The way I've prioritized the use of the sea anchor (and the reason I've never had to use it) is that using the sea anchor should happen only when it is a survival situation; when you can no longer sail safely because breaking waves get big enough to make you lose control and possibly broach/pitchpole. It is after you've made the decision to sit out a storm. This involves some forward planning because you do not want to be up on the bow if there is blue water breaking over it. The way I've set this in my mind is that the procedure is: 1. predict that there will likely be breaking waves higher than your boat can handle. 2. before it is dangerous, launch all the gear, including the snatch block to keep the boat quartered to the sea. 3. Set up an equipment check schedule to periodically check for chafe and to move chafe points/ adjust things. 4. Ride out the storm and then retrieve the chute when it is calm enough to motor up to the trip line to do it easily. The whole procedure says you will not rush to proceed but have decided to allot considerable time for a storm to blow through.
The only other time I would use the thing is in a long singlehanded passage where I had to get some sleep and did not want to make any headway.
I have seen posts that say all the set-up and launching can be accomplished from the cockpit which seems more complicated and prone to screw-ups but does seem entirely doable.
As far as why to have the sails up: without the sails, there may be no way to keep the boat from slewing around from tack to tack on the sea anchor, exposing the boat to coming about uncontrollably. I think this all depends on the boat. I'm sure many can probably maintain stbd or port tack under bare poles but some boats probably cannot.
Alberg 35: With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.
Last edited by smurphny; 01-06-2012 at 08:35 AM.