Steer with a Homemade Drogue

Drastic measures call for drastic means. When your boat’s steering cable goes down for the count you’ve got to figure out a way to get back in. Make a drogue. Drogues are commonly known as sea anchors designed to slow a boat. If they’re moved from side to side, drogues can change a boat’s course. While a traditional drogue is made from canvas and is hung off a boat transom on a bridle, you can make one out of two everyday items and be home in time for supper. You probably already have the components on board: a bucket used to carry some of your gear and an anchor line. In an emergency all you need to do is to rig it up and head for home.


  1. A 5-gallon bucket


  2. A 50-foot nylon line



  1. Attach the line to the bucket. Drill two holes where the handle meets the bucket. Take one entire length of line, and run the tag ends through each side and tie a double overhand knot for bulk. If you’re using a ½ inch line, make the holes ½ inch in diameter.

  2. Put your boat in gear. Remember that you’re steering with a bucket, so keep the RPM’s low. Your goal is to get home, not win a race.

  3. Toss the bucket overboard. Allow the bucket to fill with water. Let equal amounts of line out and make sure the lines are of even length.

  4. Let out line. Depending on the length of your boat, gradually release line and give the bucket distance from the transom. One full wavelength from the transom is usually ideal.

  5. Cleat the lines. Tie off each line on the stern cleats on the port and starboard sides.

  6. Left means left. To turn left, gradually shorten the port line. To turn right, let out the line so the bucket returns to the center and gradually shorten the starboard line. Mark the spot when the boat turns and you can go immediately to that spot when you need to turn.

  7. Adjust the bucket. Shift the drogue back and forth from port to starboard to accommodate for waves and current until you’re on course. A bucket to slightly to either side of the propeller makes gradual turns while a bucket further to the side makes sharper turns.

Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at