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post #23 of Old 12-07-2013
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Re: Heaving-To

OK, may as well re-post my recent thoughts in a more 'appropriate' thread :-)

Originally Posted by jameswilson29 View Post
This is great information and advice. How about some specifics for us aspiring offshore sailors who might get caught offshore in snotty conditions?

So, at what angle to the waves should we try to assume?

What if the prevailing wind and waves are at different directions?

What sail configuration for the gale-force conditions in the SDR, deeply-reefed main and storm jib, or trysail and storm jib, or storm jib alone, say for a late 70s/early 80s IOR-influenced fin keel design with a wheel?

(My greatest concern with being hove-to is setting the boat up to be hit broadside by a large breaking wave and suffering a knockdown/roll.)
Sorry, but the only good answer to all those questions is - "It depends..." :-)

Every boat, every situation, every crew - they're all different... Sailors simply need to experiment with this stuff, try to assess what works for them, and what doesn't... Even the most seasoned voyagers are likely to learn something new every time they resort to a tactic like heaving-to...

When I refer to heaving-to, I'm not necessarily thinking of it as a storm or survival tactic. Indeed, there will be many times where one might have to resort to something more active, or 'drastic'... My point is to simply highlight the value of parking the boat simply to take a break, have a decent meal, get some rest, settle down an anxious crewmember, whatever... Much as Tom describes in his excellent account above, sometimes you just need to pull off the interstate into a rest stop, for a while...

There's tons of far better advice out there than I can possibly give here... Steve Dashew's writings are among the best, his SURVIVING THE STORM is an awesome resource, probably the single best I've ever found...

All I can say is what my boat (with an underbody/sail plan probably not too much different from yours) seems to like, at least in winds and open ocean waves up to about 35 or so. Deep reef in the main, sheeted near centerline, no headsail, with the tiller not lashed, but steered by the windvane... technically, she's more forereaching than hove-to, but still making very little headway... The key is having the vane do the 'driving', it prevents her from wanting to tack, or from falling off, and gaining too much speed... As is so often the case, one of those things I discovered 'by accident' in the Stream, beating back up towards Key West from Belize. After furling the headsail, and getting ready to set a backwinded bit of staysail, I realized "Hey, this works fine", and I was able to get 4-5 hours of much needed rest... Sometimes, all you really need to do is basically slow the boat down, that alone can make a world of difference...

Without question, one of my biggest concerns about many modern boats I see today, is the potential difficulty of setting them up in such a way that they will take care of themselves - and, the crew - in such situations... Modern designs with flat bottoms, high freeboard, etc... I'm not sure where one begins with setting them up to properly heave-to, and I would guess many such boats can only be made to do so with the assistance of the massive amount of excess windage aft that stern arches, dinghies on davits, and so on, can afford :-) But I'm afraid that for many of today's boats, the only way to get them to 'behave' properly when trying to park them for a bit in heavy weather, may be to fire up the engine...

So, the only way to figure this stuff out, is to go out and start playing. However, what works fine in 25 knots will not necessarily do so well in 35-40, due to the exponential increase in the force of a rising breeze... The most serious blow I've ever experienced on my own boat, was years ago at the north wall of the Gulf Stream on a trip out to Bermuda... In that instance, amazingly, simply lying ahull worked fine... Of course, that approach is widely considered the most dangerous approach of all, but in that particular situation, and with open ocean waves of a long period, my boat simply slid directly sideways in her own slick for about 6 hours, hardly ever taking a drop of water on deck, it was amazing... But that was a very rare circumstance, indeed...

These are the boats I've had more experience with offshore than any other single design - the Trintella 47 & 50...

Absolutely magnificent sailing machines, but a real challenge to park in a good blow... With their huge rig, and massive amount of windage forward (one real downside of the increasingly popular Solent-style double furling headsails) there's no way to keep the bow up, and maintain a 50 degree angle or thereabouts to the seas... In that instance, I would think a very creative technique described by John Harries on MORGAN'S CLOUD - that of streaming a Galerider from the bow, to windward - might work wonders in keeping the head up, and from forereaching off at too great a speed...

How to Stop Wave Strikes While Heaved-to in a Sailboat Offshore in a Storm

Needless to say, Morgan's Cloud is another superb resource...

Finally, one technique that is widely discussed, but I cannot personally endorse or recommend, is the vaunted Pardey Bridled Para-Anchor... Frankly, I just don't see how any of us mere mortals get that setup to work as they describe... :-) I'm guessing their success with it has a LOT to do with the Lyle Hess design they sail, and is less applicable to most more modern boats...

Evans Starzinger explains why, far better than I'm able to:

Seamanship FAQ.
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