Members' Online Book: Heavy Weather Tactics, Chapter 15 of 24

Retrieval Problems With Unsheathed Dyneema (Spectra) Series Drogues

This is an article I hate having to write:

  • It will provide a big headache to a large number of our readers, and two manufacturers I value and respect.
  • I'm sure most of you are thoroughly sick and tired of reading about series drogue details.

But, like the article we published about a dangerous dragging modality with Rocna anchors, I have to write it because it deals with an important safety issue and, in addition, this article corrects a mistake I made.

Here's the problem:

It will be extremely difficult to retrieve a Series Drogue built to Don Jordan's design if it is made from unsheathed Dyneema™ or Spectra™.

Randall Reeves' experience shows there is no proven and reliable method to attach the retrieval (nipper) line to Dyneema. And Trevor's retrieval method, the only one we know of that is tried and proven under real conditions, and workable for a single-hander, requires that (as does ours).

When this problem first came up, over a year ago, I suggested splicing loops into the drogue to attach the nipper line to. And, based on discussions I had with Andy Schell a couple of weeks ago, I thought this was a simple and relatively easy solution.

One of Trevor's many attempts to come up with a secure way to attach a loop to the main series drogue line without cutting it. This one a modified shoemaker splice. ©2019 Trevor Robertson

I was wrong. Trevor Robertson, who is a clever and deeply experienced splicer, has shown, after hours of actual experimentation, that there is no way to make said splice securely. Trevor's conclusion:

Splices used in Dyneema seem to rely on both legs of the line being nearly equally loaded for the splice to lock tight. Only one leg of this splice is loaded, consequently much of its strength depends on the seizings/whippings. I don't like this at all.

I have every faith in Trevor's testing and conclusion but, having made one mistake already on this issue, my paranoia is running high, so I called my friend and all-things-rigging guru Jay Maloney, who confirmed that there's simply no way to make a secure splice in braid rope unless both legs are loaded.

Bottom line, if neither Trevor nor Jay can do it, it ain't happening.

So where does that leave us?

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Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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