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  • #4567

    Ahoy Wayfarers

    here’s a question: does anyone use a drogue? I wished I’d had one on Saturday out in 20+kt winds and a very very steep short chop off Burnham on Sea. This planned sail around Steep Holm in company with Fundoctortrev in “Osprey” turned into a 3 hour tutorial in coping with things going wrong in very very testing conditions. And very educational it was too: much more educational and chastening than the planned day trip in a nice 9kt breeze!

    The upshot was that I wished I’d been able to get myself securely head to wind and waves without going to the trouble of anchoring (rejected) or reaching at amazing speed accross into the lee of an island (adopted) in order to acheive the necessary double reef. To cut a long story and a longer list of lessons learned short, it did occurr to me that in some situations being able to allow the boat to come head to wind and waves when out of anchoring depth would be mighty mighty useful. There is nothing on drogues on the forum and I was hoping someone had some experience with them before I potentially make a schoolboy error running one up from cloth from a discarded genoa or buying the wrong kind.

    Any “Drogue Wisdom” very gratefully recieved.


    Boris W6330 “Delphy”

    Dave Barker

    I wasn’t there, so feel free to ignore me, but isn’t this just the kind of situation in which you need to heave-to and get those reefs put in sharpish?

    With as little (backed) foresail as you need to stop the boat from tacking, tiller to leeward and ‘board up if there’s sea room, you should be reefed and away in a couple of minutes, and feeling in control of the situation.

    But I wasn’t there…


    I’ll resist the temptation to explain why I didn’t want to hove to: I think it might be really really tedious! But certainly it was related to the conditions which were bordering on being no fun at all: the more experienced helm on the day described it as “the worst” conditions he’d been in in a Wayfarer.
    This whole thought was set off by my crew who is an experience yacht sailor and had read Frank Dye’s book. He asked me a few days before if we had a drogue. I’d said “oh no we won’t need one of the those”, but mulling over the challenging but basically safe events of the day it did make me think that there may be times when being able to come head to wind and waves could be a very useful thing … unless of course I’m mistaken about drogues. It seems, for instance, a nice way of having a rest where you’ve got plenty of sea-room.

    Dave Barker

    I’m wondering just how restful it would be to be head-to-wind, unless you have already succeeded in dropping the mainsail, which then begs the question, how? And if you’re going for a deep reef rather than dropping the sail altogether, isn’t it better to be 20-30 degrees off the wind (i.e. hove-to) so that the boom and sail aren’t battering the side of your head while you adjust the halyard and reefing lines?

    The motion of the boat with at least some sail hoisted has to be more comfortable than with none, and you still have the option of letting the sails flap and the boat drift for a while.

    Sailing downwind with just a scrap of foresail would be a possible strategy, reducing the apparent wind speed, slamming of the hull etc., (subject to sea room). Sitting to a drogue (probably should call this a sea anchor – drogue towed behind) seems to me to be retaining all the discomfort without any prospect of escaping from it!

    I for one would be interested to hear your reasoning for not briefly heaving-to – it’s good to learn from other people’s experiences.


    Good points David

    I was kind of wondering the same thing – would you end up bucking about with the possibility of the bow digging in with a sea-anchor pulling slightly down as the wave comes up at you?. Frank Dye calls it s drogue every though he seemed to describe it over the bow, but sea-anchor is definitely clearer terminology.

    Re: hoving to: basically I felt (and I was quite possibily wrong) that the waves were approaching a 3ft height at times, and the odd random big’un thrown in, and as they were very steep I was thinking of the rule that a boat can be tipped by a steep wave half its beam.

    Also we had run into an entirely avoidable issue of getting the second line at the boom end snarled up as we hadn’t shortened it when we did the first reef. This was exacerbated by having clipped the main block to the boom inside one of these loops. Sorting that out was quite a challenge – though we managed it. However, even with this done, my crew was finding he couldn’t lift the boom end by pulling on the line and I felt that I couldn’t guarantee that something was not caught elsewhere – say in one of the tidy lines – and rather than risk breaking something by just pulling harder and harder, we took our option of shelter.

    My son has just confirmed its difficult to scandalise the main when there is appreciable pressure on the sail as on any of the points of sail that would have given us control over our angle to the oncoming waves. I will need to look and see if there is a design flaw in the system: but it works beautifully if you use it early enough.

    The whole episode was “too late to reef”, and “lines not tidied” – basic errors and those lessons are well learned. But then we can all get caught out by suprise: Ralph Roberts tells such a story. It would be fascinating if anyone has any experience with sea anchors – other than Frank Dye’s “batten down for a force 9” scenario!

    Dave Barker

    I’m sure you were right to be cautious of short, steep waves – these seem to be one of the worst threats to our small boats, with the potential for rapid swamping.

    If you’re able fully to slacken/release the kicker and you remember(!) to slacken the mainsheet when your crew pulls in on the reefing line, there shouldn’t be any difficulty in lifting the boom end, although if there’s already one reef in the main there can be quite a bit of water trapped next to the boom – always worth remembering that before you drench yourself and/or your family at the end of a day’s sail 😆



    you’ve given me a good forehead slapping moment here: kicker remembered, mainsheet could well be the culprit. And yet and yet: if you are pointing up and/or sailing on the main at all there will be some tension in the mainsheet and we’re back where we started!. So a well-coordinated dump of the main and pull on the reefing line should do it, if I am ever stupid enough to leave reefing too late again.

    for now I’ll forget the idea of a sea anchor … and hope my friend can bear the disappointment of a drogue-less wayfarer voyage.



    Hi Boris.
    When you use lines on canoes to track the boat up river you nearly always need to attach at least the upstream line with a bridle on the forward thwart that goes under the boat giving you a point of pull under the hull. This means that the bow is not being pulled down and will always ride up as a portion of the hull is in front of and above the pull point. Now I haven’t had cause to try this in the Wayfarer yet but I reckon it could work. You would need to be real careful releasing the bridle and you would need forward motion to do so as releasing one side with it under tension would result in a rapid broach and I suspect a roll.
    I have thought this set up might work approaching a surf type lee shore. You would set the bidle and sea anchor up just before the break, facing out to sea, then down all sails, get the rudder off and drift to the shore. You would need to ensure that the bridle could not ride up over the bow or even worse have one side come undone. This would be a last resort of course. Has anyone out there tried this yet? Captain Voss used to use this technique I think but no real info if he used a bridle. Cheers Steve.

    Dave Barker

    Hi Steve,

    I can see the potential for a bridle running underneath if you have time and space to set it up, but in a tight spot I can’t see myself doing anything at all complicated. If the sea anchor or whatever is on a sufficiently long rode, the pull will be close to horizontal (maybe too close, if it breaks the surface!), even if led through the bow fairlead. To my mind there’s a potential for snagging the centreboard, not to mention the possibility of broaching which you have already mentioned. Other than the line jumping out of the fairlead the standard technique seems fairly safe and reliable.

    The lee shore approach that you describe would presumably be a last resort in the event that for some reason you couldn’t use the anchor in the same way (depth, substrate, lost anchor etc)?


    Steve, the thing under the boat sounds super scarey to me – if you were desperate a drogue/sea anchor on a long warp over the bow and going ashore stern first might help if you’d lost your anchor. Letting yourself in off an anchor seems to be the technique here – at least something is fixed!

    Overall I’m just thinking a sea anchor weighs next to nothing, takes no stowage space, and I think it could be an interesting addition to the kit but so far we’ve not heard from anyone that seems to use them or know their strenghts or limitations for Wayfaring. Something to experiment with perhaps somewhere safe?

    One thought: to help prevent pulling the bow down under oncoming waves I guess you’d be helped by a float/fender tied into the warp about 2 -3m from the bow as well as some weight near the drogue/anchor itself to keep it below the surface. Potentially a bit fiddly in other words: but then does anything beat messing around in boats?

    As it happens my friend (the one who mentioned the drogues) and I had another crack at the Bristol Channel launching from Burnham on Sea on Sunday.

    overall I conclude these are unfriendly waters for an open boat in any kind of significant wind (F4 gusting 5 yesterday). The chop gets hideous, short and steep and was further embellished on this occasion by a nice cross sea giving those lovely pyramidal waves to enjoy. Somehow the fact that it’s all brown just doesn’t help. There were only yachts, and kite-boarders out. Lovely lee shore too …

    However once we’d abandoned our plan to sail to Steep Holm after bashing and slapping 1/3 the way there, we had a cracking sail . We went up the River Parrett instead; it’s a surreal place, a real wildneress, and a double reefed wayfarer planing through it! Well worth a visit during the 4 hour high tide launching window at Burnham.

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