The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Jordan Series Drogue Retrieval—An Alternative From Hal Roth

The last chapter, in which we wrote about our solution for the retrieval of our Don Jordan’s Series Drogue, drew an interesting e-mail from the late Hal Roth, who did not like our solution because of the loads involved.

I’m scared of the way you have tested the series drogue, particularly motoring ahead with the drogue out behind you and then trying to winch it in. I feel there is a potential life threatening load on the winch and blocks and if anything lets go, someone could be killed.

For those of you who don’t know of Hal, he was the author of 14 well-respected books on offshore voyaging, drawing on several hundred thousand miles of experience, including two single handed races around the world.

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Neil McCubbin

Hal’s approach looks brilliant to me.
We have never tried it, but do have experience with picking up a mooring in 40 knots form the stern, motoring astern, with a line from the bow, outside everything. MUCH easier than trying to stop the boat head to wind to pick up the mooring.
Also, with the drogue now off the bow, motoring towards it would be relatively safe.


This issue is soon to be a very important one for me because we are leaving Ecuador and heading offshore to Chile. In my opinion, to prepare the boat to use the windless for retrieval of the drogue makes total sense. In my case, I am going to use Hal’s advice and prepare the bow area by removing the spare anchor and have the rope rode ready to go if doing a bow retrieval seems to be the best option. I feel that by having the recovery line attached to the end of the bridle I will have both options available to me for recovery depending on the conditions.


Has anyone tried using a retrieval line with their JSD? A line attached at the end of the JSD, to the same splice eye where the chain end is attached. Pulling in this retrieval line would double back the JSD onto itself, which would mean you pull in the parachutes in reverse, which should reduce their drag force substantially. You would also bring in the chain end first, which further reduces the pull.

Nick Kats

Hi Gerben
John discussed this already – reason is liability for entanglement. It is an additional complication in deployment in bad conditions. Also I mentioned a different solution – when the waves are still high but the wind dropping, and the boat is on the backside of the wave, the line goes slack & you can pull in 10′ at a time. I have not used my JSD, but have done this easily with two other smaller drogues.


Seems that if one could afford it, and had the space, a second windlass mounted at the stern would solve the retrieval problem. This could then open up the possibility of having the spare anchor – that’s the second full size Rocna or Spade ( see John’s reasoning in the anchor section) ready to go at all times rather than stashed below- gives the option of anchoring from the rear,too!


I’d be interested in hearing any about real attempts to try Hal’s solution but heaving-to first as John suggested.


If using Hal’s method I wonder how the JSD will feed in through the bow openins and also how it will pass round the anchor rope capstan. I have not handled a Series drogue yet but I find it hard to imagine how the cones with feed over the capstan, particularly since several turns will be needed and they are open end first. Also, how will they feed over the bow roller or through a fairlead? It seems there are enormous risks of catching and entanglement which will entail putting hands where they are at risk. Am I missing something?

Oliver Schonrock

Sorry just seen Gerben’s comment above… It still seems worth testing to me, so will leave it here.

Here is another alternative:

I haven’t tested this, just an idea perhaps worth exploring.

The concept is: Change the system. Think anchor trip line. Pull the other way. Don’t fight the cones.

1. Modify your Jordan Drogue to include a retrieval line. Full length, attached to the weight/chain at the end. Slightly longer than the drogue fully stretched out. Keep the other end on board. It should have relatively little load on it, just it’s own “trailing warps” friction.

2. During retrieval, pull on this retrieval line. There should be enough slack to get it to a winch relatively easily. The end of drogue will fold over into a bight. Leave the Bridal where it is, perhaps release one side to create a balanced bight. Crucially some of the cones will collapse as they are now facing in the direction of travel. The piece of the drogue that is still streaming from the bridle will have the cones open, but they will continue to be supported by the bridle. The piece of drogue supported by the retrieval line will have the cones collapsed and has “only” the much lower friction of rope plus flapping cone material.

The advantages should be obvious: You are not fighting the drogue.

Potential disadvantages: The retrieval line interferes with the operation of the drogue while it’s working. eg the retrieval line starts wrapping around the drogue and collapses the cones in the process, rendering it less effective or useless… NEEDS TESTING!

Potential options to address above problem: Use strongly floating or sinking retrieval line?

Anyone tried this? Opinions?

Oliver Schonrock

Thx for the link. As I feared.

I am not ultra convinced about a non-waterproof battery drill on deck in 30kn being the answer though (not discrediting your personal solution) – and the whole point is being able to do it when it’s still pretty windy.

Nor am I convinced about sitting on the bow tailing an anchor winch in what are bound to be large, confused seas.

Don’t get me wrong the Series Drogue is still misunderstood and I believe it really is the best known answer in extreme seastates. The GGR has again painfully proven this. Particularly worrying as the organisers are apparently focused on how to “save rigs” during rollovers, rather than preventing them in the first place. It is unfortunate that Susie’s JSD deployment went wrong, for reasons no one understands yet – will cast more fog and confusion over the deserved credit of the JSD.

But a better retrieval system would certainly help increase acceptance. Trevor Robertson seemed to have an interesting point: “easier in a seaway” because there is momentary slack you can take up by hand over a winch. His boat is smaller, but still quite heavy – and he was single handed.

But will that break the palls in the winch on a bigger boat?

Oliver Schonrock

E-Wincher: Nice.

but you forget:

John’s first law of electrics and electronics:

– The likelihood of an undesirable outcome goes up by the square of the number of functions that a single device is required to perform.

P D Squire

What duration continuous operation is the e-wincher rated for?

Oliver Schonrock

I was only jesting. But did you watch the video with all the functions and buttons and 3-modes, talks to your smartphone…. That’s a lot of electronics to go wrong in a salt water environment…

I prefer your drill. 😉

Andrew Craig-Bennett

I don’t think a tripping line or recovery line will work.

I remember using an old style drogue (not ‘series’) and although the big ship seamanship manuals of the day spoke of using a whip on the sea anchor to haul an oil bag out to it, the drogue would spin like a top as soon as the load came on it.

I expect that a series drogue also spins.

However, having got the series drogue to the bow, surely the way to recover it is to tack up to it as you would when recovering an anchor in a strong wind?

Andrew Craig-Bennett

Thanks, John,

I haven’t bought my series drogue yet (“Kukri” is similar in size and shape to “Morgan’s Cloud”) but I am absolutely sure that I will want to bring it on the bow to recover it. I’m fairly used to sailing an anchor out. It’s the only safe way to get off a lee shore if you are anchored on one.

The rode be it chain or warp is always on the bow – it will pull you onto the the other tack when you have taken up the slack – and I don’t think you can over run it.

I’m going to have to experiment and report back… give me a couple of years!

Peter Sweitzer

Hi John,
Playing “catch-up” on your books and have been really enjoying all of it. I am glad I subscribed!
Just a thought on a series drogue recovery and would like your opinion (or anyone else’s).
What do you think of using the topping lift to pull the drogue on board.
– with the topping lift removed from the boom and lowered to the drogue, tie a rolling hitch to the drogue and winch in the topping.
– secure the drogue at stern cleat, helper line, or other means to keep it from going back in the water when the topping is slackened.
– lower the topping to deck letting the raised drogue pile on deck and untie.
– repeat until drogue is completely recovered.
– may need someone at the stern to guide the drogue clear of any snags.
So far, I’m not seeing why this wouldn’t work except for too much stress for the topping. This seems like it could be easily done even for the single-handed. I haven’t tried this because I haven’t made my drogue YET. Still working out the design requirements (would love your input on my design needs….hint hint).

Rob Gill

Hi Peter,
If you send details (model, weight, length etc) to the main manufacturers they will I’m sure be happy to recommend the JSD for your boat. From personal experience with ACE Sailmakers in the USA, Dave Pelissier provided us a design, and then design and supply / pricing options from just the Dacron cones, supplying the rope/braid sections (we bought a hybrid design – Dyneema and double braid) with first two cones attached as examples, right through to supplying the whole thing made up, including the spliced eyes with chafe coverings, and a hard eye to take the end chain and shackle. Dave was most accommodating, and their service very convenient, including shipping to NZ, everything exactly as promised.