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Old 31-08-2012, 05:01   #1
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Drogue vs. Sea Anchor

I have a chance to buy either a 15' ring slot sea anchor, with all lines, or a 24" drogue chute.

I'll probably get both because the prices are good, but I have some questions for those who have actually used such equipment in storm conditions.

First of all, I think the drogue chute is just one drogue, not a series. From what I've been reading, that's not as good, and it sounds as if it could put a lot of stresses on the cockpit. It also sounds as if it might make staying in the cockpit unpleasant or even dangerous, but at the same time the boat would still need to be steered. Do I have that right?

As for the sea anchor, I read more positive things about it, but one thing I read said that sometimes they tend to make the boat lie ahull, not what I would want. I have a 31' Hunter. She has a fin keel and is bow tender, sails up or down. I've seen the boat these items were purchased for and she's similar in length and weight to mine, although a ilttle broader on the beam, a Catalina 30.

For those of you who have used these items, is it really likely that a sea anchor could pull my boat abeam? The boat does not heave to particularly well -- in moderate winds she still moves along at 2 1/2 knots. I see staying somewhat steady and slow in a storm, angled well to the waves, as a good option. I keep thinking about my neighbor who sailed with a storm for 4 1/2 hours and moved all the way from Venice to Naples, FL, well over hull speed. That wouldn't be my favorite first option either ...

but instructions say to deploy it and go below. I would have to trust that the bow would stay well angled into the waves. Experience, comments?
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Old 31-08-2012, 05:49   #2
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Re: Drogue vs. sea anchor

Raku:

I'd get both. More tools in the tool box eh? I'd probably use a sea anchor on my boat before using a drogue for reasons that are particular to my boat. I have a sea anchor on board but, need to rig it up and to practice with it so I'm no expert. But, I have used a small military surplus drogue as an anti sail drogue on the bow during Hurricane Earl while at anchor:
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: LESSONS FROM A HURRICANE: AN ANTI SAIL DROGUE
It's easy to deploy from the bow and seemed to work well while on the hook don't see any reason why it would not work with a sea anchor too!
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Old 31-08-2012, 06:27   #3
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Re: Drogue vs. sea anchor

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rakuflames View Post
First of all, I think the drogue chute is just one drogue, not a series. From what I've been reading, that's not as good, and it sounds as if it could put a lot of stresses on the cockpit.

No. Single element drogues are the lowest load/stress device (lower than series drogues and way lower than sea anchors). We have a 47' boat and our single element drogue creates peak loads around 3500lbs. Sea anchors can create peak loads near the total boat's displacement.

It also sounds as if it might make staying in the cockpit unpleasant or even dangerous, but at the same time the boat would still need to be steered. Do I have that right?

No. Honestly being in a storm is unpleasant and dangerous period. But having a single element drogue out does not make the cockpit significantly worse. We have a lot of hours under single element drogue and waves breaking into the cockpit is very rare. This depends a little on the boat design. Those with high buoyancy sterns are better and I believe your Hunter is in that camp. Generally the 'ride and comfort' is rather better than on a sea anchor where the boat gets knocked around quite a bit.

Whether you need to steer or not will depend on the drogue and boat design. We have not needed to on either of our boats - just lock the wheel centerline and the boats go downwind (with the single element out). In any case, YOU will not be steering. If the boat needs to be steered, you would set the windvane or autopilot to do it.

Single element drogues do have two shortcomings. First, in really big and steep waves they can pull out of the wave face and allow you to accelerate. That's why the series was invented. Second, you simply can't use them if you have a lee shore close by, as you are running and will run into it if its too close. That's the time for the sea anchor, or (my preference) forereaching.

As for the sea anchor, I read more positive things about it, but one thing I read said that sometimes they tend to make the boat lie ahull, not what I would want.

No, if properly set-up it should not do that. There are two fundamentally different techniques for rigging a sea anchor. One is the 'straight over the bow' approach (where you lie basically with the bow directly into the waves), and the other is the 'pardey bridle' approach (where you lie with the bow about 40 degrees to the waves). The pardey approach is more complex but more comfortable. It should not be used on big boats but yours is small enough that it is an option.

IF you end up beam to the waves, when properly executing either of these techniques, then there is probably not enough wind to need the sea anchor and you should still be sailing. You can try to shorten up the sea anchor rode some, as this will minimize the tendency to wallow in between the wave crests.

but instructions say to deploy it and go below.

Honestly bad advice. You need to stay active and aware. Sea anchors particularly are very vulnerable to rode chafe. You want to go up to the bow every hour to check on the rode. And yes, you can do that and do it safely even in storm conditions if you are careful and prepared. And you have to, otherwise you may well loose the sea anchor just when you don't want to. Also its very important to stay aware of the wave shape development. You may want to or need to change tactics as the waves develop.

Most people who get into trouble actually do so as the storm is winding down - as the wind has dropped a little and shifted direction so it is out of alignment with the waves. You need to be very aware and alert when that happens and not hunkered down below.
........
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Old 31-08-2012, 06:30   #4
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Re: Drogue vs. sea anchor

What kind of sailing do you plan to do? Coastal cruising around SW Florida?
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Old 31-08-2012, 06:46   #5
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Re: Drogue vs. sea anchor

Raku, out of curiosity, is the 15' RS a purpose-built sea anchor or an old Army parachute for heavy airdrop extraction?
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Old 31-08-2012, 07:40   #6
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Re: Drogue vs. sea anchor

If you haven't read this thread drogues and chutes are discusses at length.

Heaving-to
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Old 31-08-2012, 11:29   #7
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Re: Drogue vs. sea anchor

Quote:
Originally Posted by mbianka View Post
Raku:

I'd get both. More tools in the tool box eh? I'd probably use a sea anchor on my boat before using a drogue for reasons that are particular to my boat. I have a sea anchor on board but, need to rig it up and to practice with it so I'm no expert. But, I have used a small military surplus drogue as an anti sail drogue on the bow during Hurricane Earl while at anchor:
THE BIANKA LOG BLOG: LESSONS FROM A HURRICANE: AN ANTI SAIL DROGUE
It's easy to deploy from the bow and seemed to work well while on the hook don't see any reason why it would not work with a sea anchor too!

Let me make sure I understand. You put the drogue off the bow while at anchor?

I will check your blog a little later but I wanted to make sure that's what you said.
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Old 31-08-2012, 11:38   #8
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Re: Drogue vs. sea anchor

Quote:
Originally Posted by ice View Post
........

Ice, thank you sooooo much for all your advice and common sense! I agree, putting out a sea anchor, and then trusting it in a storm and just going below sounds CRAZY to me too.

I'm going to save your post and really study it.

You're right; my boat has a high-riding stern -- she's high riding all the way around as she has a lot of freeboard -- enough that I was able to use the boat as its own sail and sail it into a slip once (no sails up at all) ... can be good; can be bad; docking in strong winds can be a nerve-wrenching nightmare. In fact, if the winds are past my experience, I don't even take the boat home -- I take it to my sailing club, where I can come into the transient dock without risk of hitting a boat behind or to the side of me.

Possibly because of that high freeboard and big stern, she doesn't heave to well -- in a moderate wind, say 12k, she still sails at about 2 1/2k. She does what I understand to be a forereach but perhaps I'm mistaken about that.

Very, very grateful for your information. And by the way, I bought the sea anchor and two drogues. I don't want to put tons (literally -- grin) of strain on the stern, but I could drag one from each rear cleat, or bridle them and use them in a series. I'm going to take the drogues to my club and start picking brains.
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Old 02-09-2012, 13:13   #9
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Re: Drogue vs. sea anchor

Quote:
Originally Posted by justflie View Post
Raku, out of curiosity, is the 15' RS a purpose-built sea anchor or an old Army parachute for heavy airdrop extraction?

I have just examined it at length with an ex-Marine and he thinks it's an army parachute. Makes me wonder if it is what I want.
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Old 02-09-2012, 13:41   #10
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Re: Drogue vs. sea anchor

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Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post
What kind of sailing do you plan to do? Coastal cruising around SW Florida?

Yes, Beliz. My boat (Hunter 31') is really not a good bluewater boat. It has a fin keel, an exposed rudder and is pretty tender. That makes it a great boat in good weather in this area, but it also means we have to have a plan in a storm.
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Old 02-09-2012, 13:42   #11
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Re: Drogue vs. sea anchor

Quote:
Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
If you haven't read this thread drogues and chutes are discusses at length.

Heaving-to

Thank you, Skipmak. I've read it in depth and will do so again.
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Old 02-09-2012, 18:53   #12
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Re: Drogue vs. sea anchor

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rakuflames View Post
Yes, Beliz. My boat (Hunter 31') is really not a good bluewater boat. It has a fin keel, an exposed rudder and is pretty tender. That makes it a great boat in good weather in this area, but it also means we have to have a plan in a storm.
For short hop coastal cruising I would not carry either. Both are more commonly used in sustained heavy weather well offshore. For cruising most of Florida you an over night sail at most to your next anchorage -- usually not that.

Paying attention to the weather is likely to be more practically useful to you.

To ride out a brief squall all you really need to do is heave-to (under sail only). Boats like the H31 don't willingly heave-to well, but there are some techniques you can try which may help. I suggest going out and experimenting. One, reduce your head sail area prior to heaving-to. This will reduce forces pushing the bow away from the wind. How much depends upon the boat and conditions -- experiment and learn what works. Two, use the main to help round the bow up closer to the wind. You can do this by sheeting it in a bit -- as the jib brings the bow down the main will fill and push the bow back up. Again, experiment and learn what works on your boat.
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Old 02-09-2012, 19:06   #13
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Re: Drogue vs. sea anchor

Quote:
Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post
For short hop coastal cruising I would not carry either. Both are more commonly used in sustained heavy weather well offshore. For cruising most of Florida you an over night sail at most to your next anchorage -- usually not that.

Paying attention to the weather is likely to be more practically useful to you.

To ride out a brief squall all you really need to do is heave-to (under sail only). Boats like the H31 don't willingly heave-to well, but there are some techniques you can try which may help. I suggest going out and experimenting. One, reduce your head sail area prior to heaving-to. This will reduce forces pushing the bow away from the wind. How much depends upon the boat and conditions -- experiment and learn what works. Two, use the main to help round the bow up closer to the wind. You can do this by sheeting it in a bit -- as the jib brings the bow down the main will fill and push the bow back up. Again, experiment and learn what works on your boat.

You would think that to be true, but in reality it is not. My next-slip neighbor got caught in a sudden squall (paying attention to the weather either means you don't sail most of the time because there's a 20% chance of a storm --most days--or you have to have a storm plan). It was a vicious storm. Any harbors near him would have been hazardous to enter -- they can be hazardous without a storm; I've seen it; I've experienced it.

He sailed downwind with the storm with minimal sails up. This meant he stayed with the storm. His boat (a 30' Catalina) moved so fast that he sailed from Venice to Naples -- well over 100 miles -- in 4 1/2 hours, when the storm finally collapsed and died away.

You *cannot* safely assume that you will know ahead of a bad storm; they pop up too quickly. You *cannot* assume that you will be able to get in to some sort of safe harbor. The entrance to many on the SW coast of Florida can be quite treacherous.

Then there is the large, open expanse of water between Marathon and Naples.
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Old 02-09-2012, 19:21   #14
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Re: Drogue vs. sea anchor

Quote:
Originally Posted by ice View Post
........
I have a Gale Rider that came with the boat is this considered a single element drouge, are they any good?
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Old 02-09-2012, 19:40   #15
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Re: Drogue vs. sea anchor

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Originally Posted by Rakuflames View Post

He sailed downwind with the storm with minimal sails up. This meant he stayed with the storm. His boat (a 30' Catalina) moved so fast that he sailed from Venice to Naples -- well over 100 miles -- in 4 1/2 hours, when the storm finally collapsed and died away.
He sailed an average of 22 knots for 4.5 hours?

Really?

On a 30' Catalina?

Really?
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