Comment From New Zealand On Parachute Anchors

Lane and Kay Finley have a lot of ocean experience and make films about sailing. Here is their approach to dealing with heavy weather:

While filming we launched a parachute anchor according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. It was a rather breezy day, but not storm conditions. Even in these mild conditions, the strain and stress that was generated to our boat’s substantial deck fittings was huge. However, to bring it [the sea anchor] aboard, we merely cast it loose and then motored around to the top of it and picked up the trip line, which was floated on a buoy. It came onboard with no trouble.

We came away wondering what vessel could stand up to a real storm when tied to one of these anchors. We decided we would not carry one onboard as we would rather take our chances running with warps, as this has worked well for us in several situations in the past.

There are two interesting points in the above:

  1. It confirms our concerns about the stresses imposed by sea anchors.
  2. Casting off the main warp prior to picking up the trip line will reduce the chances of a tangle or getting a line around the rudder or propeller and makes a lot of sense.

Lane and Kay go on to say:

Just a note on warps and drogues: We have an 18 mm (3/4”) garden hose onboard that is 25 m (82 ft) long. When we begin sliding down the front of 10 m (33 ft) seas we take the coiled up hose with the two ends threaded together, pass a 200 m (656 ft) nylon rode through the coil, and throw it off the stern with one end of the line on the starboard primary winch and the other end on the port primary winch. Because the garden hose has no flat surfaces (unlike a tire) it lies just under the surface of the water, does not have to be weighted, and will not pop out and skip. It slows the boat down to around four knots and gives us complete control. There is no worry about chafing because, well, it’s a garden hose.

When we want to bring it in, or adjust the length, we just wind in on the primary winches. Because the line is in a loop, there is a two to one purchase in our favour. When we get to the next port, we use it to wash the boat down and fill our water tanks. Don’t laugh—it’s the best drogue we have ever found! We used it in the Queen’s Day Storm in 1994, 85 knots and 16 m (52 ft) seas. [One of the worst storms to hit a fleet of sailboats in history.] It worked a treat…

Who would have thought, a garden hose! Just shows that being innovative and keeping the goal in mind, rather than fixating on gear, can solve a lot of problems offshore.

Further Reading

For a complete step by step guide to storm preparation see our eBook Heavy Weather Tactics 

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Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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