File D/M-22, obtained from Stephen Brown, France - Vessel name Novara, hailing port Newport UK, monohull cutter designed by Dykstra and built by Damstra in Holland, LOA 60' (18.5m) x Beam 13' 9" (4.5m) x Draft 5' 6" (1.7m) - 10' (3m) (CB down) x 25 Tons - retractable centerboard - Drogue: Jordan Series Drogue on 330' (100m) - 180 cones, spectra/dyneema double braid rode plus 25kg of chain for weight, using 10m bridle arms and 10m rode before teh first cone - Deployed in deep water en route from South Georgia to Port Stanley, Falkland Islands in winds of 45kts to 55kts with gusts over 60 kts and breaking seas of 16 - 23 ft. (5 -7m) - Speed was reduced to under 2 knots during 42 hours of deployment. Total drift was about 82 nm.
Steve Brown has over 80,000 miles of experience, and seems to like cold weather! Novara was custom built as an icebreaker specifically for high lattitude and polar cruising, so they knew they would be getting into some serious weather.
On trying to return to the Falklands after cruising around South Georgia they were unable to find a decent weather window so left immediately after a storm passed, hoping that the wind and the waves would abate over the following week.
They did, but only for a few days, after which another system passed through, bringing 45kts and breaking seas. Reluctant to be tethered to a para-anchor (which was probably too small), They elected to deploy the series drogue.
This was stored, ready to go, in a launch bag on the roof of the pilot house, with the end-weight chain in a separate bag at the stern near to the launch position. The bridles were already attached to the stern cleats and were temporarily secured using cable ties that woujld quickly break when a load was applied.
Once the decision to deploy was made, the chain and drogue were thrown over the stern. The centerboard was up. Once in the water, the boat quickly turned around to head downwind, and the speed slowed to under 2 knots. As Steve said, "it works!"
Although the boat lifted nicely on each passing wave, they did get pooped several times by breaking waves coming up over the stern and flooding the cockpit.
After almost two days the winds eased to 25kts and Steve and his crew were able to winch the drogue in using their main winch.
They lost a couple of days of time, and 82 miles of distance, but everyone was safe and there was no drama. Another successful deployment.
Steve makes a number of interesting points about his experience:
Using a large sailbag secured close to the deployment point would have been easier than their pilothouse roof method.
On retrieving the drogue they found 14 cones had been shredded by the wind, having been lifted clear of the water. He has since replaced the cones and extended the first section (closest to the stern of the boat) by 10 meters so as to ensure they stay submerged.
One of the bridles had been chafed through to 50% of its diameter through contact with a rough patch on the stern hawser. Steve has since put some thick diamter tubing over the bridle to try to prevent that.
Retrieval could have been easier if the drogue had been led directly to the main winch instead of forward around a block and then back to the main winch. That would have avoided having a crew member at risk out on the side decks.
Make sure your boat is ready for a huge wave crashing over your stern, as it can happen even with a drogue. Good cockpit drainage and well sealed hatches and companion ways are crucial.
Practice makes perfect and will highlight any deficiencies in your setup or technique. Do this well before you set off on a passage so you can get it perfect.
To these observations, we can perhaps also add these suggestions:
Chafe is a huge problem for drag devices that needs serious consideration BEFORE you set out to sea. The key to this is to avoid the bridle from touching anything. Steve's solution of using a big plastic hose around the bridle is a good one. Perhaps an even better solution is that described by Tim Good in the previous report D/M-21 Seastream 43 in which he installs a custom-built bridle attachment point that extends well aft of anything that could possible touch the bridle.
Then during the storm check on it regularly. Had Steve's storm lasted another day or two he could have had some big problems if the bridle chafed through.
Big seas can and will jump onboard into your cockpit - be prepared for that and make sure anyone outside, even in the cockpit, is securely tethered. Better still, stay below and get some rest.
As Steve says, think through and practice the retrieval. The challenge is how to get started - how will you get the bridle on to the winch to begin the process?
File D/T-9, derived from an article by Richard B. Wilson, appearing in the October 1991 issue of SAIL MAGAZINE - Vessel name Great American (ex-Livery Dole IV, ex-Travacrest Seaway) hailing port Boston, MA, maxi ocean racing trimaran designed by John Shuttleworth, LOA 60' x Beam 40' x Draft 11' (3' board up) x 10 Tons - Drags: 12 knotted warps, 300' each (3/4" and 5/8" nylon) - Deployed in a 940 milibar storm in deep water 400 miles west of Cape Horn with sustained winds of 70 knots and breaking seas of 50' - Vessel capsized on 22 November 1990 despite the 12 long warps - Crew of two were rescued by the M/V New Zealand Pacific.
On 22 October 1990 Rich Wilson and Cape Horn veteran Steve Pettengill set sail on the 60-ft. maxi ocean racing trimaran Great American determined to break the 76-day San Francisco to Boston record set in 1853 by the clipper Northern Light. Apart from wanting to beat the record, it was also Rich Wilson's goal to heighten public awareness of the activities of the American Lung Association and to prove the viability of corporate sponsorship in sailing. Wilson is a severe asthmatic.
Sailing out of San Francisco Bay Wilson and Pettengill put "pedal to the metal" and tried to imagine their opponent, Northern Light, beginning to trail behind. Having records of Northern Light's daily runs, they had their imaginary opponent in view, so to speak, trailing behind all the way down the coast of California and then Mexico. In skirting hurricanes Trudy and Vance off Mexico, however, the lead changed hands a few times as the ghost of the 200-ft., three-masted clipper ship would overtake the trimaran, only to be later overtaken herself. Once past the equator, Wilson and Pettengill began bashing full bore into the southeast trade winds. The going was rough and took a heavy toll in equipment failures. After passing Pitcairn Island they began to line up their approach to Cape Horn - and "the mother of all storms."
It began as a low system that "exploded" (to quote the words of meteorologist Bob Rice) into a 940 milibar storm, with Great American's number written all over it. Approximately 600 miles from Cape Horn the storm said hello to Wilson and Pettengill when the trimaran broached, tripped on her big daggerboard, and Wilson was thrown violently out of his bunk. The two dazed men found that they had to raise Great American's huge daggerboard all the way up to improve steering and avoid tripping on it.
Steve Pettengill then let out five knotted warps, 300' each, slowing the boat down a little. On the next day the boat broached again with the five warps in tow. But she side-slipped smoothly - raising the board had definitely helped. Pettengill added three more 300' long knotted warps. On Wednesday morning, 21 November, the boat's barograph tracer hit rock bottom. Four additional knotted warps were then added, making a total of twelve (12) to bring the speed back down to 9 knots in 70-knot winds and 50-foot seas.
On Thanksgiving morning, some 400 miles west of Cape Horn, a graybeard swept over the entire boat (this trimaran is 60 feet long and 40 feet wide!) carrying away the two wind generators. Great American then rushed down another steep mountain. The combined drag of the twelve knotted warps were not enough to keep her properly aligned. She slewed to starboard, probably dug the port ama, heeled, and capsized. The two men, fortunately OK, immediately donned their immersion suits, activated the 406 MHz EPIRB, and resigned themselves to the business of survival. As they were sorting out the debris in the inverted main hull, "the grandfather of all waves wrenched the water-laden trimaran out of the water, spun her, and slammed her violently back down, upright again." (Quoting from Wilson's article in SAIL).
So, Great American was right side up again! But the mast and the rigging were in pieces on deck and trailing in the water. The cockpit was awash and the main hull looked like a submarine, with the winches at sea level. Everything was in shambles. Everything had broken free down below. They wondered whether they would have been better off if they had remained upside down. Somehow, in the freezing cold, they managed to sort things out and get a little hot nourishment. Meanwhile, Scott Air Force Base in Illinois had received a "hit" from the EPIRB. Additionally the ARGOS, which had gone off when the second wave righted the boat, had alerted a base in France, which alerted Atlantic Rescue. AMVER (automated merchant vessel emergency routing) then found the nearest ship to be the New Zealand Pacific. In a feat of brilliant maneuvering, Captain Dave Watt brought his 62,000 ton ship - the world's largest refrigerated container carrier - alongside the awash Great American at 3:30 am in the dark. With the 815-foot ship rolling severely, Captain Watt coordinated the throttles and bow thrusters with such precision that Rich Wilson and Steve Pettengill were able to step onto the rope ladders hung down from the cliff-like side of the ship. They were then taken inside, cared for, and taken to Vlissingen, Holland.
Three years later, Rich Wilson and his new crew mate, Bill Biewenga, set out again from San Francisco. This time Wilson accomplished his goal. On April 7, 1993, Great American II finally arrived in Boston, 69 days and 20 hours out of San Francisco, beating Northern Light's record by six days. Wilson is currently head of Ocean Challenge, an educational institution dedicated to linking classrooms all over the world with ongoing adventures. Ocean Challenge has an interesting web site that readers may wish to explore: www.sitesalive.com
File D/T-3, obtained from Thomas Follett, Orange City, FL. - Vessel name Rogue Wave, Maxi ocean racing trimaran designed by Richard Newick, LOA 60' x Beam 34' x Draft 8' (board down) x 8 Tons - Drogue: 5-Ft. Diameter Shewmon (sea anchor) on 100' x 3/4" nylon braid rode. - No bridle - Deployed in a gale in shallow water (50-60 fathoms) about 80 miles west of Tunisia with winds of 50 knots and unstable seas of 15 ft. - Vessel's stern lay at a 25° angle during 36 hours of deployment with very little drift.
This is the second of two major reports obtained from veteran delivery skipper Tom Follett (see also previous file). The occasion of this file led to the publication of the Shewmon Paper, Sea Anchor - Rode Tactics (1986, Shewmon, Inc.)
Multihull sailors may recall that Rogue Wave once belonged to the late, great Phil Weld, whose previous 60-ft. trimaran Gulfstreamer was capsized by a rogue wave in the Atlantic, later to be picked up by the Russian ship Boreas and taken to Odessa, where she collected dust for many years. Some time after Phil passed away, Rogue Wave was purchased by a wealthy individual of the United Arab Emirates. Tom Follett and crew were delivering the big tri when the incident occurred.
Rogue Wave departed Almerimar, Spain, in February, bound for Sidi-bu-Said, Tunisia. Two days later and some 100 miles north of the African coast - in shallow water - she ran into an Arifi (a cousin of the Scirocco), packing 45-50 knot winds. The waves were about 15 ft. high and 200 ft. from crest to crest. Rogue Wave was doing about 10 knots on bare poles with her 117 sq. ft. wingmast feathered when the 5-ft. diameter Shewmon sea anchor was jettisoned over the stern.
The crew had led about 100 feet of the rode through some deck hardware to three cockpit winches, thinking that they could let out more line afterwards. When the sea anchor took hold it brought the huge trimaran to a jarring halt, yanking some minor hardware out of the deck. The three cockpit winches held, however.
Tremendous tension was noted in the rode, "too great to risk paying out any more line after we got the thing made fast," quoting Follett. Notwithstanding, the sea anchor held the stern into the seas for 36 hours, until the storm abated. According to Shewmon, "When the sea anchor was retrieved, many of its longitudinal seams were found ruptured despite its tug-tested 10,000 lb. pull rating. The wind force on the boat was well under 1,000 lbs., so what caused the other 9,000 lbs. of pull?" Dan Shewmon then draws from Bowditch table 3303 showing that the circular surface water particulate speed for the reported 15-ft. waves must have been 3 knots.
When the boat was moving downwind on a crest at 3 knots the sea anchor must have been moving upwind at 3 knots in the adjacent trough. This adds up to a divergence of 6 knots, "which explains the missing 9,000 lbs. and the ripped out hardware and ruptured seams." (Quoting from the Shewmon paper, Sea Anchor - Rode Tactics.) The trouble appears to have been caused by a rode that was too short. Had the crew tied off 400-500' of rode (instead of only 100') the initial shock and the subsequent system loads would have been a great deal less. (Walter Greene seems to have run into a similar problem in File D/C-1).
Rogue Wave spent a few weeks in Tunis and then departed for Crete. About 100 miles from Sicily she ran into a Gregale (a cousin of the Mistral). This time Follett used a smaller, 3-ft. diameter Shewmon drogue. Transcript:
About a hundred miles or so east of Sicily, we streamed our smaller (3-ft. diam.) Shewmon drogue in an easterly wind of Force 7, in order to avoid plugging to windward. Worked much better. Lots of shipping about and we could maneuver with the engine whenever necessary [drogue in tow]. Didn't stop us but slowed us down a lot and was very comfortable. Not nearly as much strain (of course the wind was only about Force 7) and we could easily vary the length of the rode.
EPILOGUE: Tom Follett passed away shortly after Victor Shane obtained invaluable feedback from him. He was a close friend of Richard Newick and delivered many of Dick's fantastic wind machines to exotic places all over the world. During his lifetime he made fifteen Atlantic crossings and numerous other passages, successfully negotiating a variety of heavy weather situations in monohulls and multihulls.
Tom knew the sea. He could discern subtle differences between gales and compensate for them ahead of time. He knew when to heave-to in a H-28 monohull and when to deploy a drogue on a 60-ft. racing trimaran. We are very fortunate that just before passing he left some of his priceless knowledge to us.
File D/T-1, obtained from Sir Peter Blake, Auckland, NZ - Vessel name Steinlager, hailing port Auckland, Maxi racing trimaran designed by David Allan Williams, LOA 60' x Beam 52' x Draft 5' x 5.5 Tons - Drogue: Seabrake Mk I on 300' x 3/4" nylon braid rode and 30' of ½" chain - No bridle - Deployed numerous times in the Bicentennial Round Australia Two-Handed Race with winds of 55-70 knots and large, confused seas - Vessel's stern yawed 10°.
Sir Peter Blake is one of the most experienced sailors on the planet earth (500,000 blue water miles). His heavy weather experiences span the entire gamut of gales and storms on board every conceivable type of small craft both monohulled and multihulled. Victor Shane had the privilege of interviewing Peter on the telephone just after his team won the America's Cup on the New Zealand yacht Black Magic in May 1995, in San Diego. The interview revolved around a number of subjects. Here is a transcript (by permission):
The 1988 Round Australia Race: The Bicentennial Round Australia Two-Handed race started on the 8th of August 1988 from Sydney to Sydney [anti clockwise], with a number of stops in between. You go up inside the Barrier Reef to start, go round through Torres Strait to Darwin, down the Indian Ocean to Fremantle, and then come along the Great Bight of Australia to Adelaide, down to Hobart, back up the east coast of Tasmania, back through the Bass Strait towards Melbourne, and then through the Bass Strait again up to Sydney.
The Seabrake [MK I] was used in the first storm, which occurred within the first twelve hours of the race. We had winds of 55-60 knots from dead behind against very big seas because of a south going current. The wind was southerly and the set was going south so it built very big seas. We used the Seabrake again between Fremantle and Adelaide, across the bottom of Australia. We used it with a vengeance there and it definitely saved the boat and the crew in a full force winter storm coming in from the Southern Ocean. We used it again between Adelaide and Hobart, along the bottom of Tasmania, again with a severe weather front coming through, and then later on we used it again between Melbourne and Sydney, just coming up round the corner from the Bass Strait turning north. On this occasion we were beating into it with reduced sail when my partner Mike Quilter suddenly yelled at me as I was down below getting ten minutes of sleep. He said, "come up quick," and in about two minutes the wind went from 25 knots northerly to about 50 knots southerly. And so the Seabrake went over the transom straight away, no sails set, and the sea still coming from the north, but the southerly wind was driving us hard into those sea, so if we hadn't slowed the boat down I think it would have broken up.
The worst case scenarios were on two different occasions. One was on the day we started the race [8 August], and if I hadn't had the Seabrake I wouldn't be talking to you now, probably. And the other occasion was the day and a half before the finish, when I think if we hadn't had the Seabrake there was no way we could have slowed the boat and the lightweight racing trimaran would probably have self-destructed, again because the wind changed and we were being driven headlong into northerly seas by a 50-knot wind from the south. These were very big breaking seas, real breaking waves collapsing down their full fronts.
Using the Seabrake without a bridle the trimaran steered very well [without autopilot]. We pulled the centerboard up and the boat basically blew down wind with the Seabrake off the back. It was really great, no keel to trip over, no roll, no yaw, nothing, just straight downwind, fantastic. Multihulls are very good like that, much better than monohulls. No need for bridle, just a single tow line coming to a great big winch.
The drogue pulling out: On a few occasions we found that when we started to surf very hard the Seabrake broke free of the seaface behind. Depending on if we had it at the right distance behind the boat or not, it sometimes broke free and nearly caught the boat up. I mean it came whistling through the air like a rocket and we severely damaged the first one and replaced it with another, which we then tied all our anchor chain to, between the rope and the drogue - probably about 30' of ½" chain - then it was just fine and didn't pull out any more. We broke the original Seabrake up because it wasn't designed for such a large boat (we had a 400 sq. ft. wingmast on Steinlager) and that particular Seabrake was designed for boats up to 45 feet I suppose, and a bit heavier. But it did a marvelous job nevertheless. Once we added the chain it didn't pull out any more and it worked well.
ENZA: Far more recently we did a run around the world with a boat called Enza, New Zealand. We broke the record for non-stop around the world on this 92' x 43' catamaran. We went around in 74 days and 22 hours, and really I think there's a lot more to be learned from that, an enormous amount more than the Round Australia Two-Handed Race, mainly because it's fresher in my mind. At one time we were in sustained seas that we estimated over 60 feet, totally breaking down their fronts. And on the second occasion, when we had all warps out, not only did we have 40-50 ft. seas coming from behind, but also seas of 50-60 ft. coming at right angles from the port beam and it was a nightmare. We just about lost the boat on two occasions at that point going down the mine, until we got the drogue out the back and then suddenly we could relax. That really was a matter of survival. It was an "if we don't get the drogue out we're not going to be alive" scenario. There was no maybe to it that time.
We spent quite a bit of time in the last 24 hours from the finish in full Atlantic storm conditions on Enza and we used what we had on board, which was all of our anchor chain and every single bit of rope we had, strung in a bight off the back and that worked fantastically. That was just as good. Two bridles, made up from 300 meters of rope on each side, and then right at the end we had all of the anchor chain, which was I suppose about 30 meters parceled up, and around that we had wrapped the anchor warp and seized it all up so that it made like a big bundle, but a heavy bundle, and that worked extremely well. It wasn't as easy to deploy as the Seabrake, however, took a bit of getting out and a bit of getting it back. The Seabrake we used to throw over with no hesitation, and it no doubt saved us on a number of occasions just because it was so easy to use.
Sea anchor or drogue? I've got my own view, and not just the facts. I've been hove-to in cyclones, I've run before, I've used trysails, I've dragged things, I've been beam on, you name it, on every sort of vessel. To me the biggest thing is that you must be prepared. I think that a lot of people get into problems because sometimes these weather patterns creep up on you and then suddenly it really is very nasty and you haven't quite realized it, and then to get out the necessary drag device, whatever it may be, is almost too late. By then people are seasick if it's a cruising boat, or they're not too used to it, or not necessarily experienced. So to have something easy to put over, such as a Seabrake, or whatever drag device you are using, I think that is very important. I have never layed to a sea anchor in earnest, but I can see that it might be reasonable. I tried lying to a sea anchor with my own trimaran once. We used a jet aircraft drogue parachute, but the trimaran had a big wingmast, and we could never anchor her conventionally by the bow anyway, having to anchor her by the stern instead. And we finally blew that parachute out, there was so much load on it. So I don't think there is any fixed answer to a set of conditions, though I think that if you've got searoom I, personally, would always go with a drag off the back. But if you haven't got searoom you haven't got an option. On a number of occasions in the Round Australia Race, on Steinlager, we would be on a lee shore with nasty weather coming in and we would actually keep an eye on the geography of the shoreline, even though it was a hundred miles to leeward, knowing that if conditions were to really turn bad we weren't going to be able to go to windward - no boat goes to windward in a storm - and we were going to have to run downwind, and the best thing probably would have been to find a place that didn't have steep cliffs and run the boat up on beach as far as possible. Run it up on a sandy beach and just get off the thing.
Quartering the seas? I don't necessarily go along with the idea of quartering the seas [with drogue in tow]. I think that it depends on what you are on, and if you're on a multihull it's definitely much better to be running squarely downwind, because if you're running with the wind on the quarter you're likely to dig a bow and loose it much more easily. Better to run absolutely downwind [in a multihull]. It's dangerous to take the seas on the quarter, and much, much better to take them square on the transom; that's in a multihull - a trimaran or a catamaran. A monohull, I think, is a different scenario, and I might agree with the quartering idea.
Lying A-Hull: I've hove-to in some really extreme conditions. I'm happy to sit there, but would be absolutely against lying a-hull anywhere. I don't think lying a-hull is a mode of survival that one should contemplate if conditions are really severe. In moderate conditions, if you're not too worried about the sea state, maybe it's OK. But lying a-hull in a storm is a recipe for being rolled, or having the deck or the cabin top stove in and heavy water come inside. I think that the other approaches are better. Even though lying a-hull is natural and sort of easy, I definitely don't think it's a tactic that people should use, unless they haven't got another option.
Using Parachutes, Sea Anchors and Drogues to Cope with Heavy Weather – Over 130 Documented Case Histories