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Old 12-12-2007, 10:41   #1
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Heavy weather tactics. Anyone want to share experience with sea anchors or warps?

Shared experiences from others, first hand experience, some of the best learning! I'm interested to hear from those that have used sea anchors in heavy weather as well as maybe trailing warps, etc. What worked for you? What didn't?
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Old 12-12-2007, 12:06   #2
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I've hove to before to make some repairs. Worked fairly well on a full keel (or full-ish) keel; could never get my fin keel Ericson to heave to very well.

The only things that I would offer as potentially useful advice:

- Reef early.
- Read Amazon.com: Heavy Weather Sailing, 30th Anniversary Edition: Books: Peter Bruce
- A partially furled jib is not a storm jib.
- Cutters with a staysail boom are nice because you can douse the yankee, deep reef the main, and reef the staysail. Not a lot of sail up, all in the center, no acrobatic feats of strength on the bowsprit.
- I have a trysail, rigged it once, but since then have never had to use it, thank God.
- Rig everything below for missile hazard. Stuff will fly around everywhere. I had a coffee cup fly into a lantern and it blew the globe up, sending shards of glass everywhere. Also had a life jacket come loose in the engine compartment, got sucked in under the prop shaft. Didn't start / need the engine until later and I checked it first, but it probably would have screwed something up down there if I had cranked the engine.

On my old fin keel Ericson, I would basically keep the waves on my quarters, steering around the breakers. That works fine unless you have a lee shore. Either way, when route planning I try to do things to stack the odds in my favor, like shooting for more deep water, less shipping lanes, and more sea room.
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Old 12-12-2007, 12:11   #3
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Shared experiences from others, first hand experience, some of the best learning! I'm interested to hear from those that have used sea anchors in heavy weather as well as maybe trailing warps, etc. What worked for you? What didn't?
I cruised for 14 years and sailed around the world twice, The best thing that ever happened to me was the discovery of a parachute sea anchor.

In '95 (2nd circumnavigation) I ran into 2 young men in Fiji. One was named Brian Caldwell (youngest circumnavigator ever, at the time) and the other was Donald Kang (1st Korean to ever circumnavigate alone). They were discussing Brian's use of a parachute sea anchor on his Contessa 26 when things got rough or he just needed to get some rest. I was quite impressed with the discussion and Donald Kang wanted one but didn't have the $.

At the time, my wife and I had a canvas repair business (on-board) so we owned a HD sewing machine and I told Donald that if he would just pay for the materials, I would build him one. I found the plans for one in the "Sailrite" sewing guide that I had, I also checked out the professional one that Brian had. I have an engineering degree so I was able to take those 2 designs and come up with a design that was even better but very labor intensive.

I built 2 sea anchors and on one very blustery day, I took about 8 or 10 people out to sea (about 2 miles) to try one out. It was blowing about 30+ and there was a nasty sea running. Everyone was losing their enthusiasm as it was quite rough and we were hammering to windward in that soup.

Right when I was about to have a mutiny, I decided to deploy the parachute. It takes a little practice in better weather to get the hang of deploying one. I threw the bag, containing the chute, over-board and as the bow fell off and we were abeam to the seas, things got a little dicey. Then all of a sudden, the parachute came up on the rode and took hold. The bow turned into the wind and seas rather quickly. We went from chaos to serenity in a very few seconds.

It is really amazing the difference that a parachute makes. I never went back to slugging it through nasty weather again. I ended up building those things for several years and selling them to cruising yachts in ports from the South Pacific Islands, New Zealand, Aus, So Africa, Caribbean and so on.

I have even used one in a cyclone in the Tasman Sea with 70kts of wind and huge breaking seas. It is unbelievable how comfortable it is lying to one of those things. The parachute not only keeps your bow to the wind and seas but that huge mass of water, that it is slowly being pulled downwind, acts as a sea-wall. We could have big breaking seas all around us but one would never get past the parachute without breaking on the parachute itself. I've laid to that parachute, probably 15 times. I have never had a drop of water come on-board from a breaking sea while it was deployed. It is always comfortable and relatively easy to retrieve when you are ready to go again.

Sometimes, I would deploy the parachute just to get some rest in nasty weather, when before, we would have just endured the discomfort. A couple of times, I deployed it so that I could work on something, without getting tossed around. I even deployed it once to go up the mast to retrieve a spinnaker halyard, after ripping the head of the sail off in a 25kt gust. It doesn't always have to be a "Catastrophic" event to deploy the chute. Sometimes it's nice to just take a "Day off" from sailing after 4 or 5 days of fowl weather. It's almost like finding a port in a storm. I never drug a drogue after that and never hove-to unless it was fairly calm.

I consider a parachute sea anchor as a "MUST HAVE". It's just simply the 2nd handiest tool that I have ever owned, right behind a wind-vane. It could literally make the difference from having to be rescued from your vessel at sea and being able to get needed rest, make repairs and fend for yourself. I have seen case after case where sailors have been taken off of a sailboat (after activating their EPIRB) that could have made it to shore, had the skipper had a parachute on-board to allow him to get needed rest, get his head straight and be able to build a jeri-rig to get himself to land.

I strongly feel that a good parachute sea anchor is more essential than a life-raft. Very few people survive a life-raft experience but most life-raft experiences could be avoided by having a parachute sea anchor on-board. It's just simple math. One is a life-saver, the other is a death trap (more often than not).

Just my $.02
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Old 12-12-2007, 12:18   #4
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I'm really interested in getting a parachute. A sailing buddy of mine gave me one in a green metal disc conainer a few years back; I've since lost it.

The pardey's have that combo heavy-to / sea anchor thing don't they?

How much line would you run on one of those, and what type? 43 loa 26K displacement. What's the retrievel process like?
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Old 12-12-2007, 12:27   #5
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Kanani - Well told and extremely informative. unfortunately, now I want one. ::sigh::
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Old 12-12-2007, 13:04   #6
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Well said Kahani (& rebel heart).
Do you (Kahani) think that the parachute would be as efficacious on a fin keel (such as Rebel’s Ericson) as it proved on your 'longish 'keel (cut-away forefoot?) Passport?
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Old 12-12-2007, 13:26   #7
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Kanani - Well told and extremely informative. unfortunately, now I want one. ::sigh::
Exactly- now I want one too!
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Old 12-12-2007, 13:34   #8
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I think Kanani is just a parachute anchor sales rep in disguise.
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Old 12-12-2007, 13:40   #9
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I'm really interested in getting a parachute. A sailing buddy of mine gave me one in a green metal disc conainer a few years back; I've since lost it.

The pardey's have that combo heavy-to / sea anchor thing don't they?

How much line would you run on one of those, and what type? 43 loa 26K displacement. What's the retrievel process like?
IMO, the Pardey's "Hove-to" position, while on a parachute, is extremely dangerous. However, I have never tried it so I can't say that from experience.

The problem that I see is, while on the parachute, the vessel is sometimes catapulted forward due to the stretch of the nylon rode and the slack position that the vessel might be in, in the trough of a wave. If this were to happen while attached to that bridle, leading to the stern or even amidships, the boat could be capsized if the wind gets on the other side of the bow as it is blown back down. In that case, the bridal line would then trail across the deck or under the boat from leeward to windward and that position would most certainly capsize the vessel when stress is again applied. I have just never seen the need to do it. Having the force right on the bow is the most logical and indeed the most comfortable position to be "Anchored". That's is simply the way that all boats are designed.

Being anchored on a parachute sea anchor is little different from be anchored in a bay, on your ships anchor, buried in the sand or mud. Why would anyone ever anchor their vessel on a bridal like that, in a bay, in a storm. It makes absolutely no sense (to me) and adds a measure of danger that is just unacceptable to me.

I hook up our parachute sea anchor before we leave port, on a long ocean passage (over 3-days). I remove my anchors and chain from the bow and secure them below (as not to become dangerous projectiles). However, I leave my 400' of 5/8" nylon rode that is always bitter ended to 15' of 1/2" chain. That chain's bitter end is secured to a large stringer under the deck that was built into the boat for bitter-ending anchor rode. I pull the 1st 30' of nylon rode from the locker and run it outside of the stanchions and rigging, lead it back to the cockpit. I tie small nylon ties along that run to secure the rode from going over-board. I then attach the nylon rode to a short 3' piece of S/S chain (attached to the parachute) that has a very HD S/S swivel on it.

The parachute is contained in a PVC coated nylon storage bag. The bag is closed with a bungee cord that easily becomes undone under stress. When the bag is thrown in the water, it starts filling with water which displaces the parachute almost immediately. The bag then floats behind the parachute attached to the 75' long retrieval line. On the end of the retrieval line is my largest boat fender. You must use a floating device that is capable of floating all of the weight of the parachute and associated gear.

As the parachute comes taught on the anchor rode, I hold it fast on my windlass rope gypsy. I pay it out slowly (to keep the bow up to the wind) until I get to a marker in the rode that tells me I have 25' to the chain. I then whip the rode off of the gypsy and allow it to ride on the anchor roller. The chain then pays out over the anchor roller and I pin it in place to keep it from jumping off. I also put 2 snubbers on that chain. The chain allows me to just leave the rode unattended. There is no worry about chafe. I have read places where you should adjust the length of the rode to account for the seas. I never found a need to do that and I found 400' of rode to be quite adequate for my boat. BTW, we area 45' ketch and weigh 20 tons.

As your friend found out (as did I, the hard way) while motoring up on the parachute retrieval buoy, the parachute will sink rather quickly, in an inverted position. If proper buoyage is used, this makes for easy retrieval. If the parachute sinks and drags the buoy down, the whole thing may have to be cut free if you are in big seas, as the parachute could reopen, straight under the bow of the boat as soon as it has tension from the anchor rode. This could cause your bow to stay at the lowest part of the sea (if the line is cleated or tangled in something) and the next (10-25') wave will just come on-board as the bow is being restrained from lifting to it, by the parachute.

In my case (the 1st time out), I was able to carefully finesse the chute to the surface and grab one of the shroud lines with a boat hook. However, a had several people on-board and it took a while to do.
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Old 12-12-2007, 13:54   #10
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Well said Kahani (& rebel heart).
Do you (Kahani) think that the parachute would be as efficacious on a fin keel (such as Rebel’s Ericson) as it proved on your 'longish 'keel (cut-away forefoot?) Passport?
My friend, Donald Kang, used his on his Cal 27. I was concerned about it because that thing has a pretty fragile spade rudder.

I think the key there is carefully securing the rudder amidships.

I had a tiller on Kanani on the aft deck (besides the wheel in the cockpit) that was attached directly to the rudder post. I used that for my wind-vane. It was magic. Anyway, I lashed my rudder amidships while on the parachute because I have cable steering and I always considered that as a "weak-link". I did notice that there would be a bit of a struggle on that tiller lashing but I don't think that is was any more than one would experience while sitting at anchor in a storm in a bay somewhere.

I didn't experience any "sliding backwards" on the rudder. For the most part, the anchor rode would be bar-tight. The only exception was when I was in huge seas in Cyclone Bola in the Tasman sea. At times, the tension on the anchor rode would throw us forward in a calm trough but when we fell back, the bow would fall down and we didn't really fall back on the rudder. Before we would get blown flat in the water, the bow would always come right back up into the wind.

Like I keep saying, it is just like being anchored in a bay somewhere. The only differnce is, the seas are much farther apart and the ride is much more comfortable.

The bottom line is, vessel survival is far more important than rudder survival.
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Old 12-12-2007, 13:59   #11
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Do you (Kahani) think that the parachute would be as efficacious on a fin keel
Some of the ULDB's and light production boats tend to jockey about a bit. But I have been informed there's 2 solutions, neither which I have tried as I havent used a para anchor yet,

1) Instead of running your line just to your bow, make a bridle and run each end through your bow roller, down the side to your amidships mooring cleats. Instead of grabbing someone by the nose, its like grasbbing them by the shoulders. Much more control.
2) If 1) doesn't work use a small riding sail aft.
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Old 12-12-2007, 14:16   #12
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Some of the ULDB's and light production boats tend to jockey about a bit. But I have been informed there's 2 solutions, neither which I have tried as I havent used a para anchor yet,

1) Instead of running your line just to your bow, make a bridle and run each end through your bow roller, down the side to your amidships mooring cleats. Instead of grabbing someone by the nose, its like grasbbing them by the shoulders. Much more control.
2) If 1) doesn't work use a small riding sail aft.
I don't see the logic in this, other than, that would give you a stronger attaching point. This tactic is sometimes used while towing.

The big problem that I see is chafing. Once you deploy that parachute, you should be prepared to spend many hours if not many days on it. Chafe protection is critical. The worst nightmare that one could have would be to have your anchor rode part while on the parachute. That is the A1 most dangerous thing about using one of those things. If the rode parts.... you are in big trouble.....real fast. That just simply cannot be an option.
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Old 12-12-2007, 14:17   #13
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<snip>

As your friend found out (as did I, the hard way) while motoring up on the parachute retrieval buoy, the parachute will sink rather quickly, in an inverted position. If proper buoyage is used, this makes for easy retrieval. If the parachute sinks and drags the buoy down, the whole thing may have to be cut free if you are in big seas, as the parachute could reopen, straight under the bow of the boat as soon as it has tension from the anchor rode. This could cause your bow to stay at the lowest part of the sea (if the line is cleated or tangled in something) and the next (10-25') wave will just come on-board as the bow is being restrained from lifting to it, by the parachute.

In my case (the 1st time out), I was able to carefully finesse the chute to the surface and grab one of the shroud lines with a boat hook. However, a had several people on-board and it took a while to do.
Excellent report, Kanani.

Joe Siudzinski, a Bay Area sailor, has a great website, and the following will take the reader to his pages on deploying and retrieving his para-anchor. I am drawn to the logic of his retrieval process, as it eliminates the scenario quoted from Kanani's post, above:

KatieKat ParaAnchor Index

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Old 12-12-2007, 14:32   #14
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Excellent report, Kanani.

Joe Siudzinski, a Bay Area sailor, has a great website, and the following will take the reader to his pages on deploying and retrieving his para-anchor. I am drawn to the logic of his retrieval process, as it eliminates the scenario quoted from Kanani's post, above:

KatieKat ParaAnchor Index

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Running a 400' long (floating) trip-line back to the vessel is an option that I considered. However, it has been my experience that the paracute is constantly rotating while deployed (the the need for a substancial swivel) and often the material will break the surface of the water. My concern would be that the trip line may get caught-up in the rotation of the parachute. This would eventually either colapse the parachute, break the trp-line or (at the very least) make the trip-line unusable if that happened. It may not happen ten times but if it happened on the eleventh time, it would not be a good thing.

I just never found that to be an option that I wanted to explore. I found the large fender on a 75' line to be adaquate and quite easy to use.
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Old 12-12-2007, 14:48   #15
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WM has them for about $1000 .. any places to pick one up for a few bucks under that?
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