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Old 02-03-2012, 18:45   #1
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Heaving To Under Main Only

First can I explain that my question relates to routine uses of heaving to, rather than as a storm tactic.

By routine uses, I mean:
  • to enable everyone to eat together, using both hands (I realise this is not fashionable, but personally I find, in any sort of seaway, this aids digestion and morale sufficiently to often pay for the miles lost)
  • to get a more stable platform: for taking bearings, using binos, sextant etc
  • to slow down when trying to get in phase with tidal currents
  • to reinstate the clevis pin in the leeward cap shroud turnbuckle after noticing it in the scuppers
  • numerous others: talking to another vessel, letting a shipping traffic jam resolve, communing with megafauna, puzzling out a difficult pilotage conundrum, waiting for lights to light, tightening the steering cables, etc
as well as a few manoeuvres which are hopefully not routine, but worth practicing routinely. I'll cover the main example in context, below.

I know broadly two ways to heave to under main alone.

One is similar to the technique often used in heavy weather (especially on big yachts, and often under trisail) where the main is sheeted substantially amidships.

The other way is what my question is really about. It's one of my favourite ways for many routine uses, but people tend to look at me strangely when I try to describe or suggest it.

On the face of it it's more like lying ahull without dropping the main. But on most modern yachts the heading is actually not much different from hove-to with a backed headsail.

Having dropped or furled the headsail(s) (if any); prevent/vang the boom out as far as it will go, ie against the aft lower, and snug the mainsheet to stabilise the boom.
The main is now sheeted flat and acts as the vane on a weathercock, keeping the boat at a substantially constant angle to the wind. (Whereas in the more traditional 2-sail setup, the headsail and main form a 'thick foil' vane between them, less 'accurate' and more prone to cyclical behaviour.)

The helm position can be used for adjusting the orientiation and stability and speed of travel, or it can just be left free.

The angle of the boom can be used as another variable, to tailor the method to the situation and the vessel.

Things I like include:

The 'thin foil' tends to induce less heel and less leeway, and handles stronger wind for a given area of main.

The yacht tends to lie more quietly.

The setup is less prone to being put about that the traditional main-only method - in fact it's virtually immune, even when quite undercanvassed, absent a massive, quantum windshift.

I find it particularly useful in situations where the headsails are not already up. And because I always rig vang-style preventers on each side, back to the cockpit, it's an easy system to initiate.

But the situation where I find this method trumps all others is in retrieving an object or person overboard, particularly if there is only one person left on board.

I aim to sail just to windward of the swimming thing, on a beam reach, with the main already prevented and the headsail (if it's up) flogging on totally free sheets.

As I approach the swimmer I maintain speed until quite close to have good steerage way, then round up hard.

The prevented main acts as a powerful handbrake and as soon as I consider the stopping position will be suitable, I can leave the helm, (unlashed), knowing that the vessel will stop and self tend indefinitely. IOW I'm free to go immediately to the chainplates with a sling or whatever.

If I've misjudged and rounded up early, I just ease the preventer to reduce the braking effect; if I'm going too fast I just round up harder: even if I go past head to wind, the yacht will still recover on the correct tack, without help from me (although it's best if the [notional] tiller can be jammed to the new windward side)

It's the best way I know of doing a pinpoint or crash stop, short handed, on a big yacht. Also brilliant for stopping at a mooring buoy or pile - even a dock, if it's really low to the water.

One disadvantage is that the reduced heel can make it hard to get whatever it is back on board.

In such circumstances I have ground in the lazy flogging headsail sheet once stopped. The combined method still works well enough for emergency use. However you have to judge whether the decrease in leeward freeboard is worth the increased leeway.

Has anyone else encountered this method? I can't remember whether I was taught it, read about it, or evolved it.
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Old 02-03-2012, 19:26   #2
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Re: Heaving to under main only

Ive done it by accident a couple of times, LOL but don't remember ever doing it on purpose! sounds like a good Idea for some things for sure. I head up this way to stop as dead as possible as you said to retrive something or someone, we have praticed this a few times just so we remember the drill Thanks for the reminder, don't think we wil ever heave to for lunch LOL but ya never know !!! Bob and Connie
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Old 02-03-2012, 20:26   #3
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Re: Heaving to under main only

My Haida heaves too very nicely w/ main only[deep reefed] and tiller tied off to keep the boat in irons. If weather is to port, turn tiller to port to maintain in irons and vice versa for starboard. you'll have to adjust the tiller to maintain this. I have done this in at least 55 knt winds for hours waiting for weather to settle. You need to practice this in at least thirty knts to get the feel of this procedure. Once learned, you'll feel very confident in your heavy weather skills..Practice & good sailing to you..
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Old 02-03-2012, 21:30   #4
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Re: Heaving to under main only

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Originally Posted by rubyjean View Post
My Haida heaves too very nicely w/ main only[deep reefed] and tiller tied off to keep the boat in irons. ...
Thanks for that. Are you talking about the traditional method (boom amidships) or the method I'm promoting (boom squared to the boat)?

One other thing, I was hoping for this discussion not to spill over into heavy weather tactics (ref my original post).

.... but I guess I've got little control over that; when sailors gather online, it seems to be like a ragged tooth that their tongue just has to keep exploring ....
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Old 02-03-2012, 21:58   #5
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Re: Heaving to under main only

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Originally Posted by Andrew Troup View Post
Thanks for that. Are you talking about the traditional method (boom amidships) or the method I'm promoting (boom squared to the boat)?

One other thing, I was hoping for this discussion not to spill over into heavy weather tactics (ref my original post).

.... but I guess I've got little control over that; when sailors gather online, it seems to be like a ragged tooth that their tongue just has to keep exploring ....
Sheeted to amidships, best if you keep the bow pointed close to sea's, better ride, less rolling. You can do this in any wind condition. For heavy, practice in a gale to learn tatic's........Michael..
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Old 03-03-2012, 08:22   #6
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Re: Heaving to under main only

It seems like with your method you are going to end up closer to beam onto the seas and thus be more rolly than center sheeting and forereaching.
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Old 03-03-2012, 09:19   #7
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Re: Heaving to under main only

I think a lot depends on your underwater shape. My boat is long keel with a little cutaway in the forward sections.
I can give her a little up - helm, and ease the main, and she will sit as steady as a duck, with a bit of fore-reaching, in up to 15knts.
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Old 03-03-2012, 09:30   #8
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Re: Heaving to under main only

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue Stocking View Post
I think a lot depends on your underwater shape. My boat is long keel with a little cutaway in the forward sections.
I can give her a little up - helm, and ease the main, and she will sit as steady as a duck, with a bit of fore-reaching, in up to 15knts.
Yea, but that isn't what the OP was suggesting. My boat is performance underbody and I sheet the main in and adjust the traveler as needed. This sits me just fine forreaching and comfortable. I think if I did what the OP suggests the boat would end up beam onto the seas, at least uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.
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Old 03-03-2012, 09:39   #9
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Re: Heaving to under main only

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
Yea, but that isn't what the OP was suggesting. My boat is performance underbody and I sheet the main in and adjust the traveler as needed. This sits me just fine forreaching and comfortable. I think if I did what the OP suggests the boat would end up beam onto the seas, at least uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.
Not sure what the OP is trying to do here. I would not want to lie ahull for lunch. He might as well pull down all sails and just park for his lunch. Sounds like a lunchen at Marina Del Ray. Don't know anything else to say.
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Old 03-03-2012, 10:00   #10
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Re: Heaving to under main only

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
Yea, but that isn't what the OP was suggesting. My boat is performance underbody and I sheet the main in and adjust the traveler as needed. This sits me just fine forreaching and comfortable. I think if I did what the OP suggests the boat would end up beam onto the seas, at least uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.
You and I reading the same OP ?
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Old 03-03-2012, 10:21   #11
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Re: Heaving to under main only

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Originally Posted by Blue Stocking View Post
You and I reading the same OP ?
>The other way is what my question is really about....On the face of it it's
> more like lying ahull without dropping the main.
>Having dropped or furled the headsail(s) (if any); prevent/vang the boom
>out as far as it will go, ie against the aft lower, and snug the mainsheet to
> stabilise the boom.

This is what he proposed.
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Old 03-03-2012, 10:33   #12
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Re: Heaving to under main only

Heck I can eat a sandwitch, and a cup a soup in 30 knots no problem! why would I want to lie ahull to eat ?? maybe if your day sailing but cruising to somewhere I can't see the reason?? guess Im just not gettin it ?? LOL Bob and Connie
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Old 03-03-2012, 11:10   #13
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Re: Heaving to under main only

I think y our method Andrew is more akin to just depowering the main. But its a very boat specific situation. Most boat would just swing their stern into the sail and sail off downwind.

dave
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Old 03-03-2012, 11:48   #14
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Re: Heaving to under main only

A few points:

Firstly, I repeat, I am NOT promoting this as a heavy weather manoeuvre, and am hoping to keep this thread a heavy weather discussion-free zone. The method is well suited for winds of any strength, but less well suited for big seas (although there are exceptions to any rule: I give a big seas example at the end of the post).

When do you get strong winds without big seas? Often enough, and in enough places, that it seems a shame to have one's thinking running along the fixed lines that they're inevitably linked.

I'm not trying to promote this as a substitute for any single "holy grail" manoeuvre. I'm raising this for those who like to have a whole quiver of options, so as to choose a manoeuvre which suits each specific situation.

One of the strengths of this method is that it's very robust and well behaved during radical windshifts. Particularly in comparison with 'main-only, boom amidships' hove-to.


Secondly, Most modern-underbody boats do not lie as close to the wind, hove to by any method, as theory would suggest. So the difference in heading between the traditional methods and the one I'm seeking to discuss is surprisingly little, along with the difference in tendency to roll.

If rolling's a problem, there's an infinite spectrum between boom squared outboard and boom amidships. As you bring the boom in, you trade off a bit more roll against a bit more instability in heading. You can pick the optimum for the circumstances.

To whoever suggested pulling the sails down would achieve the same result, I can only suggest you try the comparison. The roll-damping of a full main is considerable, even 'edge-on' to the windstream. More than abstract thinking would suggest.

With the method I'm suggesting, the sail is drawing gently most of the time. The forward thrust implied by this is largely annulled by the braking effect of the helm hard alee. (Which should hopefully clarify, for goboatingnow, why the boat does not pay off onto a downwind heading)

And in some situations the whole point of what I'm proposing is that you don't have to pull the sail down; it can be a way of leaving the sail up in situations where you would normally feel compelled to drop it, and subsequently have to raise it again -- something you might prefer not to do -- say it's a big sail and you're short- or feeble-handed.

Here's a couple of hypothetical situations where I might use the method.

A) I'm handling a sailboat on my own, and I'm anchored in a cove well sheltered from big seas running outside. The wind inside is variable in strength, and swinging through 100 degrees. I don't want to or can't use the engine or the windlass. I want the boat to look after itself while I get the anchor(s) aboard and stowed, and I don't on any account want the boat to go onto the wrong, inshore, tack.
I hoist as much main as suits the windstrength outside, leave it flapping while I bring the cable up-and-down, then prevent the boom over to whichever side puts the boat automatically on the offshore tack. This breaks out the anchor, but I don't have to leave the bow; I heave everything onboard, clean, sort, stow, and lash, leaving the boat to its own devices as it gradually works towards open sea despite the shifting breeze.

B) I have to send someone's beloved offspring over the side to clear the prop in deep but sheltered - or flat - water, with bullets of wind from random directions - as in Patagonia or Fiordland

C) I'm on a boat which doesn't behave well hove-to with main only, boom amidships. I want to swap the 110% roller genoa for the yankee because I'm heading south into the forties. I don't have selfsteering or autopilot currently functioning. I may be some time and I do NOT want the boat putting itself about, or poking the bow into the big sea running * while I'm fussing around on the foredeck.

*This is perhaps an exception to the 'not so suited for big seas' caveat at the top of this post. Sometimes pitching is more problematic than rolling.

Writing this, I'm realising that my enthusiasm for this method - under certain circumstances - is linked to my preference for methods which would work well when sailing short-handed. I personally prefer to use such methods even when I don't have to, so that they're well understood when I do. As a fringe benefit, someone using these techniques can avoid disturbing the off-watch unnecessarily.

I also prefer techniques which do not rely on complex technology, such as engines, thrusters, autopilots and such. The method I'm suggesting shades seamlessly, simply by moving the helm to weather, into a robust way of sailing on a beam reach without human or tech intervention.

This applies even on a yacht with dodgy course-keeping: simply prevent the main from swinging aft, thereby using the sail as a more rigorous air-rudder. The helm angle acts as primarily as a speed control, but naturally the heading is also affected.
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Old 03-03-2012, 12:22   #15
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Re: Heaving to under main only

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
>The other way is what my question is really about....On the face of it it's
> more like lying ahull without dropping the main.
>Having dropped or furled the headsail(s) (if any); prevent/vang the boom
>out as far as it will go, ie against the aft lower, and snug the mainsheet to
> stabilise the boom.

This is what he proposed.
Sorry, maybe I was a bit blunt.
I was considering it from the lunch eating angle.
My boom is 17ft of solid 5" fir. When I ease the sheet right out as square off as I can get it, without fouling the aft lowers, the weight keeps it out there.
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