Recap of Round One
Last year I wrote about my experience with the Jordan-type series drogue while on a passage in the Southern Ocean on my 35-ft gaff cutter Iron Bark. That voyage, from Newfoundland to Australia, then onwards to New Zealand with a side trip to northern Australia, took an inordinately long time (the leg from Newfoundland to Australia took 171 days) and met with more than the usual amount of heavy weather.
Along the way (and without any intention of doing so) I tested the drogue nearly to destruction. That was the basis of my last report. I promised to report back once I had repaired the drogue and given it enough use to make further comment meaningful. Here is that report.
Improvements Based On Round One
On arrival in New Zealand I contacted Angus Coleman of OceanBrake, who had supplied my drogue, and he immediately offered to replace the damaged cones without charge.
This was a very generous offer, especially as Angus did not know that I intended to write anything about my experience with the drogue.
It seemed the original cones failed when the material from which they were made shed its rubberized backing as a result of repeated stress reversals. Angus sourced a heavier polyester material with no backing and sent me 60 new cones made from this material.
Greetings Trevor, from a wintery NZ (feeling even colder now after reading your account)! Thank you so much for your report and this rather unique comparison test. We have the ACE supplied JSD cones and we also found Dave great to deal with and entirely reliable.
Yes, it’s been an odd year for weather – the north has sweltered and the south shivered. Last southern summer was reasonably benign south of 40°S, which meant I did not test either style of cone to destruction. I am quite happy to leave it thus.
I hope you never have the chance to test your drogue to its ultimate, but if that happens, please let us know the result.
Sounds like your drogue was tested well beyond anything most of us might throw at one. A really heartening response from the companies you mention. Glad you made a safe arrival after an epic voyage.
It is grand to have choice of reliable suppliers of such a useful bit of equipment. I believe both the OceanBrake and Ace Jordan-style drogues are ‘fit for purpose’, though it is probably a good idea to carry spare cones if bound on a long Southern Ocean voyage. And yes, the response from OceanBrake to damage to my drogue, which had been subject to fairly extreme usage, was exemplary.
You were deploying the drouge off the stern. Did you consider using the bow, heave to technique that John has written about?
No, I have never considered deploying the drogue from the bow. As the wind and seas increase, there comes a point where it is no longer safe to remain hove to and it becomes necessary to run off. That point will vary with different vessels – in general the smaller the vessel, the soon it will have to run off. By that time conditions will be pretty wild and moving the drogue attachment from the bow to the stern is going to be difficult or impossible.
The only way I can imagine doing this is to deploy the drogue on its bridle from the stern in the normal manner but with a spring line attached a few boat lengths down the leader section. The spring line could then be taken to the bow and shortened up so that it takes the strain. Shortening the spring is going to be fraught with difficulty – the strains on it are likely to be considerable. When the time comes to run off, the spring line can be cut, letting the strain revert to being taken on the bridle at the stern and the vessel will run off.
Or just deploy the drogue over the stern, take the seas in the safest and most comfortable manner (end-on) and go to bed.
A very useful account that features most of the information I would want to see, for which I thank you. Two questions, however: firstly, to what on your vessel does the drogue bridle attach and have such comparatively frequent drogue deployments imposed any wear or damage to those attachments (bollards, plates, etc.)? Secondly, have you confirmed that the number of cones and the length of the drogue itself is well-suited to the forces your particular vessel puts on it? Did the cone replacement process change the “feel” of the drogue in any noticeable way? Thanks again for a great report of the kind I daresay one does not find elsewhere.
Hi Marc Iron Bark is a metal vessel, which means it was easy to give her secure attachment points close to the deck edge and free from chafe. She has bollards on each quarter (right in the corner), welded and suitably braced to the deck and bulwarks. Each bollard is a single heavy-wall stainless steel pipe about 80mm in diameter with a 12mm pin through it near the top (in fact 3” NB Sch40 ss pipe). The transom bulwark adjacent to the the bollards is capped with 3/4”NB ss water pipe, which gives a smooth 25mm diameter surface for the bridle to bear on as it passes over the stern. There has been no detectable chafe either where the bridle passes around the bollard or across the transom. Each end of the drogue bridle has a soft eye spliced into it. I drop a running noose formed using this eye over the bollard – this seems more secure than dropping the eye directly onto the bollard. If there is to be any chafe, I would expect it to be where bridle exits from the spliced eye, and so far there has been none. After retrieving the drogue, I generally need to use a marlin spike to free the running noose, despite the fact that all strain is off it at that time. This indicates the noose is locked up when under strain and so does not chafe. Having only soft eyes in the system probably makes it less prone to chafe, but I think a more likely problem with hard eyes is the well documented issue of unwelded thimbles collapsing – John has written about this. If I were making attachment points for a drogue on a wood or GRP vessel, I would be tempted to go to the effort and expense of adding a suitably strong bollard in the extreme aft quarter of the boat, rather than fitting chain plates. This could be done by bolting a large, suitably thick plate with a bollard welded to it on the quarter as far aft as possible, with a similarly substantial backing plate inside. Such an installation will make an excellent chafe-free mooring bollard as well as being somewhere to attach a drogue. It should also be easier to use than shackling hard eyes to chain plates in bad weather. As I mentioned in the original article, I did have trouble with the drogue fouling the paddle of the Aries self-steering. After fouling, the drogue sheered the heavy-walled aluminium paddle tube in short order with minimal signs of damage to nylon warp. Iron Bark displaces 11 tonnes fully loaded so I fitted her with a drogue of 124 cones, as specified by Dan Jordan. While there are undoubtedly other factors (rig, windage, hull shape etc), Dan Jordan believed the most important was displacement, and used that alone to specify the number of cones. Without far more experimentation than I will ever do, I cannot comment on his methods and conclusions, but… Read more »
Trevor, thank you very much for the comprehensive level of detail in your answer. Our stern of our steel pilothouse cutter (16 tonnes) is very similar, so all of this is applicable. I am considering merely lengthening the “horns” of our bollards to provide extra purchase for thicker line. I also like the “soft eye” approach. I’m glad to hear that a device you use more often than most has proven itself to be both right-sized and correctly built for its intended use. Fair winds.
Purely from a hydrodynamics standpoint (I’ve never had to deploy a series drogue), I would expect badly damaged cones to produce very nearly the same drag as intact cones, right up to the point where they actually break free of the main line. Only when they actually start fraying to bits or falling off the main line would I expect a substantial reduction in drag.
That said, I’ve come across some drogues that look like they’re built as single-use, discard-instead-of-retrieving quality, and I think it definitely makes sense to get one that’s built well enough to survive multiple deploy-retrieve cycles.
That certainly makes sense, given that none of the JSD users that had cone deterioration problems, that I know of, reported any actual functional problems.
Great article on drogues that even this newbie sailor could understand. Although I do not plan on doing any of the harsh passages you do in your testing. I still plan on having a drogue aboard my 40 ft Beneteau sailboat. I may never hopefully have to use it but just having it will give me peace of mind and if I decide to change to a true blue water sailboat I can take it with me. :-}
Thanks for the kind words.
While a Jordan-type drogue is certainly not essential equipment for a short-haul vessel, it is potentially useful. I have a phobia about lee shores and find having a drogue and a bit of sea room a great comfort. If the weather is too heavy to continue plugging to windward and there is a lee shore at a moderate distance, my first option is to heave-to – see John’s articles on the subject.
If that option is unattractive, perhaps because the vessel does not heave to well or has sustained sail damage, deploying a drogue dramatically reduces the rate that it loses sea room. At a drift rate of 1-1/4 knots (typical with a Jordan-type drogue), thirty miles of sea room is enough to ride out most gales. The downside is that it will take several hours of hard work to retrieve the drogue compared to a few minutes to get sailing from being hove-to.
This applies in ordinary bad weather, not in a storm severe enough to knock the vessel down. There is little option but to run off once the weather is that bad – that is when the drogue really earns its place aboard.
I am also planning to have a JSD.
Trevor, have you heard / considered having the lines out of Dyneema?
I’ve heard companies make JSD with Dyneema leaders and bridles. I wonder how would you attach the cones to it, as it is very slippery…
Partdon me butting in here, but I’d expect the average load on the system as a whole to be substantially higher when using material offering almost no stretch. I’d be concerned at least of the mounting points which will be loaded a lot more when the drogue gets loaded, not offering some elastic performance. This would also pertain to the point where the drogue is affixed to the bridle. I don’t think Mr. Jordan has calculated Dyneema non-stretch charecteristics into his numbers.
AFAIK, the way JSD works it should not need stretch in the lines.
Hi Taras and Ernest
Yes, I have thought of using dyneema and there is some discussion on the topic in the comments section of my last post. I am not sufficiently computer literate to insert a link, but it is not hard to find.
There is apparently no problem with attaching the cones as they are held in place by the knots in the cone tapes, which are polyester and hold a knot well. And yes, you are right Taras, the shock absorption of a Jordan-type drogue is dynamic and does not rely on stretch in the drogue or leader so there is no problem with dyneema on that count.
The obvious attraction of a dyneema drogue is that it is going to be much lighter and more compact. The downside is that it is going to be much more expensive. I believe both OceanBrake and Ace Sailmakers have made up dyneema drogues in the past and both warn of the cost. They should be able to quote on both types once they know the specifications of your system and you can decide if the price difference is worthwhile.
Another minor issue with a dyneema drogue is that it is going to be harder to get a rolling hitch to hold on it during retrieval, assuming you use that system to get it back aboard after a blow, but that should not be an insoluble problem.
High Trevor ,
Looks like 7mm DUX single braid retails at $3.45 a foot.
Breaking strength is 16,500#
5mm is $2.42
Samson super strong anchor line in 5/8 retails at $414 for 300ft.
Breaking strength is 15,200#
What size line is typical for Jordan drogues of this capacity?
So using stronger and much lighter hi-tech line will add +- $600 to the cost of a 300′ drogue. (Or less if you buy it from a company that has “fish” in its company logo instead of “Yacht”) So the cost of line is not a deal breaker by itself— although cone attachment or difficulty in retrieval may be.
Sure would be nice to flake down a nearly weightless 7mm line into the storage locker—.
Our JSD served its protective purpose on our last ocean crossing by warding off bad weather, sort of like carrying an umbrella.
It is a conventional OceanBrake and Angus was, indeed, very pleasant to work with. Were I to order a JSD with what I know now, I would likely order the JSD using Dyneema. The stored roll of the JSD for our 16 ton boat was substantial in size and weight when out of the box (larger than expected) and then, when soaked with water, weighed substantially more. It was not easy to move the roll alone and wet, it had to be dragged around. HM rope would not only be lighter, but would not soak up water with the sponge-like qualities of the more conventional rope.
One might do well to consider this ahead of time and the earlier articles may have mentioned this. Ours was stored on deck which meant it was always wet and never had a chance to dry: ok on passage. If you store below, I would think that, after deploying, you would not want this large piece of soaking wet and salty gear down below with you.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
I also have a Valiant 42, and am wondering how you attach the Jordan Series Drogue to your boat.
The following was my plan.
I attached large stainless steel “D” shackles to the stern cleats (to act as a fairlead) and ran the bridle pennants through these to the primary winches. The pennants would go on the primaries with what I think is called a tugman’s (or bollard) hitch (this prevents the pawls in the winch from being slammed/damaged by the loading/unloading of the pennant that may occur). If planned ahead, a tugman’s hitch can be let go to allow the line on the winch to be slacked off or taken up in conventional winch manner. This would allow some adjustment of the line to freshen the nip or add chafe protection if needed.
I hope this was clear. As this is a somewhat boat specific question, I will also post on the Valiant web site.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Hi Dick and Eric,
While that sounds pretty strong, do note that Don Jordon specifically warned against using winches because the load has substantial leverage on the bolts. Also, Jordon did not like any method that required a fairlead because of chafe problems.
Given that, I would look at what Paul Kirby did on a double ended boat, particularly since he battle tested it: https://www.morganscloud.com/2013/06/01/real-world-jordan-series-drogue-deployment/
Hi John (&Eric),
I think if I were tricking out the boat 20 years ago, I might add chainplates on either side of the hull, but that method leaves the JSD dead ended on the boat and there is something about that procedure that just leaves me a little unsettled. I like things accessible, at least a bit. But, I was getting ready for what I think is likely our last open ocean passage.
As to chafe: the only chafe point would be through the smooth large diameter stainless steel D shackle and I estimated an almost straight line (not much change in line direction) aft. One reason I went for these fairleads aft at all was not so much to change line direction but to maintain the beam spread of the bridle to keep it off the Monitor wind vane when the boat yaws around. The chafe on the bridle, if it occurred, is easily accessible from the cockpit and allowing an inch or two of line out on the bridle every now and again from the winch with chafe tape already installed would cover that base.
As to “bollard” loads: the winch is a very well installed Lewmar 58. I should have also mentioned that I was prepared to load share by tying on a dock line (springy 5/8 inch 3 strand nylon) with a rolling hitch and having it on the cleat where the D shackle is secured. That would have had bridle loads carried initially by two Lewmar 58s and then shared with 2 well installed cleats were I to assess sharing the load wise.
I am clear the above is not by the book, but it fit my boat’s particular configuration, the gear it has and I am confident that it would have done the job, likely needing some additional attentiveness than that which would be demanded by a by-the-book installation.
It is usually wise to follow the book, and especially to know what the book says is best practice, as this should be a word of warning when circumstances and choices lead one to deviate from the book.
Thanks for your thoughts.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
I need to be blunt here. That’s all very well, but I have to say that it disturbs me that you shared this method with another reader, and I assume on the Valiant web site, without making clear that it was in specific contravention of the science and engineering done by Jordon.
The bottom line is that attachment points for a JSD may be called upon to withstand a load of 70% of the displacement of the vessel on a single leg. I doubt very much that the bolts on a #58 winch would withstand that when we take into account the leverage.
Bottom line, in my opinion, based on Jordon’s science and engineering, your solution is simply not strong enough for purpose. You, of course, have every right to say its good enough for you, but I think you need to be more careful about suggesting it as a solution for others, at least without an attached warning that Jorden specifically warned against using winches.
I too made a mistake on my attachment points that rendered them weaker than they should have been, but as soon as that mistake was pointed out to me, I made it clear on the article.
Sorry to be so harsh but we have to be super careful about what we recommend around this kind of gear and always refer back to good science and engineering.
Please, you do not have to hesitate or say you are sorry. You have an obligation to your readers to speak up if you think something is poor practice or dangerous. And, although I know what you mean by describing your words as blunt and harsh, I think of it more as being “well defined”. And well defined is usually a good path to clarity.
I was not, in my mind, espousing a method so much as responding to a question, although I can see that there may be little differentiation in practice and I could have been more careful in that regard. And please be assured, I had already started a note to Valiant readers reporting that the method I had been contemplating was not in line with recommendations of Jordan.
My best, Dick
Thanks for your understanding. Very glad it worked out that way.
There is much to be said for using dyneema rather than nylon double braid. Apparently Don Jordan and Dave Pelissier of Ace Sailmakers discussed the matter late in Don’s life and he (Don) could see no objection. As far as I know, there are no reports of any problems with dyneema drogues after multiple deployments, but that may be because there have not been many such uses of it.
When I costed it out last year in New Zealand, the price differential between using nylon and dyneema was about 40% of the whole deal if I assembled the drogue myself using professionally made cones. I could see no insoluble problems using dyneema and would probably have gone that route if starting from scratch. Poverty and the fact that I could re-use the the original nylon rode meant I did not pursue the option.
Dick’s point about how much water nylon double braid soaks up is very valid; I had a whinge about it in the original post. And yes, the difference in price of dyneema between yacht chandlers and fisherman’s suppliers is considerable – about 40% in New Zealand.
Conclusion: I would go with dyneema if I were starting from scratch and my budget stretched that far. BUT (always a but) there may be an unrecognised problem with dyneema that will only show with more extensive use, just as a cones made to Don Jordan’s apparently adequate specifications worked in short tests but failed after multiple deployments.
I have made up my JSD using Dyneema rope and professionally made cones – 115 cones in my case. The drogue was deployed for about 12 hrs and it worked very well. No problem with attaching the cones to the Dyneema rope, in fact I think it was much easier than it would have been on Nylon braided rope. No problem with retrieval either, I just winched it all in, cones and all. This didn’t hurt the cones, but they came out of the water with frayed edges forward and aft. For the next “serious” voyage I would definetely replace the older type cones with the new hemmed in ones. Replacement will be much easier, I’m sure, than the tedious process that Trevor describes as one can open up the Dyneema rope quite easily. I could imagine though, that pulling the new stronger and stiffer type of cones through the winch could make a problem, so that Trevor’s rolling hitch method would have to be used and I didn’t try that with the Dyneema. Yes, always a BUT…
Thank you for your valuable comment – it is the first time I have heard any information concerning a dyneema drogue that is based on real usage.
I don’t expect there will be any unexpected problems with dyneema in multiple deployments. But then I also did not expect any problems with the longevity of the cones, which after all are not subject to any great stress as they are so small, and was quite wrong about that.
Please keep us all informed if/when you have any new data.
Very interesting about your drogue!
What size of dyneema line you used?
Same size for bridle and leader?
And what boat displacement do you have?
Hi Taras, hi Trevor,
I have used 10mm dyneema (DynaOne of Gleistein) throughout, for bridle, leader and tail. Reinforced thimbles spliced to the ends of bridle arms and leader,soft shackle to connect them and a piece of chain as end weight. Soft eyes for attachment to the very strong stern bollards on my steelboat of 8 tons displacement. Very similar arrangement as described by Trevor on his Iron Bark. I had simply dropped these eyes over the bollards, but if a next time comes my way, I will do it with a running noose as Trevor describes it, so that the inner surface of the eye can’t chafe, thank you Trevor, that should have occured to me before. By the time I assembled my drogue the standard dyneema fibre was SK75 if I remember correctly, today it is SK 78 of even greater strength, so it could be possible to go down one size. Should be calculated using Don Jordan’s design loads for the given displacement.
When I come to think about it: Just as Trevor I also had an anxious moment when one of the bridle legs caught under the underwater part of my windvane gear. Or was it that it didn’t catch but I couldn’t lift the paddle out ? (7 years ago already ) Anyway, I somehow managed to get the windvane paddle raised and that was it. The takeaway here is to lift the vane gear paddle before deploying the drogue. With the drogue out there is no need to steer anyway but care must be taken to hold the rudder in a midships position with a good strong lashing on tiller or wheel.
Thanks for coming up with that very useful information. Wow, seven years since we met in Greenland!
yes, amazing how time flies ! I’m still longing to go back to NL some day, don’t know if I will ever make it. But you seem to be enroute to Lewisporte. Give a special hug to Carolyn (1st mate) and Capt. Peter Watkins from Hans of Snowball, please.
We have already visited Lewisporte, but we did meet Peter and Carolyn, loverly people.
Very helpful information from “the real world”. Thanks very much.
Trevor, THANK YOU so much for your JSD articles. Extremely educational. This kind of hands-on, real-world information is invaluable.
If you’re open to it, consider sharing your story with the Drag Device Database (http://dragdevicedb.com).
All the best,
Glad you found the information useful.
Thanks for that link – I have never come across the site before, but my access to Internet is sporadic at best. Perhaps on my next long passage I will try to distill what I have learned about Jordan-type drogues down to a couple of hundred words and send it on to the Drag Devise Database.
A great article great to see further development of the JSD. We have one on board our 34ft 17t displacement cutter rigged yacht. We got it from
Oceanbrake around 3 years ago and had substantial chainplates made for each quarter. Significantly larger than the standard ones supplied by Ocean brake and we asked for hard eye thimbles as per Johns article.
A couple of Qs however. I struggle to determine how much weight to put on the end. I mean I’d think this was rather important given the way the JSD sinks and then rises is key to its gentle braking as the boat is accelerated down a wave. At the moment I have about 12kg of diving weights attached on a 130 cones design.
Secondly my JSD was produced prior to the new style of cones. Our JSD is never used, but in your opinion would you consider updating to the new cones even if the old ones are new and unused?
Sounds like you are doing this right.
I don’t think the exact weight on the line end is in fact that important. Anyway, Don Jordan has information on that here: http://www.jordanseriesdrogue.com/pdf/droguecoastguardreport.pdf (See page 59).
By the way, this document is he definitive source for all questions about series drogues.
As to the issue of old and new cones. See this chapter: https://www.morganscloud.com/2017/03/12/jordan-series-drogue-durability-problems/
Perhaps the discussion should also include vessels whose underwater appendages(keel) design doesn’t induce broaching and knockdowns. Vessels such a true centerboarders, those vessels with no fixed external keels and all internal ballast and those with ballasted lifting keels. After all, it is a vessels “grip” in the water that caused it to stumble.
While it is true that lifting keel boats tend to skid when hit by a wave, the science of breaking waves clearly shows that any boat can be rolled by the wrong wave if not restrained by a drag device. Therefore we still recommend series drogues for these boats.
You can read more about the science behind this here: http://www.jordanseriesdrogue.com/pdf/droguecoastguardreport.pdf
This report, and also work done at the Wolfson Unit at Southampton University has shown that no boat is immune from roll over once the wave height gets to 60% of overall length and if the wave is breaking. More on that in a coming article that I have all written.
Hi Nelms & John,
I think it would be worth differentiating between unballasted centerboards, and ballasted centerboards/lifting keels.
If most or all of the ballast in a monohull is in the hull or keel, then one can raise the centerboard in heavy weather to encourage the boat to skid when hit by waves.
If a large proportion (or all, as in it is in the Damien II that I sail) of the ballast in a monohull is in the ballasted centerboard /lifting keel, then the ballasted centerboard/lifting keel is going to be down whenever one is sailing. To raise the ballasted centerboard/lifting keel (the ballast) would raise the center of gravity, which would be dangerous to do when sailing.
So, as far as the behavior of a boat in waves goes, a ballasted centerboard/lifting keel boat is going to behave like a fixed keel boat while sailing (the ballasted centerboard/lifting keel is raised only when motoring/moored/beached/trapped-in-ice).
Yes, that makes sense.
Dick and John,
Gentlemen. I am impressed by the civil discourse and also the integrity displayed here, but this is ACC and this a big part of what makes it so valuable. Looking forward to much more.
Me too. Mostly credit to Dick on that one.
I’m building a ( CoVid ) Series Drogue for a MAUW 8000lb boat, and have a 100m. x 10mm reel of UHDPE rode, which may be enough….
The comments about drogue fraying/damage are intriguing and I’m looking at a combo of the Ace and Oceanbrake types, in that the leading edges will be taped… the trailing edges not. I have 10mm polyester tape, which individually supports 200lb weight. Plenty strong enough….
I’m able to access rather a lot of ‘balloon ripstop’ nylon fabric in different weights, virtually FOC, and I’m especially interested in making a sound choice here. That is, how light is ‘too light’…. I suppose an important criterion is ‘ease of machining/sewing’.
I’ve read the article ‘Series Drogue Durability Problems’.
I would not use nylon ripstop. Everything I hear says Dacron, uncoated and at heavier than used in the early days of JSDs. Of course you have a small boat so you might get away with it, but do you want to be the one to find out there is an unintended consequence of going away from what Ace and OB are doing based on having built hundreds of JSDs many of which have been used in anger?