Everything you ever wanted to know about heaving, er, heaving to!

Thu, 12 Aug 1999 11:11:03 EDT

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West Wight Potter Website at URL
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In a message dated 8/12/99 6:40:26 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
ecosens@indiana.edu writes:

> Could someone describe "heaving to" for me in a little more detail?

Eric and Anyone Else who wants it::

A while ago we had an extensive thread about heaving to. I saved a few of
those E-mails. I will copy them here for those that missed it or those who
would like another copy:

Subj: Heaving to
Date: 97-05-07 16:34:49 EDT
From:allenp5@lesbois.com (Allen Parks)
CC:WWP@euler.sfasu.edu (WWPotter Mailing List)

The questions wasn't addressed to me, but I'll add my voice.
In simplest terms, "heaving to" is nothing more than lying pointed into the
wind with the jib held "aback" while the mainsail is trimmed full and
pulling ahead.
If you tack, don't release the lee jib sheet; just leave it cleated down so
the jib won't come across as the bow swings through the wind. The instant
she swings through, catch her with the helm to hold her bow into the wind
on the new tack. Hold the jib aback and trim the main to fill and draw.
To heave to without tacking, bring the boat close-hauled, then haul the
clew of the jib across the deck to windward. Leave the mainsheet cleated.
Hold the tiller to leeward, as if trying to point the bow farther into the
wind. Ease out the mainsheet until the sail just luffs, then trim in until
the mainsail draws full.
Adjust the tiller so the boat will continue to "point" in balanced fashion
into the wind. Don't allow the backwinded jib to swing the bow around. Find
the point of balance.
The force of the wind on the main will try to drive the boat forward, and
into the wind; the force on the back-winded jib will try to drive the boat
back and the bow downwind. These sail forces will counter each other so the
boat should quickly reach a point of equilibrium. She will make very little
forward way and will stand gently while making a certain amount of leeway.
Some extreme fin-keel boats may not be so well-behaved. If the boat won't
stabilize, a British author advises this: "slow right down at first,
luffing, then haul the jib to weather until the clew is exactly on the
mast. Pay the mainsail out until it's about 45 degrees to the centerline,
and then, with helm held to leeward, she should lie quietly."
("Lying-to" is a variation: you let the boat lie broadside to the wind with
both sails completely free and shaking, with the helm held to leeward. This
is hard both on the sails and the nerves, but it can serve for a brief
Wednesday May 7, 1997 America Online: GSTahoe Page: 1The effect
of heaving-to is startling: where one had been caught up in a
screaming, sail-slatting, pounding thrash to windward, or a pell-mell,
wildly-yawing downwind rush, suddenly the wind noise will drop to a
comfortable level, the boat will hold a gentle, steady heel, and everything
(and everyone) will calm down. You can rest, relax, and think about what to
do next. You can duck into the cabin to consult your charts and lay a new
course. You can stand off the entrance to an unfamiliar place and sort
things out before committing yourself to a risky situation.
Skippers who use this technique speak highly of it as a valuable technique
in a wide range of situations. For instance, in a restricted fairway, you
are limited in maneuvering room, and a large vessel appears and you cannot
proceed. Quickly heave to; let the little boat "jog" in place, losing very
little ground while remaining in perfect control, until the vessel is
clear. Or some on-board emergency develops and you must let the boat look
after herself but not run wildly on. Easy: heave to and let the little boat
jog in place while you tend to things.
There is the story of the sailing fisherman, alone, who approached another
workboat where he had business. He hove to, slipped a tether onto the
tiller, slid into his dinghy, rowed over to the workboat and took care of
affairs. Meanwhile, his fishing sloop "jogged in place", hove to, hardly
moving except for a slow leeward drift. When he was finished, the fisherman
pushed off, rowed back to his waiting boat, loosed the helm, eased the jib
and sailed briskly away. Obviously, this skipper knew his boat and her
manners very well. Do we?
A friend in Oak Harbor told me about using this technique in a highly
competitive race. A large vessel appeared in the channel and the race boats
had to give way. Most turned onto a tack that let them sail clear but cost
them serious ground in the race; my friend simply turned into the wind,
held his jib sheets aback, and hove to. His boat stopped, held its
position, and the favored vessel steamed past. When he was clear, he
sheeted back, regained his speed and former course, and won the race. A
hot-headed competitor protested this maneuver, but it was found to be both
safe, prudent, and legal: heaving to was legally yielding the right-of-way
while keeping the boat in a favorable position on the course.
Practice heaving to on a mild day; then try it again in a bit more wind. Do
it often, until it becomes familiar and comfortable. Then, when the main is
reefed and the handkerchief jib is flying, and the spray from the whitecaps
is diluting yer Coke, you'll confidently heave to and relax while watching
the others struggle to control their boats.
allenp5@lesbois.com <> http://www.lesbois.com/members/graybyrd/

Here's another letter:

Dear Geoff,
Yeah, that's one of those nautical terms that are sort of intimidating.
This is another little gem from "The Many Ways to Potter," which is where I
Simply put:
1.) Tack, but don't move the jib over to the new side. Let it
backwind (fill from the "wrong" side).
2.) Keep the tiller (not the rudder, but the tiller) pointed toward
the boom. If the boom is on the starboard, point the tiller to starboard.
Keep it there (lash it down if you have to move about).
That's it. The wind in the jib works counter to the position of the tiller
and main, and it all sort of cancels out. You're not going to stop dead in
the water, but you should be able to stay in more or less the same
position, barring sudden wind shifts and tidal currents.
Try it...it's a good thing to practice. I find that it gives me time to
calm my nerves and collect my thoughts when the winds are blowing. When
it's calm, the technique (combined with a Tiller Tamer) lets me go below
for short periods when singlehanding without having to drop sail or anchor.
Should be in every Potterers bag of tricks.
Jason and Otter (the proud "Tweener Potter")

And Yet Another Letter:

Subj: Re: Heave To
Date: 4/28/98 7:46:06 PM Pacific Daylight Time
From:doheir@mint.net (Douglas O'Heir)
Reply-to: doheir@mint.net
To:Gka525@aol.com (Gka525)
CC:wwpotter@tscnet.com (Allen Parks)
I too found heaving-to a difficult thing to grasp from explanations and
Perhaps I can give a simple explanation.
1. When sailing close-hauled upwind, go through a tack. Instead of
your jib sheet in a usual tack, leave it cleated to windward so it will
2. Once the jib is drawing a good amount of air, push both the boom and the
tiller to leeward. In effect, the main "hides out" behind the jib and
becomes a fairly negligible influence on the boat. If you don't have a
tiller tamer or something similar, lash the tiller leeward with a cord
or a
bungee cord.
3. The boat will go through a "scalloping motion" where the jib will blow
boat in one direction and the tiller will counter to the other. You'll
slowly downwind, but it is a pleasant ride, especially on a sunny day.
4. Use this maneuver whenever you want to reef the main, stretch your legs,
to the bathroom, eat lunch, read a book, etc.
Good luck and fair sailing.
Doug O'Heir
P-15 #2164
Waterville, Maine