Boat Rat's Tip of the WeekHeaving to the modern way
It is no secret that modern cruising boats come mostly with simple sloop rigs that are fitted with roller furling headsails and often with roller furling mainsails. And it is no secret that modern lightweight designs with fin keels and spade rudders do not heave to with the same docile easy manner as did our grandfathers full keel cruisers. So what do we do?
First, heaving to is one of those seamanship maneuvers every skipper should have in his or her bag of sailing tricks. Heaving to can take the strain and worry out of heavy weather. It can allow a tired crew to get some rest. It can buy you time at night so you can make landfall in daylight. And, it can stop the boat when you need to make repairs or take care of an ill or injured crew.
The problem with modern sloops when heaving to is that the bow tens to blow off the wind. Left to its own devices with no sail set, most modern
boats will lie at about 160 degrees to the wind, with the waves on the stern quarter. Not a great angle for heaving to.
Ideally, the angle of the bow to the waves when hove to will be about 40 degrees from the wind or even closer so the bow meets the waves as they pass. The basics of heaving to are to back the headsail so it is trimmed flat to the windward side; this pushes the bow to leeward. The helm then is turned to windward so the forces on the rudder counteract the forces on the headsail. But, with a lot of windage up forward and not much displacement, the bow and backed headsail of a modern sloop will overpower the rudder and the boat will continue to fall off to 90 or 100 degreesbeam on to the waves.
The solution to this problem is to leave a scrap of mainsail up or to set a trysail in place of the main and sheet it hard on the centerline so it forces the bow up into the wind. Then, roll up a lot of the genoa and run the sheet inside the side stays
on the windward side to a snatch block on the cabin top or to a car on the windward genoa track and sheet it flat. Look out for chafe on the side stays. The helm is then adjusted to keep the boat at about 40 degrees off the wind.
This is not really heaving to. It is more accurately forereaching because the sloop will continue to chug along forward at a knot or more. But you will be amazed at how the boat settles down, how the sound of the wind dissipates and how everyone on board heaves a communal sigh of relief.
You will have to experiment with your own boat and set up the genoa sheeting angle to suit your sails and the amount of sail area that works best. With a bit of trial and error, you will find the magic combination of sail area, trim and rudder angle.
USCG Master 50 GT Inland Waters
Towing & Sailing Endorsements
Lic. # 1092926
1984 Catalina 30
Rig Hull# 3688
Winthrop (Mass.) Yacht Club
Navigare necesse est, vivere non est necesse
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