S/T-16 Trimaran, Kantola

Spirit of Tsitika of Victoria, BC. This Kantola trimaran uses a 24-ft. diameter surplus parachute to heave-to offshore. "...we opted to set the chute, rather than continue beating to windward in those conditions. As soon as we were deployed the wind increased to 45 kts. and gusting higher, with a steep, short chop (8-10 ft.) on top of a large westerly swell of about 12-15 ft." (Gary Cagné photo). S/T-16

Trimaran, Kantola

35' x 24' x 3 Tons

24-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor

Force 8-9 Conditions

File S/T-16, obtained from Gary Cagné, Vancouver, BC. - Vessel name Spirit Of Tsitika, hailing port Victoria BC, trimaran, designed by Jay Kantola, LOA 35' 6" x Beam 24' x Draft 5' 6" (2' 6" board up) x 3 Tons - Sea anchor: 24-ft. Diameter military chest reserve on 300' x 9/16" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 50' each, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - No trip-line - Deployed in a gale in deep water about 50 miles off the coast of Baja California with winds of 35-45 knots and seas of 12-15 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be 9 n.m. during 17 hours at sea anchor.


There is a certain grace and elegance associated with Jay Kantola's designs that one has to see to appreciate. His boats tend to remind one of certain benign and beautiful birds that roam across vast oceans on great wings. Not the feisty, competitive, acrobatic Frigate bird, whose flying skills and prize-winning antics one might associate with one of Richard Newick's masterpieces, but perhaps the magnificent, gentle, white-winged, black-browed Albatross of the Southern Ocean.

At least this was Shane Victor's impression when he first saw Spirit Of Tsitika tied up in Santa Barbara harbor. Two months after visiting with him, Gary Cagné and his companion Claire ran into a gale off the coast of Baja California. Transcript:

On the way to Cabo San Lucas we discovered an incredible lagoon on the east side of Mag Bay, in which we spent several days lounging and hiking and bird watching. It's finally beginning to warm up a bit. Just left this morning with a nice offshore light westerly filling the new spinnaker we found at a thrift store in Santa Barbara for $25!

As you can see we finally had a good opportunity to use the parachute sea anchor, and we're ever happy we did. We had the wind on the nose for 24 hours or more with torrential rain the whole time, and with a long offshore tack we ended up 65 miles NW of Cape Lazaro (near Bahia Santa Maria) when the wind got up to 35 kts at 1500 hrs. So we opted to set the chute, rather than continue beating to windward in those conditions. As soon as we were deployed (the deployment bag worked fantastic) the wind increased to 45 kts and gusting higher, with a steep short chop (8-10 ft.) on top of a large westerly swell of about 12-15 ft.

The seas lengthened later on as the gale continued, enabling the bows to ride a bit higher. Initially they were picking up the tops of the [short, steep] waves and spraying the whole boat, pouring rain all the while and the barometer continuing to drop. Pretty easy ride once the waves began lengthening, and about 0300 next morning the wind eased off a bit and switched to SW 25-30. By first dawn we had a light westerly and very confused seas coming from various directions. We got underway after winching in the chute (very easy) and arrived safely, with no damage, later that night in Bahia Santa Maria. The next day we heard about Whistlin, a 37-ft. Searunner and several other boats that ended up having to power [jog] through the storm, suffering miscellaneous damage - mostly losing gear over the side and diesel problems. One monohull suffered a knockdown, and the group closer in to shore reported gusts to 60 kts! Whistlin has a surplus parachute on board but still needs to re-sew the shroud lines to it.

Note: When we retrieved the parachute, we found that the float line had twisted itself many times, and even part of it was caught in two of the parachute shroud lines. So we learned that it is necessary to have a swivel for the float line as well. Claire and I are feeling more confident now that we've had our first parachute sea anchor experience and know how well it works.

S/C-14 Catamaran, Edel Cat


Catamaran, Edel Cat

35' x 19' x 3.5 Tons

15-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 8-9 Conditions


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.


S/C-12 Catamaran, Prout


Catamaran, Prout

39' x 18' x 9 Tons

18-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9-10 Conditions


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. 

S/M-33 Gaff Rigged Ketch


Gaff Rigged Ketch

38' x 19 Tons, Full Keel

15-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 5 Conditions

File S/M-33, obtained from Roger and Debi Brown, Port Townsend, WA. - Vessel name Tropic Tramp, hailing port Port Townsend - One-off gaff-rigged ketch, designed by Paul Snow, LOA 38' x LWL 35' x Beam 12' x Draft 6' x 19 Tons - Full keel - Sea anchor: 15-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 3/4" nylon braid rode and 80' of chain, with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip line - Deployed in a low system in deep water in the Tuamotus about 300 miles NE of Tahiti, with winds of 20 knots and seas of 15 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was 16 n.m. during 44 hours at sea anchor.

On her passage to Tahiti, Tropic Tramp ran into a gale in the Tuamotus and hove-to for a night under sails. With 15-20 foot seas still running and the wind contrary, the sea anchor was then deployed to anchor this classic, gaff-rigged ketch to the misnamed Pacific and wait for better conditions. Tropic Tramp stayed "anchored" for two days and two nights. Transcript:

We deployed the sea anchor for several reasons.

1) First time use and sea conditions were right.

2) We hove-to [with sails alone] and found we drifted more than we felt comfortable with.

3) Our jib needed a lot of restitching.

4) We were gaff-rigged and headed west towards Tahiti, the winds were out of the west, and being a perfect gentleman beating into that didn't seem like a lot of fun.

I felt this had all the qualifications for deploying our sea anchor. The storm had been at gale force during the night and our heading to get us past the atoll was not bad. We felt we had sea room by now, and no current. Plus, the worst of the storm had passed. Deployment went easy and as planned. We used 400' of rode and 80' of our 3/8" chain, and a 70 lb. anchor, which gave us a great rest. No jerking. The 50' [partial] trip line let us retrieve effortlessly.

After 44 hours, seas were flat, wind SE at 12 knots. A perfect sail into Tahiti, fully rested. Caught two 42" wahoos! A lot of other boats were very interested in all the "facts" of our experience at sea anchor.

S/M-29 Morris Justine Sloop


Morris Justine Sloop

36' x 9 Tons, Low Aspect Fin/Skeg

15-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9 Conditions


File S/M-29, obtained from Robert K. Gwin, Jr., Orange Park, FL. - Vessel name Osprey, hailing port Jacksonville, Morris Justine sloop, designed by Chuck Paine, LOA 36' x LWL 30' x Beam 12' 6" x Draft 4' 9" x 9 Tons - Low aspect fin keel & skeg rudder -

Sea anchor: 15-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 300' x 5/8" nylon three strand rode with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - No trip line - Deployed in a whole gale in shallow water (100 fathoms) about 300 miles ESE of Jacksonville, with winds of 45-50 knots and seas of 15-20 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 20°

Like so may other case histories the benefit that Osprey derived from her sea anchor was all too brief. The rode chafed through. Transcript:

We actually did not deploy our sea anchor until the storm had peaked and perhaps began dropping. The storm had been building the previous day and we had hove-to the previous evening under storm staysail and double-reefed main. The boat rode fairly well under this configuration, but there was a lot of movement and about 2:00 AM we took a 80-90° knockdown which carried away our deck-mounted life raft and did some other damage.

We remained below until sunlight and decided to deploy the sea anchor to stabilize the boat. We lowered the stays'l and deployed it as instructed. It filled fairly quickly and appeared to have a quieting effect on the boat's motion. Unfortunately the rode was chafing on the bow roller next to the anchor due to the movement of the boat (¸ 20° yaw + more when the boat was hit by a cross sea). Attempts to re-route the rode resulted in the rode and the sea anchor being lost.


1) The primary anchor had not been stowed before going offshore, so the bow roller was not available for use, and the anchor caused chafing.

2) A practice run had not been done.

3) Insufficient chafe gear was available for use. We did notice that there was no jerkiness or surging with the anchor deployed. The tension on the rode was terrific.

S/M-28 Camper Nicholson Sloop


Camper Nicholson Sloop

35' x 7.5 Tons, Low Aspect Fin/Skeg

15-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 7-8 Conditions


File S/M-28, obtained from John G. Driscoll, Holywood, County Down, UK - Vessel name Moonlight Of Down, hailing port Southampton, Camper Nicholson sloop, designed by Raymond Wall, LOA 35' x LWL 24' x Beam 10' x Draft 5'6" x 7.5 Tons - Low aspect fin keel & skeg rudder - Sea anchor: 15-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 380' x 5/8" nylon braid rode and 60' of chain, with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Partial trip line - Deployed in a low system in deep water about 300 miles WNW of Bermuda with winds of 30-40 knots and seas of 12 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 30°.

UK sailor John Driscoll learned some lessons about the use of the Pardey bridling system when he crossed the Atlantic in November 1996. He offers the reader some valuable advice about having a game plan - and practice time:

Our vessel Moonlight Of Down was on a passage from Newport, Rhode Island to Bermuda, manned by myself and my wife. At 2200 hrs 1 Nov 96 the vessel was hove-to under triple reefed mains'l in a SW Force 7 wind with a rough sea, as it was not possible for the off-watch crew to sleep when underway. By 0000 hrs 2 Nov it was blowing SW Force 7-8 as a trough or local low center passed by. It was decided to deploy the Para-Tech sea anchor. This had not been attempted before, but practice runs of the deployment procedure had been carried out to the point of dropping the DSB [deployable stowage bag] overboard,

The drill calls for the 5/8" octo-plait [8-ply braid] rode to be passed forward from the cockpit - outside everything - and shackled onto the shank of the 33 lb. Bruce, main bow anchor. 20 Meters of chain is then run out. A "Pardey Bridle" is rolling-hitched to the chain, and a further 10 m of chain run out. The parachute buoy, tripping line, primary float, float line, DSB and the main part of the 120 m nylon rode are then deployed from the safety of the cockpit.

The drill went perfectly, no problems, and the vessel lay at 50° to the wind on the starboard tack with some tension on the bridle. The vessel then tacked and lay with the bridle under the boat. The vessel tacked every ten minutes or so. It was decided that the weight of the anchor and chain were too great for proper bridling (angles wrong), so some chain was reversed and the bridle re-attached. No improvement. At 0430 it was noted that the wind had dropped to Force 6 so it was decided to lay without a bridle, head to wind - so the crew could sleep.

A rapid, severe roll developed with the vessel occasionally tacking about 30° each side of the wind. Sleep, or even rest were completely impossible, and it was decided to recover the sea anchor at first light, by which time the wind had dropped to Force 4.

The anchor was brought aboard with the windlass. The vessel was motored up the rode, which was recovered by hand to within 30 m of the sea anchor. The vessel was maneuvered to the parachute buoy, which was recovered and the sea anchor picked up by the partial trip line over the starboard bow. It came aboard so well-arranged it was immediately re-bagged for re-deployment if necessary.

In spite of the Hydrovane Self-Steering rudder being lashed amidships the vessel had at sometime backed down with sufficient force to free the rudder and stock hard over within the head clamp. No other damage or chafe occurred. Whereas the procedures for deployment and recovery were completely successful, the method of utilization was not considered successful and will have to be modified.

The following points are considered significant in the failure to achieve a satisfactory set: 1) Lying to a sea anchor off the bow head-to-wind is not considered practical due to the violent rolling induced. 2) Attaching the nylon rode to the sea anchor and dropping it over the bow, although improving the catenary and avoiding chafe, does not allow a Pardey Bridle to be used effectively on this vessel. 3) A sea anchor cannot be considered an effective asset unless practice runs have been carried out in suitable conditions to determine the exact method of utilization.

My next attempt (a practice run) will be to deploy the sea anchor as described in Storm Tactics as shown in diagrams E & F (pages 38 & 39) and photos 3 & 4 (pages 79 & 80). I feel that the rode and bridle should be in the approximate plane of the vessel's gunwale to be effective. They should not lead steeply downward as occurs when chain is used off the bow. Should chain need to be incorporated into the rode it would probably be best at the sea anchor end. In conclusion we feel that the Para-Tech sea anchor is well constructed and its drag characteristic will enable it to achieve the desired performance, once we have developed the method of utilization appropriate to our own vessel.


S/M-24 Roberts Motor Sailing Ketch


Roberts Motor Sailing Ketch

39' x 14 Tons, Full Keel

7-Ft. Dia. Conical Sea Anchor

Force 10+ Conditions


File S/M-24, obtained from Tim Kelly, Tralee, Ireland - Vessel name Kerry Dancer, hailing port Brisbane, Australia, motor sailing ketch, designed by Bruce Roberts, LOA 39' x LWL 33' x Beam 12' 6" x Draft 5' x 14 Tons - Full keel - Sea anchor: 7-ft. Diameter custom-made cone on 300' x 1" nylon three strand rode with 5/8" stainless steel swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in a storm in deep water about 1000 miles WSW of Cocos (Keeling) Islands with winds of 65-75 knots and breaking seas of undetermined size - Vessel's bow was kept at a slight angle to the seas by the sea anchor and mizzen.

Kerry Dancer was en route to Cape Town from Cocos-Keeling in September 1992 when she ran into a storm. Might it have been a cyclone? Although tropical cyclones are rare this time of year in the Indian Ocean, they are common in the Bay of Bengal fifteen hundred miles north of Cocos. At any rate, Kerry Dancer's owner, Tim Kelly, had designed and made a sea anchor for just such an occasion. It was a large, heavy canvas cone, seven feet in diameter at the mouth, with a one-foot diameter opening at the other end. Kelly used a stainless steel wire hoop arrangement to keep the mouth of the cone open - similar to the arrangement found on the Galerider drogue. Kelly's hand-written note:

I kept the mizzen up whilst the sea anchor was in use. This kept the bow into the wind, (actually at a slight angle off it). But it worked well and I was able to sleep in peace whilst the storm blew itself out.

S/C-8 Catamaran, Kelsall


Catamaran, Kelsall

36' x 20' x 4 Tons

18-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 11-12 Conditions

File S/C-8, obtained from Rick Kazprzak, Kodiak, Alaska - Vessel name Catherine Estelle, hailing port Kodiak, "Tonga Tora" catamaran, designed by Derek Kelsall, LOA 36' x Beam 20' x Draft 18" x 4 Tons - Sea anchor: 18-ft. Diameter Para-Tech on 450' x 5/8" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 50' each, with 5/8" galvanized swivel - Partial trip line - De-ployed in a storm in the Gulf of Alaska about 350 miles west of Queen Charlotte Island, with winds of 70-80 knots and seas of 30-40 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 10° - Drift was estimated to be about 5 n.m. during 48 hours at sea anchor. 

Linda Kasprzak read the second edition of the DDDB and urged Rick to equip Catherine Estelle with a Para-Tech sea anchor. She also saw to it that tether, bridle, hardware and all fitting were ready to take on the Gulf of Alaska.

Rick and Linda Kasprzak left Kodiak on 13 July 1991, headed for Vancouver Island, 1200 miles as the crow flies straight across the Gulf of Alaska. At the half way point they ran into one major storm, one gale, and one minor gale, spending a total of five days tethered to the sea anchor. There were some anxious moments.

The transcript of an official Coast Guard document (CG Juneau, Archive Number 2285) reads as follows: Urgent Marine Information Broadcast - Communications have been lost with the S/V Catherine Estelle endangered by weather in position 53-05 N, 142-65 W. The vessel is a 37 ft. catamaran with 2 persons on board. Vessels in the vicinity are requested to keep a sharp lookout, assist if possible, and advise the nearest CG station.

At the time of this urgent broadcast Catherine Estelle was being held to survival by the long rode leading the Para-Tech sea anchor. Transcript:

The storm we encountered was a major one with a very quickly dropping barometer (1 millibar every 1/2 hour). At the height of the storm we encountered 35-40 ft. seas. I believe I am under-estimating this as the seas were so big that our GPS could not get a fix at times, because it was being blocked out by the huge waves.

Surface analysis chart of the Gulf of Alaska for Sunday 21 July 1991, showing the Aleutian Islands on the upper left, Alaska and Canada on the upper right, and Vancouver Island on the right. Catherine Estelle's position at this time was 53° 15' 42" North, 142° 36' 09" West, which would place her right in the center of the LOW. Note the 2200 mb HIGH to the north. (Courtesy of University of Alaska).
Surface analysis chart of the Gulf of Alaska for Sunday 21 July 1991, showing the Aleutian Islands on the upper left, Alaska and Canada on the upper right, and Vancouver Island on the right. Catherine Estelle's position at this time was 53° 15' 42" North, 142° 36' 09" West, which would place her right in the center of the LOW. Note the 2200 mb HIGH to the north. (Courtesy of University of Alaska).

               Wind speed increased at the start from 40 to easily over 70 knots. The seas were nothing but white spray, breaking crests and huge waves. We have lived in Kodiak for 15 years and so have experienced many a storm, but have never seen anything like we experienced during those 48 hours. The situation was so bad that we were dressed in survival suits and had the catamaran ready so that if we flipped, we could have access to our EPIRB, survival food and water.

The boat handled very well, but it was unnerving to be held to survival by a thin 5/8" line. Sleep was impossible. The sea anchor definitely saved the boat and I'm sure our lives. It operated flawlessly on those 2 days and the other 3 days during the other 2 gales.

We had 50' bridle arms that went through a specially made SS bow plate, but we had also built a U-bolt to this plate. The bridle was encased in 1/4" thick rubber tubing where it hit metal on the plate. We had a little trouble deploying the sea anchor, mainly because we have a seagull striker in front, plus 2 head stays. But once around all that, we were able to set the anchor just fine. Our catamaran rode these huge seas like a duck rides a wave on the sea anchor. But because the seas were so big, we did have a lot of noise due to waves slapping on the under-body.

The bottom line is that the 18-ft. para-anchor operated as you said it would, and with your help, my wife Lin's forethought, and a well-designed boat, we all did what should have been done and came through a very violent storm and survived with NO damage. Mr. Kelsall must be commended on his fine design of this boat.

Rick & Linda Kasprzak have since logged thousands of miles and used the same sea anchor in other marginal situations. In a letter to your author dated 16 September 1991, Rick wrote about one other episode. At the time Catherine Estelle was beating against 30 knot winds and 10-15' seas when a big wave slammed into her. There was a loud bang. A frantic search revealed that a weld had broken on one of her rudders.

The sea anchor was immediately deployed to bring the situation under control and wait for calmer seas. A radio call to the Canadian Coast Guard brought a response from a nearby fishing boat, with an offer to tow the catamaran to Bella Bella (the nearest port).

In the radio conversation that followed, the skipper of the fishing boat expressed concern about the initial pick-up and transfer of tow line in rough seas. He said he had seen more damage occur in this transfer than in any other situation in all the towing experiences he knew of. Rick Kazperzak:

I said to the captain of the fishing boat, "No problem! Just pick up the trip line connected to the red buoy, pull the chute in, bag it temporarily on deck, then cleat the tether and start your tow."

The fisherman had no problem doing this. He towed Catherine Estelle to a small bay in Bella Bella, and then released the tow - dropped the parachute back in the water and went on his way. Rick Kasprzak:

 The point is this: here is another safety use of the sea anchor - towing. Easy pick up of tow line and easy release.

NOTE: When it come to tow lines the Coast Guard will not go along with the above proposition. It has always been the policy of the US and Canadian Coast Guards to use nothing but their own tow lines in all operations. They will not tow a vessel with anything else because they don't want to be liable for failure of the rope - and damage or injury resulting from that failure. See also Captain Bob Proulx's Coast Guard experience in File S/M-23. However, the above proposition is eminently logical when receiving a tow from a friendly fishing boat or pleasure vessel.



S/C-7 Catamaran, Wharram


Catamaran, Wharram

35' x 17' x 3 Tons

9-Ft. Dia. BUORD Sea Anchor

Force 8-9 Conditions


File S/C-7, obtained from Roger Ayers, Ft. Lauderdale, FL. - Vessel name Marney, hailing port Ft. Lauderdale, catamaran ketch, designed by James Wharram, LOA 35' x Beam 17' x Draft 2' 6" x 3 Tons - Sea anchor: 9-ft. Diameter BUORD on 300' x 1/2" nylon three strand tether and bridle arms of 25' each, with 1/2" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed in a low system in 100 fathoms about 25 miles east Cape May, with winds of 35-45 knots and seas of 10-12 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 30° - Drift was estimated to be 12 n.m. during 6 hours at sea anchor.


Marney, a 35-ft. Wharram "Tangaroa" was home-built by Roger and Marney Ayres, who have been chartering, delivering and crewing yachts on the east coast, the Caribbean and Europe. In June '85 they were sailing her to Florida when they were overtaken by a frontal system off the coast of New Jersey. The wind was blowing Force 7-8, contrary to a southerly current, producing steep, short-duration seas of 10-12 ft. They deployed a 9-ft. diameter BUORD. The parachute was not big enough to do an adequate job of keeping Marney pointed into the seas. Her twin bows were yawing about 30° off to each side - through an arc of 60°. The rudders seemed to be under inordinate strain as well. Transcript:

We were caught departing from Cape May with a good forecast of 10-15 knots. As the afternoon wore on and we reached out, the wind freshened. We decided to beat as far offshore as possible, which we did, finally reduced to storm staysail and a double-reefed main. In this, our first real blow in this boat, we were not operating as "professionally" as we might have, and concerned ourselves only with getting offshore in case the wind backed further to the east, not noting our exact position, etc. just beating on [trying to gain ground].

The sea anchor was deployed from the bows, but allowed too much leeward drift (estimated 2-3 knots), and also allowed us to fall back off the steep, short seas, which had built up in the southerly current. I think that falling back off a larger 15 ft. wave at an angle, we broke both tillers. Note that a catamaran with two large transom-hung rudders, when backing into a trough and burying the sterns, exposes two blades, and two sets of cheeks to the force of the water, approximately 4 times the area of a typical trimaran spade rudder. It is therefore essential that this type of boat (like a Wharram) make no sternway, else use the sea anchor off the stern.

We are saving the BUORD for use as a "lunch hook," but now have a 24' diameter parachute for use off the bow.


The lineage and heritage of James Wharram designs lead back to the Aka Taurua, 60 ft. double-hulled ocean voyaging canoes with which ancient Polynesians explored and settled every island within 15,000 square miles of the greatest ocean on earth. These ancient mariners used "sea anchors" consisting of stones with holes drilled in them, tethered to the bows by means of hibiscus fiber rope.
The lineage and heritage of James Wharram designs lead back to the Aka Taurua, 60 ft. double-hulled ocean voyaging canoes with which ancient Polynesians explored and settled every island within 15,000 square miles of the greatest ocean on earth. These ancient mariners used "sea anchors" consisting of stones with holes drilled in them, tethered to the bows by means of hibiscus fiber rope.


S/M-2 Little Harbor 40 Yawl


Little Harbor 40 Yawl

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

24-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor

Force 9-10 Conditions


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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