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  #1  
Old 12-25-2007
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Storm Management For Cruisers

At the 32nd Annual Seven Seas Cruising Association Convention in Melbourne, Florida, I made a short presentation on STORM MANAGEMENT FOR CRUISERS.

I uploaded this presentation to my website so other sailors could benefit from what I learned about storm management during my circumnavigation. If you are interested, you can review this discussion on my website, maxingout.com.

You can click on the article entitled "Storm Management for Cruisers."

The talks discusses storm management in terms that will help less experienced sailors develop a plan for when they encounter their first storm offshore.
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Old 12-25-2007
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Thanks for posting the article. It's one of the clearest explanations of the theory that I've seen. Excellent!
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Old 12-31-2007
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I am reading "Storm Tactics" actually I just started it because I am a complete novice to heavy weather sailing...in it they speak about the combination of paracute with heaving to...is this concensus as the best storm tactic or do some prefer one over the other used seperately.
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Old 12-31-2007
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Hi Sab30

There's no consensus as to the best way to deal with a storm at sea. Each yacht behaves differently in stormy conditions, and your approach will vary according to what works best for you.

The point of the article is that there are multiple different ways that you can control the kinetic energy of your yacht and keep the energy of the storm from climbing on board your yacht to wreak havoc.

Heaving to by sheeting the jib to windward, pulling the reefed main in tight, and positioning the tiller so that the boat makes no headway, works on many yachts. If you are properly heaved to, you will go into a square drift to leeward. Heaving to is easy and quick, and you can resume sailing just as easily and quickly. For some yachts and some storms, heaving to with sails and tiller is sufficient.

In other situations, you may want to control the energy of your yacht by trailing drogues.

Sometimes, you may want to actually stop your yacht by putting out a parachute sea anchor in front of your boat.

The Pardeys write about heaving to using a parachute sea anchor. They have a hybrid technique of heaving to in which they use a paracute to hold their boat in a square drift to leward by using a parchute bridle. The net result is that they are heaving to with the assistance of a parachute.

These different approaches give you lots of options as to how to handle your yacht when the going gets tough. Which technique works best for you depends on your yacht and the gear that you have on board.
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Old 12-31-2007
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Thanks for the reply...maybe you could clarify something for me I dont understand. I understand the heave to but from what I have read it is not adequate protection from breaking seas..many also state that the sea anchor does not provide as good of protection as a series drogue as the paracute will have slack in a trough which could capsize the boat in a breaking wave whereas the series drogue mainatains tension. In breaking waves the consensus seems to be best protection overall is the drogue, which seemed interesting to me that you would want the stern exposed instead of the bow. My question is the two main tactics appear to be heaving to and if you are at danger of breaking seas then a series drogue so then what situation would you require a paracute?

The Coast Guard has an old report (1987) which seems to reflect this same thought. Has there been a major change is paracute design or just new strtegies that are more effective.
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Old 12-31-2007
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On my catamaran I carried an eighteen foot diameter parachute, a series drogue, a gale rider drogue, and warps.

On our eleven year circumnavigation, I used the parachute only once, and I towed warps once. On those two occasions, the devices worked well.

I don't believe a lot of the negative comments made by some about parachutes. When we were 300 miles north of New Zealand in a squash zone, the parachute worked wonders. There wasn't any jerking and the bridle and parachute anchor rode were under tension all of the time. There was never slackness in the bridle. The fifty knots of wind kept the rode stretched out at all times. We were firmly anchored to the ocean. It was just like being at anchor in a harbor except that the water was over 5000 feet deep. One of the reasons the parachute worked so well for us was because we were a catamaran and the arms of the bridle were about twenty feet apart, and that kept the bows pointing into the oncoming seas. There wasn't any sailing around on the parachute.

I never used our series drogue. It wasn't ever necessary. Just towing warps to slow our boat down to four and a half knots kept our kinetic energy down at safe levels. But if the seas were breaking, and if it was impossible to deploy the parachute, then I would have used the series drogue. I always had it in the salon ready to rig and deploy if necessary.

When towing warps in non-breaking seas, water never came into our cockpit because the twin hulls of the catamaran are very buoyant in the stern and the charging seas just rolled under the bridgedeck without a problem. But in massive breaking seas, I think there would possibly be tons of water in the cockpit - that's my guess. I don't know.

The other boats in our Gibraltar/Canary Island storm were taking water in their cockpit in the same seas, and they were in monohulls. One boat filled the cockpit, and they said they had two inches of water in their galley.

The point I am making is this. All boats are not created equal in their ability to use a drogue off the stern. A catamaran with a high bridgedeck and tons of reserve buoyancy in the stern of the two hulls will behave very differently than a monohull in the same conditions.

You must individualize your approach to heavy weather according to the design of your boat, and catamarans and monohulls are different beasts.

I sail in a catamaran with moderate bridgedeck clearance, and when a storm comes, I look at the weather files to decide my approach. If it isn't going to get really bad, then I will tow warps or use a gale rider drogue to control my speed so that my kinetic energy doesn't get out of control. That assumes that I have plenty of sea room. If the weather report says that all hell is going to break loose, then I will put my parachute in the water, and prepare my boat just like I would prepare it for a serious storm anywhere else in the world. (Take sails down, stow everything off deck, etc.) I would ride out the storm with my parachte, and if for some reason the parachute system self-destructed, I would quickly deploy the Series Drogue off the stern.

That's the way I do it on board Exit Only, because it has worked in the past, and it's a manageable approach with plenty of options. I tailor my approach to my situation.

When I sail offshore, and I know that bad weather is coming, I pull all of the emergency gear out of the lockers ahead of time, and I put it in the salon so that it can be assembled and ready to go in minutes. I have shackles, seizing wire, bridles, rodes, parachutes, and drogues ready for action. If I think that I will need the parachute, I attach the parachute bridle to my parachute sea anchor chainplates on the bows before I leave port. This approach works well for me on my 39 foot catamaran.

If you have a monohull, you might approach things differently.
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Last edited by maxingout; 12-31-2007 at 11:31 PM.
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Old 01-01-2008
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First, not all parachutes are large enough to work as sea anchors. A sea anchor essentially stops your boat in the water. If the parachute isn't large enough to do this, it isn't a sea anchor but a drogue.

Now, assuming it is actually a sea anchor, which should be deployed from the bow of a vessel, there are two major problems with using one.

First, the shock loads that can be generated by a parachute sea anchor are huge. Most boats don't have sufficiently reinforced hard points for securing a sea anchor.

Second, the parachute needs to be far enough from the boat that it will not surface. However, the parachute is generally at risk of being collapsed by wave action. If this happens at the wrong time, then you've effectively only got a warp out...and not a sea anchor—and it will not provide enough resistance to hold the boat bow to seas.

Don Jordan, when I spoke to him prior to ordering the JSD for my boat, said that the JSD was basically designed to be a device of last resort—that you should be able to deploy it and then hunker down and wait out the conditions that caused you to use it.

The Jordan Series Drogue site explains how it works far better than I could. You can read about it here.
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Originally Posted by sab30 View Post
Thanks for the reply...maybe you could clarify something for me I dont understand. I understand the heave to but from what I have read it is not adequate protection from breaking seas..many also state that the sea anchor does not provide as good of protection as a series drogue as the paracute will have slack in a trough which could capsize the boat in a breaking wave whereas the series drogue mainatains tension. In breaking waves the consensus seems to be best protection overall is the drogue, which seemed interesting to me that you would want the stern exposed instead of the bow. My question is the two main tactics appear to be heaving to and if you are at danger of breaking seas then a series drogue so then what situation would you require a paracute?

The Coast Guard has an old report (1987) which seems to reflect this same thought. Has there been a major change is paracute design or just new strtegies that are more effective.
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Old 01-01-2008
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Thats the impression I also received from the web site, I read through the Coast Gaurd Report in its entirety and although somewhat dated was very interesting.
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Old 01-01-2008
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Two of my friends were instrumental in my deciding to get a JSD versus a sea anchor or other drogue.

About 15 years ago, they got caught in a bad storm. Initially, they tried to use a 25' parachute sea anchor. After about four hours, they had to cut the sea anchor free, since it was causing damage to the boat where it was attached, and the loads on the line were too high for them to do anything else with it.

At that point they decided to turn the boat around and try their Jordan Series Drogue. They wanted to turn the boat around to protect the damaged bow and reduce the amount of water getting in the hole left where one of the bow cleats had ripped out. The dropped the JSD over the stern and said the difference was amazing. Instead of getting slammed back and forth, like they were by the sea anchor, the boat just "calmed" down. They said it was like the storm has weakened magically.

When I talked to them two years ago, about what storm safety gear... they said that I really needed to get a series drogue. When I was down in Newport about two years ago, for the Safety at Sea seminar, they introduced me to the guy over at Ace Sailmakers, who makes the Jordan Series Drogue. It was through Ace that I got a chance to talk to Don Jordan regarding the specifics for the one for my boat.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

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Old 01-01-2008
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I worried about the parachute pulling the cleats out of our decks, and that's why I installed parachute sea anchor chainplates in my deck.

These chainplates are twenty-five inches long on deck and consist of six millimeter thick stainless steel. On the underside of the deck is the same size stainless steel plate, but it is only twenty inches long. Large bolts go through the deck and through both chainplates, and there is zero chance that these chainplates will ever move. If they move, it's because both bows will have been pulled off the boat.

Welded down both sides of the chainplate and sticking out in front of the bow is a stainless steel bail that is about as thick as my finger. The part of the bail that sticks out in front of the bow is where I attach my parachute bridle using d-shackles that I wire closed after the bridle is in place. The bridle has large stainless steel thimbles on it so there is no chafe on the arms of the bridle where they are shackled to the bails.

If you go to the Storm Managment for Cruisers article on Maxingout.com you will see pictures of the chainplates and bails on the bows. ( I tried to upload pictures to show what these parachute anchor deck chainplates looked like, but the forum software won't permit me to do the upload.) Once you see pictures of these deck chainplates, you'll understand why I don't have problems attaching the parachute bridle to my bows, and it will be clear why chafe isn't a problem.

When we used our parachute north of New Zealand, the parachute floated thrirty feet under water, and we used a float to keep it from sinking deeper. There was no problem with the parachute being too close to the surface. I met sailors who didn't use a float, and the parachute went four-hundred feet under their boat, and it tried to submerge the bows as they floated on the large waves. When the storm was over, it took them four hours of winching to get the parachute back to the surface.

When people tell me about parachutes not working, I find that it's often because they are not using it correctly. It may be undersized. It may be attached to weak points on the yacht. There may be chafe problems. The rode and bridles may be undersized, rotten, or the wrong type of rope/braid being used, the wheel or tiller isn't locked on the boat, the parachute is old and not well-maintained so that panels are in poor condition.

When we used our parachute/bridles/rode/parachute anchor deck chainplates, the system worked awesome, and it was chafe free.

The parachute anchor technique is a SYSTEM. And the system is as good as each of its components. If all the components are good, then the system is good. If one of the components is weak, then the system is weak.

I wouldn't lie to a parachute unless the entire SYSTEM is in top condition. If the parachute is in bad shape, don't deploy it. If there aren't any strong point's on deck to attach it to the boat, don't deploy it. If your bridle is old and fatigued, don't deploy it. If the parachute rode has knots and splices in it, don't deploy it. You'll be making a mistake, because everything in the SYSTEM must be in excellent condition for the system to work. It works on my boat because every component is in excellent condition.
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