How to Deploy and Use a Sea Anchor or Drogue

How to Deploy and Use a Sea Anchor or Drogue

Sea Anchor, Storm Drogue, Sea Brake, Parachute Anchor, Drift Sock: these are several names used to describe devices deployed to create drag on a vessel in open water. No matter how many different monikers you find out there, they are referring to one of two types, 1) a parachute or cone shaped piece of fabric dragged from the bow (most accurately called a Sea Anchor), or 2) a fabric cone or series of cones dragged from the stern (most accurately called a Drogue). In this article we’ll look at the differences between the two, their uses, and how to deploy and retrieve them.

To Stop or to Slow

This illustration highlights the main differences between Sea Anchors and Drogues. More detail follows below.

drogue-vs-sea-anchor

Sea Anchor

The primary use of a Sea Anchor is to stop the drift of a vessel downwind and keep her bow windward, into the waves.

Sea anchor parachute

Sea Anchors are set off the bow. You would use a Sea Anchor in open seas where ground tackle is not possible or practical and you want to hold position in moderate to high winds and seas. They are often deployed to wait out a storm, or in emergencies when there is a loss of power and you need to keep the boat from turning beam to the waves or drifting into obstacles such as shoals. Sea Anchors are generally larger than Drogues, and parachute shaped.

Drogue

A Drogue on the other hand, is used to slow down rather that stop a vessel in following seas.

drogue seabrake

Drogues are deployed off the stern. You would use a Drogue to stay stern to the waves and to keep your boat from surfing, therefore reducing the chances of broaching or pitchpoling. A Drogue can also be used as a steering assist in case of power and/or rudder problems. As well, fishers use Drogues to slow their drift for trolling without a motor. Drogues are generally smaller than Sea Anchors and cone shaped.

Tackle requirements

Tackle

Anchor rode should be similar in size and strength to what you use for regular anchoring. The general rule of thumb is to carry 10’ of rode for every foot LOA to use with your drift anchor. A length of chain (up to about 20% of the length of your rode) is also helpful to achieve the best angle on the drift anchor and avoid chafe. The cleats you use to tie off your drift anchor lines must also be very secure, ideally, they should have backing plates to handle the extra stress. Your rode should be made of nylon for its elasticity. You will need a trip line and floats for anchor recovery. The trip line does not need to be strong but is best if it floats, so use polypropalene, 1/4” to 3/8” braided. Drift anchors tend to turn in the water, so use a stainless steel swivel between anchor and rode. Finally, have chafe protection on hand to use where ropes touch your boat when the anchor is deployed.

Deployment

First, ensure none of your rode is tangled and that it is ready to pay out from coil. Make sure everyone is standing clear so that legs won’t get caught in lines. All line segments should be secured with shackles or swivels and seizing wire should be used for added safety.

  1. The trip line and floats go out first, remember to deploy sea anchors from the bow and drogues from the stern. Allow the trip line to drift out and clear.
  2. Toss the drift anchor in next, making sure to toss it into clear water.
  3. As the boat drifts away from the anchor, pay out about 50’ of rode and snub the line with half a turn on the cleat just to hold it momentarily. Wait a minute or so for the drift anchor to open.
  4. Keep tension on the rode, snubbing as necessary, while paying out the rest of your rode to achieve the desired scope.
    1. Note: for drift fishing in favorable conditions, you don’t need a lot of scope. Start with 15’ of line to open the anchor, and then as needed let out 10’ at a time until you have a steady comfortable tension.
  5. Secure your rode to your cleat or a prepared bridal if you have a multi-hulled vessel.
  6. Add chafe guards where necessary

Retrieval

Getting your drift anchor back on board is simple if you use a trip line (highly recommended). Motor to your trip line float circling so as not to run afoul of your rode or anchor. Use a boat hook to grab the float as you would a mooring buoy and haul the trip line in. Since the line is attached to the apex of the cone or chute, pulling in this line empties the anchor of water, allowing you to haul it into the boat easily.

Final Thoughts

As with most anchoring techniques, it does little good to buy all your tackle and store it on the boat somewhere thinking that since you have the equipment, you’re ready. You are only ready once you’ve practiced with the equipment in favorable conditions enough that you can then repeat the process in adverse conditions. Practice with your drift anchor system several times before deploying it for real.

Published

Recent Posts

Choosing an Anchor Rode: Three-Strand, 8-Plait, or Double-Braided Rope?
Choosing an Anchor Rode: Three-Strand, 8-Plait, or Double-Braided Rope?
All anchor rode is not created equally. If you've shopped for anchor rode before, chances are that you have seen a variety of different anchor line types and wondered what the difference is. In this article, we will discuss the differences and similarities between the most popular styles of anchor line.
Best Boating and Fishing Mobile Apps of 2020
Best Boating and Fishing Mobile Apps of 2020
In today's modern world, there are a plethora of apps available to help us navigate our everyday lives. In recent years the boating world has benefited greatly from a variety of helpful apps that can help take your boating experience to the next level. Boaters today can download apps to help them log their trips, download nautical charts, reserve a slip, and even learn to tie essential boating knots. We have reviewed many of the apps on the market today and are sharing our best boating and fishing apps.
Tips for Monitoring and Avoiding Anchor Drag
Tips for Monitoring and Avoiding Anchor Drag
Anchor drag can send your boat unexpectedly veering out to sea, or worse, the rocks. Today there are a variety of tools boaters can use to alert themselves of unexpected drag and avoid the costly repercussions of drifting into the unknown.
Common Windlass and Anchor Line Snags and How to Prevent Them
Common Windlass and Anchor Line Snags and How to Prevent Them
If you use a windlass to help lower and retrieve the anchor on your boat, chances are that you've experienced the occasional snag, jam, or bind as your rode passes through the windlass. In this article, we will be covering the most common hang-ups that people experience and tips and tricks on how to avoid these mishaps in the future.
Tips and Tricks for Using a Windlass
Tips and Tricks for Using a Windlass
The windlass is a wonderful back-saving device that retrieves your anchor with just the push of a button. A properly maintained windlass is the key component of a well-functioning anchoring system. Do yourself a favor by following these tips and tricks to keep your windlass (and your back) operating smoothly for years to come.
How to Identify and Eliminate the Source of Boat Odor
How to Identify and Eliminate the Source of Boat Odor
Boat odors can come from a variety of sources. It's important to know where and what to look for to completely eliminate the source of the smell. Once you have an idea of where these odor hot spots might be, you can be better prepared to eliminate the odor and prevent them in the future.
Best Fuel Saving Tips For Boaters
Best Fuel Saving Tips For Boaters
With the warm summer months at our doorstep, boaters everywhere are looking for ways to take full advantage of a fun and relaxing boating season without draining their wallets. No boaters are immune to the sting of fuel prices, but there are a number of things we can do to significantly reduce the pain at the pumps.
How to Choose the Best Galleyware for your Boat
How to Choose the Best Galleyware for your Boat
Compared to your kitchen at home, your boat’s galley requires a little extra thought when it comes to dinnerware. Your kitchen does not rock or sway (unless there is an earthquake – oh my!), and likely has a lot more room than your galley. Galleyware needs to be purchased with the limited space and dynamic environs of your boat in mind. In this article we will go over the most common galleyware options to help you choose the best dishes for your boat.
How to Choose the Best Rod Holders for Your Boat
How to Choose the Best Rod Holders for Your Boat
Rod holders are an often overlooked yet extremely useful tool for fishing. A well-planned array of rod holders on your boat can eliminate some of the frustrations of fishing by keeping you organized and focused on finding the fish.
How to Install a Boat Bimini Top
How to Install a Boat Bimini Top
Installing a boat bimini top on your boat is an inexpensive and easy way to make your time on the water more comfortable. Boat biminis provide shade from the sun and cover from the rain. Best of all, installation is easy. In this article we will show you how to choose the correct size bimini for your boat, how to assemble your bimini, and how to install it.