Ship Trivia: Heave To

I recently did a reading at CopperCon, and selected a chapter from one of the Gbahn and Archipelago novels that featured the phrase “heave to.” The past tense is “hove to.” I love saying “hove to.” At the risk of failing to kill my darlings, I think I put some of these phrases in mostly because they’re cool.

Okay, so what does “heave to” mean?

It’s a way to slow down when you don’t have brakes. If the wind is blowing in your sails, you’re going forward, and if the wind is really strong you can go dangerously fast. So you try to slow your motion by adjusting the sails and turning so that you’re not blown along so badly. Check the Wikipedia article if you want more details (and a lot more sea terminology).

Heave/hove can be used in many more contexts, as seen in the Canadian folk song Barrett’s Privateers, about a British warship trying to interfere with American shipping during the Revolution:

On the 96th day we sailed again,
When a bloody great Yankee hove in sight
With our cracked four-pounders we made to fight

And yes, I’m including that because it’s cool.

Sea stories with a fantasy theme: the Gbahn and Archipelago novels. Now available in ebook format or trade paperback, and follow the link for free fiction to sample.


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