The Blue View - Using the Series Drogue

series drogue Deploying the series drogue...

Let's assume we are way offshore and the GRIBs and Buoy Weather are predicting some nasty weather coming our way. We have our trusty, handcrafted Jordan series drogue safely aboard. How are we going to deploy it?

Don Jordan recommends having the drogue bridle attached to the dedicated chainplates and the drogue flaked in a bag or container, ready for instant deployment, during any bluewater passage. It's probably good advice, but we don't normally do this. We do have it ready and accessible on a passage, however, and if the weather forecasts are indicating anything near a gale or worse, we get it prepped and ready well in advance.

To prep it, I begin by attaching the two bridle lines to the end of the drogue. Each of our bridle lines has an eyesplice in one end. Each is run through the drogue eyesplice then through its own eyesplice to form a larkshead knot around the drogue line. The drogue is positioned on the aft deck, and the other end of each bridle line is routed over the stern rail and back to the strong point on either side of our transom.

larkshead knot

Next, I connect all the drogue segments together and attach the chain we use as a weight. The drogue is then flaked out on the aft deck, starting with the bridle on the bottom and working up to the weighted end. The flaked pile is secured in place, ready to deploy.

When the weather starts getting bad, we drop and secure our sails, remove the lines securing the drogue, then drop the weight over the stern rail and let the drogue run out. Once it is properly deployed, we check that the wheel is centered, then close the hatches and go below. We make sure the AIS and radar alarms are on, then try, as best we can, to rest while we wait out the storm.

Retrieving the series drogue...

Whew – that was quite a blow! It's now two days later and we're pretty much over our seasickness. The seas are calming down, the wind has dropped to around 30 knots, and it's safe to retrieve the drogue. I use a variation of Don Jordan's method for bringing it back aboard.

I use two lines that are about twice the length of Nine of Cups – about 90 feet. I have two retired jib sheets that work well for the purpose. I rig snatch blocks to either side of the bow pulpit, then run the lines from each of the genoa winches forward to the snatch blocks and back to the stern rail. I run the port line over the rail, attach it to the starboard bridle with a rolling hitch and take the slack out of the line. Before I can start winching the drogue in, however, I have to release the bridle from the strong points on the transom. What works for me is to run the starboard line through the starboard aft hawsehole,and attach it to the bridle with a rolling hitch. Then I crank on the starboard genoa winch until the starboard bridle can be removed from its strong point on the transom. Once the bridle end is free, I slack off on the starboard line until the port line is tensioned. Next, I winch the port line in until the end of the bridle is on the aft deck. Then, I release the port bridle from its strong point, untie the starboard line from the starboard bridle, and pull it back aboard through the hawsehole.

The next steps are as follows:

  1. I winch the port line until the rolling hitch reaches the snatch block. As the drogue is winched forward, I keep an eye on it to make sure none of the cones catch on anything.
  2. Then I tie the end of the starboard line to the drogue with a rolling hitch and winch it tight enough to take the tension off the port line.
  3. Next, I release the port line from the genoa winch, walk forward, untie the rolling hitch, and bring the end of the line back to the stern rail. I also pull the portion of the drogue that lies on the port deck back to the aft deck.
  4. Finally, I winch the starboard line in until the rolling hitch reaches the snatch block.

retrieving the drogue

I repeat the process until the drogue has been retrieved. Since our bridle is about 375 feet long, I have to winch each side about four times.

I don't want to stow a wet drogue, so I flake it on the aft deck and secure it. At the next opportunity, I will separate the drogue sections, hose them off with fresh water and set them out to dry. Then I will flake and secure each section and stow them below.

The process isn't as complicated as it sounds, but it isn't something I do everyday. We might go a year or more without even thinking about the drogue, which is about 11 months longer than I need to forget most of the details. I keep sketches and notes stashed in a ziplock, which is taped to the drogue so I can refresh my memory when it comes time to deploy it.