That Heeling Feeling

s/y Charlotte, Hanse 388, heeling

One slightly frustrating part of sailing– at least with monohulls!– is when the boat is deeply tilted over to one side or the other. It looks cool in pictures (“oh wow, look at them going, wind in the hair, smiles on their faces!”), but real life aboard a heeling boat isn’t always very heavenly.

To expand on that in a few words: on a heeling boat, it’s harder and more dangerous to move around, both outside and inside, it’s’ easier to get seasick, it’s sometimes really hard to use the toilet (head), it’s hard (and sometimes a bit dangerous) to cook food. And so on and so on.

The couple of times some of the children got seasick, for instance, the boat was heeled over and bouncing on the waves. And as soon as the heeling stopped, they started to feel better.

It’s not that easily explained, of course, but heeling does have a significant effect on a lot of things, both physical and mental.

For the children, I think it all stems from the quite natural fear that “the boat will tip over”. Happily, I know it actually won’t, and I imagine the children will learn to trust that as well.

The Data

So, for how much of our trip were we actually sailing with a leaning sailboat? And how much was it leaning?

Our cool onboard artificial intelligence processor (I call her “Charlotte” as well!) dug up the answers to those questions, and a few others as well, so without further ado:

1. Total Sailing Time

What was our total sailing time?

It’s a common saying that “you will spend 90% of your sailing at anchor”, so let’s see how universal a truth this really is.

We spent a total of 6.6 weeks (42 days) aboard the boat. During that time we were going somewhere (by engine or sails, or both) for 244 hours. So, during our first season, we spent 76% “at anchor” and 24% on the move.


(No, sorry, wrong television show :))

2. How Much Upwind Sailing?

A pearl of wisdom I’ve frequently shared with others is that “in Finland, no matter where you’re going, it’s always upwind!”.

Let’s see what the numbers say.

Hours of sailing in each true wind angle sector. (If you look carefully, you notice that the hours don’t add up to 244. This is because our wind sensor was broken for that last month or so of our first season.)

About 15% of our sailing (likely by motor) was at true wind angles less than 40 degrees. 11% was between upwind angles 40-55. Adding these together, we end up with the fact that only 26% of the time out there, we were heading to some destination upwind of us.

So, “myth busted” for this one, as well! We weren’t going upwind all the time, just about one quarter of the time!

As for the other wind angles, we had perfect reaching conditions (55-135) for 42% of the time and running angles for the remaining 32%.

Not bad!

3. How Much Heeling?

Returning to the heeling issue, here’s the data.

A visualization to communicate the heeling feeling.

To my surprise, 65% of all our sailing, we weren’t really heeling at all! Most of the motoring goes into this category, but, and a bit surprisingly, also a lot of the sailing.

On the other end of the spectrum, we were heeled more than 20 degrees for about seven hours, or about 3% of the total time. To focus on the family of family sailing, the less we do this, the easier. I don’t think the performance of the boat is really great, either, with too much heeling. (On the other hand, I haven’t really figured out what “too much” is, if you’re looking only for performance. Well, we’re not.)

In between, about equally 16% for modest 5-10 degrees as well as slightly less modest 10-20 degrees of heel.


As a curiosity, I included two pictures from Hanse’s own marketing material.

As far as heeling goes, and having small first-time children sailors aboard, the picture on the left is getting into the uncomfortable zone.

The picture on the right, however, seems like perfect fun, so more of that! 🙂

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