On Friday morning we were not aware that our exam for a Yachtsman Certificate will be taking place in the afternoon. I was still battling with myself whatever to try it or not, but I am not a quitter, so even though it was a hard decision I knew I would try, there was no doubt about it. A month before we went to Poland I implemented a hard learning regime at our home driving Marcin mad with asking him to read the materials we were given at least once. At the end he just gave up and was spending some evenings on reading about Theory of Sailing and Meteorology, lying quite relaxed on our bed while I was trying not to lose my head over Yacht Construction and Sailing Regulations.
We were sailing again and the wind came back to help us more after escaping for the last two days. We were practising jibing, tackling, MOB (Man overboard), guessing the wind direction and positions of the boat. We were as well relaxing with another rather useful manoeuvre – Heaving. This is quite interesting technique which would help you if you were sailing alone and want to take a break, make some tea or simply just rest for a few minutes. Heaving allows you to stop the boat almost completely but you can keep your sails up. In other words – you are able to stop the boat and still maintain the control – you are locking the boat at a safe angle and letting it work with the wind and waves.
In order to make the boat to heave you need to make your mainsail and your headsail (in our case it was jib) to work against each other. Furthermore you have to lock your tiller so the rudder works with the mainsail while the jib is backwinded, attempting to turn the boat away from the wind – that way you can balance the boat and hold it steady in a position. Well, now, you do not need to hold a tiller anymore, you do not have to control your ropes and you can go and make that cup of coffee!
Like with every manoeuvre even in here you need to follow certain steps – first of all position your boat in a close-hauled point of sail and tightly trim your sails. Try to tack, but with a difference – unlike in tacking do not release your jibsheet! Now wind is playing trying to blow the bow further away. At that point you must push your tiller hard so your boat will face the wind – you have created a situation when your mainsail will try moving the boat toward the wind but the force left in your jib will try to push it away. Lock your tiller if you can and let your boat stay in this position, it will slowly drift away from the wind waging in a slalom and you just bought yourself a little bit of time to do whatever you need doing!
Of course, this manoeuvre should be tested on every boat individually as every boat acts differently and before you will put it into heave you should know it quite well to assess how it might act. Few factors can affect heaving – the length of the keel – the longer the keel the easier is to put the boat into heaving position, the larger the jib or mainsail, the harder the heaving could be (as the force of the wind will be stronger), if your jib is smaller, this will not help either – balancing the wind force is going to be more challenging! And this is why you should know your boat first and practice with weak, steady wind before attempting to do it seriously. Observe how your boat behaves after tacking and when you put the jib into the backwind position. Act when you notice your bow is trying to escape the wind by pushing your tiller in the opposite way. Reduce your jibsheet if necessary to avoid being put into a jibe manoeuvre and blow your bow completely off. In other words – just keep your eyes on the boat and practice as many times as you can, choosing different weather and the strength of the wind.
I loved heaving since it is the most instinctual manoeuvere from all we had learnt. I was quite good at doing it after a while, when I stopped thinking too much and started to observe a boat and my sails. And I think this made me love sailing even more – you must learn few things and how to do them, to understand, but later on you need to watch and act instinctively rather than with your head stack in the book.