PS Advisor: Sea Anchor Sizing

As with most anchors, size does matter.





I read your interesting article, “Best Tested Sea Anchors,” in the Feb. 1, 2005 issue. I applied the sizing tables from each of the manufacturers you cited, and came up with very different size recommendations. My vessel is 40 feet and 26,000 pounds. Fiorentino recommends a 12-foot Para Anchor, and Para-Tech recommends an 18-foot Sea Anchor. How do I know which size is right? Do these different size

PS Advisor: Sea Anchor Sizing

Photo courtesy of Para-Tech


anchors really produce the same amount of drag?


Stan Weed
Twin Diesel Tollycroft 40
Via e-mail




While most sea anchor manufacturers may use similar formulas for determining the right size sea anchor for a boat, other factors must be considered, including the weight of the material used in the anchor and a boat’s windage. Ultimately, what matters is that the anchor can displace enough water mass for your size boat.

It’s a good idea to select a sea anchor, and then use that maker’s criteria to determine what size you need for your boat. If you have questions or concerns, contact the manufacturer for clarification.

According to Don Whilldin, president of Para-Tech (maker of the Sea Anchor), the company figures Sea Anchor sizing based on a boat’s length, displacement, and type. If the result is on the line between two sizes, Para-Tech recommends going with the larger size.

“We like to see the Sea Anchor ( displacing about two times the boat’s displacement,” explained Whilldin. “A 12-foot Sea Anchor displaces 22,400 pounds of water; 15-foot, 43,800 pounds; and 18-foot, 75,700 pounds. It is the water mass which is holding the boat.”

Practical Sailor



also spoke with Zack Smith of Fiorentino Para Anchors (

). Smith maintains that rode tension is the big secret in successfully using and sizing a parachute sea anchor.

“Rode naturally stretches under force until it becomes taut. As force is reduced, rode becomes relaxed,” Smith wrote us. “What we want to avoid is too long a period of rode slack because this leaves a vessel-swinging beam to, where waves can heavily roll the boat or in rare circumstances, cause it to fall back on the rudder(s).”

One way to get and maintain more rode tension is to deploy a larger anchor; however, this also makes retrieving the anchor more difficult. In order to get more tension out of a smaller anchor, Smith suggests paying out shorter lengths of rode, adding a small length of chain next to the parachute, or flying a riding sail to increase vessel windage.

For more on storm survival gear, check out Lin and Larry Pardey’s “Storm Tactics Handbook” (



PS, January 2009), which delves deeply into sea anchors, and our
sea drogues evaluation on pages 24-30 of this issue.


Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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