Do you dream of making passages on your own boat? Are you a little scared of what weather you might encounter? Then knowing about heaving to is important knowledge for your list of cruising skills.
Two Cruisers’ Decisions
Nica, my podcast partner, recently sailed from Beaufort, NC to the British Virgin Islands with her husband – 1500 miles in 14 days. Recent podcasts discuss elements of that trip – you can find “The Boat Galley” in any podcast app.
Diana and Blake Aslin, who helped at our booth in the Annapolis Sailboat Show, simultaneously sailed from the Chesapeake Bay to the Dominican Republic. You can read about their trip in Diana’s post “Splendor and Terror” on her blog. I love the post as it really describes the highs and lows of an offshore trip.
As you might have guessed from the title of Diana’s post, both couples had less-than-ideal conditions. Nica and Jeremy decided to heave-to for about 12 hours; Blake and Diana’s weather router suggested that they might want to, although they decided they’d just keep going.
Heaving To Offshore
Are you familiar with heaving to? Have you ever tried it on your boat?
I have to admit, it was learning about heaving to that convinced me to try sailing offshore. If you’re not already familiar with heaving to, it’s a technique for essentially parking your boat when conditions get too rough. Done correctly, it will take the punch out of any waves that would otherwise be tossing the boat around.
I learned about the technique in Lin Pardey’s book, “Storm Tactics Handbook” (Amazon) long before I ever met Lin. We used the technique when racing small boats in heavy air, to give ourselves a break between races. And when we bought our first cruising boat, Que Tal, we went out on a reasonably windy day and practiced. Several years later, when we got hit by strong katabatic winds on an overnight passage, it worked perfectly. We didn’t lose any ground and got the break we needed.
Another member of The Boat Galley team, John Herlig, recently got caught in unexpectedly strong winds on the Chesapeake kicking up short period, nasty waves. Single-handing and needing to take care of some things below, he saw it as an opportunity to try heaving-to for the first time. Afterwards, he happily texted me, “it worked just like it was supposed to.” Later, en route to St. Martin, John again hove-to off Cape Hatteras and a couple more times mid-Atlantic.
How To Do It
Heaving to is a great tool even on a daysail when conditions get rougher than you’d like. I’d consider it an almost essential skill to have for going offshore. So, a 3-point plan:
- Grab a copy of Storm Tactics Handbook or the DVD. It’s also available as an e-book on Kindle. (All on Amazon)
- Study it.
- Most importantly, go out sometime when it’s blowing 20+ and practice.
Practicing is key. Knowing exactly what to do and how your boat reacts makes all the difference. It will also make you much more confident heading off on a longer trip that you know how to give yourself a break.
Going offshore is not for the faint of heart but this one skill can knock that mountain of “scary stuff” down to a manageable size.
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Disappointed you did not go into any details.
Carolyn Shearlock says
The topic is WAY too big for an in-depth article here. Lin’s book is the gold standard and I highly recommend it. Here’s the link again: https://amzn.to/3ocjxC3