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Old 10-07-2012, 05:54 AM   #1
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Default Parachute sea anchors

I'm going to buy a parachute style sea anchor prior to setting off across the Pacific next year. There are a few different brands on the market. West Marine and Defender sell the PARA-TECH. They seem to cost significantly less than some others on the market and I wonder if this is due to lower quality, or just better buying power.


Has anyone used a sea anchor to heave to in storm conditions and if so, what brand do you have and, given similar storm conditions in the future, would you use the same brand?


Also when you have used one of these devices, were there any problems deploying and retrieving it, and did it perform as you expected? Did you use a trip line for retrieval?


I have all the theoretical knowledge regarding parachute anchors, but I have no practical experience. I would like to hear from those who have genuine experience with them in heavy weather.
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Old 10-07-2012, 09:08 PM   #2
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Hi Dave,

My penny worth:

Getting the wavelength right is hugely important to reduce snatching.

You must have good quality, well secured hardware to take the pressures.

Consider using a bridle to share the load around the boat. The rescue services will always try to use a bridle when towing for this reason.

Personally, I would always run, given sufficient sea-room. Reduced apparent wind and not as battering as taking it all on the nose.

Regards Graham
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Old 10-08-2012, 01:22 AM   #3
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Since making the decision to buy a para-anchor I have been beset by experienced offshore sailors who question the Pardey style committment of the sea anchor in storm conditions. Indeed I have just read a Hal Roth book (How to Sail Around The World) where he gives several compelling reasons why a parachute anchor should not be used.

Instead he promotes the Jordan series drogue which is the subject of many independent studies, something which appears to be lacking in literature concerning para-sea anchors. The USCG is perhaps the biggest credible fan of the Jordan system.

I am going to shelve my plan to buy a 'chute and although there is still some personal prevarication on the subject, I feel at this time, I will probably opt for the Jordan thingy.
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Old 10-08-2012, 01:55 AM   #4
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Just came her to post whether you'd considered a drogue after reading your op. We carried one, largely because of cost (since we sewed & assembled it ourselves).

The benefits I liked were:

We were able to buy a kit and sew it ourselves ( though I doubt my brother would say that was a benefit since he did most of the work)

It is made up of small cones which can't really collapse like a sea anchor and it isn't 1 big parachute that could become tangled or tear.

It isn't an all or nothing proposition. A drogue is made up of a bunch of tiny parachutes and you can deploy some or all of them as needed.

Once deployed you can simply retrieve part of it by grinding it in on a winch as opposed to an anchor which is all or nothing. The small cones will grind right onto a winch just like any other line.

At least those were all of the selling points. I've always chosen to run off instead but it was one of those things that was nice to have onboard and even nicer to never use.
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Old 10-08-2012, 11:25 PM   #5
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As far as I can tell with my utterly non-existant experience in really bad weather, the truth is nobody really knows.

I've been beaten up a bit coming north past Conception a couple times, but that is mostly just uncomfortable, not dangerous, so I don't count it as experience.

There is no real laboratory where different designes or methods can be truly compared side by side on a wide variety of boats in a wide variety of conditions with measurable and measured criteria.

My guess is that in a really bad situation you do what you can with what you have aboard and it will either work or it won't. If it works, you have no way to know if something else would have been better or worse.

If it doesn't work, you won't be reporting any data.

If the situation isn't bad enough to be really dangerous, it isn't a great experiment and we can't trust that data.

Weather is funny, too. Waves and wind do so many different things that one experience might not translate well to another. Cross-hatched huge waves with a short period? Or two different short periods with a beat frequency from hell? Might happen some time and will be very different from long period regular waves, however big.

Or a million other things that nobody thinks of. Have a strong boat, pick the right day. Maybe carry a few things to try.
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:09 AM   #6
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I confess that prior to reading Pardey's book on heavy weather, I was happy with my existing knowledge. I have been belted a few times and have never had any trouble running before the sea. I never felt imperiled, never had any serious round-ups surfing down a wave, and although I've been caught in brown trousers weather, I always felt in control.

Tiredness was a factor as I sailed within the limit of a hurricane and had to hold the handlebars for 30 hours. I would have hove-to but I didn't feel confident, given the sea state, in turning the boat head to wind....and I had plenty of sea room.

But then came the Pardey's book. It speaks seemingly of miracles when using the parachute anchor and, as these things often do, it created a desperate need where non had existed before. Now there are more people speaking of their danger than there are promoting them as the ultimate heavy weather safety device. I wish I had never heard of the bloody things! They put questions in my mind that had not previously been of any concern.

So to the Jordan Series Drogue.
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Old 10-09-2012, 10:11 AM   #7
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Auzzie, I own both, and would go with the Jordan if I could only carry one! You really need alot of gear to properly setup the Para-tech. A large float is necessary, and it all takes up valuable space. I have one because I was on the dock when someone couldn't afford to pay crew... Gave them the Para-tech... Which they promptly sold to me for pennys on the dollar. I like those situations!

But... The Jordan allows you to increase or decrease the load by how much you put out there! Best of the options in my mind... Ensure that you buy (or make) one longer than your needs, (or tailor it for your specific boat). I do deliveries, so I try to have gear that will work on many different vessels. Again, a place where the Jordan shines!

You can make multiple smaller ones to run in series or tandem also! Clean line (without the pockets) handles best on the winches of course.
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Old 10-09-2012, 11:20 AM   #8
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Thanks WNT, I value your judgement. I like the idea of a tandem rig if for no other reason than ease of retrieval, with no lessening of effective drag.

With a tandem set up, would you deploy one from each side on a single line, rather than dual bridles?
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:56 PM   #9
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One data point: In all his years and all his miles, Larry has never lost a boat. Lucky? Careful? Good? Who knows.
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Old 10-09-2012, 09:38 PM   #10
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We have carried a parachute for 13 years and only used it once. It worked perfectly and we were glad we had it. We used a fender for the float and then another fender on the end of the trip line, both with swivels. It was much easier to recover than we expected although the wind was still quite high. We will continue to carry the parachute as it made a huge difference to the boats happiness!!
Can give no advice about which brand to buy as quality may have changed.
Advertising seems to have a huge affect on what is bought, more than design or construction quality, so best to have a look at some to compare first.
We used ours in a Typhoon, Cat 2 I think, and after retrieval we were doing 14kts under bare poles.
Parachutes work as do the other methods of handling strong winds, you just have to choose the method you use for the conditions you have.
Fair Winds.
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Old 10-10-2012, 03:06 AM   #11
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Hi Stephen, it's always good to hear from you! Did you use the Pardey's technique of lying 50 degrees off the wind, or did you stay head up as close as possible?

Coyote qyote: "Larry has never lost a boat". A very good point, and there can be no doubting both Lyn and Larry's exceptional level of seamanship.

I'm confused!
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Old 10-10-2012, 07:45 AM   #12
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Quote:
I'm confused!
Not speaking from experience but it seems to me that they both have advantages in different situations. The parachute is what you would want if you didn't have the sea room to run or are short handed and tired. The series drogue is for running with lots of sea room and the ability / crew to helm for long periods.
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Old 10-10-2012, 11:59 PM   #13
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There was a guy single handing down the west coast of NZ last year who got hit by 2 storms. He was 70 miles off and still had to call the coastguard who managed to get to him. He had a drogue but was still moving at 3 knots towards a lee shore and the storm was forcast to last for 24 hours or more.
Its hard to say for sure but one wonders if he had a sea anchor deployed whether he may indeed have been ok.
Apparently in these storms the surface water moves quite fast in the same direction as the wind so the anchor may not have helped much.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:10 AM   #14
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G'day David,
We had a bridle that kept the bow head up. But as you know the wind in a TRS comes in gusts and varies direction a bit, so we were not always pointing exactly into the largest wave set.
With todays weather information so readily available I wonder if you would really need to spend the money?? But I guess that is another discussion.
Have fun mate.
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