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"Heaving to" or being "hove to" is a way of slowing a boat’s forward progress and bringing it almost to rest.
In sailing the helm and sail positions are fixed so that the boat does not need
to be actively steered. The terms are also used for a vessel under power when
it is brought to a complete stop.
In a sailing vessel the theory of
heaving to is to use the mainsail and the headsail (usually the jib) to work
against each other to balance the boat at an angle to the wind. This involves "backing" one or more sails so that the wind is driving against the forward
side of the sail rather than the aft side, as it normally would. This is
balanced by the drive from the other sails, resulting in a slowing down or
stopping. The rudder is positioned so that if the boat moves forward it will be
turned into the wind to prevent forward momentum building up and the boat holds
a steady position. So the boat is stopped almost completely with the sails
still up and maintains a steady position relative to wind and waves.
Heaving to has it’s origins in
the early days of sail when crews rode out strong winds, heavy rain and high
seas in the heave to position.
The boat is now hove to and
should stay roughly in this position, moving forward at maybe 2 to 3 knots and
making leeway, unless thrown off by a sudden gust of wind or a large wave. The
turbulence created by this drift decreases the sea’s aggressiveness, the
pounding motion is reduced and the boat does not heel as much and feels much
more comfortable. Be aware, however, that not all boats behave in the same way
and you may need a measure of trial and error before perfecting the manoeuvre.
There are many uses for this simple
but under used technique:-
There are few sailing techniques that have so many and varied uses.
Don’t forget the simple art of "heaving to" whether you are in fair weather or foul. Happy sailing!
Author – Dee White
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