How to Heave To: The Ultimate Guide.


To heave to, turn the boat into the wind and lock the helm. To prevent the boat from heading downwind, backwind the jib or mizzen.

Heaving to is a useful technique for a variety of situations, including taking a break, waiting for other boats in a convoy, or managing heavy seas. It’s also helpful in reefing or shifting sails, changing fuel or crew, or performing a quick repair.

The boat stays almost stationary with little or no steering required, giving the crew more time to focus on necessary tasks. Ultimately, heaving to provides a stable platform for the crew to complete necessary tasks and take a break in challenging conditions.

How to Heave To: The Ultimate Guide.


Benefits Of Heaving To

Heaving to is a nautical technique that allows sailors to pause their sailboat’s progress without anchoring. This maneuver is especially useful in adverse weather or when the crew needs to take a break. In this section, we’ll discuss the benefits of heaving to.


One of the most significant advantages of heaving to is safety. When the weather deteriorates or the boat’s position becomes uncertain, heaving to can help to protect against harm. Here are the key points:

  • The boat’s forward movement is stopped, creating a stable platform with minimal steering input.
  • When the wind shifts or the waves change direction, heaving to provides more control and stability, reducing the risk of capsizing, broaching, or other accidents.
  • It helps the crew to manage emergencies better, such as fixing a broken sail or performing first aid.

Rest And Recovery

Heaving to provides sailors with the opportunity to rest and recover, especially useful during long journeys. Here are the benefits:

  • Heaving to gives sailors a break from the constant motion of the waves, giving them the chance to eat, sleep, or carry out maintenance.
  • It allows the crew to focus on their wellbeing, staying hydrated, and caring for seasickness.
  • It also enables the boat to carry on in unfavorable conditions without exhausting the crew.

Bad Weather Avoidance

Heaving to is an excellent way to avoid adverse weather conditions. Here’s how:

  • When weather conditions worsen, sailors can heave to, which is far safer than continuing under sail.
  • Heaving to allows sailors to stay within range of their goals while waiting for more favorable weather conditions.
  • It also provides an excellent way to avoid hazards, such as rocks or sandbars, while waiting for a pilot or daylight.

Heaving to provides sailors with several benefits, including safety, rest and recovery, and bad weather avoidance. Knowing how to heave to is a useful skill to have as a sailor and can make all the difference in challenging conditions.

The Process Of Heaving To

Heaving to is a useful sailing technique that allows a sailor to stop the forward movement of the boat safely. This is an important skill to learn as it can allow you to maintain better control during stormy weather or when you need to attend to something on board.

The process of heaving to involves several steps that must be followed carefully. In this section, we will take a closer look at the steps required to heave to.

Reducing Sail

Before you start to heave to, it’s important to reduce sail on the boat. This means that you need to lower the mainsail and the jib or genoa to create less wind resistance. The idea here is to create a balanced and stable boat that will maintain progress while not moving too fast.

Here are the key points to consider:

  • Start by furling the jib or genoa and securing it to the boat.
  • Next, lower the mainsail while keeping the boom tight and secure.

Positioning The Helm

Once sail has been reduced, the next step is to position the helm. This is important as it will affect the way the boat behaves and help control its movement. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Turn the boat into the wind so that the mainsail starts to luff.
  • Keep the rudder slightly to leeward (away from the wind) to maintain the boat’s forward momentum.
  • This is where the boat should start to slow down and point upwards into the wind.

Putting Out A Drogue

Once you have positioned the helm, you can put out a drogue. A drogue is a device that creates drag in the water and helps to keep the boat facing into the wind. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Tie a drogue onto the end of a long line.
  • Throw the drogue into the water and allow it to create drag on the boat.
  • The boat will start to drift downwind, and the drogue will keep it facing into the wind.


The final step of the process of heaving to involves fine-tuning the boat’s position and behavior. This can be done through a combination of adjusting the sails and rudder as necessary. Here are the key points:

  • Adjust the boom and sails so that they are aligned to the wind direction.
  • Use the rudder to adjust the boat’s heading and maintain its position.
  • Keep an eye on the drogue to ensure that it is continuing to create the necessary drag.

Overall, the process of heaving to involves reducing sail, positioning the helm, putting out a drogue, and fine-tuning the boat’s position. By following these steps, you can safely slow down and control your boat’s movement during challenging weather conditions.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

How To Heave To: The Ultimate Guide

Heaving to is an essential sailing maneuver that allows the boat to maintain its position during rough weather or while waiting for daylight. However, even experienced sailors can make some common mistakes that can be avoided with proper preparation. We will highlight a few of these issues to help you perform a successful heave-to maneuver.

Not Reducing Sail Enough

One of the most common mistakes is not reducing sail enough before attempting to heave to. If you don’t take this crucial step, you may find that your boat is uncontrollable, and you’ll be unable to heave to. To avoid this, we recommend reducing your sail area by about 50% before you begin the process.

Here are a few key points to consider:

  • Reduce the mainsail to the first reef point and furl the jib or genoa halfway.
  • If the wind is too strong, consider dropping the mainsail altogether and using only the jib.

Using The Wrong Type Of Drogue

A drogue is a critical piece of equipment that helps stabilize your boat during the heave-to process. However, choosing the wrong drogue type can lead to undesirable results. A few tips to consider while choosing the drogue for heaving to are:

  • Use a drogue that can handle the load, given the wind and sea conditions.
  • Choose a drogue that suits your boat type and size.
  • Avoid using anchor-type drogues as they might bring your boat to an undesired position.

Over-Complicating The Process

Another common mistake that sailors make is over-complicating the heave-to process. This can make the maneuver difficult and confusing, leading to frustration and possibly an even more dangerous situation. Here are a few key points to consider:

  • Start with the simplest heave-to method.
  • Select an appropriate spot with ample room to maneuver.
  • Use clear communication with your crew.

Following these tips will make the heave-to process straightforward, safe, and stress-free.

Heaving to can be a lifesaver when out on the open seas. However, it requires proper preparation, attention to detail, and practice for it to be executed effectively. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that your heave-to maneuver is successful, allowing you to stay safe and in control during rough weather conditions.

Advanced Tips And Techniques

When heaving to, it’s essential to use the right tactics to ensure the safety of your vessel and crew. In heavy weather conditions, the following advanced techniques and adjustments can help you heave to successfully:

Heavy Weather Tactics

  • Use smaller headsails or reefed mainsails to reduce the load on the rig and decrease boat speed.
  • Balance the helm and sails to create a more stable and controlled hove-to position.
  • Change your boat’s angle to the wind by adjusting the sail plan. The goal is to ‘balance’ the boat to reduce the boat’s tendency to roll and pitch. Sails are adjusted aft or fore via rigging tension, downhaul and outhaul, and kicker tension, depending on the yacht type.
  • Change your rudder position to minimize the amount of steering. Finding the right helm balance can minimize the amount of effort the boat must make to maintain its position in the wind and waves.

Using A Sea Anchor

  • Deploy a sea anchor to reduce the boat’s tendency to drift. A sea anchor is a drag device that is tethered forward of the boat and positioned to slow the boat’s progress through the water. The anchor helps stabilize the boat, relieving the strain on the crew while reducing drift.
  • Secure your boat from drifting in one direction, allowing you to maintain a heave-to position more efficiently.

Making Adjustments For Different Types Of Boats

  • It’s essential to keep the type of boat in mind when heaving your boat to.the type of vessel, including its displacement, keel type, and rig, plays a significant role in how the boat will behave in heavy weather situations.
  • Make sure to take the above variables into account and heave-to best as per the boat’s design.

Remember, each boat has its unique character, and changes to the sail plan, helm position, and other adjustments may vary from one vessel to the next. Practice and experience, along with careful observation of wind and wave patterns, will help you to perfect your heaving-to technique.

Frequently Asked Questions For How To Heave To

What Is Heaving To In Sailing?

Heaving to is a technique used in sailing to stop or slow a boat’s progress. It involves setting the sails and rudder in a specific way to create a balance between the forces of wind and waves.

When Should You Heave To In Sailing?

You should heave to in sailing when you need to take a break, wait for daylight, or attend to a problem on the boat. It is a useful skill for dealing with strong winds, heavy seas, or emergencies.

How Do You Execute A Heave To Maneuver?

To execute a heave to maneuver, turn the boat into the wind, luff the sails until they flap, and then lock the helm in place. Adjust the sails and rudder until the boat is balanced and drifting slowly. Keep a watch for any other boats or hazards.

Is It Safe To Heave To In Stormy Weather?

Heaving to can be a safe and effective way to ride out a storm, as it reduces the boat’s speed and prevents it from drifting off course. However, it depends on the size and strength of the storm and the capacity of your boat.

Assess the situation carefully and take appropriate action.

How Long Can You Heave To In Sailing?

You can heave to in sailing for as long as necessary, depending on the circumstances. If you need to take a break, wait for daylight, or attend to a problem on board, you can heave to for several hours or even overnight.

However, it is important to monitor the boat’s location and keep a watch for any changes in the weather or sea conditions.


Heaving to may not be the easiest sailing manoeuvre to perform, but it is certainly a skill worth mastering. Being able to heave to can provide sailors with a safe and comfortable way to weather a storm or take a break from the helm.

Remember to plan ahead, maintain communication with your crew, and use the correct sail configuration to achieve the right balance for heaving to. Practicing heaving to in various weather conditions and with different boats can ultimately make you a more confident and competent sailor.

With these tips, you will have the knowledge and tools to heave to like a pro. By mastering this sailing technique, you can stay in control and keep yourself and your crew safe on the water. Happy sailing!

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