The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Jordan Series Drogue Retrieval System

In a previous chapter I wrote about our deployment system for our Don Jordan’s Series Drogue. In this chapter I’m going to look at how we are going to get the drogue back aboard after the storm.

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I believe I have the answer to your problem of trying to retrieve any drogue in heavy seas. Let’s say you put out a 300 foot Jordan Series Drogue, do so with a 350 x 1/2 inch line attached to the distal end of the drogue and cleated to your vessel. This will give you a line attached to the distal end of your drogue which has 50 feet of slack. When the storm has passed, just uncleat the 350 x 1/2 inch line, attach it to a winch, and reel it in very quickly and easily. This will work because the half inch line attached to the distal end of the drogue will turn the end of the drogue towards your boat, causing the parachutes to collapse as they turn towards you, greatly decreasing the resistance of pulling in the drogue. Plus it gives you a safety line on the drogue in case the rode holding it breaks during the storm, so you don’t lose the drogue.


Thanks for the suggestion and thought that you put into it. But Jordan himself cautions against using a trip line (what you are proposing) for retrieving the drogue due to the chance that it will wrap around the drogue during heavy weather and collapse the cones, thereby diminishing the drogue’s effectiveness. Our own and others’ experience in heavy weather indicates that the chances of the trip line staying clear of the drogue are slim to none.

Pat Kelly

I’ve also thought about having a trip line on a Jordan Drogue (140 cones). Then I read your post about the risk of that line tangling up and collapsing the cones. What would you think of using 1/2″ polypropylene (breaking strength 3900 lbs) as the trip line? Since polypropylene floats, there may be less chance of the trip line fouling the drogue that would be weighted down by 30 lbs of chain on the distal end.

ed culhane

I’ve been wanting to read and comment on the threads you have on the jordan’s and today just pulled the trigger and signed up for a new subscription.. My idea on the retrieval was not a trip line but in a way yes. 150′ of say 1/4″ dyneema attached to the distal end attached to a float with enough bouyancy to stay at the surface and handle the weight of the anchor and chain after the blow. retrieval would be without the water weight imo.. or am i missing something?


I deployed my series drogue in a storm SW of Cape Farewell and when the wind was down to 30 knots or so I steeled myself (I was singlehanded) for the retrieval; prepared food and drink in the cockpit and started hauling the thing in. But it wasn’t as bad or hard as I expected: after half an hour I had all 119 cones in. The method was simple: using a helper line to get the junction point of the bridle past the main winch, I just winched in the drogue, cones and all, without any jamming on the drum; the cones entered and left the drum with very little snagging. No trip line needed.
By the way, I used spectra line throughout, saves a lot of bulk and weight and doesn’t seem to have any disadvantages.

Victor Raymond

My plan is to deploy the JSD via my stern anchor roller and retrieve it with the stern windlass. It will be interesting to see how that works out. Obviously it will require tailing but I am hoping the heavy line and cones will pass effortlessly around the warping head and on to the deck.

One question remains: should the JSD be deployed tail first or the reverse? I suspect tail first would be a very fast deployment and less so by starting with the cones nearer the boat.


Deployment was tail first. One has to take care to not foul the windvane gear.


I don’t understand why people don’t consider a line all the way to the end of the deployed drogue . If you release the stern connections the surely the load on the collapsed cones would make retrieval much easier? Is there a problem with this solution?


Very cool. Do you have any experience with the deployment? I would assume that to some degree, the converse of your retrieval would be true. once a bit of the drogues had been deployed the pull would be immense so carefully feeding the series drogue out would well… go out the window. I guess you can just heave the thing over board but I assume that would be risky if you wanted to prevent tangles. Also, if a chain weight is included… thanks very much in advance for any info.


Have you tried to add a retrieval line to the end of the chain? I thought a floating line fifty feet longer than the drogue would keep them apart. I know it would be a disaster if the tangled but would they, one weighted and one floating?

R P McGunnigle

How do you retrieve series jordan drogue?

Patrick Kelly

Hi John & Phillis

I appreciate your resurrecting this thread. I also did a similar experiment to the one you did, John, and found that deploying the Jordan Series Drogue is relatively simple but it is not easy, when single – handed, to get back on board (even with electric cockpit winches – which I have). I was wondering what you thought of starting the diesel and CAREFULLY backing as one cranked away on the cockpit winches to bring aboard the helper lines, then the bridle, etc. etc. BTW my boat has a prop cage (for Maine lobster pots) – perhaps this may help keeping other lines out of the prop as well.

Best regards, Pat Kelly CYGNUS


I suggest backing down with BOW (reconnect JSD on bow side first)

Ted Pearson

We have deployed our JSD several times during a high latitude southern circumnavigation on our 12 m steel centreboard with an aft cockpit and discovered a number of issues with deployment and retrieval. We set up an aft anchor roller aligned to one of the primary cockpit winches for deployment and retrieval.
When deploying we found it best to feed it out from the forward end and put the chain last. There is a significant possibility that the bridle can catch on the self steering paddle and we found we needed to change the unit so the paddle would fold up and not protrude too low.
Much to our surprise retrieval was much easier than we anticipated as once conditions have moderated the boat will surge tightening the drogue then slacken off so the line can be readily pulled in for 1-2 meters. We pass the line around one of the cockpit winches using it as a belay but don’t wind it in using the winch as we found that the cones catch under the adjacent turns of line and tear. I might add that we are a couple of seniors and not immensely strong.
Overall our experience with the JSD has been very positive although you must anticipate being pooped and need strong companionway structures, care that the self steering system cannot be fouled and an engine exhaust system that will prevent the motor flooding. We also had to abandon automatic inflating lifejackets as several times they were triggered by boarding seas when we were working in the cockpit. Our previous experience with a sea anchor and a Pardey bridle emphasised just how difficult it is to retrieve a parachute sea anchor and we had to utilise the motor and a powered anchor winch and wait until the conditions were much more settled than with a JSD.

Rob Gill

Hi Ted,
To clarify (and sorry for being slow), are you saying the surge and attendant slackening of the JSD line in southern ocean swell conditions is enough to allow it to be pulled in by hand around your sheet winch (despite not being physically strong)? If so how much chain are you using on the end, and do you have an anchor or other weight in addition? From John’s chapters I have been expecting constant heavy load in retrieval mode, so this is valuable info.

Nick Kats

Rob, I had the same experience as Ted using a Galerider. When the wind is dying & the seas remain big, it is easy to pull in 10-15 feet at a time. The time to do this is when boat is on the backside of waves, and the drogue line goes slack.
I did not have weight on the Galerider (have attached some chain since, to keep it from surfacing, pulling out of wave faces & blowing past the boat).
Weight will slow retrieval. But for me there the time to get in any drogue is on the backside of big seas.

Nick Kats

PS, great post, Ted, many thanks.

Rob Gill

Hi Nick and John – thanks for the further clarification,
In summary if the wind drops quickly after the storm, the left over sea will allow some freedom to use the back-edge of the wave to hand the JSD to avoid cone damage. If the wind is still blowing, or the boat is big enough (we are 14.5m), then we still need a winch involved, and any damage to the cones around the winch is an acceptable price to pay vs the risk of lost fingers, or further time lost.

Bill Attwood

Hi Ted
Good Info about your use of the JSD. We have a WindPilot Pacific and I have been wondering how to avoid the Problem of fouling the paddle. It is possible to fold the paddle up out of the water, but the boat shouldn’t be doing more than 1 or 2 knots, not likely when it is necessary to deploy the drogue. Although the recommendation from Don Jordan was to deploy the Anchor first, you are the second Person to have recommended the forward end first. I can see that your method of deployment allows one to check that the bridle is free and clear of the self steering before the drogue deployment is no longer controllable. What self steering System do you have, and how do you fold up the paddle? Also, what do you do with the Tiller/wheel, lash or Bungee amidships?
Yours aye

Ted Pearson

Hi Rob and Bill,
apologies for the delayed reply as we were offshore.
Regarding retrieval we have indeed found the surge and slackening in the swells sufficient to pull in 1/2-1 meters. We are both in our late 60s so definitely not as strong as younger sailors. Our drogue has 140 cones and typically takes about an hour to retrieve and we usually wait until the wind has dropped below 25 knots.
We have found a weight of about 25kgs best, too light and the boat is able to accelerate too much before the drogue straightens out and decelerates the boat.
In our opinion damaging cones is best avoided as you may well have to re-deploy the drogue. Initially we had only 110 cones and it did not hold the boat speed down enough.
Our self steering is a Fleming servo unit and it is difficult to swing the paddle up. We tried shortening the bridle lengths but it still got hooked up so we just accept that it has to be lifted.
Once the drogue is deployed we fix the tiller with bungees. On an earlier occasion we lashed with rope and twisted the tiller made from 8mm stainless plate.
Comments on the previous chapter questioned the value of being able to shorten or lengthen one bridle. We tried this but concluded that equal bridle lengths were most effective at aligning the boat to the waves and reducing chance of broaching in the troughs.
Previously we used a para-anchor with a Pardey bridle but found it infinitely more difficult to retrieve and manage compared to the JSD.
Basically the JSD is a wonderful addition to heavy weather management and we think Don Jordan made a profound contribution to voyaging safety.


I wonder if anyone has tried a tripline to the end chain of the JSD for easier retrieval.
I know it is deprecated as the tripline is said to interfere with the cones and possibly have them collapse, so I thought that adding some small lead ballast within the first and last third of the line length to the otherwise free floating tripline could make her stay away from the cones, floating in something like a bow below. Any ideas to that?

Alexander Srank


I ordered JSD and Dave is suggesing all Dyneema. Would you recommend – will the rolling hitch hold?



Alexander Srank

I look forward to the article. If it is not too much of a spoiler – is the answer downgrade to double braid polyester rode?;) Thks, Alex

Alexander Srank

OK so I will wait for the article before amending the order:)

Devon Rutz-Coveney

Re: retrieving the drogue…. ‘attainable adventure cruising’ … as we age we must all face the fact that we are not 20 something years old anymore.
We have recently (5 years ago) purchased an Andersen electric motor for our Andresen winch that is tasked to our halyards. It has made a huge difference when sailing shorthanded… We will soon do the same for our primaries. Understanding exactly the consequences of the loads that can be exerted if a mistake gets made is certainly at the front of our minds always. So far (knock on wood… 5 years on.. getting older) it has worked really very well! The energy required cranking is not nearly what it used to be.
Get an electric winch… Andersen makes nice winches that can be modified to electric (compact motor or regular).
With LFP batteries for house, it is nothing to crank until one is down to 20% SOC with voltages at 13.1 all the time….
I realise this is expensive.. but I sold the old winches to someone who wanted them (recycled)…. the new winch, with the electric upgrade, is a long term (as one ages) sustainable/attainable alternative. It is also (the entire system) more Kind to the planet….. Cheers.

Devon Rutz-Coveney

That is interesting information. Thanks for that… Did Steve write this up? I would be very interested in finding out what kind of motor was driving the winch? If the batteries driving it were fully charged?
Andersen’s compact motor is what they call a ‘planetary’ gear drive and according to them very efficient…. less amps… less heat
With the comment about overheating, it could be that the heavy drain on the batteries caused volts to go down and the amps up…. heat….
I’m not an engineer, just experience with boat gear over the years….
Thanks for the info … I’ll have to try it out.

Devon Rutz-Coveney

PS… the LFP batteries supplying the house … then the winches (and everything else), if built from the cells on up, will save big over years of use… much improved over LA…. because they do not need to be replaced for 5000 cycles + if managed properly. Marine How To… Rod Collins, has over 1000 pack cycles since 2009 on this tech. 3 years + of heavy use and just 328 cycles on our pack.
Kind to the environment vs the replacement of LA after a much less useful lifespan.

James Rosbe

Regarding the 28v Milwaukee RA drill:
After a year away from our boat, I checked the state of charge of the two 28v batteries — and both were completely dead, and the charger’s alternately blinking lights indicated they are unrecoverable. They’d been stowed fully charged. So…include regular checkups/charging to assure they will be ready when needed for your JSD.

Jim Rosbe
Uncommon Loon
Maroy, Norway

Ian Lee

Hi John
I’ve made my cones and I plan on using dyneema lines including for the bridle. My question is will a normal rolling hitch grip to the dyneema for retrieval or is the dyneema too slippery for the retrieval line to grip to?
Kind Regards Ian

Ian Lee

Thanks. I wait with bated breath

Ken Ferrari

John – Can you clarify this statement on your retrieval method? I think this is what is preventing me from fully understanding what you mean. It seems like winching in on the retrieval line will cause the bridle to slacken, but you seem to be saying the opposite. I don’t understand the “preventing further travel” statement, either.

“Take the retrieval line to our largest cockpit sheet winch and grind it in until the bridles come tight, preventing further travel.”


Peter Adamson

It sounds like we should invest in some sort of added hand power device such as an E-Winch or a power tool. I am interested in the high speed of the Milwaukee relative to what one could do by hand. At 400rpm I assume it is running on the lowest gear on your 3-speed Lewmar and that speed is still OK for the winch?

Peter Adamson

Yes. I figured that the Milwaukee’s high speed (1000 rpm) would be way too fast. I was concerned that even the low speed (400 rpm) might be too fast for the winch. For grins I just tried to crank as fast as I could, and the best I could do was 81 rotations in 30sec (and I was spent). While I suppose a winch doesn’t care how fast it’s spinning, I would guess that 400rpm well past its intended operational speed, so potential damage to the bearings was my concern. I guess I should make sure to lubricate my winches often…

Peter Adamson

Ah. Now that makes sense. Thx

– Peter

Eric Klem

Hi Peter and John,

My quick reaction is that I don’t see any reason to worry about 400rpm input speed on a winch.  In rotating assemblies at reasonable speeds, most components are torque sensitive which is independent of speed and not power sensitive which includes speed.  When dealing with an assembly like this, I would look at the following items:
1) Bearings.  Believe it or not, many bearings have higher load capacity when moving rather than when still.  This is because they rely on a thin film of oil or grease and by moving, you replenish this rather than sitting there squeezing it out.  On large bearings spinning fast, it gets a bit complicated due to stuff like balance and windage trying to blow the oil out of the bearing.  Regardless, the 400rpm is not a lot for bearings this size.
2) Gears.  Lubricated gear assemblies work on the same basic principles as many bearings.  Again, these speeds are relatively low for these sized gears.
3) Inertia.  This can mean a whole bunch of stuff.  If you have an assembly which has an angular acceleration, inertia can start to play an important part in your loads.  Also, you can get stress in parts and expansion when spinning big assemblies fast, for example when you overspeed some motors, you can actually have physical contact due to expansion of rotating elements.  The parts here are simply not that big and they are not spinning that fast.
4) Balance.  This really falls under inertia but is kind of a subject in itself.  Unlike most other inertia subjects that are designed in, balancing is typically planned for in the design and then executed as a manufacturing step.  Just like getting your wheels and tires on your car balanced, large rotational inertia high speed assemblies require balancing.  Again, the parts in a winch don’t have that much inertia and they are not spinning that fast.

The only thing that I can think of off the top of my head that could be speed sensitive is the pawls.  Since they have mass, they return at a given acceleration and therefore speed for a given spring.  If you go really fast, the pawls may not completely land before getting onto the next tooth but I don’t see this as being an issue if done for a few minutes in the entire life when retrieving a JSD.  I don’t know whether the winch companies only do life calculations by analysis or whether they also do some form of reliability testing but it may well be that they have never tested at higher than human input speeds.

This is a long way of saying that without actually sitting down and doing the analysis, my gut reaction based on designing a lot of rotating assemblies is that it is not an issue to do 400rpm on a winch.  Of course, if you hear something bad or get a lot of vibration, slow down.  If I were planning to significantly increase torque on the other hand, then yes, I would take a hard look at the design.


Peter Adamson

Thanks for the in depth explanation Eric. However my main problem was unfamiliarity with the Milwaukee. The variable speed trigger that John mentioned would be the key. It’s slowing down under load could increase the chance to burnout the motor, but I’ve had seen my (cheaper) Ryobi slow down a lot drilling with a hole saw and it has survived. I do take breaks, but I think one would be doing the same winching in the JSD as it’s a lot easier on the back side of waves.

Arne Mogstad

Hi, I’m new to both sailing and this website, and sorry if this have been covered or I didn’t understand it correctly, but would a pulley system work to retrieve the drogue? I’m a mountaineer and use pulley-purchase systems often in rescue and load hauling situations, and it seems fairly intuitive to me that a “simple” pulley system would reduce the force required to get it in, with a limited amount of complexity. Or is it a bad idea?

On a separate note, is this always deployed from the stern?

Arne Mogstad

Hey, thank you for a swift and good reply! 🙂

P D Squire

Do you think a drill would be necessary if you had an ewincher?

Test retrieval is steady state (motor at 1200rpm)
Storm retrieval seems to be variable state (retrieve on the back of a wave; rest on the front)
Do you think the variable vs steady state has implications?

Terence Thatcher

What I hope will be my last question on this: I have an extra line from the boat to the end of the bridle, as you suggest. Several years ago, I took a suggestion to make that retrieval line out of very strong floating polypro. But with the discussion of fouling self steering, perhaps that is not wise. What kind of line do you suggest for the bridle retrieval line? Thanks.