Two Drogues Aboard

October 26, 2018

Day 22

Noon Position: 04 22S 133 35W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SSE 6

Wind(t/tws): E 15

Sea(t/ft): SE 4-5

Sky: High Cumulus, some left over squall from the night; clear by afternoon.

10ths Cloud Cover: 7, 3 by afternoon

Bar(mb): 1014, rising

Cabin Temp(f): 86

Water Temp(f): 80

Relative Humidity(%): 82

Sail: #2 genoa full, main, one reef, close hauled.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 150

Miles since departure: 2884

Avg. Miles/Day: 129

When I bought Mo, she had in her port cockpit locker a hefty series drogue that had clearly been of great help to previous owners. I, too, put it to use in the south last year, twice and was amazed by its power. It was lost off the Crozets during the gale that broke Mo’s pilot house window, and, by the time I departed Hobart, had been replaced by a brand new Jordan Series Droge (JSD), made by ACE Sails in Rhode Island. (

Once home, I sent the JSD back in for some modifications that included a stronger bridle and more cones. If memory serves, it is now 148 cones in total (for a boat displacement of 35,000 lbs), and you could probably lift the boat with the bridle, now of super-strong Dynema.

The design has improved greatly over the years. The old series drogue used a hefty one-inch polyline, and, as connections between drogue and bridle, marine eyes and gigantic shackles. It was a brute. Hefting it out of the cockpit locker was tantamount to lifting a dead linebacker, especially if it had got itself wedged under the spare line bag, as it was prone to do in heavy going.

The new drogue is (I’m guessing) a third the weight. Dynema has been employed for both the bridle and the first, roughly, half of the cone length, allowing a much smaller diameter (read, lighter) polyline for the after half of the drogue. The marine eyes and shackles have been replaced by eye splices wrapped in chafe gear. It is also a wonder of fabrication and represents just mountains of by-hand sewing and splicing on the part of ACE.

Today, I rigged the anchor weight, 25 lbs of chain, to the JSD and stowed it properly for deployment.

Next to it in the port locker, also rigged and ready for deployment, is a new addition, a Shark Drogue, designed and manufactured by Zack Smith and the folks at Fiorentino. ( drogue is a wonder in the opposite direction, that is, its design is minimalistic and the drogue itself is small enough to be stowed in its own day-pack sized bag. Instead of many cones, it uses one chute roughly the shape of a hot air balloon connected, on the bow end, to a beefy bale and at the stern, a tail line for the anchor weight.

So, why two drogues?

The two drogues represent two schools of thought regarding how a boat should ride out heavy weather. The JSD is commonly referred to as a “stopping drogue” and the Shark as a “slowing drogue.”

In short, once deployed, the JSD will bring boat speed down to 1 – 2 knots and keep the orientation of the boat stern to the seas. Lash the tiller, go below; you’re done (except do check for bridle chafe occasionally).

The Shark, on the other hand, reduces speed from, say, 7 knots down to 4 knots, which allows the boat to continue making way but in a controlled manner. Its adjustable bridle also allows the boat to be steered by the drogue if, for example, the rudder has been damaged or lost.

From my limited experience, in extreme conditions (an Indian Ocean gale with heavy gray beards), what I want most of all from a drogue is a guarantee that Mo stays at a roughly perpendicular orientation to the breaking sea. All the knockdown trouble we’ve had thus far has been due to a breaker catching Mo by the stern, turning her broadside and throwing her down. For this, it’s hard to imagine a better device than a JSD.

On the other hand, not all conditions in which one might want a drogue are like that. For example, during the week I hand steered Mo off our approach to Cape Horn and into the safety of Ushuaia, Argentina, I let Mo lie ahull at night in marginal conditions. This was because the JSD would have been too much work to deploy and retrieve every day of that week. Later we rode out a gale on the JSD just off the coast, but conditions were not extreme. In both cases, the Shark’s ease of use and steering characteristics would have made it an ideal solution.

In the *Shark Drogue Manual*,Zack Smith has written a very thorough review of both the Shark and concerns regarding to the JSD. Key among series drogue concerns is that the difficulty of deploying a series drogue often causes a skipper to delay deployment until the height of things, when such work is more difficult, even dangerous (yep, I’ve been there). Another issue is possible damage to the boat by the JSD due to the forces required to stop a boat in breaking seas (not an issue on Mo). And a third is that a stopped boat can easily take damaging breaking seas into the cockpit and over the boat (true, but in my experience, the oomph of a wave is not in the white water).

Based on Smith’s research, the answer, then, is a drogue that slows rather than stops the boat and allows the vessel to maintain control while working with the seas rather against them.

I love this answer, by the way. The JSD is a bear to handle. Though what it does, it does admirably, if there is a simpler solution, I’m all for it.

But what I’ve not yet gotten from Smith’s excellent booket is whether the Shark has the power to keep a boat under control in extreme conditions. When seas are steep and breaking and threatening to roll the boat, does the Shark have enough power to pull the boat back from the brink? At this point, I don’t know the answer.

5 Comments on “Two Drogues Aboard

  1. Very interesting read. I have been thinking of getting a JSD but put off slightly due to the weight, difficulty of deployment and recovery. Interesting I have not head of any GGR boats using a JSD or any other drogues when you woukd have thought they would in the conditions they have had. Several hove too but that seems to have caused problems. My view is you need to keep moving but in the lulls after a storm when the sea is still huge that is still a challenge to remain to the waves. Thanks Andy. (Corrival, Rival 32 from UK)

  2. I believe the some of the GGR boats have used warps. I have not heards drogues yet. Looking forward to your analysis.

  3. Very interesting read – I learned a lot. The best (only) drogue I ever used was a tire with a small flap cut in it and a chain looped around it… primitive but it worked for us! Your analysis of your past knock-downs shows how clearly you think – even in extremis. I’m in envy and awe. Shucks, a wine bottle flies around and lands next to my head and I’m saying my hail Mary’s! Aloha, Mary

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