Heaving-to can be accomplished by most cruising cats, although it is generally not recommended as a technique for dealing with truly extreme conditions. I try to reef before heaving-to (and one would generally want to have reduced sail area, particularly on a cat, in advance of any need to heave - to). I have only heaved-to in winds up to about 35 knots and cannot speak to the technique in conditions beyond that. As I said, I would at least start thinking about other techniques, particularly as seas continue to build.
The maneuver itself is no different than in a monohull
, except that I generally keep a diesel
running in neutral in case I blow it and get stuck in irons. Tack, keeping the jib
backwinded. After passing through the eye of the wind and starting to move towards a new course, rapidly reverse the helm
(although not so rapidly as to stall the rudders) until they are facing in the opposite direction of your initial turn (kind of like using reverse-lock steering
in a car with oversteer). Many boats will heave-to under jib
alone. If so, simply keep the well-reefed jib back-winded and lock the steering
at the reverse angle (to windward) that seems to keep the boat in balance (not trying to either head
up, or off the wind).
If your boat does not heave-to under jib alone, you may be required to experiment
with a heavily reefed main, sheeted well in, to counteract the force of the back-winded jib. Assuming your boat has some weather-helm, the main will luff if she heads up, allowing the backwinded jib to then pull her back off the wind. This, of course, is less than ideal as the sporadic luffing is very hard on the main. Of course, some cats actually have lee helm - for these the main will be absolutely no help at all if the jib is backwinded (as both sails
will be working to move the boat off the wind).
Ineed, I can imagine a boat with lee helm that may be able to heave-to without a backwinded jib, using only a heavily reefed main to counteract the rudders.
Nevertheless, if your boat can do it, it is far better to find a balance between your steering angle to windwad and the area of the backwinded jib that will premit a constant heading without the use of the main. It is also iimportant to realize that there will generally be a preferred tack in relation to wind and sea state. Frequently, the wind direction will be at a slight variance to the direction of the waves and it is best to keep the waves hitting the windward bow off the front quarter. You NEVER want to be taking the waves anywhere near beam-on.
Other factors, of course, include the amount of sea-room and whether there is a lee shore that can determine whether you should be on a port or starboard tack.