Heaving to: A best practice in heavy wheater sailing

Before heading out in heavy weather, it’s important to make sure your boat is properly equipped and prepared. Here are some key steps to take:

  1. Reduce sail area: Reduce the size of your sails to reduce the load on the rig and make the boat more stable. Consider using a storm sail or reefing the mainsail.
  2. Check the rigging: Check all rigging, including shrouds, stays, and halyards, for signs of wear and damage. Tighten all turnbuckles to ensure the rig is properly tensioned.
  3. Secure loose gear: Secure all loose gear. This includes sheets, lines, and other equipment, to prevent them from flying around in heavy wind and waves.
  4. Check the bilge pump: Make sure your bilge pump is in good working order. Heavy weather can cause water to enter the boat.
  5. Wear appropriate gear: Make sure you and your crew are wearing appropriate clothing, including foul weather gear, PFDs, and other safety equipment.
  6. Exercise heavy wheater maneuvers like e.g. heaving to.

Techniques for Sailing in Heavy Weather

Once you’ve prepared your boat, it’s time to head out into heavy weather. Here are some key techniques to keep in mind:

  1. Keep the boat on a broad reach: Keep the boat on a broad reach. With the wind coming over the stern, you can reduce the load on the rig and prevent capsizing.
  2. Use a drogue or sea anchor: Consider using a drogue or sea anchor to slow the boat down and keep it stable in heavy waves.
  3. Use a preventer: Use a preventer to prevent the boom from swinging across the boat and causing damage or injury.
  4. Be prepared to heave-to: Heaving-to can be a useful technique in heavy weather, as it allows the boat to maintain its position and ride out the storm.
  5. Practice good seamanship: Good seamanship is essential in heavy weather. Keep a lookout for other boats and avoid collisions, use proper navigation techniques, and communicate effectively with your crew.

Heaving-to is a technique used by sailors to maintain position and ride out heavy weather. It involves setting the sails and rudder in a way that balances the boat and reduces the load on the rig. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about heaving-to, including techniques, safety considerations, and more. As it is known as a best practice to bring the boat to a stable position, we want to discuss it further:

Techniques for Heaving to

Here are the basic steps for heaving to:

  1. Head up: Head up into the wind until the boat comes to a stop.
  2. Back the jib: Back the jib by turning the helm to leeward and pulling the jib sheet in tight. This will cause the jib to fill on the opposite side of the boat and act as a brake, slowing the boat down.
  3. Set the mainsail: Set the mainsail to leeward, using the main sheet to adjust the sail’s position. This will keep the boat from drifting too far to windward.
  4. Adjust the rudder: Adjust the rudder to steer the boat into the wind and maintain a balanced position.
  5. Monitor the boat: Monitor the boat’s position and adjust the sails and rudder as necessary to maintain a stable position.

Safety Considerations in a situation where it is necessary to make use of heaving to

Heaving to can be a useful technique in heavy weather, but it’s important to prioritize safety at all times. Here are some key safety considerations:

  1. Maintain a proper lookout: Keep a proper lookout for other boats, hazards, and changing weather conditions.
  2. Stay inside the boat: Keep all crew members inside the boat. This is in order to avoid falling overboard and being injured by heavy waves.
  3. Be prepared to adjust: Be prepared to adjust the sails and rudder as necessary to maintain a stable position, and communicate effectively with your crew.
  4. Monitor the weather: Keep a close eye on weather conditions and be prepared to take other action if conditions worsen.
  5. Practice good seamanship: Good seamanship is essential in heaving-to, including using proper navigation techniques and communicating effectively with your crew.


Sailing in heavy weather can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it requires careful preparation and execution. By following these tips and techniques, and prioritizing safety at all times, you can become a skilled heavy weather sailor and enjoy the thrill of sailing in challenging conditions. With practice and experience, you can become a confident and capable sailor in any weather.

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