The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Yawing at The Anchor, an Alternative Cure

I can’t tell you how many times we have been grateful for the sheer tenacity of our 33kg Rocna anchor. The confidence it has given us when yet another squall whacks into Pèlerin is priceless. But anchoring in strong winds is not just about the design of your anchor, as size is of equal importance—if in doubt, go large!

And that’s not the complete story either. A nylon snubber, can really absorb the energy of the gusts and take shock loadings off the anchor and associated shackles.

All of these factors have a secondary benefit in that, when combined, they significantly reduce stress amongst the crew sheltering below. There’s nothing worse than lying in your bunk enduring loud cracks, creaks and shocks as the chain comes up tight—there’s always an air of tension, and rest doesn’t come easy.

And then there’s another dimension, that of stopping the boat sheering around like a mad thing in the gusts, heeling hard and coming up tight on her cable at the end of each run, worrying away at the anchor like a pit bull terrier.

But how to tame that particular beast? Over the years I’ve tried many well-known strategies, with varying results, but I believe that I have finally found a technique that answers that problem, at least in our case.

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More Articles From Online Book: Anchoring Made Easy:

  1. Introduction
  2. 4 Vital Anchor Selection Criteria and a Review of SPADE
  3. SARCA Excel Anchor—A Real World Test
  4. SPADE, SARCA Excel, or Some Other Anchor?
  5. Rocna Resetting Failures and Evaluation of Vulcan and Mantus
  6. Some Thoughts On The Ultra Anchor, Roll Bars and Swivels
  7. Specifying Primary Anchor Size
  8. Kedge (Secondary Anchor)—Recommended Type and Size
  9. Third Anchors, Storm Anchors and Spare Anchors
  10. Anchor Tests—The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Silly
  11. Making Anchor Tests More Meaningful
  12. We Love The Way Our Anchor Drags 
  13. Things to Know About Anchor Chain
  14. Selecting a Chain Grade
  15. Anchor Chain Catenary, When it Matters and When it Doesn’t
  16. Anchoring—Snubbers
  17. Anchor Rode Questions and Answers
  18. Q&A: Hybrid Rope And Chain Anchor Rodes
  19. Anchor Swivels, Just Say No
  20. A Windlass That Makes The Grade
  21. The Perfect Anchor Roller
  22. Install A Wash-down Pump—And Save Money!
  23. Anchoring—Kellets
  24. Anchoring—Chain: Stoppers, Termination and Marking
  25. 20 Tips To Get Anchored and Stay Anchored
  26. Choosing an Anchorage
  27. Choosing a Spot
  28. 15 Steps To Getting Securely Anchored
  29. One Anchor or Two?
  30. Two Anchors Done Right
  31. It’s Often Better to Anchor Than Pick Up a Mooring
  32. Yawing at Anchor, The Theory and The Solution
  33. Yawing at The Anchor, an Alternative Cure
  34. How To Use An Anchor Trip Line
  35. ShoreFasts—Part 1, When to Use Them
  36. ShoreFasts—Part 2, Example Setups Plus Tips and Tricks
  37. ShoreFasts—Part 3, The Gear
  38. Gale And Storm Preparation, At Anchor Or On A Mooring
  39. Storm Preparation, All Chain On Deck
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thanks Colin for the article and it is really something i will try next season. With two headsails on roller my boat swings a lot at anchor. I have found that, by anchoring from the stern when there isnt too much wave, the swing is almost eliminated also.

Colin Speedie

Hi Andre

I’ve never tried anchoring by the stern (though I’ve used a stern anchor for different reasons), and maybe I’ll give it a try some day.

But the drogue technique might well work for you – hope so.

Best wishes



Hi Colin,

I will seriously give the drogue a try since i have a Rocna 88 pounder at the bow and it is the best sleeping device invented. I could of course for a short duration – under control anchor from the stern in very favorable condition but all the chain is in the front.

Buy curiosity did you make the drogue yourself of bought of the shelf ?

Colin Speedie

Hi Andre

ah, there’s nothing like a good anchor to let you get a good nights rest!

The drogue is a simple low cost one from Plastimo, but seems to work fine and is easily robust enough for the use it’s being put to. The one flaw it had was that it didn’t have a ‘hard’ opening, so would collapse when not under drag and would open ‘late’ making it less effective than it could be. Once I got the wire stitched in by a sailmaker in Grenada that problem was done away with and it works really well.

Best wishes



A question: Given AAC’s advocacy of the Jordan Series Drogue, any thoughts about, and/or experiences with, the related “anchoring from the stern” found here: ? E.g., “These engineering data clearly show that, in storm conditions, a sailing yacht should be moored or anchored from the stern with a bridle, not the bow. If moored from the stern, the boat will lie quietly and will weathercock with changes in the wind direction.”

Colin Speedie

Hi Ed

I’m not at all sure about this. It might make sense in theory, but in practice it would depend on several factors I’d have thought, especially as we’re probably only considering tis as a survival tactic.

1. Just like the series drogue you’ll need some really serious attachment points that are chafe free. And how often do you see those on a series boat?
2. I wouldn’t want to try this anywhere far enough offshore for significant waves to be generated. With a short amplitude way train the boat would be pitching like mad and (especially) with an aft cockpit boat I think you’d soon find every vulnerable opening in no time at all.
3. And if don’t work, what would you do then?

So I can see the theory, but in practice? Not for me, thanks!

Best wishes


Eric Klem

Hi Colin,

Thanks so much for reporting back on how this ended up working out for you. One of the few dislikes that I have about our current boat is that it sails around at anchor more than I would like although it is far from bad when compared to many other boats. Based on your review, I think that I will definitely be giving this a shot this summer. I have previously tried a small bucket in ~20 knots and not found a big difference but from your account, I think that it wasn’t a fair test and with the improvements you suggest, I am hopeful it will work a lot better.


Colin Speedie

Hi Eric

It’s definitely worth giving it a try. Our experience is that the two critical factors are the size of the drogue (relative to the boat) and keeping it open so that it works every time with no delay. The weight is less of an issue, but it does seem as if a little weight works well. But experimenting to get it right isn’t costly or time consuming, so Good Luck!

Best wishes


Bill Balme

Excellent idea Colin – makes all the sense in the world and is simple. Will be giving it a try this season!

Colin Speedie

Hi Bill

not my idea originally, but I hope I’ve added to it. As you say, makes sense and simple – like all of the best ideas!

Best wishes


Grenville Byford

Clever idea. Well worth trying. Allow me however, to add one thought : On most boats (including my relatively new one) the chain goes over a roller right on the bow. The snubber is attached to a cleat (and may go through a fairlead) some way back from the bow. In my boat this distance is about 2-3 ft. This means that when the snubber comes taut, the boat is not pulled directly into the wind, and its tendency to yaw is increased. I have found I can improve matters quite dramatically by running the snubber up to a (substantial and well secured) turning block right on the bow. The snubber when taking the strain now does so right on the bow.

Best regards,


Colin Speedie

Hi Grenville

good point, and one we addressed on our boat by having a welded cleat installed in the anchor locker to take the snubber and its associated loads. The chain passes out through the port roller, and the snubber line goes out through there starboard roller. As a result the snubber, even when taut, holds the boats nose into the wind. We have no chafe issues either – nice, soft radiused roller. Another approach is to rig a chain hook on a bridle as the snubber, led from both sides of the bow, catamaran style, if the position of your cleats will let you and there are no significant chafe points.

But your block idea does the trick too. You just have to find out what’s the most convenient and appropriate set-up for your boat.

Best wishes


Dick Stevenson

Dear Colin,
Fun article and thought provoking.
I have played with something similar, but have never gone very far as Alchemy has never moved enough to really get my experimenting juices going. What I have tried was not off the chain, but off the stern. From the stern, you have more leverage as that is the location that “wags” the most. This has the added benefit of allowing the anchor to be gotten up and secured more easily and quickly in a fire drill of some sort.
I have a Galerider drogue which might be fun to experiment with off the stern. Your picture of your drogue looked very like the drogue that used to be made by ??Forespar?? in decades past and are likely knocking about many a sailors basement.
My best, Dick Stevenson, Alchemy

Colin Speedie

Hi Dick

I think this might work better on different boats. Our boat is pretty stable up until 30 knots, but less so with the board up. Your boat with a deeper forefoot, longer keel, central mast and less freeboard might be more stable again.

What’s interesting with modern shallower hulled boats is the speed they pay off at – the wind catches the bow on one side and it’s off we go. The chain is then being dragged through the water at speed, and that’s where the drogue set-up seems to work, as it immediately slows the chain, and so the boat. I know that’s not very scientific, but I’ve been watching it carefully for extended periods to whilst I try to maximise the benefits by adjusting the drogue in a variety of ways.

I can see where you’re coming from with the drogue/drag device off the stern, and again it might suit your boat better. My only concern would be that I hate anything around the stern at any time, to avoid any chance of choking the prop – and most especially in bad weather, at anchor.

But if it works, why not?

And the drogue was just a cheap one I picked up in a chandlery as a mule to test the theory. I’m sure they can be had for next to nothing in any swap meet!

Best wishes


John Harries

Hi Dick,

Interesting thought about using a Galerider off the stern. However, in thinking about it, I wonder if it would not make the problem worse. As I understand it, boats sheer about at anchor because the centre of pressure (felt from the wind) is well forward of the centre of lateral resistance (felt from the water). So I’m thinking that, at least in theory, adding drag at the stern is going to move the centre of lateral resistance even further aft and make the problem worse, not better.

On the other hand, Colin’s method works because it moves the centre of lateral resistance well forward.

Conversely, a riding sail works because it moves the centre of lateral resistance aft.

(Matt, Eric, Erik, Have I got this right?).

Eric Klem

Hi John,

Yes, you have the major reason for shearing around correct. I have gone down the mental rabbit hole of how you can make a leeboard for the bow to move the CLR forward but I haven’t been able to figure out how to do it in a reasonable way. There are known ways to move the windage aft but I would prefer not to add windage.

With regards to a drogue off the stern, I think that the answer is “it depends” In a static sense, it exacerbates the problem as you have stated. In a dynamic sense, it can help eliminate a major issue which is the boat surging forward. Once the boat has surged forward, the force on the anchor rode is low so there isn’t much resistance to the bow blowing off really quickly at first. Colin’s version of the drogue will help with this as well as it will lessen the tendency of the chain catenary to pull the boat forward but it won’t deal with the snubber stretch. The US Navy protocol was (and maybe still is), to engage the engines dead slow astern when dragging because this eliminated the tendency to surge ahead. I have actually used this technique with quite a bit of success in certain very gusty conditions. The other case where it can make sense that I know of is when there is a lot of current.

I have only used a drogue off the stern in current so I don’t have real world experience with it beyond that.


John Harries

Hi Eric,

That’s interesting, thank you.

Fascinating about the US navy protocol. Just another one of those frequent situations when the right thing to do is the one that is counterintuitive.

The converse is you hear many cruisers talking about running the engine ahead to take the load off the anchor in very high winds. But anyone who has ever tried it will tell you that doing so actually increases the load on the system and the chances that you will end up yanking the anchor out and dragging.

John Douglass

Thank you very much for this article. I have this problem in spades on my Passoa 46. In conjunction with the drogue have you experimented with centerboard position? Have you found an optimum CB position to reduce sheering?
Off to the attic to begin sewing my new Colin ‘anti-whiplash’ Drogue.
Thanks again,
S/V Sargo

Colin Speedie

Hi John

Like our Ovni your Passoa has the mast well forward, and also has far less lateral area to the ‘keel’ than the average boat. Lift the board and that becomes far worse.

I haven’t experimented with positions of the board – yet. For the most part if we’re not anchored in shoal water we have the board right down, and if we’re in shallow water then it’s right up. There’s a very noticeable difference in strong winds, with the board up we’re soon on the move. But I’ll give it a try next time we have some fresh winds and see – interesting idea.

I think this might well work for your boat (nice boat, too!)

Best wishes


Neil McCubbin

Our Passoa 47 also sails around when anchored in over 30knots. Installing dinghy davits has helped a little, presumably a riding sail effect
We keep our board all the way up at anchor to discourage growth.
We have, surprisingly, seen no difference in sailing around with board up vs. down


Hi Colin, how good’s that?

We have quite high clipper bows which also respond to strong gusts in the time honoured fashion. Can’t wait to try your device. But one question: in the situation of needing to quickly release more chain (say 25 knots suddenly becomes 40), having to remove the snubber, then the drogue may be sub-optimal (I assume you could just lay out more chain but the drogue would become less effective the further it got from the boat). Did you experiment with attaching the drogue directly to the chain snubber attachment point so you only have one point of release for both?

I know we should all put down the right amount of chain first off, but who hasn’t been caught out in the middle of the night on seven or eight-to-one scope anticipating adverse conditions, only to bump into a neighbour sitting blissfully unaware on three-to-one?

Cheers Rob

Colin Speedie

Hi Rob

I tend to attach the drogue juts outboard of the snubber, and I always veer a decent length of snubber. I haven’t tried attaching both drogue and snubber at the same point, although I suppose it could be done.

My view with this idea is only to use when appropriate, and that would be when I knew it was going to blow hard. That being the case, I’d tend to select an anchoring spot that would allow us to veer plenty of cable in the first place, as far away from other boats as possible.

You’re right that there will be a reduction in effect the farther from the boat the drogue is, but so far it appears to be incremental, i.e. not a huge reduction. Given that the cable will be up pretty taught in most of the time, I’d think it wouldn’t be too much of an issue to veer more cable (although, as you say, it’s better to veer the right amount of cable in the first place – if you can).

And regarding your final point – it happens all the time here in the Caribbean. Another reason I always try to anchor well clear of others.

Best wishes


Rob Gill

Thanks Colin, I will experiment with a dual attachment point and report back after a blow.

As for anchoring clear of others, we never seem to manage this – as soon as we have dropped anchor in a remote spot, another boat will range alongside, even if there is an ocean of space around us. I wonder if there is some counter-intuitive, but deep rooted instinct (safety in numbers) that makes people want to “roost” together after dark!

Ironically, the best way we have found to deal with this problem is to sneakily let out a bit of the rolled headsail and veer wildly around on our anchor!


Colin Speedie

Hi Rob

I don’t know what your boat is made of, but in my experience all materials seem to be magnetic in anchorages….

We were in a remote and very peaceful anchorage one night when another boat came in and made to anchor right on top of us, so we got the whole crew reeling round on deck and turned the music up to 11 on the amplifier – that worked too.

Best wishes


David Everett

Colin, am keen to try your method. Just a bit confused re exactly where the drogue is attached – to the chain, or to the nylon snubber? Is the hook just around the snubber down at its junction with the chain?

Colin Speedie

Hi David
the drogue is attached just outboard of the snubber – that way it’s less likely to get tangled up with the snubber. Juts a foot or two, as long as it’s enough to ensure they can’t mix.

Best wishes


Terje M

John and Phyllis,

We got very good experience using a SeaBrake when we are on anchor or on a bouy. It really stabilizes the yacht from dancing around in high wind. With a few occasions I have used in with strong wind and high tide, especially when you got tide over wind or when you got strong wind from one direction and the tide from another. Playing with the position of SeaBrake; port, center or starboard and the length of the rope allow me to “trim” yacht for a good nights sleep.

I am fin keel, 42 feet, 10 ton deplacement and a very good anchor. The anchor have hold at 50+ of wind. In these conditions the SeaBrake must add must add several tons in drag on the anchor. My concern would be what will brake first? The boat was stable and configurable.

With a el anchor watch I normally fall asleep.

– I keep the SeaBrake on a short line. I should get a anchor ball on the SeaBrake to possible prevent others to get too close.
– At times difficult to use on bouy’s due to the distance to the bouy’s behind me.
– Need to be careful when you got boat on anchor around you. They tend to swing around when you are more stable.

Terje M.

Colin Speedie

Hi Terje
We have a Sea Brake as our storm drogue, but I’ve never tried it as you suggest – but will do when the opportunity arises. But for the purpose I’m suggesting I think it would simply be too big.

I can’t see whys nothing should break as a result of using a Sea Brake – as long as everything is strong and in good order.

But I agree with your final point – if you’re the only one lying to a drogue, or two anchor for that matter, look out!

Best wishes


Terje M

Great article.

You are discussing a storm drogue on the bow. Or between the anchor chain and a cleat as some of the readers suggest. Every boat is different – I am struggling to see that you will archive anything on-board my boat with that setup. I got a fast fin keel.

Your main objective is to reduce the main sheers in high wind / guest when on anchor. You want to stop the boat moving and swinging on anchor and high wind.

I might be a chicken here – I would not but the drogue on the bow when on anchor or on a bouy. Using a SeaBrake as I suggested will quickly be too big. The SeaBreak and the anchor chain will quickly get tangled and make it very difficult to recover.

I will use the SeaBreak on the bow on its own. Then you will need some sea room. This is not what year article is about. Using the SeaBrake on your stern with a short warp will quickly slow the boats movements in all directions when on anchor Some might think it is too big – but it will get the job done! It will allow me to trim the anchor chain, more chain, less or take it up all together without the need to adjust the drogue. With the engine going in that situation you got very good control.

Some testing is needed.

Good winds,

Dennis Harjamaa


Great article and good comments. I have a riding problem on my LRC as well so the issue is not only related to sailing yachts. It seems that what makes a boat track well under way is going to work against you at anchor.

Like Eric mentions the ideal solution is to move the underwater lateral centre of resistance forward. An integrated centreboard / daggerboard right at the bow would be a nice solution in a new design, in a powerboat scenario it would potentially make for sharper handling at slow speeds in tight spots too.

It would be interesting to try to tie a drag device directly to the hull in the bow as far forward as possible. This would be unlikely to foul the rode. What I might try is to get a length of strong webbing, long enough to tie from sheer to sheer under the hull in the bow, just aft of where the forefoot levels off. A drogue like yours sewn to the middle of this webbing would sit under water on vessel centreline.

The thing to do would be to have a brightly coloured “reminder” integral to the setup so one would not start motoring /sailing away with the device deployed.

Colin Speedie

Hi Dennis
I think there are many permutations of this idea, that could work better for a whole range of boats, and I’d encourage any one of you to make your own experiments to see what works for you. What I’ve done works for our boat, and I may yet try using a larger drogue in stronger winds.
The point you and Eric quite rightly make is the need to create greater lateral resistance forward, and in my view that’s why the set-up we have works so well – on our boat.
I like your ideas – sounds like something that would work. And also the ‘reminder’ idea!

Best wishes


Dennis Harjamaa

Hi Colin,
Had a thought about the attachment of your system… Might be worth trying to attacht the drogue near the end of the snubber so retrieving in a hurry would have one less step. In stead of a small weight a little float would be attached to the drogue to keep it from fouling the anchor chain.

Colin Speedie

Hi Dennis
good idea indeed! I might try attaching the strop of the drogue to the eye on the chain hook with a Spectra loop. And also the float idea – hadn’t thought of that at all, and will definitely give it a go.
Truly together we are stronger….

Thanks very much!


Patrick Genovese

Hi Colin,
Great article. In so far as scaling the system up / down i.e. having drogues of different sizes to be able to tune to the conditions how much bigger / smaller would you estimate that the drogue needs to be. Any thoughts ?


Colin Speedie

Hi Patrick

that’s a very good question, and one I’m still not completely sure about!
So far what I’ve learned was that the bucket (dia. c. 10″/25cm.) was too small – just didn’t provide sufficient drag. The drogue (dia. c. 16″/40cm.) seems just about right for our boat (c. 43′ & 15T displacement).

BUT – that’s with a maximum wind speed tested of c. 30 knots. Greater sustained wind speeds might – I repeat, might – be worth trying.

The reason I’m unsure is simple. I’ve spent some hours playing with the thing to achieve the best balance between distance from the boat and drag on the chain. What I have tried to do (and so far, so good) achieved is to get the maximum drag without the boat ‘bending the chain’, i.e. the drogue making a swivel at the point of attachment. If that we’re to happen, I think it would negate the whole idea, as the boat would just twist around the swivel point and make for a jerky action.
Put simply, I have not been trying to stop the boat from sheering at all, just slowed it down dramatically. I think that’s the way to get the best out of the device.
And I think there’s an additional benefit that Eric quite rightly suggested in an above comment, and that is that the drogue if correctly positioned on the chain doesn’t just cause lateral drag as the baot swings, but also cuts down the propensity to surge forward as the boat swings at the end of a gust.
I’ve no doubt that there might be more to come from this idea, and when I can find one suitable I’m going to try a slightly bigger (say 20″ dia.) drogue, just to see what happens.
Feedback from any of you that make you own would be most welcome!

Best wishes


Patrick Genovese

I will try it out this summer, we rarely see very high winds in my usual cruising grounds (Med) but the yawing around is something that annoys me so I guess my tests will be more towards the “light” end of the scale.

Bruce Savage

Hi Colin
Great article which I’m sure is going to help me a lot, thank you! Our Allures 44 I’m sure behaves quite similarly to your Ovni with board up. I have a SeaBrake which we have used with diving lead attached quite successfully to reduce rolling, hanging off stern quarter cleats. I will try it hanging off a short bridle and a short rope at the bow, attached to both bow cleats. Hopefully this will:-
Keep clear of the chain and snubber.
Because of the relatively large size of the SeaBrake it will inhibit sideways movement early, even when still hanging quite vertically.
Being closer to the bow it will have a more direct effect than on the chain.
An added bonus will be a damping of vertical bow movement.

Based on my observations of the SeaBrake working at the back of the boat I think it will work well for this.

Colin Speedie

Hi Bruce
judging by what I’ve seen, your Allures will behave in a very similar way to our Ovni.
I originally thought of following a similar route, but in the end went down a different one as I’m not sure about hanging devices from the bow, noise and abrasion on the hull etc.
I was also keen on the idea of something simple and cheap for more general use, as opposed to relying on a relatively expensive product such as the SeaBrake, although we have one on board.
Also with the set-up we have the boat can still move, just much more slowly and steadily. I think the SeaBrake might be too big.
But of course I might be wrong on all counts! This remains a work in progress (I’ve just attached our drogue direct to the chain hook as suggested by Dennis, above) and I hope you’ll tell us how you get on.

Best wishes

Bruce Savage

Hi Colin
It took a while for me to try this idea but I have had good success so far doing the following:
Our Allures 44 has a mini-bowsprit/double anchor roller, chain one side, snubber the other. I rig the SeaBrake off the bow using a single line alongside the snubber on the same roller. Depth about a meter below water level, depending. This keeps the SeaBrake below and away from the bow.
It reduces swinging and improves the motion of the boat a lot, even in light winds. I have yet to try this in very strong conditions but I can’t see any reason why it would not work well then too.

John Pedersen

I use a Galerider on a bridle over the stern whenever the boat surges about at anchor.

I have a 9m catamaran, and I always use an anchor bridle. This keeps us steady into the wind, except when there is wind over tide. The worst conditions I experienced were in Northern Spain, when I had a F6-7 blowing against 3 knot current. No fun at all. I had a lot of scope out, so the boat had lots room to sail about, and according to my GPS, we hit 4 knots before sailing ahead of the anchor and snatching to a stop.

I hung a Galerider off the stern on a bridle, and the boat just stopped! Almost dead still. The anchor can cope very well indeed against a steady pull, so I wasn’t bothered about the bit of extra drag caused by the drogue, but I was very pleased not to have the anchor, the boat and me snatched about from one side to the other.

I have three drogues on board – I have the Galerider specifically for anchoring in wind over tide conditions. I hadn’t thought of attaching the drogue to the anchor rode, but at least for me, hanging from the back with a bridle is very simple, and I think using the bridle helps quite a bit (but then I’m 6m wide).

Nick Kats

Hi Colin, several thoughts.

I’ve used 2 anchors off the bow a few x. When deployed in a vee, the bow of the boat is basically fixed over the same spot. The stern can waggle, but not the bow. Total motion is vastly less than when the same boat is on one rode and the bow can move in an arc far to each side, with immensely greater forces, discomfort, etc. I never had trouble using 2 anchors in a vee & cannot understand the fuss over using two anchors. An adaption might be to have a much smaller anchor at a sharp angle to one side & put 50 pounds pull on it. That should suffice to keep the bow on the same spot. Further, if retrieval seems messy, buoy and toss the rode of the lesser anchor, & after picking up the main anchor & chain, circle back for retrieval of the 2nd.

Roller furled sails give huge forward wind resistance. These should be easily dropped on deck. Inability to do this, in the long run, is asking for trouble.

But for me the real problem of sailing at anchor is design. The modern designs are characterized by high freeboard, lots of forward windage due to roller furled sails sitting aloft, extra tall masts, little hull below the waterline relative to what is above the waterline, minimal keel to provide lateral resistance, and lightweight boat. Old boats generally have the opposite characteristics – low freeboard, hanked foresails down on deck, shorter masts, lots of underbody relative to hull above water, lots of keel fore & aft, and heavyweight. To stereotype: The first type of boat is a bubble on the surface, easily toyed with by the wind. The second type gripped the water, and is much more resistant to high winds.

The characteristics of the heavy displacement, full keel type, etc, in my view, provide for greatly increased comfort & security at sea. A boat that sails at anchor is, for me, a red flag.

Marc Dacey

I concur, but I wonder if the solution (because you are NOT going to turn back the tide of “condo boats” based on stability characteristics at anchor) rests in the advocacy and use of riding sails ( to counteract windage? Putting drogues on rodes to dampen swing is great, but to my mind there is better access and opportunity to adjust a deck-level stretch of sailcloth than to deal with a second anchor or an anchor drogue of some description.

I’ve used a riding sail of sorts exactly once. I ran a hank on storm jib up the backstay of a low freeboard sloop at anchor and tensioned it to act as a rudder. While the conditions weren’t challenging, even this tactic greatly “calmed” the boat from hunting around. I estimate that a proper “triangular” riding sail would work even better in a proper blow or with wind against current.

Colin Speedie

Hi Nick, Marc
heavy displacement, low freeboard boats tend to lie quietly up until higher wind speeds than lighter high freeboard designs – that we can all agree on. But they can all move around in strong winds.
I used to sail those type of boats for a living, and we used the mizzen at anchor a lot of the time, as it helped the boat to weathercock with the wind nicely, and didn’t ‘worry’ the old fashioned anchors we used.

I’ve tried a variety of riding sails to achieve the same effect, and for my money they need to be set up very well to function properly. The best one I saw was the triangular Norwegian style one I mention in the text, but it would cost a lot of money to make, and it wasn’t a five minute job to set it, let me tell you.

I’m still playing with the drogue, and have just used it for several windy days in an open roadstead and it worked perfectly, although we needed more wind to really test it. Several boats close to use were sheering around like mad though, and yes, they were very modern high freeboard designs.
Our boat doesn’t do that, but if we have the board right up in shallow water she will move around. I’m looking at a fairly specific parameter for our need. But for general use the drogue is cheap, takes moments to attach and remove and works well so far, and all things being equal I think it would work even better on a flighty modern design.
Best wishes

Nick Kats

Hi Marc

I was actually thinking of the majority of sailboats, including cruisers.

The old sailing fishing boats (before the engine) had enormous mass & often enormous keels.

Boats like this handle very differently compared to today’s relatively lightweight sailboats with their usually very small keels. Eg, the problem of sailing at anchor. Though this is simplistic, apples & oranges.

Not many people today have experience with the old heavy displacements. Svein, who often contributes to AA, has this. Colin Speedie too, though I think he prefers his OVNI.

Without people looking at specific problems from the viewpoint of very heavy displacement boats, we lose very valuable insights.

Marc Dacey

Nick, thanks for the insight.

I have yet to anchor our bigger boat (I’ve been in refit hell for some time) but expect to do so in the coming months. It’s heavy displacement steel full-keeler of some 15 tonnes over 41 feet. I expect it to react significantly differently at anchor than does my 33 foot, 4.5 tonne fin keeler I am trying to sell, and the math is getting a workout. I am quite aware from just motoring the steel boat that it doesn’t want to move when still, but once in motion, it doesn’t want to stop; our old friend inertia at work…so our goal is to stay quiet at anchor and perhaps to borrow a page from the Pardeys and rig “flopper stoppers” should be roll overmuch. Time and experiment should inform us, as do the experiences related by the AAC veterans.

John Harries

Hi Nick,

I guess we will have to agree to disagree on that one. I’m just not a big fan of two anchors—reasons are here.

Richard Foy

Not sure why the reluctance to use a riding sail as apposed to putting more complex stuff in the water. I sewed up a “delta wing” or “triangle” sail as some call it, it was cheap and I got some heavy storm sail material from sailrite, have used it for 10 years now. It works very well and I use it anytime I am anchored unless I am very confident of a calm night. I had tried opening the wings to different angles with an old batten for different strength winds. I didn’t find it made enough of a difference and I now just attach it to each pulpit. As the wind blows harder everything stays quiet and it tracks well. When I turn on the wind indicator the boat is within 20 degrees or so of either side and usually corrects quickly to on the nose. I had borrowed a straight flat cut riding sail but the flapping noise as it goes through the eye of the wind was annoying so decided to go with the delta wing style. Easy to build and takes 5 minutes to put up,


Marc Dacey

Good to know. I have a double backstay from the stern quarters to the masthead, so I suspect my solution would be two flat-cut sails hoisted tautly with the clews angled forward to the mast or some other centerline point.

It strikes me that riding sails are great to a point, but that a bridle/snubber arrangement is equally good and that the two might reinforce each others’ action, which is to reduce yaw at anchor and to keep the “pivot” well down to the waterline.

Terje M

I promised report back using a SeaBrake on anchor or buoy to stop the boat dancing. Some of you predicted that a SeaBrake is too big for the job.

I got the GP 30 version for 36-55 feet boats. Every time I take it out of the lazzarate it looks too big for the job. My yacht is 42 feet, fin keel with 10.000 displacement. I have done some modification and fitted two oversized pad-eyes one of each side of the cockpit with a stainless steel support plate on the inside. Both of the eyes can hold 8.000 ton each. When running down wind these should hold the drogue in any condition.

The tide in Solent, England can be very strong. It is normal that the tide is four to five knots. When the tide is going, there are lots of pressure on the anchor or on the buoy. We have been moored up in 50+ of wind, with wind against tide the condition on the buoy / anchor can be nasty.

I drop the SeaBrake on the leeward side without a chain, only using a 18 mm line. Before I drop it, it is well secured. I am using a Antal ring fitted to the pad-eye, then the line goes to a self-tailing Harken Quattro Performa 50.2 spinnaker winch. Using the winch, I easily adjust the length of the line. When rigged I drop the SeaBrake over board.

The yacht instantly stop dancing. The sideways moves instantly stops. The same for the horizontal movement on the buoy. By keeping the drogues on leeward side I holding the yacht a few degrees to the incoming waves at the transom. Our transom makes lots of noise generated by the incoming waves hitting the transom. By adjusting the length of the line the yacht comes to a comfortable silence. Best result is keeping the SeaBrake 10-15 feet behind the boat. It will then surface now and then.

The drag on the buoy or anchor must be massive. When the tide is going, I am not able to take the SeaBrake in by hand. I am a strong Viking.

On anchor, I have never dragged the anchor. I like to think that my oversized Delta anchor just digs into the mud by the extra drag.

When the tide turns I like to on-deck. The boat normally just turns. During the 30 minutes the tide turns, I normally give out more line or take it in to just a few feet. It just depends on if I got other boats around me.

Speaking to the harbour master who own the buoy, he commented on how little movement our yacht made. He did not mind the extra drag.


posted this up few months back and caught hell but here it is and you’ll see why..

John Harries

Hi Eddie,

The technical reasons for anchoring by the stern are both simple and compelling: If a boat tends to hunt badly when anchored by the bow it means that the centre of pressure is ahead of the centre of lateral resistance of the submersed hull. Therefore the boat will lie much more quietly when anchored by the stern where the imbalance will be reversed.

The problem comes with practicalities: deploying the anchor, wind and rain down the companionway, wave slap on the transom, etc. However, if you have a boat that hunts and on which these problems can be solved, anchoring by the stern could make a lot of sense.


Hi Colin from Cape Town,

it took me a while to get around to experimenting with this, but it works a treat, so thank you for sharing this trick!! So much more incredibly helpful advice I’ve take on board from this site, so thank you John and Phyllis, but I’m singling this one out today just because it came in particularly handy recently!

Colin Speedie

Hi Matt, well I’m very glad to hear that it worked for you. I’ve got a plan to experiment a little further with different weights, but I’m very happy with the drogue so far – anything else will be icing on the cake.

And I know I can speak for John and Phyllis when I say thanks for the kind words about AAC – we’re always glad to hear feedback, especially of that kind!

Best wishes


Petter ;-)

Hello Colin,

Would you care to answer a question or two regarding you fancy (not) – just effective – anti-swinging device? The reason is I am trying to copy it.

Is the starting item a bucket with a closed bottom or a drift sock with a small opening at the lower end? If the latter, what is the diameter at the narrow end of the sock. According to what I have found above, the wide opening has a diameter of 400mm and the length of the bridle above the opening is 600mm long. How long is the sock/bucket between the top and bottom?

From this page (provided in another thread) it should be possible to calculate the dimensions of the material required.

Hope to hear from you when you find the time, meanwhile,

Greetings from lovely Bergen on the west coast of Norway,

John Harries

Hi Petter,

Generally, although I’m here pretty much 365 days a year, AAC writers only monitor comments to posts for a couple of weeks after original publication date. This is only fair since they are paid on a per-post basis only.

In a perfect world we would pay them an annual fee to monitor and answer comments on older posts, but unfortunately our revenue stream does not run to that. Also they are all very busy with other things.

The result is that you are stuck with me. I have chatted with Colin about this technique and as I understand it, the exact size does not seem to be terribly critical.

Petter ;-)

Thanks for reverting, John.
I fully understand your the situation. However, since the two of you discussed this technique, do you know if the “contraption” has a closed end or is made with a narrow opening like a drift sock?

– petter

John Harries

Hi Petter,

There’s a photo in the post above of Colin’s Mk III version that I think shows that the end has a narrow opening.

Bill Attwood

Hi Petter
I am planning to build this drogue too, it seems an excellent idea. I offer my thoughts on establishing its dimensions.
The rough dimensions from the photo based on the mouth opening of 400 mm look to be: length 600 mm, dimension small end 100 mm. Secondly, using the 400 mm dimension as base, the published dimensions of the JSD drogues might be a good basis for scaling the rest. The same thought leads me to think that 3 tapes might be better than 4.
Yours aye

Bill Attwood

Just another thought. The idea of attaching any sort of sail to backstay(s) would worry me. I would be concerned at fatigue in the wire from the inevitable vibration. Might be ok with some exotic stay material.

John Harries

Hi Bill,

Given that the back stay will probably be the same spec as the forestay, which is designed to take the loads and vibration of a full jib at sea, I can’t really see that being a problem. In fact I would be pretty sure that the loads imposed by a riding sail would be well below the fatigue limit of the backstay materials and therefore there would be no degradation.

petter ;)

I finally got down to it, constructed the device Colin recommended, and it was launched for the first time today. Anchored in 16kn, gusting 20kn wind. Earlier Iris was swinging a total of 90 degrees (45 degrees to either side) in the wind. Today she swings 10-15 degrees to both sides, total 20-30 degrees.I can attest that the device surely works, and I am more than content. The cheapest investment in ages

Thanks Colin!

Larry Jackson

I carry two anchors on the bow. I cruise the Bahamas where everyone has an opinion. While I normally don’t have a swinging problem, others frequently do and the subject comes up at beach parties. One suggestion I’ve heard often is to lower a second anchor and set it on the bottom under the bow. Some swear by it, others at it.

The suggestion seems to have been around for awhile so you’ve probably heard or formed an opinion. Good or bad or just depends?


John Harries

Hi Larry,

Hum, I guess it might help a bit, but I would prefer Colin’s method or a riding sail on the backstay.

Carl Linley

I thought I was the only one crazy enough to use a drogue at anchor! Love this article. We had a Little Harbor Whisperjet with 22” draft. She would sail about in anything over 10 or 15 kts wind. A drogue attached to the swim platform way aft and low, did the trick. Defender industries used to make a conical drogue with a wire reinforced rim and It worked well but they stopped making it and the next one had the floppy mouth problem. I cut the rim off of two 5 gallon pails and stitched them in with zip ties, perfect! I tried a pail and a drogue on the chain too and had good results but everything fouled eventually. A large kite was also tested and it worked but could not be relied upon to stay aloft. To me, this sort of testing is real fun and yields valuable results too.

John Harries

Hi Carl,

Just another great use for a bucket! As you say, solving these kinds of issues is fun.

Christian Wojtowicz

A trick used here in Southern Tasmania to lessen sheering, learnt from Southern Ocean fishermen, is to let out a loop of chain between the roller and the outboard end of the snubber, so that as the boat tries to sheer the loop drags in the water. In hard sand or mud and shallow water the loop can even drag on the bottom, otherwise keep it at a depth where it won’t snag. A bit like your drogue idea. Many thanks for the articles – and read with the comments, very interesting how techniques, practices and equipment choice differ around the world according to local conditions.

Rob Ramsey

Hey John. Not sure I should post this one here – please feel free to move it elsewhere if you feel the urge.

I have been thinking about the snubber on an anchor chain. Mainstream advice seems to be to have a stretchy nylon or polyester snubber of 7 to 10 meters in length. The resulting problem is that the boat is like on an bungee, bouncing up and down towards an away of the anchor. When it surges forward and comes to a stop it will probable start to veer too as the boat is free from the pull of the chain/snubber. As one of the commenters said we need a damper but get a spring. Am I right?.

Now having a long snubber of one stretch causes a bit of a problem. It needs to be stretchy to cope with moderate winds but rigid to not stretch too much in heavy winds. We choose ‘long’ to cope with gusts as we cannot choose too ‘rigid’. As a last resort the chain would do nicely as it too stretches (a bit). Am I right?

So ideally we have different stretch characteristics on one snubber. Stretchy for light winds, rigid for heavy winds. I feel this can be done in one snubber and it won’t be very expensive, given that naked dyneema (spectra) is pretty cheap nowadays (at least in the Netherlands). Also it won’t be a hassle to deploy as it is a single unit, like any other snubber.

Let me describe my idea. We start at the boat cleats (one or two) with a dyneema 10mm bridle. One strand can take almost 10 tons metric. Dyneema is pretty chafe resistant which is why that part is dyneema.

Next there is a multi damper. It consists of multiple (probably three) consecutive stretch sections, each less stretchy/more rigid than the other. Each section consists of nylon or polyester line and has a parallel dyneema 10mm line that is longer than the nylon/polyester line. We’d need to figure out how much these lines need to differ in length. The idea is, that the nylon/polyester line will stretch until the dyneema line takes over.

You’d have the first section with easy stretch, the next with harder and the next even harder. Each section will stretch until the dyneema parallel line takes over, at which point the next section will take the brunt.

So, after the bridle we’d have (say) three sections, each more rigid/less stretchy than the other. Each section is a unit, connected to the next section with a metal ring (holding both dyneema lines and stretchy lines). The last bit, to the chain, is the most rigid and does not have the parallel dyneema line (doesn’t need it).

Thus the snubber will not allow the boat to move away too much on a gust and will not pull the boat forward too much in a lull. More of a damper than a spring. In strong winds the easy stretch sections will always be stretched to their max, the dyneema taking over. In light winds the easy stretch sections do their work.

Am I right? Any ideas or comments before I go out and try it this summer? It’ll probably require some adjusting and experimenting …

John Harries

Hi Rob,

It’s an interesting idea and I think you are totally right that too much spring is not a good idea.

But a key point is that, assuming I have understood your idea right, it’s still not a damper, or at least not much, but rather a spring. A true damper, as I understand it from Eric Klem, actually converts the energy to heat rather than just storing it up and then giving most of it back as any sort of rope does.

Anyway, given that we really don’t need any spring at all until the wind gets up (the chain catenary works until then) the much simpler answer is to just use a heavier piece of rope. In our case we use 35′ of 3/4″ nylon braid, which, based on experience, seems a good mix of taking the edge off shocks without springing us back and forth too much.

John Armitage

I made a backstay riding sail for my boat in Norway. I first tried using a storm jib, but found that it slammed badly when it ‘tacked’ and it shook the whole boat. Really bad. Overall, especially subjectively, it seemed worse than no riding sail at all.

Then I noted that the Norwegian fishing boat riding sails were a Vee wedge, with the sharp edge of the Vee into the wind. I sewed a Vee wedge sail of very heavy scrap sailcloth with very strong edge taping. The Vee luff, which was stiffened to be around 2 inches broad, hoisted low on the backstay, with the two clews leading outboard to the quarter corners. I used a generous roach on the leeches and feet. When it was all tightened up it sat there in all winds without even a twitch, all the slamming was absent, and it made a miraculous reduction of the sheering back and forth at anchor in gusty winds, especially the ‘fallwind’ type. It not only greatly reduced the objective load on the anchoring system, it made the entire ride much calmer and less worrisome subjectively.

John Harries

Hi John,

Great to hear from you and thanks for the information on the delta type riding sail. Absolutely cooperates work that Drew has been doing over at Practical Sailor. Definitely makes me think that if I ever have a boat that shears around at anchor a V type sail would be my first choice.

Tom Hanaway

I’m setting up a Drogue anchor to reduce swing at anchor.

I understand the concept of sewing in a metal ring to keep the Drogue mouth open. What I’m having trouble with is figuring out what you used to create the ring.
Aluminum rod bent into circular shape? Actual ring?
Tom Hanaway

Petter Mather Simonsen

A large alu ring sounds good Tom, but maybe it might be difficult to find or form. I searched around for something suitable at hand and found a thin semi-soft plastic rod that I easily bent into a ring shape. You do not need a lot of rigidity, just enough to keep the sock open when it drifts. As soon as the swing starts and the dragging begins, it will keeps itself open.
Hope this helps,
Petter 😉

John Harries

Hi Tom,

If I were trying this, I think I would experiment with 1×19 rigging wire. That’s what galerider use to keep their drogues open. Let us know how it goes.