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Agreed: no silver bullets”

 By Cary Deringer

appearing in the May/June 2002 issue of Good Old Boat.

We agree with Lin and Larry 100 percent. I noted in the article that silver bullets are hard to come by for a number of reasons. Parachute sea anchors and drogues are just two more tools in the toolbox when it comes to making a decision in heavy weather. Using either of these devices will be easier, safer, and more effective if prior setup and deployment/retrieval drills in varying wind conditions have been executed. The intent of my article was to give information to those people who have made, or are thinking about making, the decision to have one or both of these devices available as a storm tactic option.

We also feel that heaving to is an important method to employ in heavy weather situations and is usually the first tactic we use. In one heavy-weather situation we encountered, heaving to enabled us to take a break, assess our situation, and make a decision about what to do next. We decided to continue on, but by the third day the weather had not moderated. Winds were in excess of 45-knots and seas had built to more than 20 feet. We made the decision to tack and sail the 80 miles to landfall. We deployed our parachute sea anchor for the night for two reasons: first, it allowed us to get some much needed rest (while still maintaining an anchor watch) by reducing the motion of the boat, and second, it allowed us to make landfall during daylight hours.

Heaving to would have resulted in the same outcome. Using our parachute sea anchor in these conditions gave us a better understanding of how our boat responds to a parachute sea anchor in these conditions and more experience with this device. With any storm tactic, heaving to included, practice is key to a successful outcome along with having the gear maintained and ready for use.

A majority of parachute sea anchors and drogues that are purchased get stowed away, never to see the light of day. Owning a parachute sea anchor or drogue will not guarantee survival in heavy weather. Nor will heaving to if you’ve never hove to before and decide the best time to try it is in heavy weather. The best storm tactics are knowledge, experience, and common sense. These are impossible to purchase with any credit card.


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