Sea anchoring with a parachute sea anchor

Sea Anchoring with a Parachute Sea Anchor
Article by Douglas Locke, Skipper of Dream Weaver

Douglas Locke, 70, is a Yachtmaster Offshore and Internet Marketing Consultant (now retired — October 2009). He has been sailing since he was 16. His career started as a Navigating Officer Apprentice with voyages round the world in a 10,000 ton general cargo ship before leaving the Merchant Navy because of the poor conditions at that time. He started sailing in dinghies, that included Skipper 14, Bosun and Flying Fifteen before moving up to sailing in charter and mate training yachts that included Sadler 25, Rival 34, Westerly Fulmar 32 and Ocean Youth Trust’s 76 ft Tikoo. He was administrator for their West Coast of Scotland’s Support Group for a period of five years. He is currently the Secretary/Treasurer of the Carrick Castle Boat Club having previously been Moorings Officer/Administrator since 2003. He and his partner, Liz Evans, 59, Retired Head of Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre (retired March 2009) and currently Chair of the Institute of Outdoor Learning Scotland (IOL) & Chair of the Carrick Castle Boat Club, have been sailing their own Westerly Renown ketch, Dream Weaver, since 2000 covering over 11,000 miles, that has included a round trip to the Mediterranean and back to Scotland. Their annual cruises are shown on their web site www.yacht-dream-weaver.co.uk.

In life you sometimes have to make a decision that may only be able to be done once, so when Liz and I made the decision to both take three and a half months off work in the year ahead (2002), we had decided to take our yacht down to the Mediterranean from the west coast of Scotland and back again in that period. The adventure therefore started six months before the departure date of 1st May 2002.

We own a 1973 31ft Westerly Renown ketch (32'6" with bowsprit), a strong and seaworthy yacht with plenty of headroom for my six-foot of height and masses of storage space for living aboard and ocean cruising. Although there are seven berths on board there was be just the two of us and Liz’s son, aged ten, who was given permission by his primary school to be absent for the summer term.

Dream Weaver under full sail
We decided to make a comprehensive list of what would be needed for the cruise, the work that would have to be done to the yacht and a plan on the route we would take to and from the Mediterranean.

The first list included equipment — new standing and running rigging and all new sails – main, roller reef foresail and mizzen. We felt it important not to skimp in this, as we would be crossing the Atlantic between Ireland and Gibraltar, hundreds of miles from land.

In view of the importance of making the right decisions concerning the other equipment the yacht should be equipped with, we visited the London Boat Show to get first hand advice from the manufacturers. We upgraded our GPS and autopilot as an insurance requirement for having only two qualified watch keepers on board backed up by an Air Marine wind generator and six batteries. We added Navtex for weather reports and purchased a reconditioned satellite telephone with data connection.

We also purchased a six-man life raft and all new lifesaving equipment in case of a MOB situation. Whilst visiting the various stands we met Alby from ParaAnchors and were really intrigued by the parachute sea anchor he was selling. Although a fairly costly item, it appealed to us as an insurance item that we probably would never use.