Question: What is your thinking on sea anchors and do you carry one on Morgan’s Cloud?
Answer: Sea anchors, a very big subject! First off you should know that I have never used one, so this is all theory. Our normal gale strategy is to heave-to. We have used a Galerider drogue off the bow to slow fore-reaching and keep her head up to the wind in gusty conditions. Yes, I know one is not supposed to use the Galerider this way, but it worked great for 24 hours in a gale south of Bermuda in January 2000.
Why We Carry a Sea Anchor
- To lie to if the conditions get too dangerous to heave-to, due to breaking waves. The standard wisdom in such conditions is to run off but I have reservations about that, particularly the danger of broaching and the requirement to steer. When short handed I really think it is important not to have to steer since it will quickly exhaust the whole crew, particularly in cold conditions.
- If caught on a lee shore, since the sea anchor will cut drift to much less than heaved-to.
- If we lost the mast in storm conditions.
As to rigging, I think it must be HUGE and that the devil is in the details. Our rig is sized for a safe working load of 7,000lb and breaking load of three times that. We went to a great deal of trouble to make sure that there were no weak links. To this end we installed a special pad eye through-bolted with back up plate on the fore deck; the largest eye Harken make.
From there the rig is as follows:
- Pad eye.
- 6′ of 7/16” G4 chain, to take chafe, led over the anchor roller, fastened with high tensile 1/2″ galvanized shackles. (We think stainless is too brittle). The chain is retained from jumping the roller by a 1/2″ bolt.
- 50′ 1″ nylon double braid rope pigtail led aft outside lifelines so that rig can be deployed from the aft deck.
- 250′ 1″ nylon double braid rope.
- 350′ 1″ nylon double braid rope.
- 24′ sea anchor.
The rode is in two pieces simply because it would be too heavy to handle in one. Each piece has spliced eyes on each end with a massive deep thimble in them and they are connected using 3/4″ galvanized shackles.
Contrary to some recommendations, I do not think that more chain in the system would add any value. The idea that it will help to hold the boat’s head up in storm conditions is, I think, wrong. In addition, more chain will make deployment much more difficult and recovery down right dangerous.
Talking of recovery, we are rigged with a partial trip line to a float, however I have real reservations about whether Phyllis and I would be able to get this rig back on deck, particularly after enduring several days of survival conditions, and in a left over sea. I suspect that we might have to cut it away, but since it is our final line of defense and not our normal heavy weather strategy, we are resigned to that even though it means cutting away $2000+ worth of gear.
The Pardey Bridle
We are also rigged so that there is a short nylon tail led from the joining point of the chafe chain to a forward cleat so that the chain just acts as a safety but the nylon takes the load and gives us a fair lead from the bow if used with a “Pardey Bridle”. (See Storm Tactics by Lin & Larry Pardey).
I am not sure if the ‘Pardey Bridle’ would really work in storm conditions on a boat of your or our weight, but it is worth trying since it would be so much more comfortable.
Note that we have sold our sea anchor and purchased a Jordan Series Drogue.