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Old 26-08-2016, 22:08   #1
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Heave /Hove to -what are the limits?

Like any good wanna be blue water sailor I do a lot of reading about everything.
Of course, I don't gave personal experience (do mountain lakes count?)

Ive certainly read quite a few heavy weather tactics books but lately Ive been reading real life accounts of The Queens Birthday Race, Fastnet and Sydney to Hobart. In every case boats that hove to faired the best. Im curious what are the upper limits of sea stare where heaving to is a useful strategy?

Real life accounts of these races paint a very grim picture but say very little about the boats hove to. I suspect that it is because these boats faired fairly well and focusing on them is simply not dramatic reading. But, with out much detail, some of these boats might have simply been in better positions to take advantage of the tactic. But accounts really dont say.

So, what are your personal experiences with heaving to during heavy weather? My personal experience is limited to "trying it out" during our lake sails, so not exactly apropos to the question. (Dont worry, lots of practice coming up!)

Also, Im curious about fore reaching. I can see Kretchmers point thatt fore reaching allows one to get out of the storm path but again I would like to hear of your experiences.

Do you favor certain tactics?
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Old 26-08-2016, 22:54   #2
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Re: Heave /Hove to -what are the limits?

My experience is boats don't do well trying to heave to if the water is big and rough. Water is more powerful than wind. Even in long keel boats, much less short keelboats.
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Old 27-08-2016, 02:43   #3
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Re: Heave /Hove to -what are the limits?

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.
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Old 27-08-2016, 04:34   #4
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Re: Heave /Hove to -what are the limits?

Have been hove to on a 22ftr in the Biscay with N'ly winds of 70kts plus and 11 metre seas.. fully reefed main only.. got the occasional waves breaking over the boat jetting water through the closed hatch but never really felt threatened.. duration 3 weeks with 6-8hr windows where it dropped to 25-30kts..
Same area hit by SE 60kts which backed up the current creating vertical seas where it was in my opinion to dangerous to have any sail up as it did nothing in the troughs but tried knocking you down as you crested.. seas around 9metres.. duration 50hrs laying ahull.. boat a 30ft Westerly..
There have been other times in a variety of boats in other seas/oceans.
Do what suits your boat and try not to let the noise below and confusion above throw you overmuch.. theres no set tactic to my mind.
Its all down to type of boat and conditions.
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Old 27-08-2016, 07:47   #5
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Re: Heave /Hove to -what are the limits?

For all you metricheads, "seas around 9metres" = roughy 30 ft.

Wave capsize ratio is +/-.6 which means a 22 ft boat at .6 = breaking waves of > 13 ft will capsize your boat. So heaving to in greater conditions might not be effective. You won't capsize with wind. It's the bloody waves.
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Old 27-08-2016, 08:02   #6
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Re: Heave /Hove to -what are the limits?

The problem I've had with heaving to is once the waves get large enough to block the wind you no longer have control. At that point it's best to run with drogues. IMHO. also if the waves are Steep and breaking it's better to run with them.
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Old 27-08-2016, 08:51   #7
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Re: Heave /Hove to -what are the limits?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaltyMonkey View Post
For all you metricheads, "seas around 9metres" = roughy 30 ft.

Wave capsize ratio is +/-.6 which means a 22 ft boat at .6 = breaking waves of > 13 ft will capsize your boat. So heaving to in greater conditions might not be effective. You won't capsize with wind. It's the bloody waves.
Exactly... though the seas were 11metres they were well spaced swell build up from the NW... built over 3000miles of open ocean.. with wind crests on top.. December gales in the Biscay can last for weeks as fronts sweep through one after the other.
So my heaving to was successful... and tank test scenarios don't tell the whole story..

Sparrowhawk.. on my other trip which was a May crossing.. doubt a drogue would have been any use.. or trying to run before.. likely would have sunk you.. the Gulf Stream runs S at 20-30miles a day.. that getting backed up by 60kts plus gusts means you go nowhere but up and then down as you fall off the crest..
Maybe you should try it in a 60kt Northerly in the G Stream off N Carolina sometime and then post the results.. ��
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Old 27-08-2016, 09:12   #8
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Re: Heave /Hove to -what are the limits?

Very interesting reading here. I am looking forward to more stories.

IE wave height and keeping control; didn't the Pardy's use a parachute sea anchor off cleats mid ships? Im not going to look this up right now, but I seem to recall they would set a bridle off the midships cleat and run their parachute anchor on a line set to wave frequency. And did so under bare poles. Not a technique for the amateur I think.
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Old 27-08-2016, 09:28   #9
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Re: Heave /Hove to -what are the limits?

Quote:
Originally Posted by boatman61 View Post
Exactly... though the seas were 11metres they were well spaced swell build up from the NW...

SNIP

Maybe you should try it in a 60kt Northerly in the G Stream off N Carolina sometime and then post the results.. ��
Wave height is not nearly so important as wave period. Lots of folks have had bad problems crossing the Gulf Stream from Florida to the Bahamas when a cold front hits. The Gulf Stream can be flowing at 3+ knots North and a front with only 20-30 knot winds blowing South will produce maybe 6-10 foot waves. Problem is not only do these waves have a short period, as in less than a boat length, but the waves are described as square waves. The face of these short period waves is often 70 degrees from the horizon.

In conditions like this, or even worse conditions, the only real option is sometimes to run somewhat perpendicular to the waves; something an auto pilot can not do; you have to have a real and skilled human at the wheel/tiller.

The real trick is to have the skill to know when to heave to, when to deploy a drogue, when to run before or across the waves, and when to put your head between your legs and kiss your a$$ goodbye.
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Old 27-08-2016, 09:37   #10
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Re: Heave /Hove to -what are the limits?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaltyMonkey View Post
For all you metricheads, "seas around 9metres" = roughy 30 ft.

Wave capsize ratio is +/-.6 which means a 22 ft boat at .6 = breaking waves of > 13 ft will capsize your boat. So heaving to in greater conditions might not be effective. You won't capsize with wind. It's the bloody waves.
Another thing to remember is that 30 foot seas means 60 feet crest to trough.
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Old 27-08-2016, 09:38   #11
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Re: Heave /Hove to -what are the limits?

I hove to for a night in the Atlantic in 50 kt winds to allow a front to pass us by. It is all a balancing act. A little staysail and a little main, just enough to counteract the bow pointing upwind with a locked wheel. Boat held well, drifting about 8 nm to the lee overnight and we all got some needed rest. Your best option is to get out in some lousy conditions and practice and see what works with your boat.
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Old 27-08-2016, 10:14   #12
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Re: Heave /Hove to -what are the limits?

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Originally Posted by bmz View Post
Another thing to remember is that 30 foot seas means 60 feet crest to trough.
This is not correct: the height of waves is always measured from crest to trough.

However, the reference for describing the sea state is the "significant wave height", that is the mean of the upper third of waves in the record: you record the height of waves for some time, enough to have at least 100 of them, you sort the heights in decreasing order and you compute the mean of the first third.

This means that many waves are higher than the significant height. You must expect to see some waves *more than twice the significant height*, without considering rogue waves.

Alain
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Old 27-08-2016, 10:36   #13
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Re: Heave /Hove to -what are the limits?

Sparrowhawk.. on my other trip which was a May crossing.. doubt a drogue would have been any use.. or trying to run before.. likely would have sunk you.. the Gulf Stream runs S at 20-30miles a day.. that getting backed up by 60kts plus gusts means you go nowhere but up and then down as you fall off the crest..
Maybe you should try it in a 60kt Northerly in the G Stream off N Carolina sometime and then post the results..

Haha I'm talking about being in the Gulf Stream off the keys and well over 60 knots of wind and the only way to survive it was "running" with a drogue. Just my personal experience. PS the Gulf Stream runs north :-). PSS. The worst weather I've been in has been in the Gulf Stream with North winds. one time I waited 2 weeks for a weather window and the weather was supposed to be perfect I got out there and I was in a storm for close to a week.
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Old 27-08-2016, 10:48   #14
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Re: Heave /Hove to -what are the limits?

Gee Hydra,

In 30 foot+ seas I will have much more important things to do with my time than record the wave height 100 times!
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Old 27-08-2016, 11:00   #15
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Re: Heave /Hove to -what are the limits?

I have only had to heave too once, got caught in the Coral Sea with a southerly, heaved too AND dripped oil off the Bow, worked very well, the oil really calmed the seas.
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