Thanks for your input on this thread and for your words of welcome.
First, I want everyone to know that my remarks above and below are focused on the "Jordan" Series Drogue (JSD). I believe, (after reading about this) that there is a significant difference among "drogues" and that NOT all of them are the same nor are they as effective. In other words, "a drogue is a drogue" is NOT true.
I emphasize this, because "drogues" of one type or another have been used for a long time. Simple "warps" and even "auto tires" and other types of "drogues" were mentioned in earlier books on seamanship. Several older books suggested dragging tires, for example.
But, while those "old school" methods may have been recommended, they were only "effective" by anecdotal stories or by hypothesis. And they often were used but failed. The testing of the JSD (see my earlier links) AND the other styles that were common (parachute or cone style) show conclusive evidence for reasons the typical or traditional types of drogues did fail to work or failed over time (before the storm passed).
The difference, as I see it, is the Jordan Series Drogue has been tested in controlled labs and in controlled experiments in the ocean by a reputable and carefully monitored tester, the USCG. They compared it to other common designs, some of which were "traditional" and had earlier been recommended, and they found the JSD to be superior in design and effectiveness. Actually, not just "superior" but by a very easy to see difference that the others were ineffective and risky to use after testing revealed the design flaws that caused them to fail.
So, once again, my comments are solely focused on the use of the JSD. That is the only one I would use, and I would only use one that is the proper size for my yacht's displacement. If you have one that is too small/short/not enough cones, you may not have an effective one for your yacht. Size matters (size in this case means longer and more cones on the series).
In a way, it is like picking an anchor. Some anchor designs have been used for decades and were the "standard." But recent designs have been tested proven to be far superior in holding power and effectiveness (do they lose their grip?). Similarly, if my new boat came with a CQR (a traditional design that is common on yachts) I would sell it and get a new more effective design. But, that my choice to go with what is proven more effective than the "standard." Of course CQR anchors work, and they are on thousands of yachts. The question is: "Is it the most effective?" I think recent tests (by independent sources such as Practical Sailor and others) have clearly demonstrated or proven that a CQR is NOT the most effective or the best for holding a yacht. So, I would NOT use it, I would buy something else (a different topic).
Your remark above about "the horrors" (an attitude I assume means "anxiety") is one I would have shared until recently. But, I don't feel that way now. I have had a "sea change" in my thinking!
In fact, I think THIS is something that has had a profound change in my own way of thinking of the issue. And, it is my hope that this kind of change of thinking may also positively HELP others who may have anxiety about offshore sailing in storm conditions. As I see it, being prepared mentally and with gear and with practice is a good way to overcome almost any anxiety.
As I see it, most of the sailing we do offshore can be pleasurable and mild, if one goes with the flow (the trade-winds) and not the "wrong way" or "wrong season."
But, we should always be prepared for weather.
When thinking of conditions that may cause one to "finally" put out a drogue, one usually thinks of it as the "last and final effort" to control a boat in high seas and winds (aka storm or gale).
I know that it may appear to be a "last ditch effort" to survive, as it seems that all of the accounts I have read on the use of storm tactics and "storm survival" always seem to make it appear that the boat was going to go down unless....etc.
I feel differently about this now. Why? Well, I read the data on the testing of the Jordan Series Drogue (as tested by the USCG in labs AND in rough real world conditions with breaking waves). It changed my thinking profoundly.
To make it simple (for this forum discussion), I now think like this:
Waiting until it is "too late" is too common as many accounts of lost yachts feature broaches, roll overs, capsizes, and lack of control of boat speed, even when the boat is lying a hull with no sail up.
Surfing down a wave can be exhilarating (I have done this at 20+k on a Santa Cruz 50 "sled" in a race going down waves off California) but it can also lead to disaster (hence this thread). Going "too fast" for the boat does not require a race boat, it just requires high seas and a speed too fast for that hull/boat. When any running boat (large or small) buries its bow in a trough or wave, it is in danger of broaching, and that is why the helmsman often has white knuckles!
On the other hand, reading the accounts of the tests of the Series Drogue and the accounts of its use by sailors, leads me to a very different way of thinking of it.
Rather than seeing it as a "horror" because one thinks (naturally) of the possibility that one may capsize in a storm) I see it as a logical method of seamanship, something that SHOULD be done to control boat speed in high waves (breaking seas conditions) and to PREVENT the boat from running into a trough at speed that will cause the boat to broach (and likely then be capsized).
In other words, I see this (the JSD) as a device that should give one some "RELIEF" that one is doing something that should lead to slower boat speed in dangerous conditions and also give the crew some relief in the riding conditions.
Looking at it "positively," deployment is something one can do to increase one's safety and that should give one some mental as well as real relief.
Reading the accounts, once the Jordan Series Drogue was used, the boats experienced a much calmer ride (even in high waves) that allowed the crew to ride easier. Of course the conditions of the water did not change immediately, but the action of the boat ON the water did.
We have all probably felt that kind of "relief" when we heave to. I know my crew has felt immediate relief when we hove to on San Francisco Bay, and we were able to enjoy a nice lunch in the cockpit after beating upwind in 20k winds and chop. The boat responds by a much easier ride, almost calm in comparison. Heaving to makes a lot of sense in many situations. Unfortunately, not all situations, and sometimes boats and crews are not good at doing it (I read about crews unable to get their boat to heave to). In extreme conditions, even small sails up can be a problem, and even reefed mains and yankees may be too much sail.
So, simply "heaving to" may not be the best thing to do in a storm. And simply "lying a hull" (in the simplest way, without a JSD) is also another thing that is questionable or risky. At least that is my interpretation of what I have read based on many accounts of sailors who did and many who suffered from capsizes in all types of yachts, including racers and heavy displacement steel cruisers.
Recently I read of a nice steel yacht that went bare-poles and lay a hull in strong winds and high seas. It was lost after a capsize. It was a strong boat, but still lost. When I read that I was thinking: "If that yacht, with that circumnavigator could not survive, what will?" But, then I read the testing of the JSD and something clicked in my mind. I thought, "Oh...now I get it. That is what happens with a yacht in high seas." This has to do with wave dynamics and how a boat rides on the waves etc. Best described in the original sources I linked.
There is something important to note, vis-a-vis simply "heaving to." I think it is best to read that as part of the materials I linked earlier. Again, I am not an expert, but I learned something from reading the reports.
Anyway, I hope this helps folks who visit to learn something here. I know learning about this has reduced my stress (anxiety) about "what to do" in a storm at sea. And that means I will be better able to respond to conditions and better able to use seamanship to do my best to survive. With knowledge, comes confidence.
Finally, I don't want anyone reading this to think I consider myself an expert on this topic or any others regarding sailing. Despite whatever experience I have had sailing, I always consider myself a "newbie" and willing to learn from others. I believe I can learn something from anyone. And I believe learning is a life-long adventure itself. So, my suggestion is to learn what you can, consider the sources, and look for evidence that fits. In this case, I have never used a JSD in a storm, so I have no personal experience with it. But, based on what I have learned, and remembering my experiences in storms in high seas, I would not hesitate to use one in the future, and having one at hand on my yacht would make give me confidence knowing I was better prepared for one situation that commonly causes people to worry or be anxious about going to sea in a small boat, namely, being caught in a storm with high winds and high waves that are close to breaking or breaking.