Lisa Blair is attempting to become the first woman to circumnavigate Australia solo, non-stop and unassisted. After sailing up the east coast from Sydney, through the Torres Strait and dwon the west coast, she is now off Cape Leeuwin and about to enter the Great Australian Bight. This is her latest blog:
Well, again the conditions have been trying my patience with the light winds one second and the high winds the next. The times that the winds are high or low are never long enough for me to decide to shake a reef out but it doesn't stop me from thinking about it every time. So most of my time of late is wondering if I need to reduce sail as the boat is on a hard lean or if I should put the effort into shaking out a reef only to have to put it back in again a short time later. It is always a bit of a dilemma because you don't want to push the boat too hard and break a sail and I also don't want to just wallow and travel at 3 knots waiting for the next gust to arrive.
When I am considering the higher winds that are nearing the 30 knots range I look at what's happening to the autopilot. Is the boat rounding up to the wind a lot or just occasionally and is the autopilot coping okay. More often than not I would still go on deck and end up easing the traveller down until part of the mainsail is not really working and once that happens Climate Action Now normally can take the temporary hit. Normally a few minutes after I have done this and de-powered the boat the winds will ease and I will be once again back to sailing in 16 knots of wind and wallowing.
When this happens I apply the 'cup of tea' rule. I have two main rules that I follow with sails on a boat. One is when considering higher winds and is 'if I am thinking about reefing then I need to reef' and the other is when the winds are light and I am keen to sail full throttle but I don't wish to waste my energy I apply the 'Cup of Tea' Rule. This is when I apply the time it would take to brewing the kettle, pouring the water and drinking a hot cup of tea (normally 20-30 min) to wait and see what the conditions are doing. If the winds haven't changed and I really am underpowered than I would shake a reef but quite often the lulls are short and the winds would be back up again. For me being a solo sailor I feel that it is important to always try to be as rested as possible so I try to avoid shaking reefs only to put them back in an hour later. It takes me 20 minutes to shake a reef and sucks a fair amount of energy out so I don't wish to do them needlessly.
However, with the conditions being a constant high or low as far as winds go at the moment, I am feeling that my 'cup of tea' rule doesn't apply here. It also has meant that I have spent most of last night playing roulette with the weather and trying my best to find a happy medium but it was still well after 2 am by the time I got to my bunk last night so I was a little slow out of bed this morning. But on the bright side, the weather is now cool enough to have porridge for breakfast and porridge is one of my favourite meals.
I am now only 25nm until I am clear of the bottom of Australia, however, I still need to travel 100nm to the east to clear Cape Leeuwin. Tomorrow there will be a large area of light winds off the cape so I have tried to go wide to avoid getting trapped in it but I am sure that the winds will ease a touch. There is also a rather nasty Low-pressure system passing below me and I am hoping that after that I can have a good run to Tasmania following the wind and swell and take back some of the time lost to the light winds at the top of Australia and to the headwinds of the west. I really haven't had the most success with the weather this trip but I guess the seasons are changing and the weather is becoming less predicable.