I'm very fortunate to have been in touch with Jeanne Socrates on Nereida
(the boat that was knocked down off Cape Horn - referenced above). I asked her about the use of the JSD before and after the knockdown - as she had, very understandably, not been able to provide a lot of detail while in the middle of it all. She very kindly responded with a great telling of the story.
To me, getting it straight from someone like Jeanne who is actually using this thing in the Southern Ocean
, in the middle of a gale, is just about the best feedback any of us could possibly ask for. Raise your glasses to this incredible woman!
Here Jeanne's response to my email:
Re series drogue:" Was the drogue deployed prior to/during your knockdown? If I recall, you mentioned that you were having trouble keeping Nereida quartered to the seas - that she was drifting to a beam-on position. I (along with many other interested sailors on these forums) are curious about how you found the effectiveness of the JSD and what you'd recommend based on that experience."
I've seen a lot of the discussion you refer to (....a lot of other kind people out there!!).... To put the story right:
I had the drogue totally 'ready to go' - even to the extent of having taken out the chain (used as the weight on end of the line) from its pocket in a specially-made bag tied to the stern steelwork - because when I tested it in readiness for the expected bad weather, it had been rather difficult to get out. So I'd draped it over the bag so that should conditions deteriorate a lot, I could deploy it in an instant. (With the boat upright, even well-heeled, I made sure the chain stayed put without a problem)
With winds of 35 kt, gusting 40kt, and seas of 5-6m (always difficult to estimate .... they were a good size but not unduly threatening, with occasional short sections breaking just a little), I was hove to and feeling OK in the conditions. Although not totally happy with being almost beam on to the seas, wind & sea conditions seemed fairly stable and we seemed to be coping OK, so I saw no reason to deploy the JSD just then. (Several people have commented to me here in Ushuaia that there seem to have been a lot of 'rogue waves' around this season, near Antarctica.)
During the knockdown, the JSD 'self-deployed' - it was truly 'ready-to-go' - so it went! ....although I didn't realize it had gone for a time, being busy with other concerns... The mainsl has a very deep third reef, probably equivalent to the trysail, and the staysail was furled to the equivalent of a storm jib size. We were still hove-to and beam on to the seas - but now I was very worried that we might get knocked down again & so tried to change our heading by increasing the stays'l and even unfurling some genoa in an attempt to head us more downwind - but to no avail. At some point, I realized we had deployed the JSD. So now I expected it to keep us stern to the waves but we still had sail up .... I tried to furl the staysail in completely, the line broke loose, the sail unravelled totally and flapped violently, making the whole boat shake with it - I thought the rig was in danger.... It broke the carbon pole. I lowered the staysail to the deck & tied it down, expecting the mains'l to head us up and put us at more of an angle to the waves - it didn't. Of course, with the JSD deployed, the two were 'fighting' each other, so we ended up still nearly beam on to the waves. I lowered the mains'l and managed to tie the headboard down - but two cars had come out of the track, so there was still a lot of windage in the sail, which was billowing rather - so that still kept us beam on.... In the still-big seas, I felt highly vulnerable when I tried to reach up to tie the sail down around the boom, so I had to give up on that.
Eventually, having tried to set the wheel in different positions (having fixed the boom end out of the way so it no longer interfered with the wheel movement) and not found that of help, it occurred to me that I could use the autopilot. (The Hydrovane was behaving oddly - later I found the rudder was at right angles to where it should have been so that couldn't have been helping my hand-steering efforts...). I set the AP to steer us more downwind (TG I'd finally got that working reliably on my way South from Canada!) and put the waves on the quarter - at last! We were making 1.5-2 knots in over 30kn of wind. That is probably when I was able to snatch 2-3 hours of sleep, sitting at the chart table, surrounded by wet chaos. I heard the fishing boat come very close at first light (very early at that latitude) - I looked out and got the impression it was circling around to inspect the boat, ready for the proposed tow.... I remember being surprised at how small it seemed. Soon after, I saw we were making 4-5 knots in a SE direction - away from land .. and safety... and towards the continental shelf ... but the wind had been forecast to ease soon after dawn, with the seas expected to die down some hours later. (My suspicions were confirmed much later when I brought in the drogue and found just 6 of the 124 cones and minimal line .... the fishermen had helpfully cut the drogue away by driving over it when it got light enough to see...despite my repeated VHF warnings to them in Spanish about my sea anchor...)
"Obviously, you have enough faith in it to be ordering another. But we are trying to learn as much as we can from those who've used it in "the stink" as it were. So any feedback would be much appreciated."
Yes - my new one was brought to me here in Ushuaia, ready for my (eventual!) onward passage. (I'm hoping to buy the 7kg of chain for the end-weight tomorrow, in fact.) I know from Tony Gooch that he has used it 7-8 times to excellent effect (he offsets the bridle so it's off the quarter more, not quite dead upwind) and he swears by it. He uses it whenever he "wants to stop the world" as he puts it! 3-4 of those times were on his solo RTW trip... He told me that before he deploys it he could well be running under a headsail (probably staysail) alone. I even spoke to him that night (by satphone) to confirm that what I was trying to do was correct - but not being able to douse the mains'l completely was, I believe, the main handicap to my being able to lie more off the wind after the knockdown, until I used the AP to compensate.
If you've any more queries, do email me.
Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego
Sounds like the JSD rocks.