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Not quite 6 months ago I wrote about some scary safety stuff, big storms and lightning! Yesterday I was watching a DVD on heavy weather sailing and it inspired me to add some more here. The big thing during a storm is, as I understand it, keeping the boat under control. As the primary source of “horsepower” for a boat is the wind, we can reduce the wind’s effect on the boat by making the sails smaller, also known as reefing or shortening sail. This is fairly easy to do on our larger sail, the main, as we have what is called single-line reefing. We can reduce the size of our sail by easing the halyard and winching in one of the two reefing lines, all from the safety of the cockpit. Because our headsail is on a roller furler, reefing it is accomplished by rolling a portion of it in. Although this does work I understand that it is not perfect as the shape of the sail ends up being less than ideal. Some boats have a separate inner stay rigged onto which a special storm sail could be set instead. We unfortunately have no such stay. An alternative which is available is called a Gale Sail, produced by ATN. This special sail is designed to be rigged over the fully-furled headsail.

What if we are running downwind and reducing sail doesn’t slow us down enough? That is where towing warps or drogues comes into play. The drag created by these devices can slow the boat down, helping to maintain control. I mentioned on that previous post about the Jordan Series Drogue. This device gets excellent reviews although it both costs a fair chunk of change and is potentially difficult to manage. An alternative, for something less than the perfect storm perhaps, is the Seabrake. Strangely the manufacturers have no North American distributors. I emailed the company that makes them on Friday, inquiring about sizing and shipping costs, but have yet to hear back.


  1. Looks similar to the Fiorentino Shark.
    Give Zack a call. He is very helpful and understands catamaran issues.

  2. Another INEXPENSIVE option for slowing down would be to set up an ABBOTT DROGUE.
    As demonstrated by “MAXINGOUT” here:
    If more serious braking is required, then a para anchor/JSD would come in hand.
    I would look at making my own though, as these aren’t cheap!
    I know some are available on ebay ( , all one would need to do is tie them up on your line. Another good project for you having completed the “500$ bucket” :0)

    • Hi Michel

      I am familiar with MaxingOut’s article on the Abbott Drogue. Definitely another too for the tool box. As for making my own JSD, it would end up being worth about $20,000.00 I bet, based upon my bucket-sewing speed. 😉

  3. The full article about the Shark was in the May 2008 Sail Magazine. It got a very positive review, for having a very compact, rugged, and easy-to-deploy design. It is clever.

    My concern is that it is too small. The breaking factor in the tests was rater low (slowing a boat from 6.1 to 5.1 knots under power). I think I would like a larger size.

    It comes down to what you want it to do. If you want to slow a monohull and reduce yawing, while still sailing, that is one thing. If you want to PREVENT surfing and bow-burying in a catamaran in terrible conditions, that is another. Each devise has a different purpose, and in the end we each have to chose.

    I posted some of my thoughts here:

    I have to admit, when I found the exact size and model I was looking for in a consignment shop, I did a little dance. What are the odds?

    In a month or so, when the water gets a little softer (we have had a record-breaking winter here in the mid-Chesapeake – over 6′ of snow) I will take it out, do some tests, and post the results. By taking the boat up to 7 knots and dumping it off the back attached to a long nylon rode I can do some calculation regarding braking force. The boat should slow from 7 knots to 4 knots in perhaps 5 seconds with a peak load of about 2500 pounds. I’ll stay clear of the rode!

    (Note: the instructions call for a non-stretch rode in order to couple the action of the drogue to the force on the boat, but this is a different sort of test and the nylon will keep the forces in the proper range.)

    • Controlling the surfing speed to prevent burying the bow is definitely what I would be looking at.

      What size of Seabrake do you have?

      I look forward to reading about these tests and yes, we too are waiting for the water to get “a bit softer.”

      • I too want to try the Maxing-Out system; it struck me as clever and practical. Actually, I do not want to NEED to try the system, but I’ll test it out in fair conditions, so that I know the drill.

        My Seabrake is a 24.

        I had a 6-foot parachute anchor (surplus cargo chute, carefully reinforced) on my Stiletto and I tested it in the same manner; I motored at 12 knots (18 hp on a 1350-pound boat will make it scoot) and dumped off the back with a 150-foot 11mm climbing rope for a tether. It slowed the boat to 2 knots within a few seconds, and with 18 hp driv1ng, would only reach 2.1 knots. I still have it as a back-up, though my real plan is to use it as a sea anchor for the tender. Though a PDQ 32 won’t sink, fire is always a possibility.

        I think all of this gear and procedure testing comes from my climbing background; you never try ANYTHING for the first time on a big climb. You try it at the local crag, on a nice day, on a moderate climb. I’m sure other sailors can tell what they are watching, when they see me pull second reefs in and and out in a 10-knot breeze. I did get one offer of help when were practicing MOB recovery with the boat still moving. Some of the strangest looks come when practicing climbing with mountaineering boots, crampons, and ice axes in 90F summer heat, wearing shorts and ski gloves. We were preparing for an ice climbing trip to the Tetons.

        • When we first learned to reef I think the wind was only blowing about 7 knots. Yes, I think we got some strange looks. We also had someone come by and offer to help when Rebecca and I kept intentionally rolling our sea kayaks, just to practice getting back on board:)

  4. I received a reply from Seabrake in Australia and they recommended the 24 as the proper size. Their price, including shipping, is WAY less than the Shark. I think we’ll end up ordering one today, just in case.

  5. I would be very curious to know how many PDQ owners keep any of these devices (Drogue or Para-anchor) on board.


    • Yes, that would be interesting.

      As a follow up on the drogue subject, the guys at Seabrake in Australia are on the ball! They got back to me, processed my order and shipped it yesterday, and sent me several emails along the way confirming the progress and tracking numbers. I am curious to see how long it takes to get to Canada from there. It was only $250 AUD, shipping included. Of course, we will need line for it, etc., which will add a bit to the cost, but I still think that is a pretty inexpensive piece of safety kit.

  6. We received our Seabrake today, only three days after it was shipped from Australia!!!!!

  7. […] duffel bag, which is filled with line (rope) for our drogue, makes a great substitute for a sandbag as well. Unfortunately, the zipper is seized so I could not […]

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