Helms A Lee

What does Helms A Lee mean?

If you love sailing and you travel a lot by boat you might have heard Helms A Lee. It’s a tacking call out like below-

Ready about? (from the helm)

Ready. (from the crew)

Helm’s a lee! (from the helm)

Helms A Lee is a phrase used by the helmsman to signal to the crew that he has begun to tack. Helms A Lee is a call given during sailing. Tacking is another phrase for the same thing. 

How Helms A Lee is used on the sea

Helms A Lee is a nautical term and it’s used by the captain generally. When he is about to tack he gives out this call. It alerts guests on board that the ship is approaching the wind and that the helm (rudder) has been moved to the leeward side in order to perform a turn. When they say the Helms A Lee and the crew begins tacking, they’re turning up into the wind to get the bow through it, so the helm is turning them to windward. If you hear this call while traveling as a guest, keep your head down since the boom will shortly swing over the deck. While tacking, no man overboard drills are welcomed.

The history of helms a lee

Nobody knows how and when people started using these commands like Helms A Lee. Helms A Lee, or literally, the rudder is in the lock position on the boat’s lee side. Whoever is at the helm offers that rudder position alert to notify that the boat will begin to turn in the lee direction.

The term “lee” simply refers to the side of the boat from which the wind exits. Surprisingly, the term “lee” was hijacked from English agriculture and referred to a field that had been purposefully left barren.

Different usable commands like Helms A Lee

There are many different commands like Helms A Lee. It varies from ship to ship and captain to captain. Normally Helms A Lee, Lee Ho, Jibe Ho, Tacking, Jibing, Hard A Lee etc are used. Anything is valid as long as everyone is aware of the calls.

Is helms a lee the same thing as hard a lee?

Yes they are the same. Both calls are used during taking. Hard A Lee means the position of the tiller when the rudder is pushed firmly to windward. Also, the sequence in which the tiller was placed in this position.