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Old 07-10-2005, 06:41   #1
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Lying to a Sea Anchor, Lying A-Hull, and Heaving-to Under Reduced Sail

Heavy Weather Sailing - Heaving-To ~ by George Day
(Blue Water Sailing 1990)

Heavy weather wears on the boat, tears on the sails and gradually takes a mighty toll on the crew. Exhaustion, from lack of sleep, from worry and from the persistent roar of waves and wind, can be blamed for more problems at sea than any other single cause. When you're too tired to sail on, when the crew is feeling battered and sick, when the boat seems to be overpowered, you will know it is time to stop for a while and heave to.

There are conditions in which it is unwise and unsafe to heave to. When waves are constantly breaking all around you, when you can feel the pounding of breakers on the deck and hull, you may be safer and happier to carry on running before the storm at a slow and controlled rate possibly under bare poles with warps streamed astern.

However, in most storm conditions, heaving to will be the option that presents itself when you feel you are done in and want to rest. In fact, after struggling to sail on in a storm, the act of heaving to has an almost immediate positive effect upon the crew. The boat's motion eases, the fury of the wind seems to abate slightly and the stress on gear, sails and the crew's morale seems to dissipate.

For cruising sailors, heaving to need not be solely a storm tactic. Stopping the boat at any time, to navigate or make repairs, or simply to have a quiet dinner, is an option too often overlooked. If you're not in a hurry, then stopping for a while can be a real pleasure.

But, heaving to is most often done when the wind is really piping. There are three generally accepted ways to heave to in a sail boat: lying to a sea anchor or para-anchor; lying ahull; and, heaving to under reduced sail.

Lying To A Sea Anchor: The technology of sea anchors goes back to the last century when fishermen developed sturdy canvas cones, with iron hoops at the mouth, for use when lying offshore in a storm. The sea anchors on the market today, most notably those designed and built by Dan Shewmon, are evolutions of the early canvass style. Relying on the conical shape to trap sea water,the anchor grips the water just under the surface and provides the drag needed to hold the bow of the boat to windward.

A traditional sea anchor needs to be quite large to hold the weight and windage of a larger, ocean sailing boat. It should be attached to the boat with a long length of anchor rode and, like the Gale Rider, should be fitted with at least one swivel to prevent the rode from kinking. The rode should be well protected from chafe.

An alternative to the traditional sea anchor is the para-anchor, which is a huge, lightweight sea anchor designed along the lines of a parachute. Para-anchors are sewn of heavy nylon fabric and reinforced with nylon webbing. The anchor is usually set from the bow, and like a sea anchor, should be fitted with swivels and plenty of chafing gear.

Deploying a sea anchor or para-anchor can be difficult, for it will be caught and tossed about by the wind and will take some time to open and fill once in the water. The rode should be played out long enough to place the anchor two wave crests to windward of you and should be adjusted to account for changes in the wave patterns.

The danger in lying to a sea anchor or para-anchor is sliding backwards as a breaking sea rolls under the bow of the boat. The hull slips back on the wave and the entire weight of the hull will fall onto the rudder. If the rudder turns as the boat goes astern, the pressure can easily bend the rudder post or shear off even the most robust pintels and gudgeons.

Experience will tell you quite quickly if the drift of the sea anchor and the size of the waves make lying to the anchor an unsafe proposition. In most seas and on most boats a sea anchor will be a useful storm tool. But it should be used with caution and a ready willingness to try another approach should backing on the rudder become a problem.

Lying Ahull: No storm tactic is more controversial than lying ahull. The technique is simply to douse all sail, batten down the boat and let it find its own natural position in the sea. The tiller is usually tied to leeward (wheel to windward) to help the boat keep her bow from falling off too far. The natural windage of the rig and the bow will normally force the bow away from the wind, while the rudder tends to force the bow back again.

Heavier cruising boats, with full keels will be extremely sluggish lying ahull and will tend to find a position approximately beam on to the seas. In this position, the boat will roll to each new wave, while moving ahead slowly and making a lot of leeway. It can be an uncomfortable angle, yet if the boat settles down, this can be a restful way to weather a storm.

In lighter boats, with little wetted surface and light, high buoyant ends, the bow will tend to fall of slightly beyond the beam reach to approximately 100 to 135 degrees from the wind. Waves will tend to break on the windward quarter and will shove the boat forward with each crest while also pivoting the bow slightly to windward.

In both types of boat, pressure of the waves and wind will be transformed first into the healing angle of the boat and second into leeway. In seas that are not breaking ferociously, lying ahull may be the simplest way to stop the boat while you rest.

However, the danger in lying ahull is the possibility of being rolled. As the boat makes leeway down the face of a breaking wave, the keel will tend to drag and the force of the wind will push the rig to leeward, increasing the boat's angle of heel. Should the wave break onto the boat, further rotating the keel to windward and the mast to leeward, you could face a complete roll over.

Other than being pitch poled, there is nothing more dangerous in a big sea than a roll over. The rig will be carried away. Deck gear, including the life raft may be swept off the boat. And, in modern, beamy cruisers, with low stability angles, there is the distinct possibility of remaining upside down as the boat stabilizes in an inverted position.

Lying ahull has it proponents. Yet, if the seas are large and breaking, you may be wise to chose another tactic for stopping the boat.

Heaving To Under Reduced Sail: Although not the simplest way to stop the boat in heavy weather, heaving to under reduced sail offers what many offshore sails consider the best compromise in winds up to 50 knots. The need to control the speed of the boat while at the same time keeping adequate steerage, makes many offshore sailors suspicious of either lying ahull or lying to a sea anchor. Heaving to under deeply reduced sail can achieve both ends.

Every different design will show unique behavior in strong winds. It is essential to try out the various methods in a fresh breeze when you can judge best how your boat will behave and what combination of sails will perform for you best.

In modern masthead sloops, of moderate to light displacement, the most common method of heaving to in heavy weather is under storm jib alone. To heave to, trim the storm jib to windward, force the bow off the wind and then tie the helm down to counteract the leeward force of the jib. The boat will seek a position approximately 60 degrees off the wind and will then proceed forward at one or two knots. The course will be erratic as the boat rides over large swells and falls off again in the gusts at the top of the wave. And, the boat will occasionally take a breaking wave on the forward windward quarter that will shove the hull to leeward. Your progress under the storm jib alone will be a diagonal vector at about 130 from the true direction of the wind, as you will be gong forward at about two knots and going sideways at about one knot.

If the boat does not want to lie under storm jib alone, if it tends to have too much lee helm and can not approach the wave on a close reaching angle, you will want to add a bit of sail areas aft. In a split rigged boat, a ketch or a yawl, a deep reefed mizzen may do the trick. Or, in a sloop, you can fly the storm trisail, sheeted very flat. When adding sail in strong winds, do so advisedly and with great care. The strain on deck gear may mitigate against adding sail, or the force of extreme gusts over 60 knots or more may dictate that you seek an alternate course of action. However, it is important to remember that carrying both a small main a trisail or a triple reefed mainsail with the storm jib will give additional support to the main mast and the standing rigging.

Another tactic for heaving to under reduced sail is under triple reefed main alone. In winds under 50 knots, you may find that the boat balances better without a storm jib and will jog along sedately with the helm lashed amidships or slightly to weather with just the reduced main flying. The sail should be sheeted as flat as possible, with the traveler to leeward and the vang cranked down. If you have an adjustable backstay you will want to crank it down to more than half of its tightest setting; but do not crank it all the way down. A small amount of flexibility and play in the rig can save it from a stress failure.

It is important when heaving to under the mainsail, triple reefed, to make certain that the sail is well tied down, that the halyard is strong enough to withstand the pumping it will receive from the sail, and that the main sheet and traveler are up to the job. You will have to monitor carefully the angle at which you lie to the wind and the stresses on the sail, the running rigging and the standing rigging to assess if the forces of the wind are too great for the sail configuration.

In split rigged boats, yawls and ketches, it is possible to heave to under storm jib and mizzen as described above. Yet, if the wind it too great for this combination, if the boat seems overpowered and labors in every gust, you may choose to drop the jib and heave to under a deeply reefed mizzen alone. The sail should be sheeted hard amidships with the tiller to windward (or wheel to leeward), where they will act together to keep the bow off the wind at about 40 to 50 degrees. If your angle to the wind is too close, if blue water is coming over the bow, sheet the mizzen to leeward with a second sheet and adjust the helm farther to windward to force the bow down.

Heaving to under reduced sail will require more sail handling and helm maintenance the other methods. Yet, with some scraps of sail flying, you will find that you are able to adjust your speed to suit the conditions and you will be able to hold steerage through even breaking seas. Finally, should you decide that the time has come to try a different course of action, you will have the maneuverability and the boat speed to change course.

George Day
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Old 07-10-2005, 08:09   #2
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this is interesting. in heaving to, "putting the helm down" presumably means lashing it to leeward ... but then the article refers to the need for "helm maintenance." I'd like to know a little bit about the latter.
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Old 07-10-2005, 08:55   #3
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Day concludes: “heaving to under reduced sail will require more sail handling and helm maintenance ...”; by which he means adjusting the balance between helm position (hard over - admidships) and sail combinations (as detailed above).
Normally, once a comfortable/safe motion is achieved (somewhere between 30 - 60 Deg off the wind), and leeway is moderated (to about 2 kts or less), no “maintenance or ajustment” is required, unless conditions change.
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Old 07-10-2005, 12:34   #4
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I dont see that lying to a para-anchor can be a form of heaving to. They are totally different activities.

lying ahull or heaving to are not really workable solutions for a multihull.

The para-anchor is a great system, but the size needs to be big enough to eradicate astern movement (in fact there are recorded incidences of achiving 2 knots to windward due to prevailing current!)

A parachute anchor is dificult to recover safely until the wind/seas have really abated.

There is no mention of the series drogue. This has the advantage that the boat is still making way through the water, so stresses on the boat are reduced. It also does not require the adjustment of line to get the line in the correct position astern. It does however require a stern that is not an invitation to damage from breaking waves.
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Old 07-10-2005, 13:02   #5
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While lying a-hull, or to a sea-anchor, are not technically the same - they are similar strategies, used in similar conditions. The author does offer separate explanations.
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Old 07-10-2005, 15:40   #6
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A Sea-Anchor is a safety device deployed from the bow of the vessel.

A Drogue is a safety device deployed from the stern of the vessel.
The Series drogue consists of a number of small cones woven into a tapered line with a small weight at the end. The maximum design load and the number of cones is determined by the displacement of the boat.

See “Jordan Series Drogues”
http://www.jordanseriesdrogue.com/

and

“Investigation of The Use of Drogues To Improve The Safety of Sailing Yachts”
Drogue Information - U.S.Coast Guard Report CG-D-20-87
http://www.sailrite.com/droguereport.htm
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Old 03-11-2005, 23:29   #7
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NO!!NO!!!NO!!Hell no!!!

This guy you are quoting seems to think that you have to lie with the bow to the wind and waves. This is suicidal with a significant sea running. At best, the boat will be thrown stern first into the trough possibly causing the rudder to be torn off. At worst, the boat would find itself cross ways to the seas and be rolled.

Case in point is Sartori, the Westsail 32 in 'The Perfect Storm.' They dragged a drogue off the bow and were getting beaten to hell and nearly rolled a number of times. The crew finally panicked and called for help. They cut the drogue and abandoned ship leaving the Westsail to fend for herself. She appears to have done just fine surviving the storm and sailing around for several months before finally ending up on a New Jersey Beach. She's back cruising. Unfortunately, I think a crewman from the rescue chopper disappeared in the effort to rescue the crew of the Sartori.

When things get bad, drag some form of speed brake from the STERN. Drogues, at least parachute type drogues are questionable in the ability to deploy in strong winds and their function once deployed. They may be too efficient at slowing the boat. They also may be near impossible to dump and/or recover except in virtually flat conditions.

The classic method is dragging warps, long loops of anchor line or other ropes possibly weighted with old tires or other junk. They are easily retrieved by letting one end of the line loose and hauling in the other end after the tire falls off. By dragging a couple of warps and combinations of tires, etc, you can control the amount of braking. This allows you to better meet the needs of the conditions.

Someone makes a drogue that consists of a long line of mini drogues. It's apparently been tested in the real world and found to be a good system. It works because the drag is spread out over several hundred to a thousand feet and more than one wave. Boats dragging this drogue system from the sterm have come through storms wihtout great trauma. At the same time and storm, a number of other boats either sank, were rolled or forced to be abandoned.

In ultimate survival conditions or as sea conditions change, running free before the wind and waves may become the best method. Unfortunately, that requires steering which isn't easy to do at night, in very high winds or with extreme fatigue.

Anyway, get it out of your head that you drag anything from the bow at any time. It ain't safe.

Aloha
Peter O.
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Old 04-11-2005, 10:45   #8
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Brakes

Quite a few folks suggest having the bow in to the wind and waves. I do not agree with this approach, however I have no first hand experience other than fishing with the brakes on. Some fishing vessells are a bit low in the stern so the brakes must be pulled in, and the boat is motored towards the waves. Motoring towards the waves I think is acceptable for power and sail until the waves get too big. But if the beach is behind you you do not have many options.
My concern with the drogue off the front, is simply the boat is travelling the wrong way, and it was not designed to do that. The rudder would be over stressed. It would be easy to regulate the speed going down wind with a combination of drogue sizes.
I have read two books on the Sidney Hobart storm of 1998.
One boat that lost a crew member while out of control, later dragged anchors and stuff and they were able to control the boat. Another boat talked about dragging drogues with the attachment point midships, so the the transom could rise and fall. I built my own drogues out of heavy material.
A lot of my experience in waves comes from surfing.
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Old 04-11-2005, 11:37   #9
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Peter, the drogue you are refering to is called the series Drogue. It is a line with small "cups" sown into the line. These cups open up and create drag on the line. To me, it's the best thing since sliced bread. There is only one major disadvantage, which I will come back to. But the big advantage is being able to feed out just enough to do the required job. It is infinitely variable in adjustment. And yes, it is design for deployment from the stern.
the disadvantage is storage. It really needs to be on a large drum that can be controlled. Once these things are trailed, they can not be held onto by human power. So to deploy and recover, the have to be spooled out off the drum. Some boats have this drum permanently fixed to the aft deck. Of course, this takes room and that's were the disadvantage comes in. The room on deck or in storage can make these difficult to have on board. Apart from that one thing, I don't believe there is a better system to deploy.
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Old 04-11-2005, 13:39   #10
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I'm not sure these Jordan drogues are as adjustable as you say. I have heard that any attempt to winch them in under pressure tends to tear up the individual flaps. Also, I'm not sure how these spool setups would work . You'd have to unroll what you needed, secure it off, and then launch it. I can't see the spool itself being strong enough to hold a drogue in a storm. I've never tried one, so this is just speculation.
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Old 04-11-2005, 15:27   #11
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The one I saw, was on a seriuose blue water crusier that had spent many years around the world with a family. They had a steel winch drum bolted on the stern and would pay out what they needed of the line. They had to winch in and out, there is no way anyone can take these sort of loads by hand. They had no issues apart from the space it took up on the aft deck.
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Old 05-11-2005, 06:40   #12
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Linking threads...

We probably should note here that another thread offers complimentary info re: drag devices such as the series drogue...

http://cruisersforum.com/showthread....&threadid=2566
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Old 05-11-2005, 16:20   #13
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Heaving-to in big wind and waves

Like man-overboard recovery drills you gotta practice heaving-to in order to get it right when you need to.

I admit that I followed a piece of advice from and old book lyn and Larry Pardey wrote. That advice is to spend some time carefully adjusting the backwinded headsail (with wheel hard over) by watching the surface of the water just to leeward. That way you can observe JUST when you get the forward (or stearnward, whichever the case may be) motion of the boat to zero.

When you stop the forward motion and over correct you will see from the surface of the water that you are slightly going backwards and must correct again. It is AMAZING how "all of a sudden" everything feels good. It doesn't matter that the waves are picking the boat up and slowly rolling over and back again because the motion is bearable. With being even slightly out of adjustment the discomfort of the motion quickly becomes nasty.

Once I was so tired having battled the wind and big seas in the gulf stream south of Florida (having come north from Belize) that I had to heave-to, took a hot shower and went to bed. Two hours later I was a new man and went back to sailing.
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Old 06-02-2010, 21:03   #14
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In case others don't come across this from so many years ago.
Good Stuff.

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Old 06-02-2010, 22:10   #15
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Had an interesting situation in Sept. 2006. 38ft catamaran, 30 NM South of Grand Cayman, 2 AM, Overcast, winds East 20, damaged and stowed main sail, full 120 % jib - tightly sheeted, making way North. Squall hit with winds solidly in the 50's, heavy rain, spray, zero visibility, lasted about 30 min. Boat immediately "weather vaned" almost dead downwind, helm had no response. We were essentially hove-to, stern to the wind, under full jib. (one sheet to the wind). Very stable motion making about 6 Kts. Wind dropped back to 20's, steering returned and we carried on like nothing happened. Rest of the crew never woke up.

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