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Old 09-07-2013
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Re: series drogue or para anchor?

smackdaddy; I've sailed several boats through some pretty extreme storms;
a 46' British built timber yawl, a 65' Wm. Hand gaff ketch (1909), both aft cockpit boats. The gaffer had a much larger stern than the British boat which had a very fine stern and bow, but neither handled well with the drogue out. After releasing the drogue both rose much more quickly to the seas and shipped less water, though the steering of both vessels was still very hard work and extremely tiring. A third boat in an Atlantic storm was a Brown, 37' Searunner tri, and on that, the drogue specifically recommended by Brown, would not allow the boat to go fast enough to safely keep her on the face of the waves when needed. That was a wild ride for 22 hours, but we had no problems after we cast off the drogue.
"The problem with controlling the situation you describe is that you have to be able to see what you're doing. Mostly when the weather is such that you need a drogue, it is heavily clouded too and then the inevitable happens - the sun sets and it gets real dark."
I found that even in the dark, the white water was quite visible, though, quite honestly, 90% of the steering was done by feel, after the first few hours. The stern would lift as the waves approached and I would set her to race across the face, much as a surfer would, then as the whitewater caught up with us it was necessary to put her stern directly into the approaching water (which I could certainly hear, if not see) and slow the boat and let the wave pass under us. Though the noise was terrible, I welcomed the dark, because seeing those waves was a truly terrifying site at times.
I don't know if you've ever had a huge wave mount a boat in heavy weather, but for me the boat became completely unmanageable with several (hundred?) tons of water washing over the stern and filling the cockpit. It doesn't matter how big your cockpit drains are, they are never large enough to rid the boat of the extra weight quickly enough to allow her to rise for the next wave. But if the stern did rise, with all that water rushing forward, I was sincerely worried that she would pitch pole, one experience I dread. Read "Once is Enough" by Miles Smeeton, a book that saved our lives when we were capsized three times in a hurricane (cyclone, if you insist) in the SoPac.
I guess it's different with every boat. I shudder when I see these boats with no transoms or the ones with the huge scoops and stairs on the stern, which in my estimation are an invite for the waves to mount the boat.
I hope never to go through that sort of experience again, because it was very frightening and exhausting. But at least I know that the boats I chose to sail in the past and the boat we are sailing now can take whatever Neptune chooses throw at us and we did and will survive, without asking others to risk their lives to save us. Perhaps that sounds a bit cocky, but at a certain point I have to have that confidence or I'd better stop voyaging.
"Any idiot can make a boat go; it takes a sailor to stop one." Spike Africa aboard the schooner Wanderer in Sausalito, Ca. 1964.
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