Yachting World

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Drogues and sea anchors: we test a Jordan Series drogue and a ParaAnchor

  • Toby Hodges
  • September 3, 2015

Toby Hodges tries out a ParaAnchor sea anchor and a Jordan Series Drogue on a heavy weather sail training weekend in the English Channel

sailboat drogue chute

Drogues and sea anchors are designed to slow a boat or allow it to hold station in extreme weather conditions. They can prevent a possible capsize, roll or broach by keeping the bow or stern facing the weather. Debates about the pros and cons are rife among cruisers.

In Skip Novak’s Storm Sailing Series he reveals that he isn’t in favour of streaming warps, let alone using a drogue or sea anchor. Yet there are numerous testimonials from long-distance sailors who place their faith in these devices.

Intrigued to see how practical this equipment is to use, I joined Rubicon 3, a sail training and exploration company, during a heavy weather sail training weekend. I was particularly keen to see how easy it is to deploy and retrieve a drogue or sea anchor, and compare their benefits.

We sailed from Portsmouth aboard the 60ft Hummingbird , an expedition yacht built for the original Clipper Race in 1996. We needed to sail 15nm offshore into the English Channel to reach a depth of 20m to set the sea anchor, which has a diameter of 26ft, and find enough sea room to retrieve the 110m drogue. Once these contraptions are deployed, the yacht’s ability to manoeuvre is limited.

60ft Hummingbird expedition yacht

60ft Hummingbird expedition yacht

Bruce Jacobs, together with Rachael Sprot, founded Rubicon 3 to offer a unique crossover of adventure sailing and sail training. They had requested we muster early in the morning so we could check and load the equipment. They ran through the theories of using drag devices and how we would deploy and recover them.

“The main thing you have to look for when in heavy weather is breaking seas,” said Jacobs. “The boat can handle breaking waves if they are in the right orientation – 20° each side of the bow and similarly to the stern. The thing you don’t want to do is end up sideways to the sea.”

Choices in heavy weather

Yachtsmen have the choice of battening down and riding out extreme weather by heaving-to, forereaching, or lying ahull. But these techniques will not prevent capsize if a yacht is hit by a breaking wave.

There are three choices of purpose-made tackle to help keep a yacht stable in big seas: a single drogue towed off the stern to stop it surfing, a series drogue (a series of multiple miniature drag devices or cones on one line) or a sea anchor. The latter two are bulky, expensive items to ship, but are proven to keep a yacht bow or stern to the waves.

Jacobs explained that it is easier to keep a yacht stern on to waves as it sits better to the wind and is stable running downwind under bare poles. The counter argument is that the bow has been designed to point into waves, whereas the stern can poop and take waves into the companionway. Both the theories and test accounts of using series drogue and sea anchors are wide ranging.

“Most importantly, if you can keep a fit and healthy crew, you can get around bad weather,” said Jacobs. “If you can keep the boat stationary, then the average storm will blow through in 24 to 36 hours. But most people go with it, which turns that into three to four days, with a tired crew.”

A Force 5 wind against tide produced enough chop to make life uncomfortable on board. It demonstrated how quickly crew can become ill or tired. As soon as we dropped the main, the motion changed for the worse and we struggled for balance as we prepared the drogues. “Even here, where conditions are not severe, the choppy sea has made half the crew feel seasick and want to retreat into their shell,” said Jacobs.

Para Anchor

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We trialled a ParaAnchor from Ocean Safety. The main towline is made from Nylon to keep elasticity in the system. A buoyed snag line improves retrieval and stops the anchor sinking. A parachute anchor has a huge surface area however, so its retrieval is not straightforward.

“We want the sea anchor to be on the same wave cycle as the boat, to rise and fall with the wave pattern,” said Bruce Jacobs, “otherwise you have huge snatch loads. So it’s worth keeping line in reserve so you can pay it out if you’re on a bad wave cycle.”

It is also worth double-checking the sea anchor is set up properly. Flaking out the line so it can run freely without snagging helps, but may not be practical. We paid out 100m of towline, which took up most of the side deck to flake. However, sea anchors are available with a deployment bag, which can simply be thrown into the water.

Para_anchor_global_12_kit_out_of_bag_laid_out

We rigged a bridle to help spread the load. Depending on hull(s) and keel shapes, the correct rigging of a bridle is an important factor in keeping a yacht head to wind. Ocean cruising veterans Lin and Larry Pardey advocate the use of a bridle with a scrap of sail to help prevent rolling. “Improvements may be found in leading it to an aft quarter cleat to allow you to trim it to an angle, or even putting up a scrap of main,” said Jacobs.

“One of the biggest causes of failure is chafe, so we also use a chain first to prevent this,” he added. The preparation and deployment of the ParaAnchor is time-consuming, but it certainly felt reassuring once in action. We drifted calmly, dead in the water, the motion instantly very much more comfortable.

The helm can be lashed and left once the anchor is set. A concern with sea anchors is that they can hold the bow too securely into oncoming waves, with the potential to shunt the boat astern. Allowing some flexibility in the helm lashing, by using a shock cord for example, provides a fuse to prevent rudder damage if this happens.

Para Anchor diag

Other worries with sea anchors are that they place a lot pressure on the bow fittings. Cleats may need reinforcing with backing plates. If not under pressure a sea anchor can sink and pull the bow down. Equally, too much pressure means it may rise up and break the surface, so monitoring is needed.

When in the trough of a wave the towline can go slack and the yacht may yaw away from the wind – the reason the US Coast Guard could not recommend a sea anchor deployed from the bow in its 1987 report .

Jordan Series Drogue

A series drogue comprises a multitude of fabric cones spliced in series onto a line with a weight on the end. The original series drogue was designed by Donald Jordan and it is trailed from the stern. The purpose of a series or ‘medium drag’ drogue is comparable to a sea anchor in that it is designed to hold the boat near-stationary – to prevent capsize in the event of a breaking wave.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The number of cones is determined by the yacht’s displacement, but a typical Jordan Series Drogue (JSD) has between 100 and 200 cones of 5in (12.7cm) diameter attached to a tapered line. The load is spread across the multitude of cones, 172 in the case of Hummingbird ’s JSD.

“The danger with the wind behind is pitchpoling,” explained Jacobs. “The JSD will hold you back, stop you from surfing and prevent that happening.” The yacht is still able to accelerate down the face of a wave, but the JSD will slow it enough for the wave to pass through without dropping into a trough. The drag force is applied softly, allowing gentle acceleration until enough cones bite.

PW 5 tips Diagram 3

The potential to be pooped is an obvious concern. Can the cockpit drain quickly enough? The drogue’s inventor says crew should be below, as steering is not required. So the companionway hatch needs to be sufficiently watertight.

The JSD can flake neatly into a mesh deployment bag. A bight between each cone is attached to the bag, bridle to one end and chain weight to the other. Deployment is then just a case of setting up the bridle on winches and paying it out. We were aboard a robust yacht, but once again I could appreciate the need to make sure the attachment points for the bridle are reinforced.

Once the drogue was set, the motion changed immediately. We went from rolling and lurching to comfortably taking tea in the cockpit, making 4.4 knots SOG, but just 0.1 knot through the water.

Rachel Sprot with bridle and deployment bag, which keeps the drogue neatly flaked

Rachel Sprot with bridle and deployment bag, which keeps the drogue neatly flaked

If the ease of deployment is a benefit of the JSD, its retrieval is its downside. Jacobs says it can take over an hour. But a snag line can be used, and during our trials retrieval took approximately 20 minutes with the aid of a winch.

“You have to find a method that is comfortable for you and your boat – and this [JSD] obviously is for Hummingbird ,” said Jacobs. See also Jeanne Socrates’s article on those who have used a Jordan Series Drogue in anger

Conclusions

The trials demonstrated the value of preparation. Trying to sort out one of these drag devices, including the bridle and chafe gear needed, when the storm has already hit, would be daunting. So knowing how to set and use the equipment is key. It was also surprising to see how quickly a drogue or sea anchor can change the motion on board for the better, and the benefit this has on the mood and fatigue of the crew.

It is quite evident that, with practice, either could be a useful tool for riding out heavy weather. I remember setting a sea anchor during a Pacific delivery, for example, to stop the boat to cut a fishing net free from the stern gear. But during our trials with Rubicon 3, I found the series drogue easier to deploy and adjust than the sea anchor, with less to go wrong.

Prices and contacts For a 45ft yacht of 15 tonnes displacement:

  • Pacific 20 Para Anchor £1,829
  • Yacht Drogue (single) £395. Both from www.oceansafety.com
  • Jordan Series Drogue – 139 cones – £739 (Plus £82.40 for the bridle and deployment bag from £75) from www.oceanbrake.com

Also www.jordanseriesdrogue.com

See Skip Novak Storm Sailing Techniques Part 8 Drogues and Sea Anchors

Rubicon 3 – ‘sail’ ‘train’ ‘explore’

Rubicon 3 is owned and run by RYA Yachtmaster Ocean instructors Rachael Sprot and Bruce Jacobs. They bought Hummingbird two years ago.

Sally Splash - © Sally Golden Rubicon 3

“We wanted to do something different to what is already out there,” said Bruce Jacobs. “There is nothing really like what we do – you can typically only do adventure sailing or sail training, but this combines the two. It’s sailing with a purpose, sailing to get to great places.”

Their clients are typically aged between 35 and 60, around a quarter are new to sailing, and most sign up to sail on their own. The company has launched a series of Ocean Crossing Masterclasses. www.rubicon3.co.uk

Yachting Monthly

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Surviving a Force 11 storm with a series drogue

  • Katy Stickland
  • September 1, 2021

Small cruising boats are not fast enough to sail away from bad weather. Tony Curphey shares how a series drogue was vital while sailing the Southern Ocean in a Nicholson 32

Tony Curphey drogue storm

When the windvane steering can no longer cope with the seastate, it is time to deploy the drogue. Credit: Tony Curphey

There is no textbook procedure to follow when, in a small boat, you are faced with seas and winds which are a threat to the survival of you and your boat, writes Tony Curphey .

Every storm is different and so is every boat and circumstance.

I’m writing from my own experience of Southern Ocean sailing and about 16 deployments of my Jordan Series Drogue, four of which were on my last voyage as a participant in the Longue Route 2018 (which like the 2018 Golden Globe Race , was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the event).

My boats in the Southern Ocean have been 27ft, 32ft and 41ft overall length in the past 17 years.

It is good practice to heave-to by whatever means your boat will do that, even if just for a rest from gale conditions.

Toby Curphey finishing the Longue Route

Tony’s Nicholson 32 has proven to be a tough seaboat, even in the Southern Ocean. Credit: Tony Curphey

It’s a huge relief to have the sudden calm.

If weather conditions worsen, some sailors advocate lying ahull which usually means letting the boat take its own position in the sea with no sail up, and having the helm lashed to the lee to try to keep the bow a little into the wind.

Both these tactics are fine in moderate or even severe gale conditions, but as wind and seas rise beyond gale force it is necessary to change tactics as the boat will be knocked down and that is a prelude to being rolled, in which case the mast will probably be lost.

I might mention that it is proven that the longer the vessel is, the less likely she is to be rolled. However most boats will be rolled, regardless of length, if caught sideways in the trough of a wave.

My present boat, Nicky , a beautiful Nicholson 32 Mk X, will run downwind under control with the Aries (or other windvane ) steering, with or without any sail up until Force 10 or even 11.

Solo circumnavigator Tony Curphey shows his circumnavigation routes

Tony Curphey has completed four solo circumnavigation in small boats and has deployed a drogue in true survival conditions 16 times. Credit: Tony Curphey

Under these conditions, if I have any sail up, I use a spitfire jib of 54sq ft (5m2).

You can’t go directly downwind because the sail will back and fill with tremendous force and will soon destroy itself.

It is better under these conditions to have no sail up. If the Aries can’t handle it any more the boat will broach and will be in danger of being rolled.

If the hull is fouled, as Nicky ’s was in the Southern Ocean on my last voyage, she will go out of control sooner.

Then it’s time to start thinking of survival .

Using the drogue

In my case I use the Jordan Series Drogue which I made myself about 17 years ago.

If the direction in which you want to go is upwind then you will probably be thinking of putting out a drogue, or something to slow you down, much sooner.

One man, or woman can only hand steer for so long under these violent conditions. And I mean violent!

But usually in the Southern Ocean the systems are moving from west to east so with a drogue out you will be making 2 knots or so in the right direction or more likely to the north east or south east.

It is a better idea to deploy the drogue from the inner end, that nearest the boat, into the water first.

Tony Curphey drogue stern chainplates attachment

Purpose-build chainplates are required to take the load of the drogue bridle on each quarter. Credit: Tony Curphey

It goes out under more control and is less likely to snag cones or anything else.

Make sure the drogue does not foul the windvane servo paddle if you still have one down.

Last of all drop in the 25lbs weight and make sure it is clear of the bridle.

On Nicky my drogue is led out under the lower guard rail on the port side.

If you deploy under the rail directly astern, drop the weighted end in first but be careful because it will be snaking out fast and a lot of weight will come on to it as the cones start their work.

Once deployed, the drogue will quickly pull the stern into the seas.

Continues below…

A yacht sailing with a deployed drogue

‘What I learned deploying my series drogue in a gale’

Steve Brown found his series drogue a big asset when riding out foul weather in one of the world's most…

Heavy weather sailing

Heavy weather sailing: preparing for extreme conditions

Alastair Buchan and other expert ocean cruisers explain how best to prepare when you’ve been ‘caught out’ and end up…

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede sailing Matmut in the 2018 Golden Globe Race

Storm tactics from the Golden Globe Race: Jean-Luc Van Den Heede

Golden Globe Race skippers share their experiences of ocean storms, providing lessons for all of us about how to cope…

Sailing in storms

Adventure: guide to sailing in storms

Award-winning sailor and expedition leader Bob Shepton regularly sails some of the most storm-swept latitudes in the world. Not bad…

In a confused sea , a breaking wave strike may come on the quarter but the drogue will pull the stern to the seas within two seconds.

I have experienced that many times.

There is tremendous force on the fittings where the drogue is attached so it is essential that these fittings are built accordingly strong.

Yet, there are no shock loads on the boat or fittings because of the elasticity of the drogue.

It’s like being on a huge bungee, contrary to a single element cone or parachute drogue whether on the bow or stern.

The series drogue is always deployed from the stern on a monohull .

Remove the windvane servo paddle if possible.

Tony Curphey drogue laid out in boatyard

Thicker, stronger rope as you get closer to the boat where the loads are greatest. CreditL Tony Curphey

Fold down and lash the sprayhood and anything else which could be damaged or swept away.

Solar panel gantries are vulnerable. I do have one and have sustained damage there.

Lash the tiller or wheel amidships and scoot below with the servo paddle, securing the companionway hatch on the way.

A good shot from the whiskey bottle is now a plan; your series drogue will look after you.

On Nicky I have a fast closing hatch which can be opened or closed from inside or from outside, with one hand if necessary and it can be dogged down like a submarine door.

It is made from 18mm polycarbonate, is see-through, very strong and totally watertight.

Tony Curphey was 74 when he completed the Longue Route. leaving and returning to Emsworth

Tony Curphey was 74 when he completed the Longue Route. leaving and returning to Emsworth, UK. Credit: Tony Curphey

A standard companionway hatch with washboards may be strong enough but it will not be watertight.

When you have a striking wave hit from astern, water will squirt all over the cabin.

It is awesome in the old-fashioned sense of the word to watch the weather from behind the see-through hatch.

Those moving mountains which sometimes pile up on top of each other and seemingly drop from the sky as the top breaks and topples over and buries the boat from astern.

The most unnerving part is the noise; the screaming and howling of the wind.

During the Longue Route, Tony Curphey had to deal with all sorts of gear failure including a damaged boom, which he lashed, following an accidental gybe.

During the Longue Route, Tony Curphey had to deal with all sorts of gear failure including a damaged boom, which he lashed, following an accidental gybe . Credit: Tony Curphey

That gives you the first indication that the storm is easing as you suddenly realise it is not so noisy. But not yet.

The barometer is rising, the wind could be at its strongest now and there will be a windshift and the seas become confused.

The series drogue is doing its work through all this but it could be some hours before the confusion of the opposing seas allows the movement to ease enough to work safely on deck and bring in the drogue.

Retrieving a drogue

There are many stories about the difficulty of recovering a series drogue.

It’s very physical but you have to be patient and just take in the slack as it occurs and keep a turn on the cockpit winch.

Getting it started is the hardest part.

Some have suggested using a trip line but don’t be tempted.

It will end up in a huge mess and seriously jeopardise the efficiency of the drogue.

However, I do use a trip line to the end of the bridle.

Tony Curphey drogue ready to deploy

Tony Curphey get the drogue ready to deploy. Credit: Tony Curphey

It is looped just aft of the shackles which join the bridle to the main drogue.

If you use a bowline for this purpose, make sure it is tight and has a couple of half hitches around the standing part, for even a bowline will shake itself loose without weight on it for many hours.

The other end of this trip line is made fast to the railing on the port side.

This is a great help and there is no chance of it tangling with the drogue.

It normally takes me 30 to 60 minutes to recover the drogue and then it is carefully flaked down behind the small bulkhead with the weight at the bottom to go out last, all ready for its next use.

How to make your own Jordan Series Drogue

A lot of yachtsmen have heard of a series drogue but very few have used one in anger.

They are time consuming to make and expensive to buy.

My drogue is made in three lengths all shackled seriously together.

The final length, the one furthest from the boat, is of a smaller diameter rope because there is less strain there.

Set up of the Jordan Series Drogue for the Nicholson 32, Nicky

Credit: Maxine Heath

The overall length of the drogue is 107m (350ft) and is attached to the boat by a bridle, in Nicky ’s case, of about 4.5m (15ft) long.

Each arm of the bridle is shackled to a dedicated chainplate on each quarter of the hull.

This is by far the best way to attach the drogue to the boat.

Mine is permanently shackled to the boat and is flaked down at the after end of the cockpit behind a small bulkhead to stop it sliding forward, and is held with two quick-release lashings so it is always ready for quick deployment.

Tony Curphey completed the 2018 Longue Route in his Nicholson 32, Nicola Deux, sailing around the world in 308 days

Tony Curphey completed the 2018 Longue Route in his Nicholson 32, Nicola Deux ( Nicky ), sailing around the world in 308 days. Credit: Tony Curphey

The bridle is joined to the main length of the drogue by more shackles which are tightened and carefully moused with seizing wire.

At the far end of the drogue is a weight of 11kg (25lbs), in my case a length of chain in a canvas bag.

Along the length of the drogue are small cones or parachutes.

The number of cones required depends on the displacement of the boat. In the case of a Nicholson 32 it is 110 cones.

It is important to have the correct type of rope , double braided nylon which gives the elasticity and strength, and the bungee effect.

Full details can be found at www.jordanseriesdrogue.com

Practical Boat Owner

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Which drogue should you buy? 7 drogues on test

  • Ben Meakins
  • December 15, 2015

When your boat’s being battered by a storm and you want to ride things out, a drogue will make things more comfortable. But which one should you buy? We tested 7 to find out...

sailboat drogue chute

Of all the safety kit we’re told is essential to ensure our safety at sea, a drogue is fairly low on most people’s lists, especially if they only sail in sight of land or in coastal hops. But drogues have many uses aboard, and could help you ride out a storm, enter a harbour safely, steer after the loss of a rudder or keep you safe under tow. They could, then, save your boat and your life. With many models available, we put seven to the test.

Drogue vs sea anchor?

Drogues and sea anchors are often lumped together as one and the same – in some cases by their manufacturers – but there is a difference in function. In appearance, they are similar, but they perform very different roles.

Sea anchors are designed to stop and ‘moor’ a boat bow-to the waves. They are used to ride out a storm, or to heave-to and take a rest. Drogues, or speed-limiting drogues as they are sometimes called, are used to keep a boat stern-to the waves. Unlike sea anchors they are not designed to stop the boat in the water, but instead to slow her down while keeping her from broaching beam-on to the waves. Sea anchors tend to be much bigger and must be deployed on a much longer and stretchier line.

There are also design factors at play. A sea anchor is relatively static in the water, whereas a drogue is designed to be towed at speed. That makes the design of a drogue important as it must produce less drag than a sea anchor, and yet be stable and resist any attempt to spin, slew or ‘porpoise’. An acknowledged authority on the subject is Victor Shane’s Drag Device Data Dase: using parachutes, sea anchors and drogues to cope with heavy weather. It lists the attributes that make a good drogue: ‘It must pursue a straight course, must track straight, must be faithful in retaining its shape. The standard for sizing is that a yacht should average 3-6 knots with a speed-limiting drogue in tow.’

Manufacturers address this in a number of ways, either by adding vents to the side or incorporating swivels to allow it to rotate safely.

7 of the best drogues available right now

Plastimo sea anchor (drogue) review.

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Plastimo sea anchor / drogue review

  • RRP: £59.95 
  • Diameter: 60cm • Length: 120cm

Plastimo’s offering is called a Sea Anchor, but its small size makes it much more suitable as a drogue. It’s made of vinyl in a cone shape, with a wire ‘hoop’ sewn into the open mouth to give it shape.

It deployed to its correct shape instantly at 3.5 knots, reducing the boat speed to 1.8 knots and putting a strain of 30kg on the line. At 7 knots, it reduced the boat speed to 4.3 knots, with the line strain increasing to 90kg.

plastimo

Plastimo sea anchor/drogue review – view from the stern of the boat with product in action

It stayed well submerged, and didn’t break the surface. It tracked straight but had a tendency to rise and fall in the water. The addition of a length of chain helped to keep it lower in the water and improved this problem.

Recovery was relatively simple, although it took some time for the water to drain from the narrow exit. A tripline rigged from the point of the cone would make it easier to recover.

Buy it now from Amazon

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Lalizas professional drogue review.

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  • RRP: £65.99 
  • Diameter: 1.4m • Length: 1.65m

The Lalizas drogue is available in a number of sizes: we chose the smallest. However, with a 2m-wide mouth and measuring 1.65m long, it was enormous compared to the other drogues on test.

It gave us the highest readings of any we tested: When deployed at 3.5 knots it took 15 seconds to assume its shape, due to its size and the lack of wire to keep the mouth open.

TSKJ7850

The Lalizas Professional drogue was enormous compared to the others on test

But once it assumed the correct shape it stopped us completely, taking our 3.5 knots to nothing in seconds, which exerted 120kg on the line.

At higher revs, it took us from 7 knots to 1.7 knots, putting a strain of 150kg on the line. At these high loads it sat very near the surface, but didn’t porpoise or snake around.

lalizas

At high loads it sat near the surface, but didn’t snake around

This would be better suited as a sea anchor, the purpose of which is to stop the vessel, rather than a speed-limiting drogue, which should keep the vessel under controlled lower speed.

Recovery was hard work, but was made simpler if the drogue was capsized while pulling it onboard. A tripline, rigged to the loop at the narrow end of the cone, would make recovery much easier.

Oceanbrake Series Drogue review

IMG_7336_cmyk

Oceanbrake series drogue review

  • Diameter: 15cm • Length: 60m

This series drogue had 75 small cones on 60m of line, and a heavy loop of chain at the aft end. Oceanbrake say this is suitable for vessels of light displacement – 100 cones would normally be recommended. Nonetheless, it was very effective.

Deployment was simply a case of paying out the line, and it was much easier than the single drogues as the strain increased gradually, with none of the violent snatching experienced with the single-cone drogues.

Streamed astern in our engine tests, it reduced our speed from 3.5 knots to 2.1 knots, with the line experiencing 24kg strain. At higher revs, our speed was reduced from 7 knots to 4.9 knots at 104kg strain.

Recovery was easier than with a single-element drogue

Recovery of the Oceanbrake series drogue was easier than with a single-element drogue

In the waves, we found the Series Drogue to be easy to deploy and to recover, and to be very controlled. There was no porpoising or snaking around, and the load increased in a gradual, controlled fashion. As a wave rolled under the boat, it kept a steady pressure on the line, keeping the stern to the waves, and the heavy chain and series of cones kept the pressure constant.

Recovery was easier than with single-element drogues: there was no need to collapse the multiple drogues and hauling in got easier as the line in the water got shorter. Its bulk and weight would be a lot to stow on a small boat, however.

Buy it now on oceanbrake.com

Para-Tech Delta Drogue review

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Para-tech delta drogue review – deployed underwater

  • RRP: $199 (£118)
  • Diameter: 65cm • Length 47cm

Designed so that it cannot turn inside out, the Delta drogue is made from vinyl-coated nylon, and has a design akin to a tricorne hat. It is supplied with a meaty stainless swivel. Ours was a 36in model.

delta

View from the stern of the boat – the Para-tech delta drogue occasionally broke the surface in use

It reduced our speed from 3.5 knots to 2.2 knots at low revs, exerting 20kg on the line. At higher revs, it reduced our speed from 7 knots to 4.9 knots, exerting 80kg.

It broke the surface occasionally at higher speeds, but the addition of a short length of chain between the line and swivel kept it below the surface and made it much more controllable. We found it ideal as a steering aid. Recovery was simple thanks to the small size of the drogue.

Buy it now from seaanchor.com

Seabrake review

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Seabrake review – deployed underwater

  • Diameter: 62cm • Length 80cm

The Seabrake, made in Australia and sold in the UK by Emsworth-based Sea Teach (now Ocean Chandlery ), comprises two parts – a cone and a body, with a vent between them.

It reduced the boat speed from 3.5 knots to 1.9 knots, with a strain of 32kg on the line. At higher speeds, it reduced the boat speed from 7 knots to 3.9 knots, exerting a 110kg force on the line.

sea-brake

The supplied length of chain kept the Seabrake well below the surface

Sea Teach supplied it with a 2m length of heavy galvanised chain, which kept it well below the surface and out of sight. Without the chain, the speeds and loads were unchanged, but it was visible, although it never broke the surface and was controlled and tracked straight. Recovery was simple, but a tripline would help collapse the cone to aid hauling on board.

Sea Teach also supplied a line and chain, ready-flaked into a mesh bag that was ready for deployment: a foam hoop kept the mouth open, which made both deployment and recovery easy with a crew member flaking the line into the bag.

Buy it now from eBay

Ocean Safety Para Drogue review – BEST ON TEST

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Para Drogue review – PBO best on test – drogue deployed beneath the surface

  • Diameter: 65cm • Length 60cm

The Para Drogue, made in Southampton by Ocean Safety, comprises two linked parts; an open-ended cone and an adjustable ‘mouth’. It deployed to its correct shape immediately, slowing the boat from 3.5 knots to 1.7 knots and experiencing a line load of 34kg.

The Para Drogue stayed submerged, with no porpoising and very little yawing

The Para Drogue stayed submerged, with no porpoising and very little yawing

At 7 knots, it reduced the boat’s speed to 3.5 knots with a line strain of 120kg. It stayed submerged, with no porpoising and very little yawing.

It’s well constructed, and its shape meant that it was easy to recover as the water drained out very quickly. It stows in a small, neat pouch. No tripline is required as recovery is simple.

Buy it now from oceansafety.com

Jimmy Green Yacht Drogue review – BEST BUDGET BUY

  • Diameter: 54cm • Length 80cm

Jimmy Green, based in Beer in Devon, make a number of sizes of drogue – this one was a size 10, suitable for the 29ft Mohraina .

It comprises a PVC cone and at low revs reduced our speed from 3.5 knots to 2 knots, exerting 28kg on the line.

Flat out, it reduced the boat speed from 7 knots to 4.5 knots, exerting 100kg on the line.

A short length of chain helped to keep the Jimmy Green drogue submerged

A short length of chain helped to keep the Jimmy Green drogue submerged

It set immediately on immersion despite the lack of any stiffening to hold the mouth of the cone open, and behaved well underwater, with no spinning, slewing or porpoising.

A short length of chain helped keep it well submerged. It was simple to recover, and a tripline will help to collapse the drogue on recovery.

Buy it now from jimmygreen.co.uk

PBO Drogue test results

We were unable to test these drogues in extremis, but gathered some useful data from our test. It was reassuring that none of the drogues experienced problems at high speed: while some slewed around underwater, none of them broke the surface.

The Series Drogue was by far the easiest to handle, and would be extremely useful if heading off on a long trip in open water, where its ease of use and reputation in large waves would earn it a place in the lazarette despite its bulk relative to the others on test.

For the average coastal sailor, a single-element drogue is likely to be more use. Of these, the Para Drogue was well made, gave the most drag and came in a usefully-sized package. The Seabrake GP24 performed almost as well, for much less money. At the budget end, the Jimmy Green Marine Yacht Drogue 10 was a worthy performer at low cost.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 16.26.36

7 drogues compared: percentage speed reduction at high speed and at low speed

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 16.26.42

7 drogues compared: Drag in KG at low speed and at high speed

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 16.26.48

7 drogues compared: all specifications in one view

Types of drogue and uses for a drogue

There are two main types of drogue – standard single-element cone-shaped drogues and their variations, and series drogues.

Single-element drogue

These come in many shapes and sizes, as we found out. Some solid plastic and metal drogues are available, but we were unable to obtain one in time for our trials.

Far more common are the fabric-types, which come in a range of sizes. Some are simply scaled-down sea anchors, but other drogues have a vent system or secondary body to keep them under control as they are dragged through the water.

Series drogue

Developed by the late Don Jordan, the series drogue comprises a long warp with upwards of 100 mini cones attached and a weight on the end. The warp is long enough to span two wave-lengths and the series of cones provides not only a backup and failsafe, but is also far less likely to pull out of the front of a wave, while the weight will keep the whole structure from snatching.

Using a drogue as emergency steering device

J-Fever-drogue-in-actioncmyk_cmyk

J-109 J-Fever arriving safely into Cherbourg without a rudder thanks to deploying and steering with a drogue

Many drogues are kept aboard as an emergency steering device. We looked at how to do this in an earlier feature . This photo shows how a J/109 made it into Cherbourg under sail after her rudder broke in 2010.

Using a drogue to stop surfing

800px-Wea00816_cmyk

A drogue to help navigate bars and narrow entrances

narrow-harbour_cmyk

A drogue to help control a boat under tow

tow_cmyk

7 drogues tested: how we did it

We borrowed a Contest 29, Mohraina , moored at Poole’s East Dorset Sailing Club and owned by Dick Hanraads. We headed out of Poole Harbour with our seven drogues aboard. A test in extreme conditions was not possible, but a comparative test of each drogue’s holding and slowing power is a useful exercise. For our controlled tests, we deployed each drogue on a 40m length of line, and recorded the boat’s speed at two sets of engine revolutions that had given us 3.5 knots and 7 knots of boat speed respectively. This meant that, initially, the boat was travelling at around 3.5 knots as the drogue was deployed, to simulate the likely speed that you’d deploy the drogue in reality. We looked at the time it took to reach its correct shape and deploy. We also measured the drag force of each drogue using a 100kg spring balance in one side of a 2:1 purchase. The figure, doubled, would then give us the strain on the line.

IMG_7324

From a RIB, we monitored the behaviour of the drogue, checking that it pursued a straight course and that it remained below the surface – no problem in our flat water conditions, but a big problem in waves. We then examined how easy it was to retrieve each drogue.

TSKJ7393

Finally we headed round Old Harry Rocks to sit in the overfalls off Handfast Point. There was a brisk south-westerly, blowing around 15 knots, which gave use some wave conditions to play with, and we tried steering with the drogues as well as handling them in rougher water and seeing how the boat responded.

Streaming warps vs drogue – which is best?

Read classic Hiscock, Chichester, Knox-Johnston or the Smeetons and you’ll not have long to wait before reaching tales of warp streaming. Streaming warps we tried to use the same test methods as for the drogues, but registered low readings of 4kg strain with 0.1 knot difference for a 40m warp streamed astern, and 8kg and 0.3 knots respectively for the same warp streamed in a bight. If you don’t have a drogue this is worth trying, and might keep your stern to the waves enough to make things more comfortable, but it will have nowhere near the same level of drag as a dedicated drogue.

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How to Use Drogues and Sea Anchors

  • By Kevin Falvey
  • Updated: March 8, 2017

Drogues and Sea Anchors

Generally thought of as staple goods for transoceanic cruisers and, perhaps, those who fish the far offshore grounds, drogues and sea anchors have a place in the kits of coastal and inshore boaters too. Granted, unlike anchoring or docking, the skills and techniques needed to deploy a drogue or sea anchor are not universal and may only apply to certain boaters in specific situations. Remember that good seamanship encompasses knowing one’s options, and so, even if you think you’ll never need a sea anchor or a drogue, read on. For one thing, “never” is a long time. For another, you may be surprised by some of the scenarios I present in which a drogue or a sea anchor might prove useful.

Let’s start out with definitions. A sea anchor is deployed off the bow and is used to keep a drifting boat’s head to the wind and waves so that it may ride rough seas more comfortably. A drogue is deployed off the stern and is used to keep the boat straight while motoring down-sea. Also, by slowing the boat as it races down a wave face, it reduces the chance for broaching or pitchpoling to occur; a drogue may also be used to steer a boat that has lost its steering system.

You don’t simply throw one of these overboard. There are procedures and guidelines, including, but not limited to, sizing the drogue or sea anchor correctly, using a trace of chain for weight or chafe protection, rigging a bridle, and making sure the cleats or bitts aboard your boat are installed with bolts and a backing plate. The manufacturer can supply much of that information — and the rest you should know, or will come to know, by your existing experience and by running drills.

Now, the drag created by a sea anchor can keep a drifting boat in more or less one place — or at least prevent it from drifting too far too fast. If you break down in water too deep to deploy your regular anchor, or if you lose your anchor, you could deploy a sea anchor to buy time for the towboat to come before you wash up on the beach.

Too dramatic a scenario for you to believe it applies? Try this.

You run out of gas and your boat, like most powerboats, weathercocks and adopts a somewhat stern-to-the-waves attitude. It’s an uncomfortable drift, and water may be splashing in over the transom. If you deploy your sea anchor, your boat will ride bow-to the seas, making everyone aboard less seasick — not to mention safer — while waiting for your buddy with the gas can or towrope.

Fishermen often use sea anchors in order to slow down a drift. Sometimes, these are deployed from the windward beam of the boat in an effort to make the boat drift side-to the waves. It’s uncomfortable but allows the drifted baits to spread out along the entire length of the boat.

A drogue, as stated, creates drag astern the boat, helping to ensure the transom does not pass the bow (broach). This can be useful if you find yourself caught by mountainous seas too big to run on plane in. But, more realistically, let’s say you spin the hub of your prop. Or one of your twin engines quits. Or your main engine conks out, and you are coming home on the trolling motor. In any scenario where the boat remains operable yet cannot achieve enough speed to maintain easy directional stability, a drogue can be deployed. It will help you to keep the boat straight — in many cases, with your hands off the wheel. (Not that I am recommending that.)

Which brings us to using a drogue as an emergency steering system. By rigging a bridle between two cleats port and starboard and shortening one or the other, you can induce your boat to turn. You probably won’t run a snaky channel bordered by flats with this rig, but if your steering goes south in open water, you can use a drogue to steer the boat to a spot closer to shore before a hired towboat, or good Samaritan, is required to bring you the last mile.

I’m striving at food for thought with this short exposition on drogues and sea anchors — tricks to stow in your bag for future reference if needed. Remember that few things in boating apply to everybody — some things work some of the time; nothing works all the time.

  • More: anchoring , How-To , Seamanship

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How to Deploy and Use a Sea Anchor or Drogue

How to Deploy and Use a Sea Anchor or Drogue

Sea Anchor, Storm Drogue, Sea Brake, Parachute Anchor, Drift Sock: these are several names used to describe devices deployed to create drag on a vessel in open water. No matter how many different monikers you find out there, they are referring to one of two types, 1) a parachute or cone shaped piece of fabric dragged from the bow (most accurately called a Sea Anchor), or 2) a fabric cone or series of cones dragged from the stern (most accurately called a Drogue). In this article we’ll look at the differences between the two, their uses, and how to deploy and retrieve them.

To Stop or to Slow

This illustration highlights the main differences between Sea Anchors and Drogues. More detail follows below.

drogue-vs-sea-anchor

The primary use of a Sea Anchor is to stop the drift of a vessel downwind and keep her bow windward, into the waves.

Sea anchor parachute

Sea Anchors are set off the bow. You would use a Sea Anchor in open seas where ground tackle is not possible or practical and you want to hold position in moderate to high winds and seas. They are often deployed to wait out a storm, or in emergencies when there is a loss of power and you need to keep the boat from turning beam to the waves or drifting into obstacles such as shoals. Sea Anchors are generally larger than Drogues, and parachute shaped.

A Drogue on the other hand, is used to slow down rather that stop a vessel in following seas.

drogue seabrake

Drogues are deployed off the stern. You would use a Drogue to stay stern to the waves and to keep your boat from surfing, therefore reducing the chances of broaching or pitchpoling. A Drogue can also be used as a steering assist in case of power and/or rudder problems. As well, fishers use Drogues to slow their drift for trolling without a motor. Drogues are generally smaller than Sea Anchors and cone shaped.

Tackle requirements

Tackle

Anchor rode should be similar in size and strength to what you use for regular anchoring. The general rule of thumb is to carry 10’ of rode for every foot LOA to use with your drift anchor. A length of chain (up to about 20% of the length of your rode) is also helpful to achieve the best angle on the drift anchor and avoid chafe. The cleats you use to tie off your drift anchor lines must also be very secure, ideally, they should have backing plates to handle the extra stress. Your rode should be made of nylon for its elasticity. You will need a trip line and floats for anchor recovery. The trip line does not need to be strong but is best if it floats, so use polypropalene, 1/4” to 3/8” braided. Drift anchors tend to turn in the water, so use a stainless steel swivel between anchor and rode. Finally, have chafe protection on hand to use where ropes touch your boat when the anchor is deployed.

First, ensure none of your rode is tangled and that it is ready to pay out from coil. Make sure everyone is standing clear so that legs won’t get caught in lines. All line segments should be secured with shackles or swivels and seizing wire should be used for added safety.

  • The trip line and floats go out first, remember to deploy sea anchors from the bow and drogues from the stern. Allow the trip line to drift out and clear.
  • Toss the drift anchor in next, making sure to toss it into clear water.
  • As the boat drifts away from the anchor, pay out about 50’ of rode and snub the line with half a turn on the cleat just to hold it momentarily. Wait a minute or so for the drift anchor to open.
  • Note: for drift fishing in favorable conditions, you don’t need a lot of scope. Start with 15’ of line to open the anchor, and then as needed let out 10’ at a time until you have a steady comfortable tension.
  • Secure your rode to your cleat or a prepared bridal if you have a multi-hulled vessel.
  • Add chafe guards where necessary

Getting your drift anchor back on board is simple if you use a trip line (highly recommended). Motor to your trip line float circling so as not to run afoul of your rode or anchor. Use a boat hook to grab the float as you would a mooring buoy and haul the trip line in. Since the line is attached to the apex of the cone or chute, pulling in this line empties the anchor of water, allowing you to haul it into the boat easily.

Final Thoughts

Published January 24, 2020

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  • Parachute Sea Anchor

Parachute Sea Anchors and Drogues

Most offshore sailors view parachute sea anchors and drogues much like storm jibs and trysails; items we should have aboard but hope we're lucky enough never to have to use them.

But luck's an unreliable commodity at best, with a tendency to run out altogether - and usually at the most inopportune time.

So if you're venturing far offshore, there's no doubt you should have aboard either a sea anchor or a drogue.

The basic difference difference is that the para-anchor is deployed from the bow and will stop the boat head to wind and sea, and the drogue is deployed from the stern, slowing the boat down considerably.

With one eye on your bank balance, you'll probably choose either one or the other, but which one?

Parachute Sea Anchors

A parachute sea anchor

Artwork by Andrew Simpson

Many offshore sailors now advocate the use of a parachute sea anchor for heaving-to, which will bring the boat directly into the wind and stop it dead in the water.

It must be of sufficient diameter to completely stop the boat, otherwise the sea will be flowing past the rudder the 'wrong' way, and serious damage is likely to occur.

Often known as para-anchors, they're derived from circular aerial parachutes, and are deployed from the bow on a long rode.

The rode is chain-to-nylon rope, but reversed so that the chain is at the bow end.

Rigged thus, chafe in the bow roller won't be an issue, and the para-anchor will remain submerged.

It's a totally passive device; once it's deployed the crew may well opt to go below and sit out the storm.

Running before a full gale on the edge of control may be acceptable for a fully-crewed racing yacht, but not so for the likes of us sailboat cruising types. The risks are enormous; falling off a crest into the trough may cause huge damage to the hull, and the prospect of being hurled end-over-end - pitchpoling - is almost unthinkable.

The sailboat must be slowed down to a manageable speed of 6 knots or less. Traditionally this was done by towing warps astern to create drag and keep the boat stern-on to the seas. There are a number of purpose-made drogues of various designs on the market, which when properly deployed have a more predictable and consistent speed-limiting affect than warps.

They fall into two basic categories - medium-pull and low-pull devices. 

Medium-Pull or Series Drogues

The series drogue for sailboats

Probably the best known of the medium-pull types is the series drogue, designed by the late Donald Jordan. As its name suggests, this is a string of a hundred or more cone-shaped drogues tied at intervals along a length of nylon rode.

One of these, providing it's correctly sized for the boat, will reduce boat speed to around one knot or so. Not enough to provide steerage way, so as with the parachute sea anchor, you may wish to go below and sit it out.

Low-Pull Drogues

The low-pull drogue for sailboats in heavy weather

These will slow down the boat to a much lesser extent - typically limiting boat speed to around 4 to 6 knots, which enables the helmsman to steer the boat, at least to a degree.

One of the benefits of the low-pull drogue is that it can be used effectively in situations other than extreme conditions. 

For example a speed-limiting drogue can turn a roller-coaster downwind ride into an easy, subdued sail without adding much to your passage time, as would a medium-pull device - just the thing in boisterous trades when sleeping is next to impossible.

A speed limiting drogue will usually be constructed of heavy canvas and/or webbing, and is deployed on either a bridle or - if increased steering ability is required - from the quarter on a single rode.

A great deal of research has gone into the design of drogues of this type, much of it developed from the design of devices used to slow down space re-entry capsules and bringing expensive jet fighters to a stop before they reach the end of the runway.

Consequently you shouldn't be tempted to make one yourself - the odds are it will let you down when it really matters.

Drogues & Sea Anchors: A Few FAQs...

When should I use a parachute sea anchor or a drogue?

The choice of using a parachute sea anchor or a drogue depends on several factors, such as the size and design of your boat, the strength and direction of the wind and waves, the availability of sea room, and your personal preference. Some general guidelines are:

  • Use a parachute sea anchor if you want to stop or minimize your drift, if you have enough water depth and distance from shore, if your boat has a strong bow structure and can handle the strain of being pulled head-on by the anchor, and if you are comfortable with being exposed to the full force of the wind and waves.
  • Use a drogue if you want to maintain some forward motion, if you have limited water depth or are close to shore, if your boat has a weak bow structure or a large rudder that can be damaged by being pushed sideways by the anchor, and if you prefer to run with the wind and waves and reduce their impact.

What is the difference between a parachute sea anchor and a drogue?

A parachute sea anchor is a large, circular device that is deployed from the bow of a sailboat to stop or slow down its drift in a storm. It keeps the boat facing into the wind and waves, reducing the risk of being rolled or capsized by breaking seas.

A drogue is a smaller, cone-shaped device that is deployed from the stern of a sailboat to reduce its speed and stabilize its course in a storm. It keeps the boat running with the wind and waves, preventing it from surfing or broaching.

How do I deploy a parachute sea anchor or a drogue?

The deployment of a parachute sea anchor or a drogue requires careful preparation and execution. You will need to have the appropriate size and type of device for your boat, as well as enough line, shackles, swivels, chafe protection, floats, trip lines, and bridles. You will also need to check the weather forecast, select a suitable location, and monitor your boat speed and heading. Some general steps are:

  • For a parachute sea anchor, you will need to attach it to a bridle that runs from both sides of your bow, preferably through strong cleats or chainplates. You will also need to attach a float and a trip line to the apex of the parachute, which will allow you to retrieve it later. You will then need to lower the parachute into the water from the bow, paying out enough line (at least 5 times the water depth) until it fills with water and pulls your boat into the wind. You will then need to secure the line with a cleat or a winch, adjust the bridle for balance, and lash down your helm amidships.
  • For a drogue, you will need to attach it to a single line that runs from your stern, preferably through a strong cleat or bollard. You will also need to attach a float and a trip line to the mouth of the drogue, which will allow you to retrieve it later. You will then need to lower the drogue into the water from the stern, paying out enough line (at least 1.5 times your boat length) until it fills with water and slows down your boat. You will then need to secure the line with a cleat or a winch, adjust your helm for steering, and trim your sails for balance.

How do I retrieve a parachute sea anchor or a drogue?

The retrieval of a parachute sea anchor or a drogue can be challenging and dangerous, especially in rough conditions. You will need to have enough crew, strength, and patience to haul in the device and its line, as well as avoid any entanglement or injury. Some general steps are:

  • For a parachute sea anchor, you will need to release some line until you can reach the float and trip line attached to the apex of the parachute. You will then need to pull on the trip line until you invert the parachute and empty it of water. You will then need to haul in the inverted parachute and its line until you can bring it on board.
  • For a drogue, you will need to release some line until you can reach the float and trip line attached to the mouth of the drogue. You will then need to pull on the trip line until you collapse the drogue and empty it of water. You will then need to haul in the collapsed drogue and its line until you can bring it on board.

What are some advantages and disadvantages of using a parachute sea anchor or a drogue?

Some advantages of using a parachute sea anchor are:

  • It can stop or reduce your drift in an open sea or current.
  • It can keep your boat facing into the wind and waves, which may be more comfortable and stable for some boats and crew.
  • It can prevent your boat from being pushed onto a lee shore or into a dangerous area.
  • It can allow you to rest and wait for the storm to pass or improve.

Some disadvantages of using a parachute sea anchor are:

  • It can be difficult and expensive to obtain, store, and maintain.
  • It can be complicated and risky to deploy and retrieve, especially in heavy weather.
  • It can put a lot of strain and stress on your boat and its fittings, which may cause damage or failure.
  • It can expose your boat to the full force of the wind and waves, which may be overwhelming and dangerous for some boats and crew.

Some advantages of using a drogue are:

  • It can be easy and cheap to obtain, store, and maintain.
  • It can be simple and safe to deploy and retrieve, even in heavy weather.
  • It can reduce the strain and stress on your boat and its fittings, which may prevent damage or failure.
  • It can reduce the impact of the wind and waves on your boat, which may be more manageable and safer for some boats and crew.

Some disadvantages of using a drogue are:

  • It can increase your drift in an open sea or current.
  • It can keep your boat running with the wind and waves, which may be less comfortable and stable for some boats and crew.
  • It can allow your boat to be pushed onto a lee shore or into a dangerous area.
  • It can limit your ability to manoeuvre and change course.

The above answers were drafted by sailboat-cruising.com using GPT-4 (OpenAI’s large-scale language-generation model) as a research assistant to develop source material; to the best of our knowledge,  we believe them to be accurate.

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What Size Sea Anchor Do I Need?

The size of your sea anchor depends on your boat’s size and weight. For parachute anchors, diameters range from 6-20 feet. For series drogues, size is determined by the number of drogues. More drogues or larger diameters create more drag, helping maintain boat position in various sea conditions.

There is one fundamental difference between sea anchors and drogues which is the placement of them from the bow or stern.

I’m going to cover sizing for both so you don’t end up with more questions than answers.

In all boating activities, safety is paramount. A sea anchor or drogue is one of the least spoken about and yet important life-saving appliances . 

Key Takeaways

Factors to consider when sizing a sea anchor.

Before determining what size sea anchor is needed for your boat, it’s beneficial to refresh your knowledge with this introduction to sea anchor use .

Sea anchors, commonly parachute anchors, are used to keep boats facing wind and waves. They open like parachutes in water, maintaining rode tension.

Made of lightweight materials like nylon or Dacron, their size, determined by diameter (6-20 feet), depends on the boat’s size and weight. They’re used in open seas to hold the boat’s position in moderate to high conditions.

That being said, the factors that must be considered when selecting a sea anchor are:

Boat Size And Weight

The boat’s size and weight are critical factors when choosing a sea anchor. 

The larger the boat, the larger the sea anchor required to provide adequate drag to slow it down. 

The boat’s weight also affects the size of the sea anchor needed. A heavier boat requires a larger sea anchor to create enough drag to slow it down.

The Weather Conditions

The size and shape of a sea anchor will also depend on the specific conditions in which it will be used. A larger sea anchor may be needed to provide adequate drag in particularly rough waters.

A sea anchor that is too small for the conditions will not provide enough drag to slow the boat down or help it maintain direction, while one that is too large may be difficult to handle, deploy, and retrieve. 

It’s important to consider the maximum wind and wave conditions the boat will likely encounter and choose a sea anchor to handle them.

Rode (Line) Length

The length of the line connecting the sea anchor to the boat is essential. 

The rode must be nylon and 10 to 15 times the boat’s overall length in heavy weather. A stainless steel swivel is highly recommended. Multi-hulls must also rig the rode to a bridle, with each leg being 2-2½ times the boat’s beam and rigged to the outer hulls.

Too short a line can cause the boat to pitch and roll, while too long a ride can reduce the effectiveness of the sea anchor. 

There are two opinions (rules) regarding how long the rode should be:

How To Determine the Correct Size

The sea anchor needs to be correctly sized to perform how it is intended.

The seams are reinforced with nylon webbing. Nylon lines with a minimum strength of 1,500 pounds are joined at the rode end to a shackle with strength from 17,000 to 52,000 pounds.

A correctly sized PARA-TECH Sea Anchor will likely never experience the loads it is capable of taking.

The sea anchor’s drag is a crucial factor when selecting its size. The drag is the force the sea anchor creates when it is deployed into the water. The size of the sea anchor determines its drag capabilities. 

A larger sea anchor creates more drag, while a smaller one creates less drag. It’s essential to choose a sea anchor that can generate enough drag to slow the boat down in the expected wind and wave conditions and yet is small enough to be easily deployed and retrieved.

A good rule to follow is that the worst-case scenario should be followed. Select a sea anchor slightly larger than you think you’ll need to ensure it can handle even the roughest conditions.

Manufacturers Recommendations

Most manufacturers recommend that the anchor size relative to the boat size follow the general values in the list below.

Thanks to the Drag Device Database, PARA-TECH Sea Anchors now come with a Deployable Stow Bag for easier deployment, avoiding inflation on deck. The bag is simply tossed overboard.

Unlike a drogue, these Sea Anchors ensure your bow faces the wind, resulting in a slow leeward drift as seas pass beneath.

The Sea Anchors, made of high-strength nylon, are four times stronger and heavier than surplus parachutes, previously used as Sea Anchors. The lines in the storage bag are tubular nylon.

Drogue And Sea Anchor Sizing Formula

A general rule of thumb is to use one drogue for every 10 feet of boat length. For example, a 40-foot boat would require a series of drogues with four drogues.

A helpful rule for sea anchors is that the sea anchor diameter should be roughly 1/3rd the boat’s length. For example, a 48-foot boat would require a sea anchor with a diameter of around 16 feet.

🛡️ Safety Considerations

A safety protocol must be observed when the sea anchor is deployed.

Inspection and Maintenance

A sea anchor or drogues should be regularly checked to ensure they are fully intact.

They must be removed from the storage bags, spread out, and inspected carefully. If there is damage, contact the nearest agent to see if they can be repaired.

Keep the rode carefully wound, ensuring no knots will make it hard to release in rough weather. 

Emergency Scenarios

After figuring out your sea anchor sizing, the next step is to learn when to use a sea anchor .

You must practice deploying the sea anchors and drogues. This will give you an understanding of what is required before you deploy it in “anger.”

Emergencies: In the event of engine power loss, using a Sea Anchor will point the bow into the seas, keeping the boat from rolling in the trough, thus making repairs easier. The boat is also held in its last reported position, making it easier for assistance to find the disabled boat. 

Practicing deployment and keeping the tension on the rode beforehand may be the difference between abandoning the vessel and staying on board with control maintained.

When deployed, always keep the tension in the sea anchor rode.

Once the storm has died and you’re ready to move on, it’s time to pull in the anchor rode slack.

The retrieval float that should be at the end of your trip line will provide a location for you to motor toward.

Using a boat hook, grab the retrieval float on the windward bow. Carefully pull the rode in, and the now collapsed anchor should follow.

Written by:

I’m the founder and chief editor here at Sailing Savvy. I spent a decade working as a professional mariner and currently, I mix those experiences with digital publishing. Welcome, and I hope that we can be the hub you need for safe passage.

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Rigging Drogue Bridal Techniques

  • Thread starter Prime Time
  • Start date Nov 5, 2010
  • Forums for All Owners
  • Ask All Sailors

Prime Time

How would you rig a bridal for a drogue on your stern that you wanted to use as an emergency steering aid? Has anyone done this?  

chuckwayne

I have 2-30 ft dock lines set up with the 2 eyes shackled together to the drogue rode. The dock lines run to my spin winches, starboard and port/ I plan to make up similar lines with eyes and thimbles to eliminate chafe at the shackle this winter. Winching the lines to one side or the other works to steer. I carry a Para-tech delta drogue to stream.  

Fair Lead How do you keep the line from chafing? Do you have blocks on the stern that the bridal runs through before coming to the winches?  

Joe

Prime Time said: How do you keep the line from chafing? Do you have blocks on the stern that the bridal runs through before coming to the winches? Click to expand

Alex Dare

a drogue on the marriage I think the term you're looking for is bridle not bridal....then again:dance:  

rgranger

I just finished reading a book called "The Boats They Sailed In". It chronicled 9 classic (famous) ocean voyages in small boat starting with Joshua Slochum and ending in 1983. Instead of a focus on their adventures, the book focused on their boats. It detailed gear, rigging, performance etc. One of the disturbing themes that repeats in each voyage was the loss of their sea anchor to chafe during a big blow. As I've been thinking about a trip this summer off of the DelMarVa coast I'm considering placing U-bolts in my stern with an oak beam as the backing plate so I can secure a drogue or sea anchor with a very heavy snap hook. I think that if things really got bad enough that I needed a drogue or sea anchor I don't want to worry about it pulling out my genoa track... or the chafe that a block would provide. Admittedly I'm speaking from zero experience using such a device in a gale. I have used a drogue before but only when I'm swimming and don't want the boat to drift to fast. 2 cents  

Are you taking your V222 offshore?... Why don't you use the winches to carry the load guided through some blocks on the stern quarter. If you think you'll encounter weather strong enough to yank a drogue out of the cleats... what's too keep the same storm from yanking out the transom. A drogue doesn't stop the boat, it is deployed aft to slow the vessel down. A sea anchor is deployed from the bow and its main purpose is to keep the boat relatively static, facing the wind and waves at an optimum angle of comfort and safety... similar to heaving to. Chafe control is part of every offshore sailor's ongoing chore. The key is vigilance, and plenty of anti chafe material.  

Re: Fair Lead my winches are aft for the chute, I've got poly chafe guards to rig on the bridle when I set it up. You've got a good idea- I may investigate adding snatch blocks to my stern cleats to guide the drogue lines.  

All U Get

Prime Time said: How would you rig a bridal for a drogue on your stern that you wanted to use as an emergency steering aid? Has anyone done this? Click to expand
rgranger said: I just finished reading a book called "The Boats They Sailed In". It chronicled 9 classic (famous) ocean voyages in small boat starting with Joshua Slochum and ending in 1983. Instead of a focus on their adventures, the book focused on their boats. It detailed gear, rigging, performance etc. One of the disturbing themes that repeats in each voyage was the loss of their sea anchor to chafe during a big blow. As I've been thinking about a trip this summer off of the DelMarVa coast I'm considering placing U-bolts in my stern with an oak beam as the backing plate so I can secure a drogue or sea anchor with a very heavy snap hook. I think that if things really got bad enough that I needed a drogue or sea anchor I don't want to worry about it pulling out my genoa track... or the chafe that a block would provide. Admittedly I'm speaking from zero experience using such a device in a gale. I have used a drogue before but only when I'm swimming and don't want the boat to drift to fast. 2 cents Click to expand
Joe said: Are you taking your V222 offshore?... Why don't you use the winches to carry the load guided through some blocks on the stern quarter. If you think you'll encounter weather strong enough to yank a drogue out of the cleats... what's too keep the same storm from yanking out the transom. A drogue doesn't stop the boat, it is deployed aft to slow the vessel down. A sea anchor is deployed from the bow and its main purpose is to keep the boat relatively static, facing the wind and waves at an optimum angle of comfort and safety... similar to heaving to. Chafe control is part of every offshore sailor's ongoing chore. The key is vigilance, and plenty of anti chafe material. Click to expand

If you're going to stay that close to shore, you'll have no need for a drogue or sea anchor... you won't have enough sea room to use either safely.  

FroggyAZ

... and what about the "Series drogue lines" that is mentioned in Wikipedia. From the shore (I have no experience of rough weather), it seems to make sense. Any experience from anyone?  

capta

drogues or sea anchors After over 50 years of professional sailing, including a circumnavigation & numerous Atlantic crossings, I have yet to encounter any situation where I thought it prudent to deploy either a sea anchor or drogue. I carried a drogue (a tire w/ chain wrapped around it w/ a bridle) on my circumnavigation, and have been in some pretty severe weather (hurricanes & gales). Sea anchors are now considered an extreme hazard to one's rudder, though in the 60's & 70's they were the heavy weather item. Personally, I have (so far) been most comfortable shortening sail, to bare poles if necessary, but allowing the vessel to move freely w/ the seas, rather than slowing her so much that the seas were overtaking me and boarding the vessel. Manual steering was necessary, for up to 22 hours in one case, but that's one's job when your vessel is in extreme weather. I would highly recommend very cautious thought about deploying any drogue or sea anchor in the gulf stream. And a word to the wise; do not run to avoid a hurricane (w/ or w/o a drogue) as running will take you into the storm, not out. Best chafe gear I've ever found is carpet remnants.  

Bill Roosa

heavy weather tactics The choices boil down to this: Heave to, which cause the boat to slowly drift down wind (~1 knot) and creates a "slick" upwind that tends to disrupt breaking seas. Many fin keel boat are difficult to heave to though and you would need to determine how to accomplish this BEFORE you tried it for real. Sea anchor deployed off the bow, which causes the boat to head into the wind and waves and is analogous to regular anchoring. The boat does drift backward and can sustain rudder damage though. Trailing "rodes", basically anything you can grab and attach to a stout line and throw over the stern to slow the boat down as you run with the wind. Oil dropped in the water can assist in keeping the breaking waves from swamping the boat. Series Drogue, which is a series of small drag producing (number varies with boat size) devices attached to a stout line at the stern that slows the boat as it runs with the wind. Generally conceived to be superior to trailing rodes as it develops a more consistent drag. The first two clearly cannot be used to steer a boat. I'd not use the latter two to steer a boat either unless that was my only option. There are better make shift techniques like fashioning a rudder from hatch covers and oars etc. that provide steerage and don't have chafe or docking issues. Imaging trying to dock using a drogue!!! None of these is useful near land. You need sufficient sea room (12 hours times drift rate would put you at least 12 NM downwind with the first two and substantially more with the latter) to execute these for any length of time at all. I'd recommend designing a make shift rudder out of boat parts you are likely to have available AFTER whatever it is that you are concerned will take our your rudder does so. For the record rudders don't fail often unless you hit something with them. Clearly if you ground the boat and break the rudder you are not going to be sailing much farther. Just kedge off and anchor. I suppose you could be unlucky enough for a whale to bite off your rudder but that is pretty unlikely. With all that said you should certainly carry a spare set of rudder cables and blocks etc to repair a broken one at sea.  

hooyasailor

Good Use of Drogue or Sea Anchor Hello! Prime Time, You have gotten a lot of good advise form other sailors. Weight it all for your experience and the sea conditions at hand. No conditions can be resolved with the same set up or same device every time. Some times conditions call for a change of devises or technique being used. My suggestions are; purchase the book, "DDDB" (Drag Device Data Base) by Victor Shane. His book is loaded with case histories of the right and wrong uses of sea anchors and drogue devises and advise for proper rigging of those devises (Besides being a good read). I have found the Sea Anchor to be one of the most valuable items on any boat! Experience, is always the best teacher, if you don't kill yourself gaining it. With all that said,,, let's go sailing! Tom W (AKA: hooyasailor)  

Clarification I appreciate all the input and recommended reading. The reason for my original post is that I am preparing my boat for the Marion to Bermuda Race in June of 2011. An ISAF requirement is the ability to steer the boat with the loss of the rudder. Apparently, the loss of a rudder is unusual but not a rare event. The are many posts and stories regarding failure of rudder posts due to mechanical fatigue and collisions with things. I have a delta drogue that is slightly undersized for my boat that I would drag from a bridle. It would be adjusted to keep the boat heading in the desired direction with a balanced sail plan. Cruising World this month has an article on a vessel that lost its rudder and has a diagram of a drogue arrangement. I've considered snatch blocks on the toe rail, but the loads involved are very high. I've considered building an emergency rudder and a cassette that I could mount on my transom. However, imagine trying to mount something like that in 20 ft seas and 50 knot winds. You would have to have some pretty big hardware on the transom in advance. I have a gale rider that I would tow in a survival storm. I chose it over a jordan series drogue based on cost and the low likely hood of being in a survival storm from MA to Bermuda and back. It is designed to handle 12,000 lbs of load. Not many snatch blocks can handle that loading. I could use my spinnaker leads on a track on my toe rail, and bring it to my winches, but again, it is a huge load issue considering the angle of the line would be from 90 to approaching 180 degrees depending on where seems to give the most fair lead.  

Seattle Scott

Seattle Scott

Prime Time, I think you don't want a drogue if the purpose is steering, you want to trail something with just enough drag to be able "pull" the boat from side to side to steer, like maybe 50 ft of chain with some konts tied in it.  

Rick D

I'm Sure You Have Considered it, but... ...a friend tried that after losing his rudder and it was a big problem. He wound up making a rudder out of flooring and a spinnaker pole, and he had a full complement of tools, power and other. There may be a reason you are not considering the SOS, but just in case: http://www.selfsteer.com/products/sos/index.php  

captmikem

I have carried a gale rider around the world twice, on two different boats, never had it in the water. Been hove too more times than I can remember which is a God Send to park and rest or wait for the wind to moderate. Downwind, speed is stability, I do NOT want to slow down. As for ability to steer without a rudder, most of the time you can balance the rig, you do not want to slow down, you want to keep a heading. Pacific Plus makes a great windvane that has its own rudder. I had one on an HR 42 and really like it. If you are just going to Bermuda, carry a canvas bucket you can tow to help steer and forget about it. Mike  

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How Much Drag is in a Drogue?

Ps compares popular boat-slowing devices..

sailboat drogue chute

Weve long been interested in drogues, devices specifically designed to be towed behind a boat to reduce speed and to produce directional stability in heavy weather. Our last major drogue test was in 2009, when noted marine writers and circumnavigators Evans Starzinger and Beth Leonard shared their storm tactics (see Heavy Weather Sailing Tactics” . Another relevant article, Sea Anchors and Drogues , compared a variety of drag devices. If you are interested in purchasing a drogue, we recommend reading the archive articles along with this report.

This study was intentionally limited to drogues for small to medium size boats (those between 30 and 45 feet). These are the boats that are more likely to benefit from using a drogue. Smaller boats rarely encounter conditions requiring a drogue, and on bigger boats, the high loads associated with using a drogue become problematic.

Weve also limited our discussion to gale conditions (sustained 47 knots with higher gusts). With modern forecasting, very few sailors will ever experience a storm of this intensity underway, and the cautious coastal sailor never should. There are sailing-resource books that address using drogues in more severe conditions, but since our key data was recorded in sustained winds of 35 knots with gusts to 47 knots, the topic was beyond the scope of this report.

The Galerider

Photos by Drew Frye

What We Tested

Our tests focused on drogues, which should not be confused with sea anchors. Drogues are generally deployed from the stern in heavy weather to slow a boat down and to add directional stability to prevent a broach. Sea anchors are typically deployed from the bow and are designed to hold a boat nearly stationary; parachute-type sea anchors from Fiorentino and Para-Tech fall into this category. For more on sea anchors and their use, see Sea Anchor Match-up , in the Feb. 1, 2005 issue online.

Drogues are divided into two classes, with no absolute dividing line. Medium-drag devices are intended to slow the boat significantly and to apply more than 2,000 pounds of restraining force in the event of a very steep or breaking wave. Depending on size, they generally limit vessel steering, allowing only a downwind or slight reaching course. Ace Sailmakers Jordan Series Drogue and the Ocean Safety Para Drogue (depending on vessel it is used with) fall into this category, although other drogues would qualify if they are oversized for the vessel.

Our focus for this test was on low-drag devices intended for steering a boat in difficult downwind sailing conditions, reducing yawing, preventing surfing, reducing broach potential, and generally making the life of the autopilot or helmsman easier. These devices can also be used to provide some steering control for a boat that has a damaged rudder.

Low-drag drogues can be further classified into several design groups, each with features intended to improve stability at greater speeds as compared to standard parachute drogues. The Jimmy Green Yacht Drogue is an elongated cone, providing some glide surface for the water. The Para Drogue is a slotted parachute, with openings intended to stabilize flow along the canopy. The net-like Galerider, made by Hathaway, Reiser & Raymond, is made using heavy-duty webbing. And finally, there are the ballutes-the Burke Marine Seabrake, Fiorentino Shark, and Para-Tech Delta Drogue. A hybrid between balloon and parachute (thus the portmanteau ballutes), they operate like devices used to slow high-speed air and land craft.

We fabricated one-third-scale versions of the major drogue types. This allowed us to roughly confirm scale-up factors and observe drogue behavior at higher loads. Data from small-scale tests was not used in calculating loads that appear in the accompanying table. Except where noted, the table data is based on testing on the following products:

The full-size Seabrake GP24L, Delta Drogue 72, Galerider 30, and Yacht Drogue 25 were tested multiple times in a wide range of sea conditions:

The Ocean Safety Para Drogue was tested in flat water only.

The Jordan Series Drogue (109 cones) was tested once in flat water to confirm drag data.

Not tested: Fiorentino Small Shark and other sizes of all drogues.

We also tested a few do-it-yourself options: a towed warp (half-inch line plus chain) and a towed milk crate.

How We Tested

Although every manufacturer makes recommendations regarding the drogue size for a given vessel, its not always clear under what conditions their guidance is appropriate, and each boat and captain will have different storm management tactics.

Some sailors believe a boat should sail fairly unrestrained, while others believe in more aggressive efforts to reduce speed.

Our test focused on relevant performance and design details that we could objectively compare, including the counteracting forces generated by each drogue, how each drogue behaved in the water, and how easy they were to deploy and recover. We quantified the drag force versus speed for various drogue types and sizes.

To evaluate factors that we could not physically test, such as the effects of wave dynamics (acceleration, angular change, and oscillation), we turned to other studies and databases, creating an extremely comprehensive data set for analysis. Finally, testers examined each drogue for construction quality and strength. For more details on test procedures, see How We Tested on top right.

Observations

Drogue makers recommend slowing the boat to a few knots and slowly feeding out rode, but that might not always be possible. In order to test the construction of the full-size drogues, we set each at 7.5 to 9 knots of boat speed, and none resulted in undue force on cleats. Keep in mind, this is not the recommended procedure. The point is that all of the test drogues were constructed to withstand many times the strain they should actually develop in the water.

Medium Scope

Testers found very few surprises when testing at medium scope (100 feet). This is much shorter than the 350 feet generally recommended for actual use, but for testing, we sought to determine how the drogues would behave in steep, breaking waves. In a storm with dangerous breaking waves, the angle of the rode to the water is greatly reduced by the steepness of a breaking wave face, and the most common failure of a drogue is for it to pull out of steep wave faces.

All of the drogues produced drag forces roughly proportional to the square of the boat speed. When the speed doubles, as long as the drogue stays in the water, drag force quadruples. Steady-speed testing using a sailboat, of course, does not tell us about higher speeds, so we towed one-third-scale models with a tender at up to 10 knots; the behavior of the drogues and the drag versus speed relationship did not differ significantly. The ratio of drag to projected area was also consistent for each basic design. All of the drogues stayed near the surface at higher speeds, but none broke the surface significantly.

In most cases, the amount of drag fluctuated greatly. Readings varied by 35 to 60 percent over a three- to five-second timespan when towed at 5 knots. The dramatic exception was the Galerider, which fluctuated only 10 to 20 percent. The difference is likely explained by a basic design difference; while most designs inflate into solid shapes, the Galerider strains the water through a webbing net. The warp also gave very smooth drag, presumably due to its small cross-section.

All of the drogues rotated to some extent, but this varied with sea state and speed. None spun enough to impair function, even when testers removed the swivels. For systems that include a swivel, its important to use a good-quality swivel and to keep it in good repair.

Testers only noted significant lateral movement with the Jimmy Green drogue. This yawing would likely increase chafe on the rode, where it is led through a chock. Presumably, it could also affect steering, as it was occasionally pronounced, as much as 8 degrees to the side. All other devices in the test tracked straight.

Short Scope

We expected larger differences between models at short scope (50 feet), but there was not a wide variation. The solid drogues (Delta Drogue, Seabrake, and Shark) create a bulge of water as they approach the surface under high load. In order for the drogue to emerge, the force must be sustained for several seconds to disperse this lump of water, and then the drogue will suddenly surface.

The Galerider, on the other hand, functions by straining the water and is less affected by its proximity to the waters surface, smoothly emerging and re-engaging. The Jimmy Green drogue was more prone to skipping when it broke the surface, likely an indicator of how any cone design would behave if it were yanked from a wave face; all others smoothly re-engaged.

Drogue drag is not directly related to model size, so be sure to look at drag data and not just size when selecting a drogue. Additionally, makers are not all on the same page when it comes to storm tactics. Some recommend relatively low drag so that the boat will still be pushed forward (and possibly retain steerage) as it absorbs some of the wave energy, while others believe in higher drag to deliver positive speed reduction. If you prefer a low-drag design (Galerider, for example) but would like more drag, you can consider going up a size.

Some of the devices we tested included an attached weight, such as a mushroom anchor, to prevent the drogues surfacing. Conventional wisdom suggests that 10 to 30 feet of chain (length and weight will depend on drogue type and size) should be placed in front of the drogue to keep it submerged and to sink it nose-first in the lulls, preventing slack from forming in the rode between waves.

Fiorentino, however, recommends adding the weight to the tail of its Shark via a dedicated pendant. Testers noted that attaching the chain to the tail made deployment easier.

While the weight of the chain or mushroom anchor will help keep the drogue in the water, hydrodynamic forces around the drogue and in the waves are far more influential.

Interestingly, Galerider does not address using chain, except on very short rodes when used for emergency steering; however, many users do add a chain leader, which they say improves performance.

When budgeting for a new drogue, remember that the drogue itself is only about half of the total cost. The rode, swivels, chain, and shackles can add $500 to $700. For rode, we prefer double-braid or plait material; three-strand tends to unlay and hockle under high load. Follow the vendors advice on which rode material is best. Most vendors recommend rodes made of nylon, which is relatively elastic (helpful for absorbing shock), but Burke Marine recommends less-stretchy polyester for its Seabrake.

Of those tested, Fiorentinos Shark was the easiest drogue to deploy, particularly in strong winds. It packed small, used a tail weight (typically a small mushroom anchor) in place of chain, and was the easiest to get into the water. Testers liked the compact and tangle-free construction, which appears to be designed to withstand anything.

We did not field test a production version of the Shark, but our research, along with the data and video footage we reviewed and our extensive testing of a the scaled model suggest it behaves like drogues of similar design.

Bottom line: Durability, stability, and appropriate drag levels earn the Shark a Recommended rating.

The Galerider 30

The popular Galerider design shined in our tests, even as we pushed our speeds and loads higher. Based upon one-third-model testing, there seems to be no practical upper speed limit to its stable performance, and testers noted that it had considerably less tendency to surface at long rode lengths, even with no chain attached. It comes with its own shackle.

This was the only drogue design tested that did not surface at 4 to 5 knots on 100 feet of rode. The drag numbers, whether near the surface or submerged, fluctuated far less than those of the other drogues. The designs many small openings seem to cancel out any oscillation.

The only downside is the relatively low drag for its size, which means many boats will need a very large drogue. The metal mouth of the webbed basket will coil enough to allow for storage, but folding it requires a very firm hand to return it to the bag. Grip the drogue well when unpacking; it springs into shape with considerable force.

Owners of older Galeriders should check the wire ring. There have been a few reports of wire ring failure. Fortunately, this isn’t crippling and is easily repaired, but it does cause increased yawing. Considering the long service history of the unit (more than 1,000 units over 20 years), durability has generally been very good. Recovery was easy, though its large mouth does like to snag rudders and transoms (a boat hook helps).

Bottom line: The Galerider is the Best Choice drogue for steering and storm use.

Jimmy Green Yacht Drogue

A generic-looking cone, the Jimmy Green Marine Yacht Drogue 25 suffers from weaknesses common to this design group; it tends to yaw aggressively at speeds over 3 knots. When pulled from a wave, the occurrence is more sudden and complete than with other designs. We also have some concerns about its durability in a prolonged storm. On the other hand, it is much less expensive than other drogues and seems sturdy enough for some rough use. It also drains rapidly for easy retrieval.

Bottom line: This drogue may be useful for emergency steering in moderate conditions with smaller boats, but is not recommended for sustained storms.

Seabrake GP24L

The Seabrake GP24L, made by Burke Marine, has been in service for years on one of our test boats, a PDQ 32 catamaran. While weve found it useful for preventing a broach in steep breaking waves at inlets, weve not tested it in more severe conditions.

When the bridle is shortened to reduce drag, it becomes a little less stable, though it never tangled or inverted in use. Retrieval ease met expectations for a larger drogue. Water drains quickly for recovery, and the design is snag-free coming on board.

Bottom line: We Recommend the Seabrake for emergency steering on larger boats and for storm use on smaller boats.

Delta Drogue 72

The Delta Drogue was designed by a longtime player in this field, Para-Tech Engineering. Made of fabric and shaped like an equilateral triangle, the 72-inch Delta is dimensionally similar to other units in the test, such as the Seabrake GP24L. At very short scope, the Delta 72 occasionally had the bad habit of skipping out of the water when overloaded, but it always re-engaged before any effect was noticed. It behaved very well at normal scope. Since the drogue holds water, users must dump it during recovery before lifting it onboard. The elegantly simple design, which stows in a tiny bag, is functional, well-proven, and strong.

Bottom line: The Delta 72 earned the Budget Buy pick for a real offshore drogue.

Para Drogue Single

Made in the U.K., Ocean Safetys Para Drogue offered more drag than other speed-limiting drogues; however, we were only able to test this for a few hours in calm conditions.

The Para Drogue seemed quite stable under a steady pull and was not prone to surfacing or yawing. Our impression was that it was more suited to speed limiting use in a strong storm or to assist with emergency steering on a larger yacht. Like all parachute drogues without tripping lines, recovery was cumbersome but not unreasonable.

Bottom line: There is limited information on this device, and we did not spend enough time with it to offer a fair assessment. We would be interested in hearing first-hand reports from anyone who has used it (email [email protected] ) and will look for more opportunities to further evaluate it.

Jordan Series Drogue

Although we did not test a production-ready Jordan Series Drogue (JSD), our report in 2000 discussed the JSDs pros and cons, and there is plenty of data regarding its ability to create significant drag.

The result of a U.S. Coast Guard research project led by former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Donald Jordan in 1987, the series drogue typically comprises 90 to 200 cones with 5-inch diameters evenly spaced along hundreds of feet of rode, with a weight at the rode end to hold the tail down. The brilliance of the design is that the failure of a single element, whether by mechanical failure or by being pulled out of the water, makes no difference. The pull is steady, whatever the conditions. The downsides are that the construction is bulky, the drogue is notoriously laborious to recover, and during a moderate gale, it will generate enough resistance to hold the boat nearly motionless, as with a sea anchor. For the JSD to perform as a drogue generally requires more wind and wave energy, as one would encounter in a severe storm.

This design was developed for simplicity of construction, and many do-it-yourself series drogues have been built, although several sailmakers (including Ace Sailmakers) supply completed drogues. When compared to other drogues, the JSDs price seems high (see Value Guide), but the rode is included in the fabrication.

Bottom line: When sized appropriately, the JSD drogue is well-engineered for storm survival. Recommended.

To create a warp, testers used 200 feet of half-inch line plus 30 feet of 3/8-inch chain. The length we tested provided about 10 percent the drag resistance of appropriately sized drogues. If three to five times the length of chain and rope were deployed, the force would become noticeable, but it would still be less than the force generated by a conventional drogue. In tests, warps offered extremely easy deployment and recovery, and the drag was very steady.

Bottom line: Warps can be useful for minor speed reduction in strong conditions, but not as a speed-limiting drogue, unless you deploy multiple warps.

Weve seen reports of sailors using plastic milk crates as drogues and decided to try it out. The resulting drag was similar to the towed warp, but it was less stable.

Bottom line: Probably not helpful.

Testers were consistently satisfied with the drogues quality of construction, confirming the very low rates of construction failure for speed-limiting drogues. We would be happy sailing with any of them. We were pleased with how the data in our small-scale tests correlated with the full-scale testing. Drag consistently related to speed and size, roughly confirming the formula we used to estimate drag. Our small-scale testing was particularly useful in supplying higher speed data.

The biggest surprises were the variability of the data and the surfacing behavior of drogues at short scope. The minor yawing of each drogue and wave action seemed to cause momentary fluctuations in the recorded loads. All of the drogues except the Galerider exhibited significant variation in the recorded loads during intervals as short as 5 seconds. This pulse-like tugging occurred even when we used 100 feet of rode. The Galerider, on the other hand, showed much less fluctuation.

When towed at short scope, the same basic pattern continued, with drogues surfacing at about 4 to 5 knots and the loads becoming more variable. Again, the exception was the Galerider, which required more speed and less scope to cause excessive surfacing.

While the Galerider is less efficient on a size basis (you need a big one), its stability and ease of recovery made it testers favorite. For economical stopping power, we like the Delta Drogue and the Seabrake.

We will be following up this report with an article on using drogues for emergency steering. We will also take a closer look at recommendations for rigging and sizing drogues. We are particularly interested in input from sailors who have used drogues in gale conditions. You can send your reports to [email protected] .

  • Field Testing Drag, Behavior

How Much Drag is in a Drogue?

Testers were always tethered to the boat, even in light weather. In heavy weather, two hands are required to manhandle drogues and the deck is moving; the tether saved us from going over many times. A bucket lashed to the stern rail was handy for handling chain rode without scratching gelcoat.

  • The Delta was a handful to recover, unless the water was dumped first.
  • A Galerider 30 (left), Seabrake GP24L (center), and Delta Drogue 72 (right) await their turn for testing.
  • For data collection, we used one-third scale drogue models: (from left to right) generic cone, Shark, Delta, Galerider, and Seabrake. All performed exactly as calculations predicted they would, based on full-scale drogues’ actual performance. The smaller size allowed testers to really flog them to the edge of the design envelope. All performed quite well in very tough conditions.

How Much Drag is in a Drogue?

The above table lists drogues recommended by their manufacturers for boats that generally fit in the 30- to 45-foot range. This is an estimated size, and the broad range of boats in this category—stretching between a Catalina 30 to a William Garden Vagabond 47—illustrates the importance of consulting manufacturers and researching other reports when matching a drogue size to a boat. PS tested five of the above drogues. The source of other data is noted in the table.

How Much Drag is in a Drogue?

Each drogue maker suggests a size based on the length or weight of the boat. Drogue loads at 7 knots (see PS Value Guide above) are about 70 percent of the working anchor benchmarks, illustrating the importance of strong attachment points on deck.

  • Delta Drogue
  • Series Drogue
  • Shark Drogue
  • Circumnavigators Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger test the Galerider sea drogue in Southern Ocean storms.

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Dear sir I want to use sea drogues for pulling ships at a water stream . Whai i want to know is : at what speed will a 40 inch diameter sea drogue pull a 50 ton ship if the speed of water stream is 1 knot . This will help me to know how many sea drogues i have to use to make a 50 ton ship sail at the speed of 4 knots ( when the drogues pull the ship after them .

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Yacht Drogue Size 6 Red - PBO Best Buy

Yacht Drogues

Reference: JGM09001

sailboat drogue chute

Manufactured by Jimmy Green Marine

Best Quality PVC

High Tenacity Polyester Webbing

Marine Grade Stainless Steel Ring

Heavy Duty Stitching

Longstanding design and production

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PBO Best Budget Buy. PBO wrote: "Jimmy Green, based in Beer in East Devon, make a number of sizes of drogue - this one was a Size 10, suitable for Mohraina's 29ft. It comprises a PVC cone. At low revs, it reduced our speed from 3.5 knots to 2 knots. exerting 28kg on the line. Flat out, it reduced the boat speed from 7 to 4.5 knots, exerting 100kg on the line. It set immediately on immersion despite the lack of any stiffening to hold the mouth of the cone open, and behaved well underwater, with no spinning, slewing or porpoising. A short length of chain helped keep it submerged. It was simple to recover, and a tripline will help to collapse the drogue on recovery" PBO, July 2014

Yacht drogues are designed to be towed from the stern during adverse weather conditions, helping to maintain course downwind and avoid broaching.

Yacht Drogue Deployment and setup:

  • slow the yacht to afford more control
  • keep the boat tracking down wind
  • help prevent broaching in surf conditions
  • is possible from the bow in extreme conditions

Yacht Drogues are normally deployed from the stern, attached via an Octoplait V shaped Bridle.

The bridle shares the shock load and can also be used to adjust the steering angle to the wave pattern.

Attach the bridle to a long warp to prevent shock loading and to ensure that the drogue remains submerged.

Smaller sized drogues can be trailed one behind the other on the same warp by making them off at different points along the rode using the stainless ring.

Jimmy Green Yacht Drogues also feature a webbing loop at the narrow end of the cone for trip line attachment.

Yacht Drogue Warp and Chain The set up for each yacht drogue will depend on the expectation for slowing drift and the anticipated conditions in which it may be deployed. The main principles are:

  • A long warp comparable with the break load of your bower anchor rode - customers often choose 100 metres
  • A short length of chain comparable with the break load of your bower anchor rode - customers often choose 5 metres, but just how much weight is required to ensure the right level of submersion is open to debate.
  • Rated Shackles - comparable with the break load of your bower anchor rode

Jimmy Green Swivel Advisory A swivel is optional. Opinions are polarised on whether one is required. Research into the subject is advisable, so that you can decide who or what to believe. Practising deployment is also advisable - you can try without a swivel and see if it performs for your individual yacht and set up. It is a simple enough task to add a swivel if you find that one is required.

Do you need a swivel ? This largely depends on whether you believe that incorporating a swivel is a help or a hindrance in other yachting applications. Do you think that a swivel encourages or prevents rotation ? Generally speaking there are two possible scenarios:

  • incorporating a swivel may facilitate a degree of rotation to compensate for any twist in the warp and chain and therefore keep the drogue rotationally stable
  • adding a swivel to the set up may simply encourage rotation resulting in the drogue spinning around needlessly ?

The Jimmy Green Yacht Drogue Size roughly equates to yacht length in metres.

However, this is only a guide and will depend on your individual requirements.

Due to the complex nature of the sewing process, all the dimensions are approximate. Exit Ø = the approximate diameter of the smaller end of the drogue

Yacht Drogue Warps

Yacht drogue trip lines, you may also like, spliced set length octoplait nylon bridles, stainless steel jaw and jaw swivels, para anchor warps.

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Cruising the Moskva River: A short guide to boat trips in Russia’s capital

sailboat drogue chute

There’s hardly a better way to absorb Moscow’s atmosphere than on a ship sailing up and down the Moskva River. While complicated ticketing, loud music and chilling winds might dampen the anticipated fun, this checklist will help you to enjoy the scenic views and not fall into common tourist traps.

How to find the right boat?

There are plenty of boats and selecting the right one might be challenging. The size of the boat should be your main criteria.

Plenty of small boats cruise the Moskva River, and the most vivid one is this yellow Lay’s-branded boat. Everyone who has ever visited Moscow probably has seen it.

sailboat drogue chute

This option might leave a passenger disembarking partially deaf as the merciless Russian pop music blasts onboard. A free spirit, however, will find partying on such a vessel to be an unforgettable and authentic experience that’s almost a metaphor for life in modern Russia: too loud, and sometimes too welcoming. Tickets start at $13 (800 rubles) per person.

Bigger boats offer smoother sailing and tend to attract foreign visitors because of their distinct Soviet aura. Indeed, many of the older vessels must have seen better days. They are still afloat, however, and getting aboard is a unique ‘cultural’ experience. Sometimes the crew might offer lunch or dinner to passengers, but this option must be purchased with the ticket. Here is one such  option  offering dinner for $24 (1,490 rubles).

sailboat drogue chute

If you want to travel in style, consider Flotilla Radisson. These large, modern vessels are quite posh, with a cozy restaurant and an attentive crew at your service. Even though the selection of wines and food is modest, these vessels are still much better than other boats.

sailboat drogue chute

Surprisingly, the luxurious boats are priced rather modestly, and a single ticket goes for $17-$32 (1,100-2,000 rubles); also expect a reasonable restaurant bill on top.

How to buy tickets?

Women holding photos of ships promise huge discounts to “the young and beautiful,” and give personal invitations for river tours. They sound and look nice, but there’s a small catch: their ticket prices are usually more than those purchased online.

“We bought tickets from street hawkers for 900 rubles each, only to later discover that the other passengers bought their tickets twice as cheap!”  wrote  (in Russian) a disappointed Rostislav on a travel company website.

Nevertheless, buying from street hawkers has one considerable advantage: they personally escort you to the vessel so that you don’t waste time looking for the boat on your own.

sailboat drogue chute

Prices start at $13 (800 rubles) for one ride, and for an additional $6.5 (400 rubles) you can purchase an unlimited number of tours on the same boat on any given day.

Flotilla Radisson has official ticket offices at Gorky Park and Hotel Ukraine, but they’re often sold out.

Buying online is an option that might save some cash. Websites such as  this   offer considerable discounts for tickets sold online. On a busy Friday night an online purchase might be the only chance to get a ticket on a Flotilla Radisson boat.

This  website  (in Russian) offers multiple options for short river cruises in and around the city center, including offbeat options such as ‘disco cruises’ and ‘children cruises.’ This other  website  sells tickets online, but doesn’t have an English version. The interface is intuitive, however.

Buying tickets online has its bad points, however. The most common is confusing which pier you should go to and missing your river tour.

sailboat drogue chute

“I once bought tickets online to save with the discount that the website offered,” said Igor Shvarkin from Moscow. “The pier was initially marked as ‘Park Kultury,’ but when I arrived it wasn’t easy to find my boat because there were too many there. My guests had to walk a considerable distance before I finally found the vessel that accepted my tickets purchased online,” said the man.

There are two main boarding piers in the city center:  Hotel Ukraine  and  Park Kultury . Always take note of your particular berth when buying tickets online.

Where to sit onboard?

Even on a warm day, the headwind might be chilly for passengers on deck. Make sure you have warm clothes, or that the crew has blankets ready upon request.

The glass-encased hold makes the tour much more comfortable, but not at the expense of having an enjoyable experience.

sailboat drogue chute

Getting off the boat requires preparation as well. Ideally, you should be able to disembark on any pier along the way. In reality, passengers never know where the boat’s captain will make the next stop. Street hawkers often tell passengers in advance where they’ll be able to disembark. If you buy tickets online then you’ll have to research it yourself.

There’s a chance that the captain won’t make any stops at all and will take you back to where the tour began, which is the case with Flotilla Radisson. The safest option is to automatically expect that you’ll return to the pier where you started.

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sailboat drogue chute

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COMMENTS

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