Posted by: Dan Sprague | March 5, 2012

Lying Ahull and Sea Anchors

In a sailboat when the wind goes way up and the sails must be dropped and secured and the helm lashed to prevent damage to the rudder, the vessel is left to find its own way. This is called lying ahull.  A sea anchor may also be used in extreme weather to help ride out the weather.

A sea anchor traditionally is a heavy fabric cone with a hoop to keep it open at the mouth. The mouth of the anchor is much larger than the bottom of the cone. The apex, or small end of the cone is reinforced to stand the force of the water trying to get out of the cone that is being pushed through the cone from the large mouth hoop.

The leading edge of the hoop has a bridle on it that a towing line is attached to. The towing line needs to be the same size as the road for your anchor. A recovery float may be attached to the apex end of the sea anchor on a line called a trip line. This line lets you dump the water in the cone when you are trying to get it back on board.

The larger the cone of the sea anchor the more effective the anchor is. You need one that is large enough that it is effective for the size of boat you have. They come in all sizes. Parachute sea anchors are sea anchors with lightweight canopies like a parachute. With parachute anchors you have to let out a long, long rode, because they use the stretch of the nylon line for yielding to the sea, not the strength of the parachute.

The sea anchor is not meant to go to the bottom, but to present a drag to the boat. It is attached to the bow of the boat and it will keep the bow within a few points of the wind and the waves as the boat drifts off to the leeward. A sea anchor should be streamed at least one wavelength away from the vessel, and chafing must be guarded against. A sea anchor can reduce drift up to about 90%.

When recovering a sea anchor, care needs to be taken to prevent the trip line and rode from getting caught in the boats propeller.

A drogue is a close relative to a sea anchor. It is like an open bottom bucket and provides much less drag. A drogue is towed astern and helps keep a craft from yawing and broaching. When using a drogue it must be secured so it will not cause steering problems.

A long length of line, like an anchor line, can be tied to the two stern cleats and dragged behind the boat like a big “U,” to slow it down, serving as a drogue.

May you always have fair skies and a following wind, but always be prepared for the extra heavy wind.



  1. […] about heaving-to, lying ahull, using a sea anchor and drogues is also good to information to learn. May these tips help you in […]

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