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Chetan 10-25-2005 08:31 PM

hi folks

can anyone guide me to a good online reference on sea anchors

when deploying a sea anchor is it necessary to vary the amount of rode one pays out according to how short / steep the seas are? i.e. distance between consecutive crests / crest and trough of each wave?

what is the difference between a drogue and a sea anchor?

are both always deployed after or can either or both be deployed from the bow as well?


dnelson 10-25-2005 09:29 PM

Hi Chetan,

Para-Tech has a pretty good online page that should answer most of your questions, but keep in mind they are trying to sell sea anchors, so they are not exactly un-biased.


It would be interesting to see how many cruisers, who carry a sea anchor or drouge, have actually ever taken it out of the bag.

Swagman 10-25-2005 10:28 PM

Yes - the normal guidance ot those who use them is to adjust the amount of rode to ensure the device does not pop out of the top of a crest when your vessel comes under wind / wave pressure. So one adjusts the device to sit between averaged crests when you are on one - and vica versa.

A drogue is normally much smaller than a sea anchor and usually used to slow you down by deployment aft. The sea anchor being larger could effectivly halt the vessel.

Yes - one can deploy a drogue from the bow but don't expect it to hold you in place. It may also not be easy to retrieve when head to wind as they rarely have collapsing lines.

And I'd back up the question on how often such devices have been used once they've been purchased or made? My yacht surfs well under control and we find it easier and more relaxing to run away from such weather / wave situations - as opposed to sitting them out and taking it.



Jack Tyler 10-26-2005 07:43 PM

Chetan, altho' it is not an on-line resource, IMO you shouldn't consider a drogue (either type) or sea anchor without first reading Victor Shane's _Drag Device Data Book_. And as Swagman suggests, deployment isn't an 'automatic' thing; thoughtful use dependent on the conditions and the boat are very important. This is why Shane's book is so useful: it incorporates reports from many users of many different types of devices, aboard both mono and multis, along with what experiences they had, what worked/didn't, and why.

There are some other good references on this subject if you're trying to educate yourself (which is essential if you actually plan to put your boat somewhere where you might need to use of them); Earl Hinz' book is excellent, IMO. However, nothing comes close to Shane's book for offering real-world reports from other folks just like us, on smaller boats with short-handed crews. Make sure you get the 4th edition (unless there is a later one).


Gord May 10-29-2005 07:51 PM

Drogues & Sea Anchors:

Sea anchors are deplyed off the bow, and are used to align a vessel with the seaway bow-to, that is facing directly into the wind and the sea.

A drogue is deployed astern, and is designed to slow a boat allowing directional stability downwind., and is used to limit the speed of the boat, to reduce her angle of yaw, and allow for some steering in strong following seas.

See also “Investigation of The Use of Drogues To Improve The Safety of Sailing Yachts” ~ U.S. Coast Guard Report CG-D-20-87



benscottrobinson 11-11-2005 06:09 PM

I saw a talk by Jimmy Cornell last night, and he was insistant that, far from being a useful safety device, drogues and sea anchors are actually dangerous.

In his words, people put too much faith in them rather than controlling the boat by hand, and that in the wind speeds that require them, a crew would be mad to leave control of their boat in the hands of something that can't judge whether to ride or dodge the waves.

As I have never been in this situation, I cannot pass judgement, but as a man with a quarter of a million miles under has belt, I would be retiscent to disagree with him!

JeanneP 11-11-2005 07:33 PM

Ben, I would agree with Jimmy Cornell. I don't think, however, that there is no place for either a sea anchor or drogue.

If one is running before the wind in dangerous conditions, for example, a drogue slows the boat down sufficiently that it won't run down the face of a wave and pitchpole - or it won't broach coming down that wave and roll. I agree that to deploy either device and go below to let the unthinking object control the boat is a mistake. As an aid to controlling the boat, with a thinking person at the helm is, I believe, an effective tool for controlling the boat and reducing helmsman's fatigue.

People just have to realize that there is no aid that can be used without the monitoring and intervention of the captain and crew.

That's why I think that one needs to do a lot of sailing in all conditions before doing long offshore passages.

dnelson 11-15-2005 07:54 PM

I did hear about one reasonable use for a sea anchor. Alayne Main wrote (Saling Promise - yacht Madelaine) about her and her husband deploying the sea anchor whenever they needed a break from sailing during a passage. The sea anchor kept the nose into the waves, even if they werem't in a storm, and the RADAR set for all round alarm kept watch while they took a break. (Not the sort of thing you would want to do if you don't have lots of sea room, and very little traffic.)

steelfan 11-18-2005 07:22 PM

Read Heavy Weather Sailing by Adlard Coles which covers a wide range of approaches to coping with strong winds and heavy seas. It was written a long time ago and yachts have changed somewhat, but the sea hasn`t. Sea anchors and drogues do not often seem to be favoured by the most experienced yotties. Fortunately, I have not yet experienced anything that made me even think of such devices.

Noone seems to have mentioned it in replies yet - if you lie to anything hung off the bow, you are likely to be going backwards. Rudders don`t take kindly to going backwards fast

JeanneP 11-18-2005 07:50 PM

"Heavy Weather Sailing" is one of the books I most admired and referred to in our early years of cruising. I believe that it is still relevant today.

You're right about the pressure on, and potential damage to, a rudder when lying to a storm anchor. Lashing the wheel/tiller sounds like a good idea, but think of the tremendous fources being exerted.

Mr. Coles advocated running before the weather, and though I don't remember his suggesting a drogue, it is a good piece of gear to deploy to help keep the boat under control.

dnelson 11-18-2005 07:51 PM

Hi Steelfan, Paratech claims their sea anchor will virtually stop your yacht from any backward movement, thus saving your rudder. But the loading on the bow of the boat is very high. They recommend a bridle to two strong points.

GoneTroppo 12-06-2005 04:48 PM

Hi All, We spent 4 days hanging off a parachute anchor in the Bay of Bengal in 2003. Worked a real treat, but still had to be on watch, and check rodes for chafe. The boat felt really comfortable and happy. We had carried the parachute for 4 years and never took it out of the bag, but would never go to sea without it now. We have an 11m catamaran. When the winds eased and we recovered the parachute, we ran down wind under bare poles and maintained over 11 knots for a day, before deploying warps to slow us down to 8 kts. Lots of people have never used drogues or parachutes, but are experts on them. Wise sailors will only state their actual experiences and let the listener draw their own conclusions. Really smart sailors never experience storms. We are hoping to become smarter. We can also recommend the Drag Device Data Book, for real experiences. Happy Sailing and regards to all.>/smile.gif

Jack Tyler 12-06-2005 05:53 PM

I'm always wary of sweeping conclusions even from experts - such as the one from Jimmy Cornell regarding p/anchors & drogues - because there's much about being at sea that is a function of many variables, and sweeping statements often fail to reflect the variables. Jeanne's follow-up comment and Gone's experience are good illustrations of this. If Cornell would have stopped at 'p/anchors & drogues are misused when the crew goes below, thinking the boat no longer needs someone on deck' he would have been on track. But to say they are dangerous to have aboard because they are misused...well, that's throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Adlard Coles HWS is a classic but IMO an insufficient reference on heavy weather management practices. The boat designs were different from most of what we sail today, and the gear options aboard cruising boats are different as well. You will see multiple accounts in there about boats suffering from a lack of control and experiencing damage & crew injury because they lacked the kind of medium-pull drogue that we have 4 or 5 excellent styles to choose from today.



Auzzee 12-06-2005 08:19 PM

I am always a little confounded by the subject of drogues and sea anchors. I deployed my own solid Seabrake, when crossing the Gulf of Carpentaria, purely as an experiment. The conditions did not necessarily warrant the use of the drogue as I was sailing comfortably with the trades, with a staysail and double reefed main aloft. The experience however, was interesting. It felt like driving a car with the handbrake on; but it gave me a confidence in the implement which was previously not there. It concerns me to read comments attributed to such a sailing luminary as Jimmy Cornell, which dismiss drogues and parachute anchors as dangerous. To buy a para anchor for my boat will be a major purchase, (the unladen weight being 56,000lbs). I have just bought the latest edition of Adlard Coles 'Heavy Weather Sailing'. It was revised by Peter Bruce in 1999 and is significantly changed from the original. The chapters dealing with drogues etc. seem very positive about their use and effectiveness. While bar-room experts continue to criticise their use, I place great value on first hand stories which seem to not involve these same experts. I have read and heard much theory concerning the use particularly of parachute anchors, and I would love to read more facts either negative or positive, such as those provided by Gone Troppo. Perhaps Jack T and Jeanne P could relate their experiences. I am also a little wary of testimonials published by manufacturers. But to those who wish to expound theory alone, please remember even communism sounds wonderful in theory....but the practical application is something entirely different. David.

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