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Old 11-09-2009, 19:16   #1
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Robinson Offshore Storm Chute

Does anyone out there have a Robinson Offshore Storm Chute?
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Old 05-11-2009, 18:45   #2
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1960's X-Shape Parachute (6-foot diameter)

Your question caught my attention because I picked up one of these chutes after more and more boaters began asking me about them at the sea anchor seminars that I conduct. Most recently boaters came up to me at the 2009 Annapolis Sailboat Show to ask about the 6-foot chute. They believed it was a new product and wanted to know how to deploy it because they said they couldn’t find any information at the booth where the chute was sold.

Just so everyone knows who I am…boaters often come to me with questions about parachute anchors and drogues because I have been developing and testing these devices for Fiorentino Para-Anchor in Newport Beach, California, for over 14 years. I welcome competition and the boaters know that I will give them straight answers.

For readers who aren’t familiar with sea parachutes and drogues in general or the Robinson chute in particular, I thought the following information might be helpful.

To begin with, a parachute anchor is much larger than a drogue and is tied to the front of your boat to pull the bow into approaching storm waves. This stabilizes your boat and nearly stops downwind drift. A drogue is a smaller device towed behind a vessel to slow the boat while running downwind in heavy seas. Slowing your boat minimizes loss of steering and helps to prevent your boat’s bow from burying itself at the bottom of a wave. At the same time, you want to avoid using a drogue that slows you too much so you can avoid a cockpit full of water. This is the primary reason why these two devices shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

While I have been aware of the Robinson chute for some time, I was never impressed with it. The Robinson Offshore Storm Chute, which is sold mainly at swap meets, is not a manufactured sea anchor or drogue. It’s actually a 1960’s X-shape parachute designed for rockets. Robinson just slips this chute into a plastic bag that has a photo of the X-shape parachute in a swimming pool and an illustration of a sailboat towing a drogue behind it. That’s probably why some boaters believe the product is a manufactured drogue. One red flag for potential users should be that there is no address, phone number or website listed on the packaging. And there is no information on how to use it.

Because of the growing number of questions, I decided to tow the rocket chute behind my Beneteau 35 and conduct a simple drag test. While the chute slowed my boat in calm weather, the shroud lines leading to the X-shape canopy twisted badly. I changed the swivel device to a larger one to control the twisting, but it made no difference. In a real-life storm, the shroud lines could twist until the X-shape collapses and renders the chute useless. My experience tells me that approximately 20 pounds of chain would have to be added to the front of the chute in an effort to hold it below the waves and maintain continuous force on the anchor rode. You would also need to add some chain at the bottom of the X-shape chute and a float attached to the top panels to try and control the spinning problem. I don’t know, however, if altering a 1960’s parachute would affect the integrity of the fabric.

Another potential problem that I’ve seen with different parachutes is canopy inversion…where the parachute flips inside out when the rode is slack for too long and then becomes taut. When the parachute flips inside out it causes further line twisting that could collapse the chute and break it, making it impossible to use the device to slow your boat down. The problem is more significant with smaller parachutes like a 6-foot X-shape chute designed for air drops.

All of the issues I’ve mentioned could risk the ability of the Robinson X-shape rocket chute to safely slow down your boat in severe weather.

I’ve talked to Robinson about marketing his product as former military surplus to eliminate confusion about it being a manufactured drag device, but I don’t know if he will make any changes.

My main concern is boater safety. No one wants to encounter heavy seas and find the drag device they purchased to help them stay afloat doesn’t work. All of this underlines the importance of knowing what you are buying and how to use it properly because drag devices really can be life savers.

Zack Smith
Research and Development
Fiorentino Para Anchor
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Old 07-11-2009, 11:18   #3
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Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Zack.

Thanks for sharing your professional opinion on parachute anchors and drogues, and the Robinson in particular.

This is precious information!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zack Smith
... The Robinson Offshore Storm Chute, which is sold mainly at swap meets, is not a manufactured sea anchor or drogue. It’s actually a 1960’s X-shape parachute designed for rockets. Robinson just slips this chute into a plastic bag that has a photo of the X-shape parachute in a swimming pool and an illustration of a sailboat towing a drogue behind it. That’s probably why some boaters believe the product is a manufactured drogue. One red flag for potential users should be that there is no address, phone number or website listed on the packaging. And there is no information on how to use it.
... All of this underlines the importance of knowing what you are buying and how to use it properly because drag devices really can be life savers.
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Old 07-11-2009, 12:28   #4
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The Robinson Offshore Storm Chute sounds a bit complicated for offshore storm use. Maintaining X-shape for the production of drag in a storm situation could be difficult. The pull of the chute may not be constant, and if the trochoidal movement of the water in a wave causes it to tumble, it could malfunction. This chute would need to be at a significant depth to escape surface turbulence.

Drag devices for storms offshore need to be as simple as possible to deploy and use. When all hell is breaking lose, it's hard to tweak things. If you don't get it right the first time, you can be in real trouble.

When we deployed our Para-Anchor parachute, it was straightforward. The hardest thing was putting it in the water on the windward side of the yacht because the parachute buoy blew up against the side of our hull, and we had to go into reverse to back away from it. It easily came out of the rapid deployment bag after we backed away. In a storm, I wonder if it might be hard to get a proper deployment with the X-shape.

I did not like the idea of doing a flying deployment in a storm. I worry about throwing buoys, chutes, shrouds, parachutes, and rode in the water with spinning props in storm conditions. If I get a prop wrap, I will have made my situation worse rather than better.

I would like to hear more reports about the X-chute in actual use.
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Old 12-08-2011, 13:10   #5
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Storm Chute Update

I recently read a post within another forum in which a sailor shares how they purchased the X-chute for $50 to be used as a drogue and parachute anchor. As I mentioned in my prior post, the 1960’s Robinson “storm Chute” was originally developed as a 72” rocket chute to drop ordinance and it doesn’t have enough holding power to be used as a para-anchor. If rigged properly, it can be used as a drogue, but its lengthy shroud lines present a handling problem. This means that it’s hard to manage the long shroud lines, X-shape canopy, and heavy chain weight during deployment and retrieval. Tangles are common.

If one chooses to use the device as a stern deployed drogue, it requires the weight and float attachment as described in my earlier post. It would also require the deployment of a 5/8-inch diameter rode that has a minimum length of 300-feet, not the 200-foot length recommended by Robinson. To be safe, I would carry the same amount of rode for drogue use as I do with a para-anchor, which is 10 feet of rode for every foot of boat. It’s always better to have a little extra rode than not enough for extreme weather. There is also the requirement of approximately 20 pounds of chain to remove dangerous slack rode and to sink it.

The 2011 U.S. Sailboat Show currently indicates that Robinson will continue to market and sell these surplus rocket chutes, but under the name “High Seas Gear.” Robinson has also used the name “Sea Grabber,” and of course “Robinson Offshore” in the past. One can only guess as to why the product name continues to change. In my opinion, this is a definite red flag.

Internet blogs indicate that some sailors have paid as high as $200 and as low as $40 for the X-chute during the Annapolis boat show. This indicates that you should definitely ask for a deal if you attend the show. Ebay pricing can occasionally be lower, from $20 to $30, although many sellers claim these chutes are brand new or are manufactured sea anchors. Such statements are false.

To conclude, last year Fiorentino ran an ad in the show program in an attempt to educate the public on the fact that X-chutes are not manufactured for ocean deployment, but are actually surplus rocket chutes. It's very likely that Fiorentino will do the same this year. We only want to make sure everyone knows what they are buying and how to rig the X-chute should a sailor decide to use one.

Zack Smith
Research & Development
Fiorentino Para Anchor
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Old 12-08-2011, 13:27   #6
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Re: Robinson Offshore Storm Chute

Hi Zack,
While you're online I was hoping to ask you a question.
Fiorentino (SEA ANCHORS by FIORENTINO) sizes their Sea Anchor much smaller then Para-Tech (Sea Anchor: Your First Line Of Defense When Facing Heavy Weather).
  1. Can you tell me the difference in philosophy?
  2. If I buy a Fioentino but sized as per Para-Tech, besides being ackward do you see any danger in this?
Thank-You in advance,
Extemp.
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Old 12-08-2011, 19:36   #7
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Para-Anchor Size

We get the size question all the time. There are a lot of variables like boat design and intended use that figure in to parachute size, but I’ll try and focus on the most important points.

Parachute sea anchor manufacturers for decades have been advocating larger para-anchors contrary to Fiorentino’s “smaller is easier to useconcept. What we have discovered through extensive research is that “constant force” placed on the deployment rode connected to the parachute is the “big secret” in being able to use a smaller parachute. Essentially, if we can keep rode as tight as a steel cable then we end up with an inflated parachute that positions our boat’s bow into the seas. If rode is permitted to go slack for too long a period, then the canopy collapses and causes a boat to fall beam to the seas.

Here are a couple of different rigging solutions that we have developed to maintain “constant force” on deployment rode while using a smaller para-anchor.

One, you can pay out shorter amounts of rode according to the weather (one or two boat lengths for calm seas, 1/3 of your rode in gale-strength weather, and half your rode in heavy weather). If you are uncertain about how much rode to pay out when the weather is sloppy, pay out half your rode. Always use your best judgment. For example, If we receive a weather fax or hear radio reports about mammoth waves coming our way, it might be smarter to pay out 90% of the rode immediately.

The other option is to connect chain to the para-anchor to make sure it remains inflated at all times so the chute can place “constant force” on the rode. Fiorentino’s chain specifications are typically 6- to 12-feet by 3/8-inch in diameter. Chain weight permits you to be more flexible in the amount of rode you deploy since chain helps remove slack in the system.

The way the para-anchor is connected to your boat also influences para-anchor size. For instance, we’ve learned that a monohull sailboat that lays hove-to with a bridle can use a smaller para-anchor since the boat’s hull creates more resistance as it drags through the water. This 10- to 45% angle off the wind in essence turns your boat into a secondary drag device.

My Beneteau 35 doesn’t permit the use of a bridle so I deploy a triangular riding sail from the stern and use a 12-foot diameter para-anchor to maintain a head to wind position. If I could use a bridle and hove-to effectively with my boat, then a 9-foot para-anchor would work fine.

As for your second question, you can use a larger Fiorentino Para-Anchor if you wish…its personal preference. Keep in mind that larger parachutes can be more difficult for a small, inexperienced crew to handle. A larger parachute does carry the benefit of grabbing more water to place “extra force” on the deployment rode.

I’d like to mention that Fiorentino’s position in regard to any drag device deployment is “the less stretch in the system the better.” We know this contradicts industry standards, but Fiorentino’s sea trials with the use of load cell equipment to measure force on equipment is conclusive. Force measurements are 2-3 times higher with slack rode setups than with a system that limits stretch in the rode. Much of the “rode tension” information can be viewed through free online videos on our website para-anchor.com.

Best regards
Zack
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Old 07-10-2011, 20:52   #8
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Re: Robinson Offshore Storm Chute

Yup, "Storm Chute" was there at the show. I bought one of these (6-foot round) years ago for $20 from a different surplus outfit, and have used it as an off-shore fishing anchor, for when I wanted to park in water too deep to anchor. Suitable if rigged as a proper sea anchor (some chain, apex float, pick-up line) . But the construction, compared to a storm anchor is absolutely laughable. There is no question in my mind that it would disintegrate.

I have another purpose-built drogue for storms. There is no similarity in construction.
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Old 31-10-2012, 03:46   #9
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Re: Robinson Offshore Storm Chute

Zack,

You say less stretch is better - does that mean that on a parachute anchor a spectra / dyneema rode would actually be preferable to a nylon rode? Does that not increase the shock loading on the attachment points?

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Old 31-10-2012, 04:18   #10
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Re: Robinson Offshore Storm Chute

Noel, Zack hasn't logged in for over a year. It may be better to send him an email to his company.

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Old 31-10-2012, 07:47   #11
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Re: Robinson Offshore Storm Chute

Ok, thanks Pete, I'll do that

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