Heaving to

Heaving to

In sailing, heaving to (also heave to) is a way of slowing the boat's forward progress, fixing the helm and foresail position so that the boat doesn't have to be actively steered, thereby allowing the crew to attend other tasks. It is commonly used for a "break" while waiting out a storm, or by the solo sailor as a way to provide time to go below deck or attend to issues elsewhere on the boat (including taking a lunch break).

trategies for small vessels in bad weather

There are at least four different methods of surviving the bad weather at sea, "lying ahull", "lying to a sea anchor", "heaving to under reduced sail" and "heaving to sailing off the wind".

Lying ahull

Lying ahull is accomplished by dropping all sails, fixing the helm to a set position with the tiller to leeward (or the wheel to windward) to prevent the bow of the boat from turning too far downwind, and allowing the boat to drift. This method is controversial in heavy weather, as the boat is at the mercy of the storm, and can end up "beam to" the seas (side facing the waves).

Lying to a sea anchor

Using a sea anchor or para-anchor helps keep the boat pointed in one direction, slowing the boat's progress against the storm, and is called "lying to a sea anchor."

Heaving to under reduced sail

Heaving to under reduced sail is often employed by recreational sailors on small boats, as well as cruisers on larger boats. The skipper keeps the jib cleated but starts to tack. As the bow of the boat turns into the wind, the jib will be on the "wrong side" of the boat and be "back winded". As the boat stalls, the skipper pushes the tiller to leeward (or turns the wheel windward), and lashes it down. Some sailors prefer to ease the main sheet until the main sail stops luffing, while others prefer to bring the mainsail to mid-point on the traveler and cleat it there. The boat will tend to move forward a bit, while slipping leeward a bit. In many boats, the amount of slippage leeway is twice that of forward motion, so care must be taken to allow enough seaway.

Heaving to sailing off the wind

When sailing on a beam reach, broad reach or run it is advantageous to heave-to without coming up to a close hauled point of sail and tacking over. Heaving-to downwind can be accomplished by bearing away from the wind until the headsail is blanketed by the mainsail. When the headsail collapses onto the foredeck it can be hauled tight to the opposite side of the boat. Once the headsail is secure, the boat is slowly rounded up into the wind. As it rounds up the boat will stall and come to a stop in the heave-to position. The advantages of this maneuver are two-fold. First, it relieves the crew of the effort in getting to the close hauled point of sail before heaving to. Secondly, the boat remains on the same tack and does not have to tack back to continue on its course.


*http://www.sailtrain.co.uk/seamanship/weather.htm - pictures and further explanation.
*http://www.sjogin.com Blog of a sailor who uses this procedure frequently

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