My experience heaving to in 30 knots sustained winds, with 4-5m seas, was very positive. We did this several times in our last Pacific crossing. However, those conditions were not that rough (nice race
day, eh?), but the ease of sitting there in 30 kts gives me confidence that higher wind
speeds would be OK, though I have no experience above 30kts. Not sure about higher seas, obviously if breaking it's a whole different story.
For us, it was critical to give the short handed crew rest during a difficult passage
. I'm amazed how many sailors I've met who don't know how to do it, or do it incorrectly so when they try it they have a bad experience and think the technique is flawed.
You need to understand that every boat is different and that you must play the boat to set her up correctly. That means adjusting the jib sheets
, the amount the jib
is reefed, the main sheet, the amount the main is reefed (ditto mizzen if you have one, we do, and it can be used instead of the main) and the tiller. You are aiming to get the bow pointed into the wind and waves at an angle of about 45 to 60 degrees. On our boat, we came up with a very specific formula for how to do it (6 wraps on the furled working jib, track car all the way forward, two reefs
in the main, helm
hard over, tweaked to suit conditions).
Often, the wind and waves are not at the exact same angle, so you may find one tack is better than the other for heaving to. It can make a dramatic difference. On the wrong tack, you will be taking the waves almost beam on, and suffering.
You also have to set the correct amount of sail area. Too much and you will forereach, too little and the boat will not heave to well (I suppose, never tried it). One night we were forereaching at 3.5 kts for ten hours - that's a long way if it is not the direction you want, or great if it is a good direction.
You must be super vigilant about chafe, especially the jib sheets
. You may need to sheet the jib inside the spreaders, otherwise the chafe at the spreaders will cut the sheets quickly.
Would be very interesting to hear people's experiences in really serious weather.
BTW, our boat is a 38' ketch
, cutaway full keel
, 8T displacement