It's now some 10 years since I first started writing the articles that eventually became our Heavy Weather Tactics Online Book.
Over that 10 years, readers have left hundreds of comments and questions on the book's 20 chapters, and I'm sure there will be more in the future.
Those comments have taught Phyllis and me a lot, resulting in numerous chapter edits and updates, and have inspired me to write new chapters to expand on and explore the points raised.
(By the way, I just love the way this process has evolved and, further, I would not still be working as hard at this as I do without your participation. Thank you to all who take the time to comment.)
Several questions have repeatedly surfaced within those hundreds of comments. So I have pulled those together in this chapter and added my thoughts.
Guess who’s fabricating SS chainplates for the bridle of a JSD? All credit to this site for collating this material and making such good arguments on behalf of safety at sea.
Good on you.
John, thank you for this. I am in the process of purchasing a series drogue to replace my current arrangements .
I am not intending to ask a daft question here but could (and would one ever) fit a series Drogue with the boat facing forward, basically as a sea anchor. Looking at the diagrams and the science I am not clear why this would not work or should not be tried.
No, you definitely don’t want to deploy from the bow. Jordan explains why in his paper, but the short answer is that the centre of pressure is forward of the centre of lateral resistance on most all boats and therefore they lie much more quietly by the stern. Also, the separation of the bridle attachment at each corner of the stern helps to pull the boat straight in a large breaking wave.
By the way, the first reason is why boats hunt when anchored. In fact Jordan makes a valid argument that, at least in theory, it might be better to anchor by the stern in heavy weather. More here: https://www.jordanseriesdrogue.com/D_14.htm (The reality of windlass and cleat positioning on most boats makes stern anchoring impractical.)
Thank you – a very helpful and very interesting reply.
Another thing to consider here is that with the drogue deployed from the bow, water will be flowing over the rudder in the “wrong” direction.
Regarding anchoring by the transom:
I’m surprised Jordan did not collect any data. Early this spring I spent a worthwhile day testing different yaw-reduction methods, looking at both yaw angle and load cell readings. Methods included all the standard methods, such as bridles, removing dinghies from the bow, and hammerlock moorings. If the yaw angle was more than about 35 degrees, the anchor load doubled, because the wind is now seeing the side of the boat. Obvious. Then there are all of the anchor loosening effects of yawing, which are harder to quantify and very anchor- and bottom-dependent.
But I did not anchor by the stern. One reason is that my current boat has an open transom, so I just didn’t consider it. It also lies quietly with a bridle. However, I do wonder what the difference in wind and wave force is by the transom. I’m sure it is less than the effect of yawing, but I felt he was quick to dismiss both that and the other downsides. For one, the crew is even less likely to go outside to check on things, since opening the companionway would be a mess and possibly a disaster. You’d probably move the mattresses and go out the V-berth hatch. Even closed, water will blow in past the companionway door or boards.
The upward pitch against the rode would be different, possibly stronger, since the aft sections are broader. This will increase the wave impact portion of hobby horsing. But pitching might be less. This can be a major factor in shallow harbors. But think about motoring in reverse into steep chop.
Interesting. Sounds like measurements are needed. I’m quite sure yawing will stop. But I wouldn’t want to guess on the other factors.
I do think many boat owners have not put enough emphasis on stopping yawing. They believe chain will do that, but chain ONLY helps when it is still on the bottom, which it is not in any meaningful way when the wind pipes up. Most don’t anchor often enough in strong weather to observe the boat at >50 knots. Can’t say I blame them….
I think the Jordan’s thoughts on anchoring by the stern were pretty secondary to his work on the JDS, and by the time he wrote that I’m pretty sure he was near the end of his life. Probably the reasons he did not take it further. And anyway, as you say, and I said in my original comment, there are practicality issues that preclude it being a common solution.
As to anti yaw, I agree, the chain does pretty much nothing, ditto a bridle on a mono hull. The only two options I know of that actually do anything useful to reduce the problem are a small riding sail on on the backstay (or a reefed mizzen) and Colin’s drogue on the anchor trick. Both work because they actually deal with the core problem. The first moves the centre of effort aft and the second the centre of lateral resistance forward. Here’s Colin’s trick: https://www.morganscloud.com/2015/02/23/stop-swinging-around/
I’m glad you mentioned the old and out-of-fashion riding sail, John. It seems like a simple plan to test on a moderate day in a half-empty anchorage with lots of space to “solve” mistakes. Say you have 20 knots at anchor, but the wind is veering. Time the distance from side-to-side veer (or have an anchor watch app do it for you). Put up a riding sail, or, lacking one, a storm jib sheeted flat. See if you reduce your speed and distance in veering. That will provide evidence and guidance, although I’m also keen on Colin’s drogue idea because it’s very economical compared to any other idea.
I loved when I sailed a yawl and the mizzen would be up for almost the whole of my holiday weather-cocking me into the wind.
Not sure riding sails are actually pertinent in a surviving storm level conditions article, but, with respect to riding sails, it sounds like you are talking about a single-surface riding sail, like using one’s very flat storm staysail. It is my take, with some anecdotal evidence, that a wedge- shaped riding sail is far more effective: “clews” to cleats on the quarter, hoist up the backstay on a halyard and tack to somewhere up forward, very stiff leading edge forward: all very taught.
In this way the wind catches the wedged-out sail surface far sooner than happens with a single flat riding surface sail and keeps the sashaying back and forth to a minimum.
I believe you can find fuller descriptions on the internet.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Ps. My casual observation of boats in anchorages with single surface riding sails was that they did not seem particularly effective, but clearly, I did not observe their action without the sail.
I loved when I sailed a yawl and the mizzen would be up for almost the whole of my holiday weather-cocking me into the wind. I do not have personal experience with riding sails but have watched friends play with various methods.
Not sure riding sails are actually pertinent in a surviving-storm-level-conditions article, but, with respect to riding sails, it sounds like you are talking about a single-surface riding sail, like using one’s very flat storm staysail. It is my take, with some anecdotal evidence, that a wedge- shaped riding sail is far more effective: “clews” to cleats on the quarter, hoist up the backstay on a halyard and tack to somewhere up forward, very stiff leading edge forward: all very taught.
In this way the wind catches the wedged-out sail surface far sooner than happens with a single flat riding surface sail and keeps the sashaying back and forth to a minimum.
My casual observation of boats in anchorages with single surface riding sails was that they did not seem particularly effective, but clearly, I did not observe their action without the sail. In moderate conditions that most of us would use a riding sail, I would take the single surface riding sail “tack” off centerline to the rail or genoa track (something strong enough). In this way, you would ensure the boat would not be “tacking” back and forth. This may add more windage, but it may not depending on how much surface area of the boat is exposed when it yaws back and forth.
I believe you can find fuller descriptions of the wedge riding sail on the internet.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
I wasn’t really talking of any specific sail configuration, but rather just using them as a tool to help explain why boats lie more quietly by the stern. That said, I agree that the wedge shaped sail idea sounds good, although I have never tried it.
Sure, you could go through all that, but I’m not sure I would bother. The engineering that makes a riding sail work is pretty basic and solid. I think the only reason we don’t see more of them is that most boats have a lot of stuff aft (aerials, solar, panels, etc) that makes it difficult to set them. The other problem is that they can be a bit noisy.
I’m not sure I would bother, either, having learned of the rode drogue method. But I have a storm jib I could use to hand, if I ever get curious. And Dick, yes, I’m aware of the wedge type, but I’d have to make one or have one made to try that, whereas I could simply experiment with a reverse hoisted storm jib. I don’t actually have much evidence that our full-keeler would veer much at anchor…I haven’t anchored on her in the right kind of wrong kind of wind.
Might vessels with a canoe stern (such as on a 34′ Pacific Seacraft), in part designed to take waves better, obviate the need for the split bridle? It would be a challenge to attach, and on that boat there is a very robust eye cast into the backstay fitting, heavily bolted down the stern centerline, ideal for a single line to the series drogue.
I can certainly see the attraction of that idea, however I would not recommend it because stern configuration does not alter the benefit of getting the bridles well apart. Rather, what happens is that any boat will tend to yaw in the troughs of large waves, where the wind can be much less, and therefore when the JSD loads up, as the next wave approaches having, the bridles spread well apart pulls the boat straight in relation to the wave face more quickly. (Jordan specifically explains this in his paper.)
So even on a double ender the bridles should be spread as much as possible. See this account: https://www.morganscloud.com/2013/06/01/real-world-jordan-series-drogue-deployment/
By the way, although I agree that a stern like that on a Pacific Seacraft is much safer at sea than the huge wide sterns we see today, there is nothing intrinsically more seaworthy about a double ended boat, in my opinion. In fact the opposite can in some cases be true because it’s difficult to get enough buoyancy in to a really pointy stern. The use of the canoe stern by designers like Crealock and Perry was, I think, more about sticking with the fashion of the time, inspired by the Westsails, than any intrinsic superiority. The canoe stern also allowed both designers to make both ends pointy, but still get more buoyancy in, and have a decent cockpit, always a problem with a true double ender.
I was a bit surprised to see how the bridle legs are attached to the drogue in the first pictures of the dyneema drogue from Ace and a bit of further looking seemed to suggest that this is the common way. I would have thought that instead of being individually cow-hitched onto the loop, they would be done together so that the cow-hitch would be inverted. Do you have any thoughts on which way you would recommend?
I am skeptical of relying on a boat skidding sideways as an ultimate survival tool. There is no doubt that this ability helps and is preferable over not having it but at some point, it can be overwhelmed and I would think that a very fast capsize would result as there is a lot of energy stored that gets dissipated once the boat digs in, for example by the deck edge. For almost 15 years, I did a lot of whitewater kayaking so spent a lot of time side-surfing and it is incredible how quickly you can go from okay to over (what kayakers call getting window-shaded) and it does not take a big wave, you simply need a large sideways speed differential and something to trip on. That being said, I would think that a boat that can skid coupled with a JSD would do very well in the dreaded cross-sea situation. Note, I have never used a JSD and I have no offshore experience on modern (not like Finisterre) offshore centerboard boats so this is only educated guessing.
Re. Cow hitching. Interesting question. In fact, I think the cyclone is wrong and I made do the testing to prove it. First, the load is transferred to the eye in a smaller area. More importantly, the second eye in the stack is going to move, resulting in chafe, which is 98% of the risk. This is why we cow hitch instead of use shackles; it was shown to eliminate movement and was safer than thimbles, which can shift under high load. This stacked cow hitch allows movement.
Re. Sliding. I think all of my white water capsizes have been due to catching an edge. It’s fast. Catching the edge of the deck or a chime seems like a real occurrence.
Hum, on the cow hitch, initially I sided with the way the Cyclone mooring bridle is done, but then I read Drew’s comment and now I simply don’t know. I guess the good news is that I have never heard of any chafe problems with cow hitches at this point on a JSD, so maybe they pull so tight that there is little movement with either method?
I will be interested in hearing the results of Drew’s testing.
On the skidding issue, I totally agree with you and Drew. All may be good until the toe rail digs in, and then bad stuff will happen very quickly. If memory serves, Steve Dashew has some very interesting thoughts on skidding in his heavy weather book. He also feels strongly that boats with higher freeboard and some flare from the waterline are intrinsically safer because they will skid better on the larger freeboard surface. Something an owner of a Boreal, with her fairly low freeboard, will want to think about.
Hi John and Drew,
Thanks for the thoughts on the cow hitching. Thinking about it a bit more this morning after reading both your comments, I am back to thinking that the cyclone pendant way seems superior to me. I agree with you guys that the key is trying prevent movement. If you do 2 separate cow hitches, when the loads on the bridle legs are equal, the loop in the end of the JSD line will want to be a triangle. When the boat yaws and the load goes mostly onto 1 leg, the loop will want to turn into 2 parallel lines which will cause the bridle leg to want to slide to the center. The question is whether there is enough friction that nothing moves. Also, there is an interesting question about loading of the JSD line splice. Drew, it would be great if you could test this and come to a conclusion. Thankfully it seems that whatever people have been doing works.
For what its worth, both our mooring pendants and our snubber consist of a dyneema spliced loop cow hitched into a spliced loop in nylon just like the cyclone pendants. However, we only have a single piece of dyneema which is likely an important difference. We have never seen any movement or chafe but they are also really easy to get apart again too which is nice. About half the boats in our mooring field run the cyclone pendants per the picture and I am unaware of any issues from it, the issues seem to be from people who either don’t have the cyclone pendants or get ball wraps due to not lashing pendants and no floats.
Your explanation of the loads on the cow hitchs certainly makes sense. Like you, I will look forward to the results of Drew’s testing.
Really enjoy reading all your fantastic posts.
As I watch the Golden Globe Race and hear their negative views of the JSD I am so surprised that they don’t understand the science behind it! They are still talking like people did befor the JSD was developed and tested!
My question is regarding a storm where the wind shifts 180 degrees very fast, leaving a massive sea from a different direction and creating a very dangerous situation. How do you think a JSD would work in this situation?
So far in the GGR I think that a JSD would have stopped most of the boats from loosing their masts. For example JLV was running too fast and pitch polled. But what about the storm that dismantled Gregor? In your opinion would a JSD have worked?
I am looking forward to hearing more learning points from this race!
I agree. To me it’s beyond belief that the GG 2018 organizers and most participants are still stuck in 1968 and completely ignoring 50 years of advances. In fact I’m just writing about that. Look for an article this month.
As to a wind shift in a storm, yes, I think the JSD would work in that situation too. The bottom line is that we have base line experience from Trevor, Suzanne and Tony, who have sailed in the Southern Ocean repeatedly without problems using a JSD and I’m sure that between them they experienced all the scenarios that the GG 2018 sailors have: https://www.morganscloud.com/2018/10/13/just-get-a-series-drogue-designed-by-don-jordan-dammit/
The thing to remember is that it’s natural human nature after a disaster for the survivors to claim that the causative conditions were unique, but that doesn’t make it true.
The other point is that Jordan’s wave science (and others) indicates that the idea of two wave trains coming from different directions at the same time is more of a visual illusion than a reality.
Thank you for the thoughtful information here. I suspect the claim to waves coming from different directions is at least in part caused by vestibular fatigue, the reduction of input from our inner ear when it is stimulated continuously. This would cause a reduction in ability to rapidly sense changes in yaw – very helpful to reduce sea-sickness but not so useful to reliably indicate how the boat is getting kicked around – one moment the wave is on the port quarter and next on the starboard beam, with little input over time from the inner ear to indicate the change. At that point we are left to construct our story only from what our eyes see. That would also explain why hand steering in heavy seas is so exhausting and requires such practice – we have to actively engage our senses to understand our position because the passive information is no longer reliable.
That makes a lot of sense. Jordan also said that much of the problem is that the boat is yawing around so there is no reliable base line to reference too—much the same thing said a different way.
Hi, my current boat a Sceptre 43, has a sugar scoop stern with a hydrovane steering gear installed offset on the Portside. My concern is that the bridle for the series drouge will foul the vane if the boat yaws excessively. Would using a longer bridle help aliviate this problem or cause other problems? Any thoughts appreciated.
I’m afraid you have highlighted a fundamental problem here: the potential fouling risk of a vane gear when using a JSD. And I’m fairly sure that lengthening the bridles won’t make any difference, since the fouling is still a risk when the boat slews one way or the other in a lull, probably while in the trough between two waves. Trevor experienced exactly this issue:https://www.morganscloud.com/2017/05/19/battle-testing-a-jordan-designed-series-drogue/
I think the best bet is to figure out some way to remove the blade or lift the gear before deployment since once the JSD is in the water no steering is required. Sorry, I know that idea is going to be difficult to implement, but I don’t have a better one. Anyone else got any ideas?
We have a Voyager windvane AND a transom-hung rudder, so it’s “busy” at our stern. Snugging up the blade out of the water is the only option I can see for the reasons cited. An offset wind vane complicates matters, unfortunately, to my mind.
Hi Marc, agree with your comment that the offset position of the vane is less than ideal in this particular circumstance. My previous yacht had a servo pendulum gear center mounted. I’ve been surprised how effective the Hydrovane is in the off center position despite my initial misgivings. I don’t think moving it would improve things much in relation to using the drouge and doing so would only negate the few advantages offered by the sugar scoop stern. I guess like most things in life I’ll have to compromise and live with the consequences.
Always enjoy reading your comments regards Fred.
Hi John, yes I agree with your thoughts. Removing the rudder, although difficult, is the prudent thing to do. I still worry the frame of the vane is at risk no matter where it’s mounted on the transom. Hopefully the purchase of the drouge and practice using it in mild conditions will envoke John Vigor’s fifth element(black box theory)and we won’t ever have to get it out if it’s bag in anger?
Also John, congratulations on building such an informative website. I am a relative new comer to sailing and my wife and I have garnered more than a few wardrobes full of pertinent information from you and your commenters. Even when we don’t agree with one of your ideas, it a least gives us some food for thought, if not a good reason to go and do some more research on the matter. Well and truly worth the price of admission regards Fred.
Yes, I think that’s the only alternative. Our strategy on MC is too remove the whole paddle and maybe even the gear itself (only one bolt on our Sailormat) as soon as we are expecting a really bad blow, and carry on under autopilot. Not ideal, but all I have been able to come up with to date.
And thanks for the kind words.
Cow hitching. I think John nailed it when he said the knot simple cinches down tight. I’ve used cow-hitched sheets, and they don’t move. In the end, it is chafe on the roller cheeks, over the anchor, or around the ball that matter. I’m sure the JSD is the same.
Wide transoms. A new trend is toward boats with wider stern sections and open cockpits. MY PDQ catamaran was center cockpit, with relatively narrow transoms, and would take waves pretty well from either end. Not even any real slap, even towing drogues in near gale conditions. In contrast, my trimaran has a cockpit that is open at the transom and not far above the water. Heck, we occasionally get our feet wet if we bear off quickly in largish following seas. An exaggerated case, but I see a lot of boats, mono and multi, billed as cruising boats, where the stern is wide and flat. Don did mention this, but boats like that were uncommon then and were generally race boats. Now they are all fat in the back. I’m not sure how you address this. One answer would be to slow the boat less. This runs counter to Don’s capsize logic. Additionally, none of the drogue designs, including the JSD, are stable at higher speeds (more than ~ 4-5 knots). An interesting line of research.
Stern anchoring. I’ve done a few limited tests of anchoring by the transom over the past few weeks (trimaran, 10-25 knots, sheltered waters). There is little question that yawing is reduced. Assuming waves are small (should be in harbor), the rode tension will be lower, even though the boat is less streamlined. This is because yawing is a MUCH bigger factor. But the ride is quicker, spray in the companionway is really going to suck in even light squalls, and ventilation is difficult. And then there are the anchor handling problems; solvable, but relevant. Still I find it interesting for the boat that just won’t sit still. My recommendation is that you get an honest number for how you boat will yaw in a storm (try using rope rode for a test, to eliminate the stabilizing effect of chain, which tends to vanish in a storm anyway). I think many are surprised how unruly they are, because chain calmed them on typical cruising weekends. Look at your compass bearings and apparent wind angles. IF the swing is more than about 15 degrees to either side, you are NOT doing yourself any favors, since the load goes WAY up when the wind sees the side of the boat. There is no substitute for sitting still.
Interestingly, my tri makes a good test bed for yawing behavior, since anchored with rudder down, board up, and no bridle, she will yaw 160 degrees. With the rudder up and a bridle, less than 20 degrees. Or anything in between, depending on the tricks you try.
That’s interesting, and I look forward to more results from your testing. Are you going to look at riding sails? We have friends that wintered their boat on a mooring in a mole harbour on the north coast of Norway. The breakwater meant that there was almost no waves at their mooring, but also no shelter from the full blast coming off the Barents sea. In the first couple of storms they thought they were going to lose the boat due to the huge loads imposed by shearing. It was bad enough that the toe rail occasionally touched the water. They then set a riding sail on the back stay and for the rest of a very stormy winter and had no problems at all.
What type of riding sail did they use? Single luff vs. split (like Fin Delta)? If single luff, was it angled to one side? How far?
This is not an area I studied much in the past, since multihulls with a proper bridle are very stable (without a bridle they are terrible).
As I remember (15 years ago) it was simply a very small storm jib hanked on to the back stay and sheeted forward to the centre line. My guess is that pretty much any configuration will do the job of moving the centre of effort aft and dramatically reducing shearing. That said, I wonder if the Fin Delta might not be a bit quieter.
I am surprised by the positioning of the JSD attachment points on the Boreal. As I understood they should be further forward and lower so as to reduce the downward drag on the stern, allowing the stern to rise and pivot to meet the wave.This is very much emphasised in the research.
A long keel yawl sits very quietly at anchor whatever the wind strength. I wish there more ketch or yawls
I am a new member and am enjoying this site very much.
I can see where you are coming from, but on the other hand most all boats I have seen with JSDs, including those like Trevor’s boat that have deployed multiple times in anger, use deck level attachment points. One of the advantages of so doing is that this area can be the strongest in the area. For example, on the Boreal there is a massive piece of half-pipe making up the hull to deck joint so I suspect Boreal put the chainplate there to take advantage of that.
Also, this page, originally written by Jordan, makes no mention of any need to place the chainplates lower down the hull: https://www.jordanseriesdrogue.com/D_5.htm
I am considering crewing on some sailboat deliveries that might entail crossing an ocean or at least one to two week deliveries. After reading these articles on the JSD, I am thinking i should query the skipper first to determine if he will bring a JSD along. If the only heavy weather strategy is to run off, then politely decline. Would you agree?
While in theory the JSD for ocean crossings is becoming a required item I think you will find that on deliveries this equipment is not available. Deliveries are an unusual beast in that the boats are “run what you brung”. You can certainly ask if the boat/skipper has a JSD but don’t expect a polite response. Good delivery skippers can be a querulous bunch.
You want to make sure the skipper is very experienced and has done the passage many times. On deliveries the crew needs to be able to respond instantaneously to emergencies with limited resources and limited familiarity with the vessel. New boats tend to have very little equipment and used vessels are total unknowns. The skipper has probably had a few hours to go over the boat and check all systems. I use a very complete checklist, developed from the “New Boat” checklists that a certain manufacture uses as there QC check. On a new boat I spend about 20 hours on checking over the vessel and on used boats the number varies but usually not less than the 20 hours unless I know some of the boat’s/owner’s history.
If you are signing on as a crew on a delivery understand your legal responsibility as a crew member (MGN280, Cowsop2010, MGN020). Also understand that deliveries are “outside” of the normal professional marine standards. The boats often have provisional paperwork that allows the vessel to transit national boundaries without normal paperwork and customs procedures.
Make sure you get references for the skipper, and have a lot of communication with the skipper fleshing out all of the PP’s (Policy and Procedures). If the skipper is professional he will have standard PP’s in writing that you can peruse before you commit to the journey. If he does not have PP’s run away, unless he is John Kretschmer or one of the known skippers who haunt these august environs at AAC!
What makes me an authority on these issues you should ask? As skipper I have done 6-10 long deliveries (over 1500nm) per year in the last few years (with many more over the last 40 years of sailing but only these recent trips count regarding skillsets) including at least one ocean crossing delivery per year. That being said, I hope and am sure that many of the writers here will chime in with better thought out and written advise for you.
“Bringing a JSD along” is not really practical since the boat needs to be set up for it, and the size of JSD varies by boat size. Bottom line, as Bob says, the chances of there being a JSD aboard on a boat being delivered are between slim and none.
Going on deliveries is a double edged sword safety wise. The good news is that if the skipper does a lot of them, he or she will be way more experienced and skilled than most owners. The downsides are that often the boat is being delivered professionally because the owner is scared to do it themselves and can’t be bothered to properly equip the boat for offshore work. Or worse still, the boat in question is not even appropriate for offshore work. Or even worse, the delivery is being done out of season.
That said, thousands of boats have been safely passaged by delivery crews. Bottom line, as Bob says, it’s all down to the skipper. Get a good one and you are probably pretty safe even on a poorly prepped boat (skill trumps gear every time). Get a bad skipper with a bad boat and things can get very scary very quickly.
Regarding using Dyneema for the bridle and rode of a JSD, since Dyneema floats, should the weight at the end be increased? The answer seems to be obviously YES. So if that’s the case, increase by how much?
We have a 156 cone JSD. We bought the cones from Ocean Brake and followed their recommendations for bridle and rode lengths and equivalent sizing in Dyneema (actually Acera Amundsen). The weight that Ocean Brake recommends for a 156 cone JSD using double braid polyester is 18kg.
I asked Angus at Ocean Brake about the weight increase for Dyneema and he suggest 20-22kg. That seems not very much more at all. What are your thoughts?
We covered that here: https://www.morganscloud.com/2019/07/12/series-drogue-learning-from-randall-reeves/