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How Well Does a J29 Sailboat Heave-To?

In the 20+ years that I have owned my J29 Sailboat BlackJack, I have been out in really heavy wind only a handful of times.

In San Diego where I live, the average wind is 8-10 knots. Southern California isn’t particularly windy, and San Diego is the least windy part of SoCal.

So let’s face it. Us San Diego sailors are wimps. We hardly ever sail in heavy weather.

Outside of the bay on ocean races, I’ve sailed in constant 20+ knot winds. Those were under racing situations so we sailed just overpowered often. And J29 goes upwind in 20+ knots without reefing the main, especially with crew on the rail.

So I never hove-to on BlackJack, let alone reef. I know how to heave-to or reef – well, at least I think I do – but I haven’t done them in a long time. And never on BlackJack.

Since I’m sailing solo and contemplating some overnighters, I decided I should practice doing these things. It’s also a good idea to know how a J29 sailboat behaves while heaving-to. Some boats don’t behave well at all and can’t stay hove-to. If BlackJack is one of those boats, I should know.

So during one of my recent outings, I tried heaving-to.

Heaving-To On a J29 Sailboat

With full main and #3 jib, I was sailing in 10-12 knots with 2-3 ft swells. I slowed down the boat a little (we were sailing upwind at 6.7knots), then tacked over. I left the Jib as is so it got back-winded. Eased the main and lashed the tiller to the leeward rail.

I told myself, “see? nothing to it”. I was, however, a bit nervous as BlackJack took heave-to stance and started to go sideways. Would this work? Would BlackJack behave?

Heaving to on a J29 Sailboat
Heaving-to and eating lunch on J29 BlackJack out on the Pacific Ocean.

And as it turns out, a J29 sailboat does heave-to nicely. So we ate and relaxed. I even tried taking a nap.

When heaving-to, J29 sailboat does oscillate between 40-60 degrees or more to the wind. When the bow is down, the boat moves at almost 2 knots. When the bow is up, the boat slows down to less than half a knot. This averages out to a fair amount of speed. In fact, the speed was enough for the rudder to pick up kelp while heaving-to.

Since #3 jib is sheeted inboard of shrouds, there is little chafing of the jib sheet. The boat motion was nice and quiet despite 2-3ft swells. It was all good.

This oscillation of the bow in relation to the wind direction, though.

It would be a problem if BlackJack oscillated between bow up and bow down and accelerated/decelerated a lot more in stronger wind. It’s hard to know until I try for real in 20+ knots. What I am concerned about is whether the boat tries to tack on me while hove-to.

I guess I can go out and try it out when a winter storm comes to San Diego. That’s not for quite some time, however.

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