Re: Heaving to, was Singlehanded anchoring
Thu, 12 Aug 1999 09:43:41 -0700

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West Wight Potter Website at URL
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>Could someone describe "heaving to" for me in a little more detail?
>M-15 #412 "Lucy Maud"
Here is my collection of old posts on the subject.

Harry Gordon
P14 #234, Manatee
Mountain View, CA

I don't know about 19's, but 15's heave-to like champs. The secret is to
tighten the main sheet so the main is midship, harden the jib so it has no
shape, and put the rudder hard over so that it is steering into the side
the jib is on. Works in anything but a gale. Just quietly sits there
drifting slowly down wind indefinitely.


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'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.


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

The 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.