The ORS Int. is the official adjudicator of ocean rowing records for Guinness World Records


To order Para Anchor call +44 (0)208 830 8880

Para Anchor


A few months ago I received a phone call from Roz Savage in California. I had donated one of our Para Anchors to her for her Pacific Ocean Row.
She told me that she had been advised (quite wrongly) to use some sort of bungee connection between the boat and the 10 millimetre line supplied with the Para Anchor. This has alarmed me no end, by doing this it has cost her row, I say this because she added a weak point between the fix point on the boat and the Para Anchor.

The rope supplied from our factory and installed to the Para Anchor is nylon and itself has stretching capability enough to stop the jerking effect Roz was trying to avoid in the first place. In 20 years of producing Para Anchors I have never been told of a rope breaking. It strikes me that there is an awful lot of misunderstanding and just plain wrong information talked about the use of a drogue, a sea anchor, and a Para Anchor - these are 3 different things.

Rob Hamill in 1997 was the first oceanrower to use our Para Anchor on an ocean rowboat. His was the only boat in the race that had a para anchor, recently from New Zealand Rob sent an email as follows:

For the time we were on Para Anchor we were actually making progress on the fleet by drifting backwards less than the rest; in some cases the opposition travelled backwards faster than us by a factor of 10.  In relation to safety I wouldn't go to sea without one.í

Alby MaCraken



Ocean Rowers in preparation Ė itís time to have an affair with your PA!

Para Anchor
that isÖ

By Tiny Little

Your Para Anchor may one day be your best friend. It will give you a comfortable ride whilst you wait for unfavourable conditions to give way, and if you encounter really high seas and hurricane force winds, it could save your life, so it is well worth spending top dollar and investing some of your valuable time in finding out how to use it.

The system works like this:

The para anchor is simply a marine version of the aeronautical parachute. It is deployed into the sea and will inflate with sea water when a drag is applied on the windward end of the rode line (the rode line is the rope which attaches the anchor to the boat).  The downwind end of the rode line is attached to the bow of your rowing boat and the resultant force on the bow pulls your boat head to wind.

 This sounds simple enough, but you need to select your equipment carefully, arrange it on and attach it to your boat, and learn how to deploy it to your best advantage.

 You will need:-

Para anchor (canopy and shrouds)
Retrieval line
Marker buoy
Attachment points on your boat
Buckets and stowage bag
Bungees to keep it all tidy

Para anchor

There are a few makes available, but the one most favoured by ocean rowers is the original Australian Para Anchor. Some rowers have used smaller versions, but to be effective it needs to be at least 12 feet in diameter. When you buy your PA it should include pretty much all of the basics, but you will have to specify how big you want the canopy, how long you want the rode.


This needs to be long enough to span the distance of one and a half or two and a half typical ocean swells. The reason is that you need to get a steady pull on your boat and if your rode is the same length as the swell, you will experience lots of snatch on your boat. A 90 metre long rode did fine for me, if you take longer, it will be more to stow and more weight to row. It must be a sinking line, this is essential for the system to work. For diameter, consult the PA supplier. (It depends on the diameter of canopy you choose) Nylon has excellent stretching properties, and the braided lines help to prevent tangles.


This is required to take care of the turning motion which happens to the canopy. Your rode line will happily absorb a few turns, but without a swivel it will begin to ravel up and shorten, making recovery cumbersome.

Retrieval line

Again, the size of this line is best recommended by the supplier, but it must be a floating line, and in difference to the yacht type setups, it must be long enough to come all the way back to your boat, with a handsome degree of slack.

Marker buoy

This can be a fender or small buoy, visible to yourself and any vessel likely to approach you. You will need to know where your PA is, and if a visiting ship comes by, it will be important for them to be able to see the layout of your system.

Attachment point

None of the above is of any use unless you have a fixing which will take all of the possible loads put on it by the ocean. If you are confident that your fixing point could be used to lift the boat right out of the water, then it is probably strong enough. Consult a reputable boat builder or naval architect to advise you on this; a big hole in the front of your boat when you really need your PA is undesirable.

Buckets and Bungees

The system needs to be deployed at a moments notice. If you have it properly stowed so that you can get your PA out and the boat stable in a few minutes, then you have an advantage. A speedy recovery when conditions moderate, with an easy stowage makes life much easier.


 Once your equipment is all delivered, it is a good idea to lay it all out in a long straight line so that you can see how it works. At this point you can walk along the system and assemble the components. Do take great care to ensure that everything is as tight as you can get it; shackles especially have a tendency to work loose, so itís best to mouse them (using seizing wire or cable ties).

When you are happy that everything is assembled, stow it into its bag and buckets and take it to the boat. 

The free end of the rode should be securely shackled to the forward strongpoint. Then bring it inboard and stow it into a bucket in such a way as it will easily pay out.  Then attach the retrieval line to an inboard strong point so that you can reach it anytime. This is important because you may need to bring it in very quickly if, for example you are about to be run down.

Remember the marker buoy will go over first, then the canopy with the retrieval line attached to its apex, then the rode and retrieval line together. To avoid a tangle, keep the lines in separate buckets. Note- the canopy comes in its own stowage bag which is deployed into the sea with it. Then secure the whole apparatus to the boat with bungees.


If your PA is attached to your boat, properly stowed and ready to be deployed when you leave harbour for your first sea trial then you are a much safer mariner; (just a tip, make sure you also have your other safety equipment and a fully charged VHF when going out for trials, the wind and sea keep an eye open for gaps in your preparation).


Once you have left harbour and are well clear of land and other vessels, including fast ferry routes, itís time to try it out. Turn the boat into the wind and allow it to drift just off the wind so that your deployment zone is upwind. First send over the marker buoy, allow it to drift a little, then feed out the canopy and its shrouds, then a little of the rode. Hold on to the rode for a while and watch the canopy inflate. Start to feed out the rode and simultaneously allow the canopy to tow the retrieval line with it as it goes away from the boat. If you have set up the lines correctly, when you finally allow the last bit of the rode go, it will bring the boat head to wind and the retrieval line will be floating all the way back to its attachment onboard.


Enjoy a rest and then bring it all back to the boat. Pull the retrieval line steadily back to the boat, stowing it into its bucket as it comes onboard. You will feel a little resistance, then the canopy will collapse and there will be very little resistance all the way in. Stow the rode as it comes in. When the canopy arrives, heave it all onboard, draining it as it comes and stow it into its bag, along with the marker buoy. Avoid stepping on any of the ropes, you could be taken overboard by the ankle.  Now repeat the exercise until you are totally happy with it. Do keep a good lookout whilst you are doing all this and be ready to warn other vessels. On returning to harbour, re-check the security of all fastenings and double check any bends or hitches (knots) you have made.


That is the basic system. There are refinements you can add such as a bridle from the boat to about 3 metres down the rode. This would allow you to heave the rode onboard if you wanted to tie it off shorter or in an emergency, cut it free altogether.

You could also attach a cleat to your fore cabin roof (suitably reinforced by a boat builder) so that you can vary the length of rode you deploy.

 Lastly, in the stress of preparation, it is easy to forget routines such as this, so why not print out this guide, encapsulate it and keep it in you onboard file to help you on the day.

 Happy rowing and have a safe crossing

 Tiny Little.

 © 1983-2004 Ocean Rowing Society

Design by REDTED