on the line, and there were no jerks or rapid slowing as the boat moved forward. After deployment it was never necessary to hand-steer again. Once the Monitor wind vane was engaged I was able to unlash the tiller and my course became more exact. Sometime during early daylight hours a rogue wave from the port side carried away the wind vane sail and the dodger, filling the cockpit.

The Galerider worked well. There was plenty of searoom and the wind was blowing in the direction I wanted to go. However, in a situation of a dangerously close lee shore, and the loss of a rudder or sails, there is no doubt in my mind that a sea anchor would have been required. There is no law about not having both on board. In the unlikely event that I should go cruising again I would have both.

In subsequent telephone conversations Victor Shane asked William Forest why he didn't position the drogue on the back side of its wave when the yacht was surfing down the face of its wave (see Fig. 52). His answer was that he tried that, but given the particular situation - 35-knot winds - the yacht had a tendency to stall and wallow in the troughs. He added that in 50-knot winds he likely would have positioned the drogue on the "meatier" part of the wave.

In answer to the question as to whether he would prefer to take the seas squarely on the transom or on the quarter, Forest indicated that he would prefer to take them on the quarter with the drogue in tow, although it would depend on the particular circumstance. He stressed that every gale is different, every boat is different, and decisions such as where to position the drogue, or whether to use a bridle or not, or whether it is better to run directly downwind or to take the seas on the quarter are fluid decisions that need to be tailored to existing circumstances and conditions

Galerider drogue produced by Hathaway, Reiser and Raymond
Galerider drogue produced by Hathaway, Reiser and Raymond

D/M-9 Monohull, Gulf Island


Monohull, Gulf Island

30' x 4 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

36" Dia. Galerider Drogue

Force 8 Conditions


File D/M-9, obtained from Warren Hawkins, North Pole, Alaska - Vessel name Ancient Mariner, monohull, Gulf Island, LOA 30' x LWL 27' x Beam 8' x Draft 5' 4" x 4 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Drogue: 36" Diameter Galerider on 200' x 5/8" nylon three strand rode, with bridle arms of 20' x 5/8" Dacron braid and 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 1200 miles NE of Hawaii with winds of 35-40 knots and seas of 18 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 20° - Speed was reduced to about 3 knots during 20 hours of deployment.


The trade winds blow steadily over vast stretches of ocean and can generate surprisingly large seas and swells. When Victor Shane was sailing to Hawaii, for instance, stiff trades had produced swells that averaged about 10 feet. Typically these seas are very lumpy and uncomfortable as well. Add a few squalls and a low system and it's time to heave-to or get out the drogue. Ancient Mariner, a Gulf Island 30, was being delivered to Hawaii from Alaska when she ran into this sort of situation. Transcript of the feedback provided by delivery skipper Warren Hawkins:

During the early morning hours of July 30, 1990, the [trade] wind steadily increased, while holding approximately the same direction (70-90°). By dawn the main was down completely. We were running on about 1/3 of the roller-reefed jib. Our speed was manageable, the swells being about 12' high. Our course to steer was only about 20-30 degrees from straight downwind. By 0900 hrs. we were under bare poles, the wind still increasing and the swells running 15-18'. Steering was becoming a problem to keep from broaching or from running straight down a wave and possibly pitchpoling.

Just before noon, while maneuvering on one of the larger swells whose upper 4' broke on us, the tiller snapped off. At this point deployment of the drogue was an absolute necessity. I made up a bridle out of about 60' of 5/8" braided Dacron, in the middle of which I tied a loop using a figure eight knot. The loose ends ran inside the stern cleats and around the two genoa sheet winches. The 200' rode was attached to the bridle approx. 20-25' aft of the boat with a bowline. The other end was attached to the Galerider swivel with a bowline. The rode itself was braided nylon and could have been longer.

The very instant that the Galerider took hold it was as if you had pushed a button and calmed the gale. We made a quick jury-rig repair on the tiller (which lasted all the way to Honolulu) and the motion of the vessel was such that we could take normal steering watches on the tiller and the off watch could get some sleep. One pleasant surprise from using the Dacron bridle was that due to its very low stretch it did not chafe where it went over the two corners of the transom (no sawing effect).

By 0800 the next morning the swells were back down to 10-12', the wind was subsiding and we hauled in the Galerider. The Gulf Island 30 was not designed as an ocean crossing vessel. We would have been hard put to weather the gale without some form of speed reduction even if the tiller had not broken.

D/M-7 Monohull, Nor’Sea 27


Monohull, Nor'Sea 27

31' x 5 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

30" Dia. Galerider Drogue

Force 10-11 Conditions


File D/M-7, obtained from George R. Purifoy, Pittsburgh, PA. - Vessel name Synthesis, hailing port Pittsburgh, monohull, Nor'Sea 27 (center cockpit version) designed by Lyle Hess, LOA 31' x LWL 27' x Beam 8' x Draft 3' 9" x 5 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Drogue: 30" Galerider on 150' x 5/8" nylon three strand rode, with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Deployed in a storm in deep water about 500 miles east of Block Island, New York, with winds of 50-60 knots and seas of 20-25 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 20° with the owner steering manually - Downwind speed was reduced to about 3 knots in 15 hours of deployment.

George R. Purifoy, Jr., is a Pittsburgh engineer who completed a solo Atlantic crossing and return on board Synthesis, a Nor'Sea 27 - solid little world cruiser designed by Lyle Hess. The Nor'Sea 27 boasts of about 150 Atlantic and Pacific crossings, and 4 circumnavigations. Synthesis left City Island, New York, bound for the Azores and ran into an Atlantic storm on 12 June 88, approximately 500 miles east of Block Island. In an article appearing in the 32nd issue of Ocean Navigator, Purifoy recounted his trials and tribulations as he struggled to keep the sea in face of a mounting storm. Methodically, he went through the incremental steps of sail reduction - down to storm jib and double-reefed main. By the time it was blowing 40 knots it was dark and even the double-reefed main had to come down. Down it came, an inch at a time, "thrashing like a thing alive," the decks awash and illuminated by flashes of lightning.

As the storm built, Purifoy put Synthesis on a downwind course and began steering her in earnest. From then on it was a battle to keep the yacht from getting a little sideways and tripping on her keel. The mental states experienced by Purifoy in that perilous night might easily be experienced by any sailor running into a storm. Excerpts from the article follow (reproduced by permission of Ocean Navigator):

Boy, talk about scared! I am just on the ragged edge of control. One of these times I'm going to make a mistake and that will be all she wrote. To compound things, the steepness of the waves and our speed down them is causing the bow to bury in the base of the wave ahead.... Little Synthesis is taking green water over the bow up to the mast. Now, along with the distinct probability of a broach, is the very real danger of pitchpoling. Time for the last line of defense: the storm drogue. If I can't slow the boat down we're going to buy the farm for sure!

When Purifoy finally deployed the Galerider, there was a dramatic transition from chaos to control. The drogue took hold, slowed the boat's speed down to a safe and sane 2-3 knots, and helped to reduce the tendency to bury the bow. The article continues:

What a wonderful feeling. No longer are we rushing crazily toward a cold swim. The boat has slowed down to about two knots or so, even on the steep downhill faces of the waves. Those monster waves are still rushing at us from astern, but Synthesis just lifts her stern and all the foam and tumbling water just moves by. Beautiful! I still have to steer, but not with the strain and concentration of before. All of a sudden the storm seems manageable, duck soup even.

In subsequent telephone conversations with Victor Shane, Purifoy added the following: A bridle was used, with arms of 14' each, made of 3/4" nylon three strand, the tether itself being 150' x 5/8" nylon three strand; the deployment took place in the Gulf Stream; the storm jib was flying for the duration of the time in which the drogue was deployed; the boat had to be steered manually without interruption, although happily the steering was much easier with the drogue in tow; without continuous manual input at the helm Synthesis might have broached and/or capsized; notwithstanding she might not have survived the storm intact without the assistance of the Galerider. In answer to your Shane's question about the positioning of the drogue Purifoy had this to say:

The 150' rode seemed about right for the wave system - the drogue was always one wave back of Synthesis, and on the back side as Synthesis was on the front side. I guess the wave length must have been more like 90-100'.


Positioning the drogue... "on the back of the next wave."
Positioning the drogue... "on the back of the next wave."

D/M-5 Monohull, Tayana


Monohull, Tayana

37' x 11 Tons, Full Keel & Cutaway Forefoot

Warps, Submerged Dinghy, Etc.

Force 11-12 Conditions


File D/M-5, obtained from Patton S. King, Houston, TX. - Vessel name Hudie, hailing port Houston, monohull, Tayana, designed by Robert Perry, LOA 37' x LWL 31' x Beam 11' 6" x Draft 5' 8" x 11 Tons - Full keel & cutaway forefoot - Drogue: Four warps, 250' each, with various items attached, including buckets, tarp, sail bags and submerged 8-ft. fiberglass dinghy - Deployed in hurricane Juan (October '85) in 100 fathoms of water about 130 miles SE of Galveston, with winds of 90 knots and seas of 30 ft. - Vessel yawed 40° and was eventually rolled full circle by a rogue wave, necessitating abandonment.


Hudie, a seakindly, canoe-stern Tayana 37 designed by Robert Perry, was on her way to Key West from Galveston in October 1985. To the east, a tropical depression had formed, which soon matured into a tropical storm, and was later upgraded to a full-fledged hurricane, named Juan by the National Hurricane Center in Miami. In the language of meteorologists, the term re-curvature refers to the shift in direction of the path of a hurricane, from a westerly to an easterly component of movement. Trying to predict when and where a hurricane is going to re-curve is the sort of thing that gives the men and women of the National Hurricane Center migraine headaches. Juan wasn't about to make things any easier. It was "all over the place," stalling and moving about erratically - playing a game of hide and seek with the forecasters.

Juan was only category 1 in stature, weak in so far as hurricanes go. In terms of damage, however, it would soon prove itself to be one of the worst storms in history. On October 28th, for instance, it forced 80 oil workers on 2 offshore rigs to take to life boats. On the 29th it sank an oil barge with 3 crewmen on board. On the 30th it was lashing the Louisiana coast for a second day, causing an estimated fifty deaths and one billion dollars damage. Governor Edwin Edwards said that Juan had done more damage to the state than any storm in history, and President Reagan had to declare the state of Louisiana a disaster area on November 2nd.

Meanwhile, back on Friday October 25th, Hudie was down to her last reef points, with the storm jib pulling like a bulldozer. The seas continued to build rapidly and on Saturday night she found herself engulfed within Juan's spiraling arms. Wind: Force 11-12. Hudie was running before 30-ft. seas now, averaging 6 knots on bare poles. With options narrowing the owner, Patton S. King, deployed a 9-ft. diameter BUORD on the fly, believing that it would stop the boat and pull the bow around, or at least partially around. No swivel was used. The rode consisted of 200 feet of 5/8" diameter nylon three strand, leading out of the port bow chock. The shock of the opening parachute was noted, along with extremely high tension in the rode. The boat's speed decreased from 6 knots to 3 knots. But Hudie did not round up into the wind. She didn't even come beam to the seas, but instead assumed a heading still downwind, with the seas on her quarter and with the rode leading off the bow, bent under the keel and trailing out astern.

We should digress briefly and ask the question as to why the 9-ft. diameter BUORD failed to exert some sort of a pull on the bow - make the boat stop, turn around and begin facing into the wind and seas. There are several possible answers.

In the first place, with nearly six feet of draft, a full keel and the forefoot cutaway, the Tayana 37's CE (center of wind effort) is well forward of her CLR (center of lateral resistance). A yacht like this won't even lie a-hull in hurricane force winds. Rather, she will tend to point downwind. For a sea anchor to countermand this tendency and actually pull the bow all the way around it would have to be larger - in the order of 15-18 feet in diameter.

In the second place, there is the matter of the torque associated with three strand rope under extreme dynamic loading. The chute was set on the fly, resulting in a significant shock when it opened. No swivel was used (not that it would have been able to rotate, initially) and extremely high tension was noted in the line. What happens to three strand rope when it is subjected to this sort of extreme loading? It torques. In trying to unlay, it will stiffens and rotate like an engine shaft, twisting the parachute shroud lines together into a thick lay and reducing the diameter at the mouth of the parachute. The sea anchor was too small to begin with, and with its mouth choked shut it could not possibly have pulled the bow of Hudie around into the seas.

At any rate, twenty minutes later the rode parted from chafe under the keel, and the boat resumed its 6-knot run down streaked mountains of water. Four warps, 250 ft. each, were then trailed over the stern, with various items attached, including buckets, 2 tarps, sail bags, an igloo ice box (full of ice and pop) and a submerged, 8 foot fiberglass dinghy. The combined drag was enough to slow Hudie down to 3 knots again. In fact, from 10 p.m. on Saturday, until 6 a.m. Sunday, the makeshift drogues improved the behavior of the boat to such an extent that in subsequent telephone conversations with Victor Shane, Patton S. King said that he could not have been happier with the way things were going.

At approximately 6 a.m. Sunday, however, it is thought that a rogue wave picked up Hudie, carried her sideways, broke and rolled her through 360° in about twelve seconds. Instantly cans, bottles, tables, utensils, floor boards and people were rolling around in total shambles inside - with broken glass everywhere. There was much evidence of roof damage, with extensive damage to the rigging, mast and spreaders. All the crew had sustained injuries, fortunately nothing major. They could not raise the Coast Guard, but a call to "any vessel" was soon answered by a couple of tugs and a commercial fishing boat. In the meantime they cut away all warps, started the engine, brought the bow around and began jogging into it.

By 3.30 p.m. Sunday afternoon the situation had become altogether untenable - all pumps clogged or broken, engine rapidly overheating and the boat being hammered by 25-ft. seas. When the F/V Gulf King appeared and agreed to take the crew aboard the decision was made to abandon ship. Soon all were safely aboard the Gulf King. Their last view of Hudie was seeing her get knocked down in the distance.