After some new periods of heaving to, I thought I would share my experiences with the group and repeat the stories that I have told to you—please be patient, it is not all old.
The first time was in Hurricane Mitch which had crossed Florida back into the Atlantic, become a hurricane again, and was moving a 30 mph. I had about two hours warning on my SSB (no satellite connections back then). I prepared two drogues at the stern and a huge sea anchor at the bow. The sea anchor was attached with 100 meters of big line, 20 meters of heavy chain, and another 100 meters of line. I had the drogues and the sea anchor in the cockpit ready to be deployed.
When the storm arrived, I didn’t use the drogues because some of the waves were breaking and turning around didn’t seem to be a good idea; and before deploying the sea anchor, I wanted to see how long I could heave to. I had about half the main out and a very small amount of jib, backed. I have a big eye bolt about 2 feet under the engine controls for tying the wheel. I used a heavy bungee that lets the wheel move some with the forces. I tied the wheel so that the boat would head into the wind somewhat until a big wave landed on it and pushed it more sideways, after which it would head up for the next wave. I had backed the jib because I was afraid the boat would tack through the wind. It never came close. The wind increased into the 60s and then the 70s. The boat just kept doing the same thing and never felt in danger. At some speed, the sails would have to have come down. I was amazed that I didn’t feel this with the winds in the 70s. The worst part was the noise. Ear plugs would have helped.
Since then I have hove to in much less wind using just the main. I have used this for repairs or for just a nice meal. I find it remarkable how the sea appears to be more calm and the motion decreased when hove to.
I had occasion to do a serious heaving to two weeks ago, on the way from Newport to Bermuda, I tried to race a storm across the Gulf Stream. The storm won. I hove to when the wind was in the thirties. The wind increased into the forties and sometimes into the fifties. I hove to under about half the main and the wheel tied with a very heavy bungee so that the boat would head up at about 2+ knots to about 40 degrees and then fall off to about 60-70 degrees and then head up again. We averaged about 2 k forward speed. As soon as I hove to, the commotion, the crashing into and off waves, and the waves washing over the boat simply stopped. Nothing landed in the cockpit. The wind direction slowly changed and after 4-5 hours, I was able to add a little jib and sail out of the GS. I think that the forereaching protects the rudder. If the boat were to be thrown backwards by a wave, the forces on the rudder would be very great.
That is my experience. There is no “right way” to heave to. I strongly recommend that everyone contemplating going off shore spend some time experimenting with different amounts of sail and rudder angles. There will be some combination that feels best to you and to the boat.
s/y Ladybug, sm 216, resting at the dock at Le Marin, Martinique