Many mariners have first hand knowledge of what many problems can arise when at sea. Mechanical breakdowns, storms, sea sickness, sleep deprivation, and exhaustion both physical and mental are possibilities in almost every voyage. Most people that take to sea realize that it is not a matter of IF some of these things will happen but rather WHEN they will happen. Having a sea anchor onboard and using it when it’s needed will not guarantee your survival, but it will increase your chances by a fair amount.
A Sea anchor looks like a parachute and it opens once in the water to create a large diameter and thus drag along keeping the bow of the boat pointed in the direction of the waves. There are several changes that happen once the sea anchor is deployed; These changes are both on the boat and on the seas in relation to the position of the boat.
1. The motion of the boat is decreased dramatically as you will no longer take wave impacts from the beam.
2. By slowing down the boat and creating a “slick” in the water, the worst of the fury of the waves will break outside of the “slick” thus saving the vessel from the worst impact. That’s right, this piece of equipment can literally help you reduce the impact of the waves and how your vessel reacts.
3. Depending on current the drift of the boat will be slowed down to a ½ knot or so and this can mean a well needed rest or a chance to fix whatever other problem you have onboard.
New England fishermen have long known about the benefits of the sea anchor and have used sea anchors for countless years. There are many legends of fishermen who rode out fierce storms at sea with the help of their sea anchor.
How to Deploy a sea anchor. To deploy the sea anchor simply lower your sails ,head into the waves to stall the vessel and on the (windward side) put out the trip line first then the sea anchor and float line followed by the rode then drift back and pay out the required amount of scope at least 300 ft but in really heavy weather you may want 10- 15 times the length of the boat, example if your boat is 40 feet you need at least 400 ft of rode. Make fast the rode and deploy the chafing gear to prevent chafing.
How to choose the right sea anchor for your boat. The size and weight of your boat determines how big of a sea anchor you need. Obviously the bigger the boat, the bigger sea anchor.
Para-Tech has been making quality sea anchors in the US for many years and it has developed a reputation for reliability and strength among sailors and fishermen of all types. Built of heavy duty nylon fabric and all seams are reinforced with nylon.
If you have a boat between 25-33 ft that weighs less than 12,000 pounds, then a 12-foot diameter sea anchor like the one shown on the picture below will be adequate for your vessel. (Click on image below)
If your boat is between 35-38 ft with a weight of 40,000 pounds or less, you need a Para-Tech 18-foot sea anchor. (click on image below)
If your boat is between 40-90 ft and weighs less than 95,000 pounds you need a 24-foot sea anchor (click on image below)
Sea anchors are not a luxury but indeed a necessity if anyone is venturing offshore. They are cheap insurance and come in handy in many situations as mentioned before. The sea is beautiful, but storms are a reality and very much a part of venturing out to sea. Being prepared by having a sea anchor onboard is something that every sailor should add to their list of safety items.