Heaving To

Heaving to is a strategy for riding out a storm. Thrashing to windward while going nowhere can be hard on the boat, gear and crew. The trick is to get the yacht to lay around 45 degrees in to the wind and sea. Be aware however that you will make leeway downwind so you will still need to maintain an active watch.

  • Check sea room – do you have space to drift in view of the forecast?
  • Ensure everything is packed up below
  • Ensure all furling sails can not unfurl by themselves
  • Ensure all lines are on the yacht – they will invariably get wrapped round the propeller.
  • Change down to a stay sail head sail and try-sail or heavily reefed main.
  • Back the stay sail to windward by trimming the windward sheet.  Check the sail for areas that may chafe.
  • Ease the reduced mainsail until the boat stops all forward motion.
  • Put your rudder hard to windward (i.e, push the tiller to leeward, or lash the wheel to windward. Take care that you don’t go head to wind.
  • Play with the mainsail trim until a balance is struck at a good angle to wind and waves – the ride should be comfortable
  • If there is too much tendency to climb to windward, drop the mainsail. (If you had the trysail up it would probably work ok)
  • Keep a close eye on the yacht for some time to make sure it stays in balance during various cycles of the wind and waves
  • Maintain a proper watch at all times
  • heaving to

Check out these cool videos made my Yachting World featuring Skip Novak sailing around Cape Horn with all sorts of heavy weather techniques. He said he much prefers to Heave to as opposed to streaming warps or a drogue. Video numbers 4 & 8 are the ones relevant to this post.


10 thoughts on “Heaving To

  1. Pingback: Heavy Weather Tactics | Astrolabe Sailing

  2. And it’s not just in foul weather that this sailing technique gains its merit. For anyone who considers boat safety important, leaning how to park a sailboat safely on the water so that you can devote time to handling other priorities is a “must learn” skill. Wave heights and patterns differ, wind intensity varies, risks abound. Skippers need to learn how to stop their sailboats just as importantly as they need to learn to steer and move them. Many unfortunate souls go to sea without mastering “heaving to.” They regret their oversight, and then learn how to do it right.


  3. Pingback: Ocean Yachtmaster | Astrolabe Sailing

  4. Pingback: Advanced Sea Survival | Astrolabe Sailing

  5. Pingback: Understanding Waves | Astrolabe Sailing

  6. Pingback: RYA Offshore Yachtmaster | Astrolabe Sailing

  7. Pingback: Gananoque to Navy Bay – Foghorn Lullaby

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.