Use a bridle
Have you been in an anchorage where the wind keeps the boat at odds with the waves, rolling your boat from side to side, making you uncomfortable and nauseated? Some people deploy flopper stoppers on each side to slow down this motion, but you have to store them somewhere, and they take quite a bit of effort to deploy.
It’s much easier to use a bridle and turn the boat into the waves instead of into the wind. Use a line about twice as long as the boat. Take one end of the line and attach it to the anchor line or chain with a rolling hitch just ahead of the bow.
Then let out the anchor line or chain about the length of the boat with the attached rolling hitch line. Take the other end of the line and run it outside of the boat to the jib winch.
Use the winch on the side of the boat opposite of where the waves are hitting. Winch in the line to pull the stern around so the bow moves into the waves and stops the side-to-side rolling. You can make adjustments by letting the anchor line in or out and winching in or out, allowing you to eat or sleep in comfort.
Heaving to allows you to “park” the boat in bad weather or unpleasant seas. You’ll still get boat motion but in more comfortable conditions.
Heaving to is handy for fixing lunch, resting, reefing a main or waiting for daylight to enter an unknown harbor. It’s also a good storm tactic for gale-force winds and above.
To start heaving to, head into the wind and tack, bringing the jib in tight before the tack. Leave the jib on the windward side after the tack to backwind the main sail. (See illustration.) Adjust the rudder to keep the boat going into the wind.
Let out the main sail to leeward. You may have to tie off the tiller or wheel to keep the boat turned to windward, and you may have to adjust the sails depending on the wind and sea conditions.
Your boat’s keel type affects how it behaves, so practice this beforehand and experiment to find the best results.
The idea is to eliminate the boat’s forward motion. The rudder wants the boat to go to windward, and the jib forces the bow back to leeward.
Some boats heave to without a jib or even with a storm trysail instead of a main or reefed main. The boat should be headed into the wind from about 45 to 60 degrees to the wind. In storms, the boat will move directly to leeward and create a slick in the water, which prevents breaking waves from rolling the boat to leeward. This tactic works on daysailers waiting a long time to start a race and on big boats in open water. –Jerry LeCocq
This article first appeared in Boulder Beacon, the newsletter of Boulder Valley Sail & Power Squadron/30.