E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Under the lee of the land. Under the shelter of the cliffs which break the force of the winds. (Anglo-Saxon, hleo, a shelter.)
Under the lee of a ship. On the side
opposite to the wind, so that the ship shelters or wards it off.
To lay a ship by the lee, or, in modern nautical phraseology, to heave-to, is to arrange the sails of a ship so that they may lie flat against the masts and shrouds, that the wind may strike the vessel broadside so that she will make little or no headway.