"The Para-Anchor Advantage"

excerpt from the March 2005 issue of Dockside.
By Cary V. Deringer

 For nearly ten years, my husband and I have lived aboard our 34-foot cutter, Illusion. The last five of these have been spent cruising full-time. During the years before we untied the dock lines, we did what most cruisers do, we purchased a bounty of equipment for reasons that ranged from safety to comfort. Over the past 20,000-plus nautical miles of sun and s
alt spray, our gear has been put to the test in more than a few case scenarios.  Fifteen items have been selected for review. You may remember seeing these featured a few years back within the pages of Dockside when they were new and first installed on Illusion…

Whenever sailors gather, weather is always a topic for discussion.  Talks of weather inevitably, lead to “bad storms at sea” stories, so when asked, “Where we encountered the worst weather,” I always answer:  80-miles offshore of Mendocino California.    

   What made rounding Cape Mendocino so rough, was being caught within the windy cycle of their normal weather pattern of thermal lows from land meeting a high-pressure system offshore.  The first four days of our passage from Vancouver Island, Canada, heading to Southern California were blissful, but the next four had us without sleep or dry clothes, equipment breakdowns, and following seas to 20-feet, and steady winds of 45-knots and gusting.    

    We hove-to in order to assess the situation.  Since weather reports called for conditions to remain unchanged, we had to wonder if the sea state would worsen over the next few days.

    Illusion could hold her own, we were confident about that, and our circumstances were not life threatening.  It was a combination of things—the violent motion, the sleeplessness, the constant grating sound of the wind, and the inability to make a decent meal much less keep it down – that would further take it’s toll on us both physically and mentally.

   Late one afternoon, we decided to make a run for San Francisco.  To ensure arrival during daylight, we decided to heave-to until early the next morning.

    “Hey,” Bob screamed into my ear not more than an inch away. “The parachute sea anchor!”

    I could barely hear him over the wind, but when he said, “blah, blah, blah parachute,” I understood what he was trying to say—deploy our Fiorentino Para Anchor. 

   When planning our gear checklist, our main purpose for carrying a parachute sea anchor was safety.  We researched our options, and liked the simple, innovative design of the Fiorentino product.  We contacted the company and were equally impressed with the customer service and the technical and practical experience of the staff.

 With our new parachute sea anchor onboard, we’d practice using it by deploying it in protected waters on calm days.  Using the motor to imitate backward momentum, we got a feel for what the product really is – an inflated parachute under water that allows you to , as near as you can, anchor your boat at sea.  Next came practice in the 15 and 20-knot days too. 

    Fiorentino told us to keep the Para Anchor rigged and ready for deployment in its duffel, so we did.  When we found ourselves using it off of Cape Mendicino in 45-knots of wind, screaming gusts that shuddered our mast, and waves that stood nearly 20-feet, deploying the Para Anchor seemed almost too easy…."

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