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Old 03-02-2015, 12:13 PM   #1
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Sea Anchor advice

I'm looking at the possibility of purchasing a sea anchor as a safety device in case of engine failure at sea. I'm curious how many fellow TF buddies have one and have ever used one. Do you think it a worthwhile purchase? If you don't have one would you consider obtaining one or, what importance would you assign to this safety device? My boating is off the Southern California coast which is not known for being especially rough but like anywhere it can get plenty nasty. I have read some survival stories lately that described some pretty dangerous conditions when boats broached after engine failure, often caused but something as simple as a clogged filter or fuel tank unporting. I appreciate your thoughts and comments.
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Old 03-02-2015, 02:03 PM   #2
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I guess a sea anchor might be useful to keep your bow into the wind after an engine failure. I boated on SoCal for several years and never saw conditions that would warrant a sea anchor after an engine failure. I would prefer to invest in things that keep the engine running, not things to make it more comfortable after the engine dies.

Sea anchors are mostly used in survival conditions to stabilize the boat (sailboats almost exclusively) with no sails up and the engine not running. They are used in 50+ kt winds and 20+' seas.

If you ever expect to be caught out in those conditions, you need a different boat.

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Old 03-02-2015, 02:14 PM   #3
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How deep is the water where you travel?

REason I ask is that it might be easier/cheaper to have a stash of line you could quicklly deploy with your anchor in an emergency.

I could imagine a setup in your anchor locker with a easy to attach spare 600' length of line.

Deploy your anchor to its max extent, then attach using something like a shackle the emergency line, then drift out to the end of that line.

Might be more effective, cheaper, and easier to deploy than a sea anchor for coastal cruising.

I'd rather be anchor'd calling for help than drifting slowly with a sea anchor.
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Old 03-02-2015, 02:17 PM   #4
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We have one but have never used it. A Para-Tech 18' sea anchor is $1,000 plus the line. Retrieval can be a PIA from what I've been told.

If you're looking to just keep the bow into the wind there are ones designed for fishing that are smaller and cheaper.
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Old 03-02-2015, 03:39 PM   #5
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I wanted one, but they are too expensive and I'm not convinced of their effectiveness for our boats. Or in other words, I think it may be as effective to put out line and chain, even without a bottom to anchor to, to keep the bow into the wind.

I'll try it one day and let you know.
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Old 03-02-2015, 03:52 PM   #6
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Ours came with the boat, a Para-Tech 24' version. We have never deployed but I would consider this a must have for any blue water or offshore cruising. It's at the ready on deck when we're out there.

I fish out of San Diego so I know your area, we've been caught in some nasty stuff even for my 50 ton steel boat. The water is deep most everywhere so anchoring is not an option.

If you are only running the channel to Catalina you may want to consider a smaller version or a fishing version as noted above.
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Old 03-02-2015, 04:57 PM   #7
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Two cautions. When using a sea anchor off the bow make sure your rudder is not slamming back and forth it tends to bust something like the rudder. Second if you have all chain and let it all out plus a lot of rode in deep water be sure your windless is up to hauling all that weight back aboard. Most boats don't need a sea anchor unless they cross big blue water or travel where storms and big seas are common.
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Old 03-02-2015, 05:16 PM   #8
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The function of a Sea anchor per its name, there are others, is to slow drift to a minimum.

Any single engine boat that could be caught in severe conditions near a lee shore that normal anchoring may not work, could benefit from a Sea anchor.

You have to roll the dice depending on your boat and cruising area to see if it could save your bacon someday.
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Old 03-02-2015, 05:48 PM   #9
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As noted above, true sea anchors are quite large. An alternative, if you just want to keep bow into the wind to change fuel filters or something, or the stern under control in a big following sea, is the Sea Brake. I bought one mainly for anti-broaching but have yet to use it.
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Old 03-02-2015, 05:51 PM   #10
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Would this thread be better suited in the anchoring section? Are you considering some large passages? What condition are you attempting to account for? Your vessel has two engines, so running on a single should suffice to hold you bow into the seas. Two engines failing would be very unusual. About the only thing I can think of is a fuel problem.
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Old 03-02-2015, 07:13 PM   #11
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Old 03-02-2015, 07:59 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psneeld View Post
Any single engine boat that could be caught in severe conditions near a lee shore that normal anchoring may not work, could benefit from a Sea anchor..
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Old 03-02-2015, 09:07 PM   #13
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Although I agree that they are a useful tool to have in the bag of tricks, your anchor will be of more use in the majority of sticky situations that recreational trawlers may be in.
I could see them being handy if the engine failed in very deep water where you could not anchor. They will point the boat into the wind/swell making the motion more comfortable, and buy you time if you are drifting towards dangerous conditions.

IMO - If you cruise in areas where you have enough rode to anchor, you do not need one.

A drogue (normally used to keep the stern into the wind or surf) may be more useful in shallow water. They typically are smaller and do not slow the boat as much, but are used to keep the boat perpendicular to the swell to avoid broaching as a wave is passing under you.

Either a sea anchor or a drogue can be problematic to retrieve. They come with retrieval lines but these can become twisted into a big mess. There is always a risk of getting things tangled around the prop or rudder. From what I have heard the series type drogues may be the most effective and have the least problems in most situations.

I don't see the need for either, although if I had a boat with a square stern and smallish rudder, I'd consider a series drogue for using if I got caught in a big steep swell that was pushing my ass around.
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Old 03-02-2015, 09:22 PM   #14
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Old 03-02-2015, 09:48 PM   #15
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Some very good comments and thoughts!

Interestingly the water depth off of the Southern California coast can drop from 100' to 3000' in just a few miles. Thus anchoring to avoid breaching isn't an option.

Some of you might have read my account about a failed attempt to help a friend move his 54' Chris Craft from Oakland to San Diego. Both engines succumbed to failure due to fuel related issues. In very short order things got pretty ugly and we were suddenly at the mercy of the ocean. I didn't like that feeling one bit and never want to feel that helpless again.
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Old 03-03-2015, 12:02 AM   #16
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I have a paratech 24' and have deployed it a bunch of times on multi-day off shore tuna trips, but have never had to deploy it in an emergency situation. It does a great job of keeping the bow into the weather, making the ride a lot more comfortable. Surprisingly comfortable. I would not hesitate to deploy in storm conditions and just ride out the storm. It takes a little practice to get good at retrieving. We pull mine back on board just by slowly approaching and pulling the line in as we go. When we get to the chute, we pull up one side of the chute so that it isn't full of water. The better way to go is to put a trip line on the top of the anchor with a float on top of that, and a second float at the boat end of the anchor line. When its time to retrieve, throw the boat end overboard, motor up to the other float and pull the whole thing in backwards. But, not really necessary so I have never set that up.
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Old 03-03-2015, 05:47 PM   #17
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Thank you for sharing your real world experience with the Para-Tech. I appreciate it and am closer to a decision on my needs.
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Old 03-04-2015, 01:58 PM   #18
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A smallish sea anchor, although useless in a storm offshore, would be very helpful if you need to make some minor repair underway in normal conditions.

Most boats will turn beam to the seas, and make even the simplest tasks very unpleasant. A sea anchor that will keep the bow into the seas makes a BIG difference.

It may also be helpful as a drogue if needed.
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Old 03-04-2015, 05:57 PM   #19
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I sell a Para Tech Sea Anchor once in a while to my fishing customers. I think they use them when they bottom fish in deep water and don't want to drift too fast. I don't think I've ever heard of one being used in an emergency by one of my customers. Having said that, I think if I spent more time in open water, I'd carry one.
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Old 03-05-2015, 01:53 PM   #20
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I sell a Para Tech Sea Anchor once in a while to my fishing customers. I think they use them when they bottom fish in deep water and don't want to drift too fast. I don't think I've ever heard of one being used in an emergency by one of my customers. Having said that, I think if I spent more time in open water, I'd carry one.
How much are they?
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