Heaving to on just the mainsail - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 20 Old 05-21-2008 Thread Starter
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Heaving to on just the mainsail

I continually read how sailors heave to by flattening the foresail (and staysail) against the rigging, sheeting in the main and setting the rudder to head up. While I have been on a 37' Endurance Cutter when the captain did this, it is anything but comfortable. The boat maintained a strong list as waves broke over the rails.

A day later, while still in a 50kt blow, with the captain sick and me needing sleep, I decided to try something different. I rolled up the head sails, set the rudder 10-15 degrees to head up, and sheeted out the main until the boat was lying 45 degrees off the wind. This allows for an amazingly gentle rocking as the boat rides each wave while maintaining a fixed position (or according to the GPS, a 0.1kt drift) and absolutely no heel.

My problem is that I have yet to read this maneuver anywhere. Because this way is so much smoother, what's the reason for heaving to the other way? Between these two maneuvers, I refuse to use the former. Am I missing something?
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post #2 of 20 Old 05-21-2008
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It really depends on the boat, the wind and the seastate at the time. Some boats can heave-to quite well under just a main sail, others require a headsail...and some can heave-to with no sail up whatsoever.

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post #3 of 20 Old 05-21-2008
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My boat has a high bow and I can heave to in strong winds with just the reefed main. The Dog is quite correct when he says everything depends on the boat. Experimenting is encouraged.

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Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
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post #4 of 20 Old 05-21-2008
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Oh Joy heaves to nicely on just the main or main and mizzen. I had to use this after a knockdown in 40+ while we fished the chute out of the water. I was surprised just how smooth and effortless it was. I used it again in light air while eating lunch on our last mini cruise. I didn't even have to bother with the tiller. She just parked herself at about 50* off the wind and stayed there.
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post #5 of 20 Old 05-21-2008
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Each boat, and the balance of each, is unique, and so are the wind and sea conditions. If it worked for you, then don't look for people to second-guess you, you found something that worked.

I personally think you need a "handkerchief and a tablecloth" (tiny jib and main or trysail) to keep the bow from getting up too high, but I'll take your experience over what I think at a desk.
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post #6 of 20 Old 05-21-2008
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I heave to every time I tack. Some folks call it 'caught in irons' but I prefer to think positively.
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post #7 of 20 Old 05-21-2008
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I wonder if the traditional method of heaving-to using a headsail and main is more reliable when the wind is erratic or drops and gusts suddenly.
I think that would be my principal concern.
Will the boat come about if the wind changes?

I have never tried it but if it works then I have to say.

"Captain Dave....I guess I owe you $100.00."

Or at least a bite or two of roasted crow.
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Originally Posted by chucklesR View Post
I heave to every time I tack. Some folks call it 'caught in irons' but I prefer to think positively.

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—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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post #9 of 20 Old 05-21-2008
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This is a technique the Pardee's talk about in one of their heavy weather sailing books.

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post #10 of 20 Old 05-21-2008
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Without knowing whether it was a light or heavy displacement boat, fin or full keel, cutter or sloop or ketch, and the amount of mainsail up and the wind direction vis a vis the heading, it is pretty difficult to comment. The general idea of heaving to and subsequently forereaching or "crabbing" is to cancel out the forces and to stop fighting the sea. Given enough leeway to the shore, the crew can rest up until the storm passes and maybe only lose 20-50 miles toward the goal.

The first instance sounds like the boat had too much sail up and that it may have been attempting to back the jib...it's hard to tell. Personally, unless I was racing, I would probably just rig a staysail only and attempt to heave to with a lashed wheel, opting to drift a knot to leeward and presenting as little boat as possible to the wave trains.

There's another method using a sheet, some shock cord and a tiller, but I don't think that's applicable here.

On some boats heaving to simply isn't possible and on others the "sweet spot" is sometimes too narrow to let a wheel lock or a length of shock cord handle the job.
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