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  #1  
Old 07-29-2008
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Heaving-To versus Bare Poles

I've been debating the merits of heaving-to versus taking all the sails down and going bare poles in extremely heavy weather. What's your opinion of which is better in the scenario below?

Scenario: You're daysailing in smallish (25'-30') outboard-powered sloop about 2 or 3 miles offshore and nasty squall/front/storm rolls in with the potential for 50mph+ winds. What would you do?

My inexperienced thoughts tell me that the boat would heave-to in those conditions, or that something would break if you tried it. However, I've read stories of vessels on bluewater passages riding out storms for days at time while hove-to. Perhaps heaving-to is better suited for taking a break from sailing or stopping the boat in an emergency rather than waiting out heavy weather?? Or perhaps you should heave-to in heavy weather when it's too dangerous to be in the cockpit and you need to stay below and know that the boat isn't going to wander too much??

The problem I see with taking all the sails down in a small outboard-powered sailboat is that you'll have no control over the boat because the wave height will likely render the outboard useless.
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Old 07-29-2008
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I'll start the discussion by pointing out that heaving to is a means by which you can rig the boat to tend itself while you go below and rest. Sailing under bare poles is generally a means by which you can still actively tend to the steering of the boat. It allows some minimal control. In a lot of wind, the windage on the hull itself is enough to drive the boat downwind or on a broad reach at limited speed. It isn't a technique that is generally recommended, because it really doesn't usually drive the boat with enough speed and power to give you enough control when the boat is being pounded one way or the other by big waves. Big waves overtaking the boat from astern tend to cause the boat to slew off course and wallow. If one wave knocks the boat sideways, the next wave might roll it over. A little triangle of jib might help.

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Scenario: You're daysailing in smallish (25'-30') outboard-powered sloop about 2 or 3 miles offshore and nasty squall/front/storm rolls in with the potential for 50mph+ winds. What would you do?
Funny you should mention it, but that happened to me Sunday. I was on a 28' inboard powered sailboat, and saw a 25' outboard powered sloop nearby, and both of us made it. Both of us took down all sails and motored downwind. If we had allowed the boats to get sideways to the waves, we would undoubtedly have been rolled over. We headed across (parallel to) the wind and waves in the lulls, to get closer to the windward shore, where the waves were smaller, and we bore off downwind in the gusts, when the waves became much higher and steeper, so we wouldn't be caught abeam by them.

Last edited by Sailormon6; 07-29-2008 at 11:51 AM.
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Old 07-29-2008
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Paloma (30' inboard diesel) has endured two Force 10 storms at sea (one for 48 hours and one this past March for 36 hours). We chose to drasticaly reduce sail in one and the other bare poles. We never considered heaving to in winds gusting over 60, our concern was that in the 30 foot seas we might broach in the process of heaving to - under bare poles we were doing as much as 10mph on the GPS. In each case, we were running before cold fronts out of the north in Gulf of Mexico and had about 650 miles of sea room. In the first storm we were on the way to Vera Cruz, so we didn't loose any ground. In the March storm we were headed for Freeport and ended up 185 miles south of our rumb line.
Go to the photos section and search "Paloma" and you'll see what she looked like back in port from the March storm - not a pretty sight.
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Last edited by johnshasteen; 07-30-2008 at 12:25 AM.
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Old 07-29-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kwaltersmi View Post
I've been debating the merits of heaving-to versus taking all the sails down and going bare poles in extremely heavy weather. What's your opinion of which is better in the scenario below?

Scenario: You're daysailing in smallish (25'-30') outboard-powered sloop about 2 or 3 miles offshore and nasty squall/front/storm rolls in with the potential for 50mph+ winds. What would you do?
A lot of this depends on the wind direction. If the wind is blowing on-shore, then the land is a lee shore, and running off under bare poles will probably get you dead fairly quickly. Even heaving-to might not be the best option.

If you have the proper storm sails, and the storm is not expected to last all that long, you might be better off sailing through the storm.

If the wind is off-shore, then that's a different story. Running under bare poles or a storm jib is probably not a bad idea.

Heaving to may slow the boat drastically, but it really depends on the boat's design. Many fin keeled or centerboard boats will not heave-to all that well, and will forereach instead.

If the sea state is calm enough, motoring might not be a bad option... but keep the sails at the ready, just in case.

Quote:
My inexperienced thoughts tell me that the boat would heave-to in those conditions, or that something would break if you tried it. However, I've read stories of vessels on bluewater passages riding out storms for days at time while hove-to. Perhaps heaving-to is better suited for taking a break from sailing or stopping the boat in an emergency rather than waiting out heavy weather?? Or perhaps you should heave-to in heavy weather when it's too dangerous to be in the cockpit and you need to stay below and know that the boat isn't going to wander too much??

The problem I see with taking all the sails down in a small outboard-powered sailboat is that you'll have no control over the boat because the wave height will likely render the outboard useless.
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Old 07-29-2008
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50 kts winds will shred most normal cruising sails, heaving to with a try sail and a storm jib is probably not wisely considered or possible because of sail balance considerations.
Getting beam on in 50kts with the likely wave heights and with even a try and storm jib will broach most sub 30 footers, I would not even consider it.

Every boat handles different - I don't carry storm sails so for me the only option is bare poles and motor down.

If you really must sail, storm jib alone and run downwind, or jib and try to make way to windward bashing the waves.

Pays to watch the weather so you don't have to choose how to die.
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Last edited by chucklesR; 07-29-2008 at 01:44 PM.
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Old 07-29-2008
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The correct course of action is going to depend a lot on where you are (wind direction in relation to the land). Do you have a sea anchor? If so, might change the answer a bit.
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So it sounds like most of you feel that heaving-to isn't a heavy weather/storm tactic.

I've practiced heaving-to many times in light to moderate air, but never in heavy weather. I know it's a good skill for taking a break from sailing or an onboard emergency that requires your attention away from the cockpit for a bit, but there's something in my memory that recalls reading about heaving-to as a method for riding out a storm.
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Ask your sail maker what would happen if you hove to in 50kts of wind.
Hove to doesn't take an ounce of pressure off the sails - it just sets them to counteract each other except for a tiny bit of helm.
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Old 07-29-2008
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It is, but it depends on the conditions, the wind direction, where the nearest land is, and what boat you're on. IF you're on an old full-keeler, like a Southern Cross 28, with plenty of room to leeward, then it is a great tactic to use. If you're in a very modern, ULD racing boat, with a very high aspect bulb keel, it might not work out so well.

If you have a lee shore fairly closeby, it might not be a wise tactic, as it might still allow your boat to blow down onto the lee shore—but it depends again on the boat, the wind, the position of the land, etc.

A boat that forereaches when hove-to, might make enough progress to windward that a lee shore isn't a big deal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kwaltersmi View Post
So it sounds like most of you feel that heaving-to isn't a heavy weather/storm tactic.

I've practiced heaving-to many times in light to moderate air, but never in heavy weather. I know it's a good skill for taking a break from sailing or an onboard emergency that requires your attention away from the cockpit for a bit, but there's something in my memory that recalls reading about heaving-to as a method for riding out a storm.
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her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Old 07-29-2008
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The account of Satori in the 1991 "Perfect Storm" might help illustrate lying ahull in heavy weather, at least a bit.
SATORI @ Ed's web site
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