The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

When Heaving-To Is Dangerous


The key to heaving-to safely is keeping the boat directly downwind of the slick created to windward by her own drift to leeward. I can’t overemphasize how important this is. If a heaved-to boat forereaches fast enough to get out from behind the slick, heaving-to can actually become more dangerous than continuing to sail, because it is the slick that causes waves to break before they reach the boat. So getting ahead of the slick will result in waves breaking over the boat.

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Hi John,
when you decide that heaving-to is dangerous, how would you move singlehandling from a hove-to situation to deploy the Jordan serires drogue ?. You are with the main up and have to move to running downwind. If your lower the main first, the wind gets the control of the boat during a dangerous time, but if you turn first you can reach dangerous speed downwind with the sail up, and have difficulties to lower it afterward.
Thanks you

Jim Evans

Time to run off, by the sound of it.


This sounds like a really stupid question; but if fore reaching too fast endangers the boat while hove-to, why not start the engine and slow reverse until the boat is making only .5-1knot forward motion? Perhaps keep an eye on the wind speed; and if it increases, just increase the rpms; and if the wind decreases, slow it down? Since there are no lines in the water, there is nothing to foul. Sounds safer; more flexible and easier than using the JSR et al. The Pardeys had no engine to use for this potential solution!!


Hi Jim,
using the engine to remain stationary would require you to constantly monitor revs, which means one person must be at the helm at all times, in a situation where everyone would be better below and all hatches closed.
The more, giving slow reverse applies propwalk, one more force you have to deal with.
And finally, why would you want to waste limited resources (diesel) for hours, something that might be dearly missed later on? You can always check and correct forereaching by adjusting the sails (mostly main) and rudder position, and finally use a parachute as the Pardeys did very successfully.


Well, as a technique to use in your bag of tricks, how about the idea of using slow reverse rpms from the moment you first hove-to as an aid to get the boat settled down into proper position; 50 degrees off wind .5 to 1knots. Most likely, the boat is in a semi-dangerous state when deciding to hove to and fore reaching can endanger the boat further by running ahead of the slick to windward; so the skipper needs a fast solution to settle the boat down. Experiment putting the engine into neutral and see if the boat maintains proper attitude, if not, use reverse, adjust the sails and try again in neutral.

Prop walk can be your friend; if wind is from starboard and the prop walk is stern-to-port; but even if not, I’m thinking the prop walk in low rpms is minimal in the big scheme of things. After all, we’re just trying to take 1knot or so off forward momentum; not requiring huge rpms.

A concern of mine is that although this technique is solving the problem of moving ahead of the slick and facing breaking waves to the bow, the problem in fore reaching is that the boat’s bow is pointed too much off wind and not stalled into the wind. The boat needs to be stalled and pointing into the wind more. So, although i,m solving the boat’s momentum problem, the boat is broadside too much. Solve one problem and causing another.

Still, though i’m thinking the boat should be protected inside its slick even though the bow is pointed too much downwind?? The primary goal is to stay inside the slick and thus protected from breaking waves; and slow reverse could assist in the short term while settling the boat’s sails & rudder positions.

So, maybe its not a good long term strategy but good in the short term?? Anyone try it? Thoughts?

Thanks, Jim

Dick Stevenson

Hi Jim,
There are other reasons that this creative idea might not appeal, but I would be nervous about picking up a net or line in the prop at a time when going overboard to clear would not appeal.
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy