S/P-7 Commercial F/V


Commercial F/V

50' x 35 Tons

28-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor

Force 7-8 Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S/P-1 Commercial F/V


Commercial F/V

50' x 22 Tons

28-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor

Force 10 Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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-21 Hinckley Sou’wester 51 Yawl


Hinckley Sou'wester 51 Yawl

51' x 24 Tons, Full Keel & CB

24-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9 Conditions


File S/M-21, obtained from Captain Eric F. Roos, Mt. Desert, ME. - Vessel name Windcrest, hailing port Bar Harbor, Hinckley Sou'wester yawl, designed by McCurdy and Rhodes, LOA 51' x LWL 37' 6" x Beam 14' x Draft 6' (11' with CB down) x 24 Tons - Full keel & auxiliary centerboard - Sea anchor: 24-ft. diameter Para-Tech on 400' x 3/4" nylon braid and 100' of 5/16" chain with 3/4" stainless steel swivel - Deployed in deep water about 120 miles south of Nantucket Island in a whole gale with winds of 40-50 knots and seas of 20 feet - Vessel's bow yawed 15° - Drift was 14 n.m. during 23 hours at sea anchor.

Windcrest was en route to Bermuda from Bar Harbor when she ran into bad weather. Transcript of feedback obtained from Captain Eric F. Roos:

Para-Anchor was deployed due to deteriorating weather conditions close to the North wall of the Gulf Stream. Our weather forecast indicated that if we continued on our present course a large frontal system would pass over us just as we entered the Gulf Stream. We chose to sail away from the building seas near the stream and set our para-anchor while conditions were still tolerable and we still had daylight.

There was no sudden wind change, but rather a consistent increase in wind speed and building seas (max 50 knots with max 25-30' seas.) Since we deployed our para-anchor before conditions were too bad, the deployment was fairly straightforward. We chose to attach the shackle of the rode directly to our 60# plow anchor's welded cross-bar (v). After seizing the shackles we let out the 400' rode, anchor and 100' of 5/16" chain over the stainless steel bow roller. The weight of the anchor and chain provided an excellent catenary to absorb the shocks we experienced during the worst conditions. Our biggest concern the whole time we sat on the para-anchor was the strength of the cross-bar on the plow anchor. Though it held just fine, I wonder if I should have used a different attachment point.

Windcrest performed very well while on the sea anchor. She yawed from side to side a total of 30° [total arc]. At one point the anchor chain jumped out of the stainless steel roller (we forgot to put pin through top of roller) and found its way down the starboard side and into the stainless steel chock causing only cosmetic damage. Due to the rugged nature of our chocks, we would intentionally place the chain in the chock in the future.

After 23 hours the seas subsided to 15-20' and the winds moderated to less than 25 knots and began coming from a different direction than the seas. At this point Windcrest insisted on pointing into the wind rather than the seas. This caused considerable rolling and was the ultimate reason we retrieved the para-anchor when we did. The smashing/crashing sounds below were enough to make a man go mad. The retrieval was straightforward but more difficult than the deployment. We felt it was next to impossible to retrieve the tackle in an orderly fashion. We ended up with a heaping mess of rode and para-anchor lines. However, when we repacked the gear at a later date it was not as bad as we had anticipated. In summary, I have nothing but good things to say about the para-anchor equipment and would not go offshore without one.

(CAUTION: The steel anchor should be taken off in storms lest a breaking wave smash it against the boat.)


CAUTION: A big, heavy steel anchor may provide added catenary shock absorption hanging on the rode, but in a Fastnet type storm it may also get turned into a lethal object if it gets smashed against the boat by a breaking wave. It should be taken off, and the rode attached the chain itself.

S/C-5 Catamaran, Walter Greene


Catamaran, Walter Greene

50' x 30' x 5 Tons

4-Ft. Dia. Sea Anchor

Force 9 Conditions


File S/C-5, obtained from Walter Greene, Yarmouth, ME. - Vessel name Sebago, catamaran, designed by Walter Greene, LOA 50' x Beam 30' x Draft 7' (20" board up) x 5 Tons - Sea anchor: 4-ft. Diameter Shewmon on 250' x 3/4" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 50' each, with 1/2" galvanized swivel - No trip line - Deployed in a whole gale in deep water in the middle of the North Atlantic with winds of 40-50 knots and seas of 25-30 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 45-60° - Drift was estimated to be 30 n.m. during 48 hours at sea anchor.

By way of a brief digression we should perhaps mention a previous experience of renowned multihull designer Walter Greene, an experience that ushered in a new era in SAR (search and rescue). Indeed the experience marked a point in maritime history when it became possible to ensure the safety and survival of human life at sea to an extent never before possible.

On 10 October 1982 Greene was sailing his 50' trimaran Gonzo to St. Malo, France, when it capsized in a violent North Atlantic storm 300 miles south-east of Cape Cod. The boat had been running before 30-ft. seas without a drogue when she was picked up and thrown by a huge wave - she broach-capsized when one of her bows dug into green water. Once over the initial shock of the capsize, Greene and his well-prepared crew jumped into action. In no time they had donned their immersion suits, lashed themselves to the upturned, floating, hull, and switched on the EPIRB - Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.

It was the navigation officer on board TWA's flight 904 that first heard the lonely wailing of Gonzo's EPIRB (the signal is swept audio tone, sounding like a miniature "wow-wow" police siren). The information was immediately relayed to the FAA's Oceanic Control at Islip, New York, which in turn informed Atlantic Rescue at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

At that time (1982) SARSAT - Search And Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking - was not quite operational, but a participating Russian satellite, Cospas, was known to be overhead. Scott AFB obtained an uplink and sure enough, no sooner had Cospas signed on than it confirmed a "hit." The satellite then provided data and telemetry needed to pinpoint the position of the distressed vessel. Atlantic Rescue then broadcast an urgent All Ships Bulletin, and the tanker California Getty was diverted to the scene. At the same time, the Coast Guard Air Station at Elizabeth City North Carolina was briefed and advised to launch a C-130 search plane, which picked up Gonzo's EPIRB signal, homed in on it and dropped two datum marker buoys (which transmit additional homing signals on a different frequency).

The tanker California Getty was the first on the scene, but failed to effect safe rescue in the 25 ft. seas, standing off to windward to provide a "breakwater" for the disabled trimaran. And there she stayed, "like a big Saint Bernard," until the 210' Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous arrived on the scene.

One by one the three survivors were taken off to safety, concluding one of the most remarkable rescues in maritime history -one of the first in which a satellite played an instrumental role. (A quick reminder that SARSAT is now fully operational in most areas of the world and any sailor with a Class A EPIRB can access the grid to get a distress signal through to international Search & Rescue agencies).

Walter Greene happily went on to design many more multihulls and four years later used a sea anchor on board his 50' catamaran, the infamous Sebago. The 4-ft. diameter Shewmon sea anchor was deployed off the bow, but was too small to do a satisfactory job (the same sea anchor did a lot better when used off the stern - see file D/C-1.) The bows of the big catamaran yawed past 60° at times.

Shewmon sea anchors are available in many sizes, up to 33 feet in diameter. Literature published by Shewmon, Inc. would seem to indicate the need for an 8-10 ft. diameter Shewmon sea anchor for a boat the size and weight of Greene's Sebago.

Why did Walter Greene choose a 4-ft. diameter sea anchor instead? Likely he was worried about a bigger one being too "unyielding." Victor Shane ran into this same apprehension among other multihull sailors. To this day some of them will react with alarm at the very idea of tethering their boats to a large diameter, "unyielding" sea anchor in a gale.

D/C-1 Catamaran, “Sebago”


Catamaran, "Sebago"

50' x 30' x 5 Tons

4-Ft. Dia. Shewmon

Force 9-10 Conditions

File D/C-1, obtained from Walter Greene, Yarmouth, ME. - Vessel name Sebago, ocean racing catamaran, designed by Walter Greene, LOA 50' x Beam 30' x Draft 7' (2' boards up) x 5 Tons - Drogue: 4-ft. diameter Shewmon (sea anchor) on 250' x 3/4" nylon braid tether, with bridle arms of 50' each and 1/2" galvanized swivel - Deployed in a whole gale in 100 fathoms in the English Channel with winds of 40-50 knots and seas of 20-30 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 10° .


This is the second file obtained from Walter Greene (see also S/C-5). The same 4-ft. diameter Shewmon sea anchor was used on the same boat, Sebago, only this time in drogue fashion, off the stern. Her stern stayed fairly snubbed into the seas, yawing no more than 10° off to each side. (The bows yawed in excess of 45° in file S/C-5). This deployment took place in 100 fathoms of water in the English Channel. Conditions were atrocious - 40-50 knot winds and average seas of 20 ft. with much bigger waves now and then. The 160 sq. ft. wingmast on Sebago was a complicating factor. In an article appearing in the August/September 1988 issue of Multihulls Magazine, Greene was interviewed by Jack Petith about living with a wing mast in storms and provided the following opinions and observations (reproduced by permission):

The wing mast being in the center of the boat, does funny things with your center of effort.... Sailing to France we were, altogether, five days with no sail on the boat.... Sometimes we were hove-to and going backwards.... One time we put the sea anchor out for two days [off the stern]; but the sea anchor really beat the hell out of the boat - deck gear and waves crashing on the boat. I can see it working with a traditional mast. In fact, I don't think you could capsize a reasonable sized multihull with one.

D/M-3 Monohull, Custom Ketch


Monohull, Custom Ketch

50 x 22 Tons, Full Keel & Centerboard

36" Dia. Galerider

Force 10 Conditions


File D/M-3, obtained from Frank Snyder, Vice Commodore, New York Yacht Club - Vessel name Southerly, hailing port New York, monohull, center-cockpit aluminum ketch designed by Sparkman & Stephens, LOA 50' x LWL 45' x Beam 14' x Draft 5.5' x 22 Tons - Full keel & centerboard - Drogue: Galerider on 200' x 1¼" nylon three strand rode, with 1/2" stainless steel swivel - Deployed in low system in deep water in the Gulf Stream, with winds of 50 knots and seas of 10 ft. - Vessel's stern yawed 20° with helmsman steering - Speed was reduced to 3-4 knots.

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

Frank V. Snyder, Vice Commodore of the New York Yacht Club, ran across an article in a British magazine summarizing the results of experiments conducted by the National Maritime Institute on life rafts in heavy weather, in the North Sea. The article emphasized the importance of sea anchors - small, synthetic cones - when it came to keeping life rafts from capsizing, but revealed that the same cones were often among the first parts of the raft to fail. The article went on to say that the Institute had then designed and built new sea anchors from a close mesh netting material which, unlike their predecessors, did not fail in a second set of sea trials. One raft even lost its ballast bags but still did not flip: its sea anchor held it down.

When preparing his 55-ft. ketch Southerly for a late fall passage from New York to Antigua in 1984, Commodore Snyder decided to equip her with a flow-through drogue of his own design. He approached Skip Raymond of the sailmaking firm of Hathaway, Reiser & Raymond, Inc., with his ideas. Raymond then went to work, building a small model at first, and then the full scale prototype of the first Galerider drogue. It was three feet in diameter and four feet long, shaped a little like a basket made from two-inch nylon webbing. On Saturday, November 17, Southerly departed New York Harbor and broad-reached all Saturday and Sunday morning, making better than eight knots in seas that were building. On Sunday afternoon the barometer began dropping rapidly and, by the time she entered the Gulf Stream at dusk, the wind had piped up to southwest, Force 9-10. Soon she was in very confused conditions, with two big seas crossing at an angle of 90°.

In a related article appearing in the September 1986 issue of Yachting Magazine entitled Galerider Handles a Gale, Frank Snyder wrote that despite being a big, strong, stiff and seakindly boat, Southerly couldn't handle the turmoil. He directed the crew to douse the trysail and they began running before it under bare poles, trying to keep the new seas slightly on the starboard quarter. But as the confused seas continued to build Southerly became unmanageable, now and then her speed racing up to 12 knots or more on the face of a bigger wave. To have her surging at these speeds under bare poles was alarming. The vicious cross seas would catch her on the downslide and roll her rail down under. Her hull form would then cause her to broach in the trough - dangerous if the waves got any bigger. It was time to deploy the Galerider. The rode, 200 feet of 1¼" nylon three strand, was attached to the drogue and the bitter end given four turns around the coffee grinder on the after deck (Southerly is a center-cockpit boat). In went the drogue. When it took hold there was no shock at all; in fact the crew couldn't tell for sure the precise moment when the drogue did take hold, but were soon aware that the boat was slowing down. Commodore Snyder writes that the effect of slowing the boat in that big, confused seaway was magical:

At one moment the boat had been charging like a mad bull, with the helmsman struggling at the wheel; in the next, she was docile and under full control. The helmsman found that Southerly would still answer her helm - though slowly - and that she could steer through about 90°. Everyone relaxed, and the off-watch turned in, even though the motion wasn't all that comfortable, with the cross sea still rolling us 20° either side of vertical. But the boat was safe.

The seas continued to build for the next three hours and several big ones came aboard over the stern, though no green water reached the cockpit. Had the cockpit been aft, it would probably have filled a couple of times. At 0200, the wind veered to north and began dropping. By 0400 it was down to Force 7, and the storm was over - another of those six-hour Gulf Stream "local lows." (Yachting Magazine, September 1986, by permission).

Commodore Snyder's creation has caught on and many offshore yachts now carry a Galerider on board. The "flow-through" concept is rugged, simple, stable, and does not get turned inside out. The stainless steel wire hoop that keeps the Galerider's mouth open can be folded on itself, allowing for compact storage.

S/T-3 Trimaran, Cross


Trimaran, Cross

50' x 27' x 16 Tons

28-Ft. Dia. Parachute Sea Anchor

Force 10 Conditions


File S/T-3, obtained from the owner of the boat, residing in Durban, South Africa - Vessel name withheld by request, hailing port Yarmouth, England, trimaran ketch, designed by Norman Cross, LOA 50' x Beam 27' x Draft 6' x 16 Tons - Sea anchor: 28-ft. Diameter C-9 military class parachute on 500' x 3/4" nylon braid tether and bridle arms of 80' each, with 5/8" galvanized swivel - Full trip line - Deployed in an Atlantic storm in deep water south of Tristan Da Cunha with sustained winds of 50 knots and seas of 30 ft. - Vessel's bow yawed 20° - Drift was estimated to be 12 n.m. during 36 hours at sea anchor.


South African safety expert, yachtmaster, instructor and Intec Maritime Academy principal Henton Jaaback had heard about the Casanovas' pioneering work. He acquired a military parachute, which he ended up loaning to the owner of this passage-bound trimaran. On her way to Rio from Cape Town the trimaran ran into a horrendous storm south of the island of Tristan da Cunha. Exhausted, the owner and his wife deployed the parachute according to the Casanovas' guidelines. It pulled the three bows into the huge seas and kept them there for 36 hours - through the worst part of the storm. After the 36 hours there was a jerk, the bows fell off the wind, and the big multihull lay beam to the seas, drifting downwind. It is the owner's opinion that the galvanized swivel in the system seized - failed to rotate, though the 3-strand rope used for the bridle arms is suspect as well (3-strand will torque under load). At any rate when he pulled the lines back on board, all that remained were the two bridle arms of about 60 ft. each, twisted around each other and their ends unraveled. The full trip line had snapped at the same time, so they lost everything, hardware, swivel, tether, parachute and all.

Galvanized swivels have always been a source of concern to your author, though one looks at the Casanovas' file and sees that they never had a problem with theirs in eighteen years of cruising and storm use. The problem with these swivels lies in the galvanic process, which results in an acid-etched coarse surface, liable to stick or "gall" under load. Even so, the swivel - if of good American or Japanese make - usually gets a chance to rotate during slack cycles, as born out by many other files in this database. Moreover there are excellent stainless steel swivels on the market today.

Why do parachutes rotate under load? They may do so because of inconsistencies in fabrication, or shroud lines that are not precisely equal in length. But mostly they rotate because of the ratchet effect produced by the overlapping of the panels. These panels, shaped like pie wedges, have to be sewn together to form the circular shape of the canopy. The edge of the first panel is laid over the edge of the second and sewn, the edge of the second panel is laid over the edge of the third, etc., the radial seams being over, over, over, and this is where the ratchet effect crops up. To do away with this built-in cause of rotation one has to stagger the fit of the seams. The edge of the first panel is laid over the second and sewn, but the edge of the second panel is laid under the third, etc. Over, under, over, under. The parachutes that are used to slow down supersonic aircraft on the runway are of staggered fabrication. You won't see them spin.

Canopy panels

The panels on Para-Tech sea anchors are now sewn in such a way as to be spin-neutral, although swivels are still a good idea. Here is a transcript of the DDDB feedback provided by the owner and his wife:


Swivel on bridle galvanized iron 16 mm - swivel on parachute 16 mm also. The bridle was attached to the swivel of the main line with two shackles. Main line 20 mm "multiplait." Bridle was 25 mm nylon 3-strand rope. After recovering the remains of the bridle we saw we had lost the two shackles and the swivel. The remains of the arms of the bridle were unraveled & twisted around each other - everything else was lost. We have been informed that galvanized swivels apparently lock under strain....

The trip line also snapped when we lost the para-anchor. This was at about 3 pm (we felt a jerk). We rushed into foul weather gear and on deck.... When we started up the engine and tried to find the "rig," the wind was so strong the boat could make no headway - also the seas were white, so the [white] buoy was impossible to see! A red buoy would perhaps show up better, even though we could not have motored to get it....

Some hours after we lost the para-anchor, after broaching dangerously south of Tristan da Cunha, we decided to use a drogue to slow the boat and eliminate broaching. We were bare-pole doing 5-6 knots and descending the slope of waves at 12-13 knots. The drogue consisted of 150 ft. of "multiplat" 20 mm. rope plus 33 ft. of 1/2" chain with 4 knots to make more vortex [turbulence]. All the above was attached to a bridle of 30 ft. [each arm].... We used the engine [in conjunction with the drogue] at the minimum, about 1000 revs, that gave us a speed of approx 4-5 knots and maximum speed in descending wave slope of 7-8 knots and no more broaching.

We needed the engine to keep enough steering power. We had a 3-blade fixed prop that spoiled the efficiency of the rudder; I think we lost about 50% efficiency! But we used the autopilot without any problem and we really appreciated the work of the drogue in straightening the boat each time at the beginning of a broach. The bridle was fixed to two sampson posts of 4" square oak, fixed to the keel of each float. The wind was then about 40 knots, with big breaking seas for about 24 hours.

We were very surprised by the efforts [loads] imposed by the drogue and also by the parachute anchor and we don't think that normal cleat-type fitting would have lasted under the strain....

We now have two para-anchors.... We honestly feel we would not sail without one now. Our experience around Tristan, and the knowledge that we were safe and could ride out a storm, has made this indispensable.