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What is a Drogue?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated May 23, 2024
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The part of a boat called a drogue is used to slow down a boat in rough waters. Without this device, a boat would not be able to decelerate, which, in turn, would cause the boat to crash. In addition, drogues help a boat's captain to control the vessel. Essentially, a drogue acts as a type of anchor that creates a substantial amount of resistance.

Drogues are attached to the back of a boat with a lengthy nylon cord. In order to prevent the drogue from floating to the surface of a body of water, chains are also attached to the device. Frequently, the term sea anchor is used interchangeably with the term drogue. However, a sea anchor is slightly different, since is is significantly larger in size and different in shape. A sea anchor will bring a vessel almost to a complete stop, though this is not possible when using a drogue.

Drogues vary in shape and size, though most drogues are constructed in the form of a parachute. Made from flexible material, parachute drogues work a lot like an actual parachute, though these objects use the force of water, instead of air, to slow down a boat. Small slits may be cut into a drogue for stability reasons. Experienced sailors can effectively judge the distance at which drogues should be deployed. The aim of this device is to use the natural force of a wave to slow a boat down. Therefore, a drogue must be dropped into a body of water at intervals. Drogues should ascend a wave while a boat is in the process of descending a wave.

Many people who own boats often attempt to created homemade drogues. These drogues are often crafted from old tires, pieces of rubber, and other scrap materials. While some of these objects may slow down a boat slightly, they are highly unlikely to bring a boat to a complete standstill. Thus, most naval experts agree that manufactured drogues are the only drogues that should be used.

Otherwise, a boat may wind up crashing into another object when a storm strikes. Also, a sole chain is not an effective stopping device. Any vessel that is meant to sail should have an effective way of stopping when a storm strikes. Drogues are the best possible way of slowing down a boat. Some large boats may contain two or more drogues, though most small boats can be effectively slowed with just one.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1002032 — On Aug 21, 2019

A drogue is used when towing and is mostly used in bad weather although there are many other uses. A boat under power that needs to stop or reduce forward momentum will use reverse and power up in gear. The transmission on a boat usually allows the captain to go from forward to reverse almost instantly.

By Mor — On Feb 17, 2012

@KoiwiGal - Actually a drogue isn't really supposed to be used for deceleration like that. You use it to slow you down in a storm, not to slow you down when you're approaching dock or some other place where you want to stop.

It would probably be quite unwieldy to use for that purpose.

In a storm you want to be going slowly so you don't get out of control. The drogue is measured out so that it sits on the opposite side of the waves from the boat, so that they don't rush down them too fast.

A sea anchor is used to decelerate you when you want to come to a stop or to keep you in a particular area if you don't want to move.

By KoiwiGal — On Feb 16, 2012

I've never heard of a drogue before. I guess it probably looks pretty silly, and that's why they don't tend to use them in films.

Come to think of it, I've never really thought about how people slow a boat down once it gets going. It really wouldn't always be practical to just try to time it so that your natural deceleration will slow you down enough. That would take much longer than using the drag created by a drogue.

I still think it would look silly though. Like you managed to catch a parachute on a rope and were dragging it behind you.

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