Was speaking to a couple a few nights a go who got stuck in a pretty bad blow in the middle of the Tasman sea half way between here and New Zealand.
They choose the sea anchor off the bow, in an attempt to ride it out for a bit and 'get a good night sleep
'. Basically they choose the sea anchor option over heaving too or running off as they had been hard on the wind the whole trip with every mile sorely earn't and they didn't want to give a single inch of ground back.
By using the sea anchor they only moved one nautical mile in the entire night.
The bugger with sea anchors (as best I can workout, fortunately I have never needed one in practice yet) is retrieving the things. Heaving too your off almost immediately, this couple had a full crew on board with them and the process of retrieving the sea anchor took a couple of hours.
I have also heard a horror story of another boat that got the parachute caught under the boat during the retrieval mid pacific in 45 knots. The effect was they eneded up stuck stern to the seas, with no option to sail off, or use the engine. Eventually they cut the thing free, and well nothing happened.... The story goes that the skipper went below and sobbed and sobbed for a hour and then surfaced up the hatch again to see that they were drifting free. Ecstatic with joy, they were dancing and waving goodbye to $4000 of sea anchor.
RE: sea anchors... I have a paratech and have used it in conditions where heaving to alone didn't work. I have the loads on the sea anchor are spread because of the harness. One line is from the anchor cleat. Then a snatch block rides on that line and leads back to the stern and to a winch for adjustment. This is the best and most comfortable safety setup for me. Of course you gotta be offshore to use it.
I also tow warps to run. I just use a bight of chain and lines tying the ends to port and starboard cleats. If the chain is on the 2nd wave back this works well for me and keeps me steady with the downhill face.
Captain Rick, I would be interested in hearing your retrieval method, as i have heard a couple of schools of thought.