Fred Roswold Comments on Drogues and Sea Anchors

I have not used and we do not carry either a drogue or sea anchor. This is not that we are opposed to these devices, it is just that when we started out cruising we didn’t know what we wanted, we didn’t have a budget for everything, and ‘these were not high priority. Plus, there is a storage issue; we don’t carry anything on deck or on the cabin sole and all the below deck lockers were full. For these three reasons we never bought one of either of these devices.

Why are these devices “Low Priority” for us? I have talked to so many people with such a wide variety of experiences and opinions that it is hard for me to come to any kind of conclusion, to understand what will really work and what will simply make the situation worse. Regarding sea anchors, intuition tells me that sitting on a sea anchor is not what I want to do. I’d rather have more ability to control my situation, more freedom of action. And more people have told us stories about bad experiences—chafing, uncomfortable movement, shock, not staying quietly head to wind but swinging widely, and getting waves on the side, and surging backwards, and parting tackle—than have reported good experiences. More than one person has told me that the best thing about the sea anchor was when the tackle parted and they were rid of it.

A drogue might be of more use. I talked to Keith Lowrance who sailed on La Pantera (a similar boat to ours) in the ‘’79 Fastnet storm. He said that they kept sailing and they got through unscathed. He added that he always prefers to keep going as quickly as he can to retain control, to be able to steer to avoid big waves, etc. With some boat speed and a powerful spade rudder, broaching might be avoided (this matches our experience in lesser storms). But he also said that this was in racing situations with full crews. He said that if he was shorthanded he might want to deploy a drogue to be able to take a rest from steering. This made sense to me, and, with other peoples ‘similar views, I decided that I might like to have one. Still, I’ve no where to put it, and in 21 years on this boat we have never even come close to needing one. In the worst storms we’ve encountered we’ve been able to continue sailing on the wind vane or been able to heave to successfully. In the most severe conditions we ever encountered we have found that heaving to with just a small scrap of mainsail has worked very well, and if we needed a little more forward motion to keep the boat properly oriented into the waves we have run the motor in forward gear at a very slow speed. So we didn’t ever buy a drogue, and we have even given up carrying the warps, old tires, and other ad-hoc devices that we might use in an emergency.

My plan to deal with “the big one”:
1. Reduce sail and keep sailing using windvane or autopilot.
2. Heave to under triple reef main and storm jib or just main (both work well on Wings). Run engine if needed.
3. If I need to head downwind, we will go under bare poles and we will deploy a loop of anchor rode off the stern with some chain in the byte to slow the boat. We have never tried this.
Hope you find this useful

Fred Roswold
S/V Wings

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