Mailport February 15, 2001 Issue

Mailport 02/15/01

Sea Anchors and Drogues
We enjoy your publication and read with great interest your overview of sea anchors (August 1, 2000). Last August we completed an offshore passage during which we needed to deploy our Fiorentino Para-Anchor and thought the experience noteworthy enough to mention to your readers.

At present, we are cruising aboard our 36-foot steel cutter. When we equipped her with a parachute sea anchor, we thoroughly researched all our options and decided on Fiorentino. We had been in gale conditions off Cape Mendocino for a few days when the decision was made to deploy our parachute sea anchor. We were 55 miles away from landfall and wanted to make our approach during daylight hours. We rode to our para-anchor in Force 8-9 conditions with only 5 miles of drift in 10 hours. Although we thought it a piece of gear we’d never have to use, we were more than pleased with our para-anchor’s easy deployment in gale-force conditions, the rest it allowed us to get, and its simple retrieval the next day.

Fiorentino recommended a 12-foot diameter chute for our boat. At 36-feet, we could have gone smaller, but with her cruising weight of 27,000 lbs. we followed their advice. All the hardware was included in the price and our only other expense was for a partial trip line and nylon anchor rode.

Our belief with any piece of gear, safety or otherwise, is the old adage, “practice, practice, practice.” In various conditions, we deployed and retrieved our para-anchor. We keep it stowed in an accessible location with chafe gear, anchor rode and trip line accessories attached and ready to go.

Not only did we like the design and quality of Fiorentino’s Para-Anchor, but we found their representatives to be extremely responsive to our concerns.

Cary and Bob Deringer
Warrenville, Illinois

Reading your article on sea drogues brought to mind a firsthand experience on the utility of a drogue in heavy weather. About 15 years ago I was stationed as a search and rescue helicopter pilot at Coast Guard Air Station North Bend, Oregon. Late one night (everyone always seems to get into trouble late at night) I was dispatched to assist a 35-foot sailing vessel in distress off the southern Oregon coast. The vessel reported a jammed rudder, winds of 50 knots, and requested Coast Guard assistance.

My crew and I launched in an HH52A helicopter from North Bend, while a 44-foot motor lifeboat got underway from the station at Chetco River. When we arrived on scene I was surprised to find that the winds actually were 50 knots (usually the wind speed is overestimated by a scared crew on a small boat at night). In the heavy seas the rudderstock had bent and the spade rudder was jammed. A heavy sea was pummeling the boat from the port quarter, and with the rudder jammed to port there was nothing the crew could do. Hoisting the two people off the boat was not a good option because the vessel was moving with a chaotic motion and the mast swinging in a wide arch. The helmsman aboard the sailboat was dressed in foul weather gear, life jacket, and attached to the cockpit with a harness, while his crew stayed below to operate the radio.

It would be several hours before the motor lifeboat could arrive on scene and the boat was clearly in extremis. I queried the skipper about a drogue and he told me he had one on board, a tire drogue if I recall correctly. At this point I remember the girl on the radio asking if I wanted them to put out the drogue, and if they should put it out from the bow or stern. As a Coast Guard pilot I had to avoid directing him on what action to take, but he clearly needed to put out a drogue. I told him that I couldn’t tell him what to do, but if it was my boat, I would put the drogue out over the stern. He promptly set the drogue off the stern.

Minutes later, a breaking wave washed over the boat. I watched as the boat began to accelerate down the face of the wave and start to broach. I momentarily lost view of the helmsman as the white water of the breaker completely washed over the boat, then the drogue caught and brought the stern to weather and stabilized the boat. I fully expected the helmsman to be washed overboard, but his harness held. I have no doubt that without the drogue the boat would have broached in the breaking wave and we would have had an extremely bad situation. Watching the boat start to heel over, yaw to port, and be buried under the breaking wave only to be pulled straight by the drogue and recover was quite intense, but has made a believer of me in the effectiveness of a drogue in heavy weather.

Shortly thereafter I had to depart to Gold Beach, Oregon for fuel. I asked the crew if they had an EPIRB aboard, and they replied that they did. I asked them to activate it so I could relocate them when I returned. They said they would look for batteries and activate it. An hour later, as I was returning they had just got their EPIRB activated (so much for being prepared to use an otherwise useful emergency tool!)

The story ends happily. The motor lifeboat arrived on scene and took the sailboat under tow (with drogue still deployed to keep the tow stable) and towed the boat to a safe moorage where repairs were made.

Since that time I have always carried a drogue of one sort or another when sailing offshore on my Cape Dory 28. That’s also probably a factor in why I love my bullet-proof Cape Dory!

Gary E. Gamble, CDR USCG (Retired)
Mobile, Alabama

If you had asked yourself these three questions when reading Dashew’s letter (PS December 2000), you would not have published it:

1. Did Dashew ever read Victor Shane’s book detailing 120 incidents of drag devices being used—most of them successfully?

2. Is there a difference between a mooring pendant and a sea anchor rode system?

3. What are the tactics and equipment that will get a husband/wife crew out of a severe storm after they have committed to a course of action?

Earl Hinz
Henderson, Nevada

Earl Hinz is the author of the recently published book, Heavy Weather Tactics Using Sea Anchors & Drogues, Paradise Cay Publications.

Copper Plating Props
Steven Peterman’s dilemma with fouling of his copper-plated propellers is easy to explain. Copper is only antifouling when allowed to corrode normally. By protecting the copper with a zinc anode he prevents the copper from developing a patina which would be toxic to marine life. Bare, protected copper has been shown not to prevent fouling. It is the layer of corrosion that deters marine growth; experiments have been conducted which show that the copper and its patina are not leaching toxic materials into the water. A surface immediately adjacent to corroding copper will still foul, but the copper will not.

Here is a useful website that documents experiments with copper, anti-fouling, and galvanic protection:

The topic was also covered in a recent article in Metal Boat Quarterly, published by the Metal Boat Society.

The website cited suggests that the antifouling abilities of copper vary over time as it corrodes.

John Thompson
Via email

Membership in the Metal Boat Society is $30 per year, which includes the Metal Boat Quarterly. PO Box 61856, Vancouver, WA 98666; 360/695-4861,

Where Credit Is Due
To Hood Sailmakers, Middletown, Rhode Island: “A while back I purchased a Hood Vectran 150% furling genoa to be used for cruising and club racing on my C&C 36. At the time, Hood was having a change of design personnel and the sail shape ended up being more like a full light-wind sail rather than a general purpose cruise/race sail. After a couple of attempts to reshape the sail, Hood president, Tim Woodhouse, said ‘Hood Sailmakers makes quality sails and stands behind them. This sail is unacceptable and we will replace it at no cost to you and I apologize for the inconvenience.’ The new jib, designed by Tim, is the best-shaped jib I have ever had, including racing Kevlar jibs made by other manufacturers.”

Glen Ballou
Guilford, Connecticut

To Martec Props, Long Beach, California: “Due to a faulty installation by the commissioning agent, I recently had to haul my boat to pull the prop off and take it to the Martec factory for reconditioning. When I got the prop back two days later, I couldn’t believe it was the same one. It looked brand new. After thanking Gary Beck for the quick turnaround I reinstalled it, launched and found the same problem existed. So, I called Gary back and he decided to come down to the yard to see what the problem was and when we re-hauled the boat he saw that the strut bearing was the culprit and not the prop. Gary personally removed the prop, we replaced the bearing and then he reinstalled the prop as only someone who builds them knows how to do it and it worked flawlessly. That is service!

Garry Willis
Marina del Rey, California

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