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Thread: Using kite instead of drogue?

  1. #1
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    Default Using kite instead of drogue?

    Situation: You are singlehanding a small sailboat (20-something feet) on a multiday sea crossing. For whatever reason, you have no self-steering system available. There is a fresh, stable breeze, and you are happily running downwind. You are well away from shipping lanes, and have a great deal of sea room.
    Good progress is being made, but you can't be on the tiller forever. Is there an alternative to heaving to/lying a'hull/deploying a drogue or sea anchor that keeps your stern facing the waves and allows at least some progress to be made while you are "off-watch"?

    Could a medium-sized, single-string kite be employed, flown off a strong point on the bow? Even if it provided only 1-2kts, it would seem better than the alternatives. Experiences/thoughts?

    EDIT: Unstayed mast, junk-rigged

    The sort of kite I have in mind: https://www.kiteworld.co.uk/acatalog/HQ-Power-Sled-L-3-0.html#SID=97
    Last edited by James Yeoman; 11-09-2017 at 04:39 PM. Reason: Specified mast and rig

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Think about how much harder it is to pull a drogue in than a kite. There's your answer in my opinion.
    There is nothing quite as permanent as a good temporary repair.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Do you mean that the kite is the better option because of easier recovery, or that it is the worse option because it will never give enough pull to keep the boat stern-on to the waves?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Why not just set a jib/forestaysail and lash the tiller to balance the turning force of the goose-winged sail.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Since one should have a variety of devices anyway, one might have one of the modern what I call variable resistance drogues that will allow you to run off at five to six knots but as you cascade down a wave face will increase in resistance and hold you back to under ten knots. Some of these can also be used for emergency steering even up wind.

    Three sites with discussion and product flogging:

    http://dragdevicedb.com/analysis-les...earned-drogues

    https://www.burkemarine.com.au/pages/seabrake

    http://www.pbo.co.uk/gear/which-drog...-you-buy-25543

    Another great idea is the Twizzle Rig. I made an experimental version for Granuaile and like it very much. I'll likely find a way to make something such for Meg.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sy53gIOrE40

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Unstayed mast, junk rig
    Although...I could rig a temporary "forestay", and have two jibs, for example. Not sure if that could be left unattended, though. Possibilities.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    The classic approach uses twin headsails - thusly https://www.sailboat-cruising.com/tr...s-sailing.html

    But a decent sized single line kite ought to do something useful - anyone tried it?
    Someday, I'm going to settle down and be a grumpy old man.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Many thanks.
    As an alternative, what about trailing warps in this situation? As I see it (from the perspective of my armchair ), that would allow me to run under bare poles while keeping stern to the waves and only sacrificing a little speed.
    Presumably, the warps would not need to be very substantial; just enough to keep stern to waves.

    To repeat: I'm not talking about storm survival here, rather a way to continue downwind without manning the tiller, and without a functional self-steering system.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peerie Maa View Post
    Why not just set a jib/forestaysail and lash the tiller to balance the turning force of the goose-winged sail.
    Unstayed mast, junk rig
    Although...I could rig a temporary "forestay", and have two jibs, for example. Not sure if that could be left unattended, though. Possibilities.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian McColgin View Post
    Since one should have a variety of devices anyway, one might have one of the modern what I call variable resistance drogues that will allow you to run off at five to six knots but as you cascade down a wave face will increase in resistance and hold you back to under ten knots. Some of these can also be used for emergency steering even up wind.

    Three sites with discussion and product flogging:

    http://dragdevicedb.com/analysis-les...earned-drogues

    https://www.burkemarine.com.au/pages/seabrake

    http://www.pbo.co.uk/gear/which-drog...-you-buy-25543

    Another great idea is the Twizzle Rig. I made an experimental version for Granuaile and like it very much. I'll likely find a way to make something such for Meg.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sy53gIOrE40
    Many thanks.
    As an alternative, what about trailing warps in this situation? As I see it (from the perspective of my armchair ), that would allow me to run under bare poles while keeping stern to the waves and only sacrificing a little speed.
    Presumably, the warps would not need to be very substantial; just enough to keep stern to waves.

    To repeat: I'm not talking about storm survival here, rather a way to continue downwind without manning the tiller, and without a functional self-steering system.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Quote Originally Posted by James Yeoman View Post
    Unstayed mast, junk rig
    Although...I could rig a temporary "forestay", and have two jibs, for example. Not sure if that could be left unattended, though. Possibilities.
    You can set jibs flying.
    Plate 52.jpg
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  12. #12
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    If the wind dies down even for less than a minute while you're sleeping the kite will fall in the water and become a drogue off of the bow, but probably not for long because the lite weight (260 KG)kite string will break.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Actually, the kite or one of it's smaller strings would probably break before the main string.

    Perhaps the best strategy would be to have 2 or 3 smaller drogues and only use the minimum number of same.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    I've always thought a kite would be a very good addition to an inflatable life raft... a notoriously difficult object to propel. Apart from the propulsion a kite, especially one made from brightly coloured radar reflective material would make the raft far easier to find .
    '' You ain't gonna learn what you don't want to know. ''
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  15. #15
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    I use a small windsurf training kite from my kayak and it's a gas.

    Radar reflective kites that also carry an antenna aloft are semi-standard in properly equipped off-shore life rafts.

    Tinker's largest inflatable dink, the Star Traveler, once was equipped with inflatable canopy and CO2 inflation making it one of the best life rafts for two or maybe three ever made. This made the Tink the only truely seaworthy device that could also be sailed or rowed, to weather if need be. Sadly, some sort of EU thing outlawed those features.

    Plain twin jibs don't really steer the boat well - I've tried - and cause the boat to roll horrendously - puked my guts out!

    The twizzel rig can be set with the clews well forward of the tacks and, because the sails can be set at different angles, can be settled to steer the boat reliable on any broad reach as well as running.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    A multi day sea crossing on a 20ish footer alone with no self steering.
    Full Stop right there.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    People of great experience and the right boat, like wizbang 13, can make their boats self-steer most anywhere because they have a variety of strategems depending upon the angle of sail, the wind strength, and the sea state. As people experiment with their boats and climb up the learning curve, they will find that getting a boat to self-steer to weather is in general easier than off the wind. Some of this is because steering in a following sea has a good deal of wander to it, and partly because the relative wind is less, and very much because with the wind astern and the sails perfoce well out, there is less leverage that can be employed by sail trim to settle the boat.

    Specifically on down-wind twins, there are people who have had more success than I making them work. I know of no one who made them work without the boat rolling.

    Even windvane powered self-steering, like the servo-pendulum type, have trouble downwind if the winds are light enough to lose the energy required.

    Most of my boats do better tacking downwind unless the wind is strong enough to maintain "hull speed" so I generally gybe from one broad reach to the other putting up with a little extra distance to run for the great ease of making the run.

    But everyone adapts different policies depending upon boat and skill and practice. It's well to have many strategies since . . .

    Nothing works all the time . . .

    . . . and most anything will work at least once.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Yes.
    I would equip the boat with a separate steering sail. Luff parallel to the mast. One that can continue to drive and steer after the main is down.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Or you can go the opposite way and add keel surface aft. Some sort of small daggerboard near the stern.

    Kite -- as Gib said, there would be a flaw in the wind and it would drop in the sea.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    A kite would be a very poor substitute for a drogue. It would have very little power relative to the overall drag of the boat, and that power is reduced when the hull accelerates--the opposite of what you would want for a self-steering effect. A drogue has much more power, since it is in water rather than air. The force also is applied in the direction you want to correct wave-induced yaw. Might note that an ordinary medium-size anchor with 150 feet of line or so is a pretty good drogue, fairly easy to deploy and recover. It's basically trailing warps with a bit of weight keeping them submerged.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    I don't understand why you would set a drogue in benign conditions. I set one once but it was blowing pretty good Bft 11.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hwyl View Post
    I don't understand why you would set a drogue in benign conditions. I set one once but it was blowing pretty good Bft 11.
    The idea is to settle the boat down at a reasonable angle down wind in an average sailing breeze. A storm drogue is way overkill. Most people simply heave-to, if the boat is good at that maneuver. As I mentioned, hanging an anchor and one over the stern in deep water does the trick as well.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Burke's Seabrake [#5 for link] is one of several variable speed drogues that have enough drag for emergency steering and also radically increase drag and slow the boat on the face of a following sea. I plan to have one for Meg.

    I'll also make a series drogue - line with lots of smallish cones. I helped a friend make one and his first use in a gale off Ireland made a believer of him . . . and vicariously of me. The nice thing about the series drogue is that you can set the drag force by length deployed.

    Granuaile came with a parachute type sea anchor which I experimented with. It was horrendous to deploy in a real wind and I never really mastered the thing. I don't know if I'll ever try again. In weather where I'd not so much mind the strain on the rudder (drifting backwards and all) I can heave to just fine. In more severe conditions, I'd rather have the stern into the wind and some ability to move with the waves.

    But it all depends upon the boat and the conditions.

    G'luck

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Quote Originally Posted by James Yeoman View Post
    Situation: You are singlehanding a small sailboat (20-something feet) on a multiday sea crossing. For whatever reason, you have no self-steering system available. There is a fresh, stable breeze, and you are happily running downwind. You are well away from shipping lanes, and have a great deal of sea room.
    Good progress is being made, but you can't be on the tiller forever. Is there an alternative to heaving to/lying a'hull/deploying a drogue or sea anchor that keeps your stern facing the waves and allows at least some progress to be made while you are "off-watch"?

    Could a medium-sized, single-string kite be employed, flown off a strong point on the bow? Even if it provided only 1-2kts, it would seem better than the alternatives. Experiences/thoughts?

    EDIT: Unstayed mast, junk-rigged

    The sort of kite I have in mind: https://www.kiteworld.co.uk/acatalog/HQ-Power-Sled-L-3-0.html#SID=97
    So I looked at the OP again. I still don't get it. Are you thinking of turning the boat off at night and getting 8 hours sleep? That's dangerous and impractical (I've never figured out what 9is meant by "shipping lanes", ships can and do go everywhere there's depth. Most people take a 30 minute nap and then go in the cockpit to check everything is OK. If you can't get your boat to steer downwind, reconfigure it or get another boat.

    Say if you're taking your nap, and you look out and there's a tanker a 1/4 of a mile long about to have you for breakfast.

    Do you haul in your drogue, kite or anchor? The premise is unrealistic.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hwyl View Post
    So I looked at the OP again. I still don't get it. Are you thinking of turning the boat off at night and getting 8 hours sleep? That's dangerous and impractical (I've never figured out what 9is meant by "shipping lanes", ships can and do go everywhere there's depth. Most people take a 30 minute nap and then go in the cockpit to check everything is OK. If you can't get your boat to steer downwind, reconfigure it or get another boat.

    Say if you're taking your nap, and you look out and there's a tanker a 1/4 of a mile long about to have you for breakfast.

    Do you haul in your drogue, kite or anchor? The premise is unrealistic.
    Hi Hwyl,
    Thanks for your reply. No, I am not thinking of turning the boat off at night and getting 8 hours' sleep. I am thinking of turning the boat off by day, getting about 20 minutes' sleep, then checking the horizon, then getting another 20 minutes and so on.

    "Shipping lanes" is a vague term I grant you, but this map of the North Sea should illustrate my point;
    shipping lanes.jpg
    The purples, reds and yellows I would call "shipping lanes". The green and blue areas do experience marine traffic, of course, but the chances of collision are much, much lower here. This is where I would consider brief naps to be an acceptable risk.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Using kite instead of drogue?

    If we're talking about long-range down-wind work, spinnakers and double-headsail rigs are all well and good, but what ever happened to good old square rig? The ultimate down-wind sail? Hoist a yard on whatever halyard is handy --spinnaker halyard if you have roller-furling headsails, or the staysail halyard if you've got traditional hanked headsails-- with a stout parrel line around the mast to keep the yard under control. "Backstay" it with the braces and sheet/tack. Taper the sail so that it's narrower at the foot than at the head, to make sheeting easy, and sheet it well forward so that it lifts the bow rather than burying it.

    It isn't as if stowing a yard would be any more difficult than stowing a spinnaker pole --and if it is, for whatever reason, make the yard in two pieces and sleeve it with some snazzy carbon fiber sleeve.

    An acquaintence of mine once had a 26' cutter named Plumbelly that set a squaresail. He did more than a couple transoceanics in that little boat, and swore by the squaresail for tradewinds work.

    It's the ultimate "kite".

    Alex

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