on the drag device issue”
By Zack Smith
July/August 2002 Good Old Boat.
Recently we completed a series of open-sea tests
of drag devices that we designed for U.S.
military use. These tests took place under
different sea and weather conditions, including
storms. When I was done I headed back into port
and took some time to catch up on my reading. I
started with the May issue of Good Old Boat.
What caught my eye was a letter written by Lin
and Larry Pardey called “No Silver Bullets.” It
was a response to an article written by Cary
Deringer that appeared in the January issue. As
I read it, I found myself disagreeing with the
Pardeys’ blanket generalization of all drag
In their letter, the Pardeys’ claim para-anchor
and drogue manufacturers “capitalize on our
fears” by using scare tactics to sell their
products. They go on to emphasize
that”…brochures, manuals and sometimes
elaborate-looking books created by the gear
salespeople” reinforce their claims.
Additionally, the Pardeys attack drag device
manufacturers and distributors for having little
to no seamanship experience. While I’ll agree
that most manufacturers of drag devices have
limited experience on the water, Fiorentino
isn’t one of them. To date, Fiorentino Para
Anchor is the only drag device manufacturer made
up of commercial fishermen and experienced
sailors who regularly test para-anchors and
drogues in real storms with power and sailboats
of all sizes.
The Pardeys contend that
incapable vendors regularly recommend oversized
products for profit and are”…unaware of the
excessive strains this oversize gear can exert
on the boat.” Larry Pardey and I have discussed
this topic face to face. We agree that it
doesn’t take a very large para-anchor to steady
a vessel in a storm. It’s how a sailor rigs the
para-anchor that heavily influences what size
anchor is needed.
In most cases, monohull
sailboats that heave to can use a smaller
para-anchor. That’s because the boat’s hull
creates more resistance when it drags through
the water laterally. The bigger and heavier the
vessel, the easier it is to use a relatively
smaller para-anchor either in a heave to
position or straight off the bow.
boats tend to catch more wind, which keeps
tension in the para-anchor system. Heavy boats
don’t swing back and forth at the anchor like
small vessels. A smaller sailboat using a
para-anchor off the bow to keep its head into
the sea should consider a stern riding sail to
keep tension in the system. The riding sail
essentially catches wind, so that boat sails
backward at a fast enough pace to keep
continuous drag from the anchor.
Excessive strains on a boat are a direct result
of the para-anchor system being allowed to go
slack and then tighten up. A deflated
parachute or too much rode paid out are typical
culprits in this scenario. Slack in a
para-anchor system means the drag device is not
holding your vessel in place and that you are
momentarily drifting as though lying ahull. The
energy created as the para-anchor grabs hold of
the water whips the bow of a boat head to sea.
This action places heavy strains on the drag
device and your boat.
Research vessels and fishing
boats may wish to use larger anchors because
they typically use the products in lighter wind
conditions. Unfortunately, oversized anchors
when used in heavy weather can place additional
strains on cleats, chocks or fairleads.
With appropriate gear and instruction, drag
devices are easy to work with. In
Cary Deringer took the time to research all
available sources on drag devices and learned
how to deploy and retrieve several different
my personal guidance. As I told
her, research and practice takes the mystery out
of any storm tactic.
My best advice for
boaters who are considering the purchase of a
drag device is to gather as much information
possible from leading U.S. manufacturers and to
take plenty of time to make their decision.
Additionally, boaters should develop a list of
questions when researching equipment for their
boat and situation. For example, what is
included with a purchase? What other costs are
involved? And how does one rig a para-anchor to
a particular boat? Ask about the company’s
history. For example, did the company have any
product recalls? Once boaters have these
answers, they can make an informed decision and
avoid costly mistakes.
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