Sailing Made Easy - Heaving To

Heaving to – What is it and why you should know how to do it?

By: Cruising Tips, Learn To Sail

ASA created a quiz a while back with one of the questions having to do with heaving to. Surprisingly, many people got the answer wrong, which led us to believe not everyone is out there heaving to! In fact, maybe they’re out there not even knowing what it means to heave to. So let’s go over it..

To heave to is to park the boat while out at sea. It’s mainly a heavy weather defense strategy but some people use the tactic to delay a harbor entrance for morning light, fix something or possibly just to have a little lunch at sea. As an example of how effective heaving to can be to endure through heavy weather, 26 sailors hove to in the infamous Fastnet Race where 18 people died in a horrific storm – none of those boats suffered any serious damage, let alone rolled or capsized.

Heaving to is setting the sails so the jib wants to sail one way while the main wants to sail another so, with some rudder adjustment, the boat stands nearly still.
~ ASA’s Coastal Cruising Made Easy

Steps For Heaving To

It’s not hard but it does take a bit of practice to master. Here’s how it goes – this is more of an overview, to get the good stuff check out the full description in the textbook and watch the video below.

  1. To lie on the tack opposite of the one you’re on, sheet the jib in tight, tack and leave the jibsheet cleated. As the boat passes through head to wind, the jib, held by the windward sheet, will set aback and push the bow downwind. Hold the mainsheet on the winch with its clutch open.
  2. Now steer the boat back toward the wind and make adjustments with the helm and the mainsheet until the boat is lying at a steady attitude to the wind on a close reaching heading. Normally, the wheel would be turned to windward. The mainsail might or might not need to be luffing.
ASA Sailing Made Easy - Heaving To
ASA CertifiedASA TIP: How an individual boat heaves-to is a a function of many factors; design, keel type and relative sizes of the jib and mainsail are just some of them. So it might take a little practice and adjustments to figure it our for your boat.