Basic Heaving-To in a Sailboat

Basic Heaving To a Sailboat 1) Preparation 2) Maneuver 3) Balancing, Basic Heaving-To in a Sailboat

Basic Heaving To a Sailboat 1) Preparation 2) Maneuver 3) Balancing


Helmsman/Helmsperson gives the command: “Prepare to heave to.” This gives the crew a chance to get ready and set up for the maneuver. Trim main and jib sheets. Helmsman puts the tiller toward the mainsail, (windward side) and gives the command: “Heave-to.” This notifies the crew that the boat is being turned. Or, helmsman turns the wheel away from the mainsail.

“Ready to heave to?” • “Prepare to heave to!” • “Ready to heave to?” • “Prepare to heave to!” You can choose what you want to say, but it is recommended that you don’t stray too far from those phrases listed above. Crew looks 360° around the boat, get ready to heave to, and says, “Ready!”

What do I prefer? “Ready to Heave to,” “Ready,” “Heaving to.” Simple challenge and response; no chance for miscommunication.


  1. Helmsperson decides to heave to, must communicate action to crew
  2. Helmsperson says, “Ready to Heave to,” indicates next position of sail and direction
  3. Crew gets main and jib sheets ready; this action varies by boat
  4. Crew says, “Ready”
  5. Helmsperson checks that crew are truly ready
  6. Helmsperson initiates a slow, smooth turn through wind, spill off speed in irons
  7. Helmsperson allows boat to coast through wind, avoids oversteering
  8. Boat runs upwind then downwind, loses speed, helmsperson readies to shift sides
  9. Crew does not release jib sheet as jib moves across the foredeck – backwind jib
  10. Helmsperson steadies boat – as needed; boats are different
  11. Crew sheets in or out on main and jib to assist balancing the boat off the wind
  12. Helmsperson lashes the tiller to lee, or a wheel to windward


What is heaving to? How do you know when to heave to a sailboat?
What do you say when you heave to? What is the difference between tacking and heaving to?

Why/when would you backwind the jib? How do you balance the main? The jib?
What is the benefit of “challenge and command” over “command?”

What part of the boat passes through the wind when you heave to?

Which sail turns the sailboat into the wind? Away from the wind?
Loosen/tighten which sails if you experience weather helm? And for lee helm? 

Basic Heaving To a Sailboat 1) Preparation 2) Maneuver 3) Balancing, Basic Heaving-To in a Sailboat

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