A Small Yacht, a Big Ocean and a Wild Storm
In this account of a five-day storm, cruising yacht sailor Michaela Moss discusses why she believes a parachute sea anchor helped them to be the only crew to avoid injury and theirs the only yacht to remain undamaged in this particular storm.
The late Jack Earl is famous in Australian yachting. His suggestion in the bar of Sydney's Cruising Yacht Club of Australia to "have a little race down to Hobart", was the origin of the now world-renowned summit of ocean racing, the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
In the yacht Kathleen Gillet, which is now on display at the National Maritime Museum in Sydney, Jack was the first Australian to skipper a cruising yacht around the world. A dream of Jack and his wife Kathleen was to sail his later yacht, Smoky Cape - a 7.3m yawl, from Tahiti to Australia, but they never achieved their dream.
Steve and Michaela Moss of Queensland Australia bought Smoky Cape and enacted Jack and Kathleen's dream. It was a 4,500 nautical mile voyage and they write, "we added a vital piece of equipment, the parachute sea anchor by Para-Anchors Australia".
An Unprecedented Gale
During the trip an unpredicted gale developed. Michaela wrote, "We battled the building seas and increasing winds. The swell reached a height of 10m with a vicious cross swell racing through the troughs. Howling wind blew the tops of the waves through the spreaders of our little yacht. It was frightening, tiring, wet, uncomfortable and difficult to keep the boat safe. We tried many different storm tactics including running before it with warps, but the cross swell would push us around to a dangerous angle."
"Four days later with fatigue setting in and conditions deteriorating, we decided to deploy the parachute sea anchor. Steve took the Coastal 9 Para-Anchor with line attached, up to the bow, leaving the remaining 100m coil of line in the cockpit with me. We had read and re-read the instruction booklet before going to sea and it deployed efficiently. We positioned pieces of hose on the secured line to minimise chafe, checked for wear frequently and stayed on the parachute sea anchor while the gale howled around us, and waves broke over us. We drifted about 1 nautical mile per hour. We were able to cook and eat a large, hot meal and catch up on much needed sleep. After six days, the gale warning was cancelled and the parachute sea anchor was easily retrieved."
"It is our belief that the parachute sea anchor should be carried aboard every boat that is going offshore. The strongly-built chute is lightweight and easy to store, its convenient deploying bag assisting in its use. It enables any small vessel to sit safely while a bad weather system passes. The comfort provided and the deserved confidence in the parachute sea anchor also reduces the likelihood of injury to the crew and damage to the vessel."
"In other circumstances, the ability to safely stop and hold a vessel in position, while miles offshore, has many benefits especially for short-handed sailors in need of a rest or awaiting a rendezvous with another vessel. Our gale lasted four to five days with estimated 50+ knot winds. To our knowledge we were the only vessel in this particular gale not to sustain any gear damage or crew injury. We believe the parachute sea anchor was our saving grace. And only in a 24-footer."
To find out more about the Para-Anchor Sea Anchor for your vessel, click here or call 00 44 (0)2380 226300.