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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.
Last edited by maxingout; 12-31-2007 at 10:31 PM.