On Monday February 21, Australian sailor Lisa Blair set sail from Albany, WA in a second attempt to sail solo, non-stop, around Antarctica in record time aboard her yacht ‘Climate Action Now’.
In her latest blog post, Blair continues to battle with a technology issue, she braves the cold to undertake some much needed boom repairs and has a visit from some friendly dolphins.
Blog day 51
Latitude 50 47.76S
Longitude 37 18.42W
Air Temp 8c
Well what a long 24 hours I have had. I ended up having a lot of trouble trying to send back yesterday’s blog and get the videos and photos online. I worked out that there is a fault with my primary satellite system, and it is not reading the antenna correctly. I trouble shouted it for several hours and was eventually able to just get the blog back, but the videos and photos will need to wait until I can work out the problem and get it working correctly.
After trying everything that I could think off I decided I needed to get on with the other jobs around the boat and wait for Australia to wake up so that I can get tech support on to it. I was conscious that there was a storm on its way and I had many jobs to get done.
I forwent sleep, and instead went on deck to check that the nut that I had (my only spare from the wind generators and the only half-inch nut on the boat) would fit the spindle of the steering wheel shaft. Success, it did, so after some measurements I went back below with the intention of creating a key to locate the helm to the shaft.
If you remember, on the shaft that the wheel slots on to there is a groove for a small piece of metal to sit in, on the inside of the helm there is a grove cut out and the idea is that piece of metal locates the two together. This is called a key. Well, when my helm felt off, I lost the nut and key overboard, so I need to make one.
Using pliers, vice-grips, and a hammer I took one of the small stainless steel split pins and mashed it into something that might work. I went back on deck, but my estimation of the depth of the groove and available space was grossly oversized, and my new mashed key didn’t fit. I think I can find a work around, but it was going to take more time than I had today, as it was already 11am by this time.
There were other jobs that needed to take precedent over this while I still had calm weather. The first one was to run a new jackstay on the starboard side. This is a piece of webbing line that we run the length of the decks and is what we clip on to, to remain attached to the boat while allowing me the ability to move from one side of the boat to the other. I have the Wichard Pacific Jackstays. They are the best for the types of sailing I do, but in the last storm my starboard side was cut through on a section of my traveller track that I didn’t realise was so sharp.
So, before this next storm, I went to the bow using the port side Jackstay and removed the broken one and replaced it with one of my older ones that I had kept as a spare.
Once that was done, I could see that the conditions were starting to change. We were still in this really heavy fog, so dense that I couldn’t see more than 100 meters from the boat all around, but I could see a new swell starting to form from the NE. A short 1–2-metre wave which heralded the next storm, and the winds were now getting up to 15 – 20 knots. I needed to look at shortening sail soon.
I had another job that I have been putting off, that was up on deck near the mast. I gathered some tools and went back to the rigging. On both sides of my boom, I have this large aluminium railing that runs around. Its designed to help catch the sail when you lower it, but it also is an effective hand rail when moving around. On the port side, sometime during those storms just before rounding Cape Horn, I had managed to damage it.
One of the welds had broken right off. It looks like it might have happened while reefing or shaking out a reef in rough weather, because the metal runs up from the back of the boom but near the mast end, about 1 meter back there was a large dent in it that would match with my side rigging wire. Looking at the break it is clear to see that the boom has swung while the main sheet was loose (which would be while reefing) and smacked into the side stay on the port side. I checked the rigging wire as well but there was no damage to this just my boom railing.
So, as it was, if I needed to reef, I run the risk of some of the jagged bits of metal cutting or wearing a hole in my Dimension Polyant mainsail, so while it wasn’t a massive problem, it did need to be dealt with. I ended up lashing the broken section to the mast with a sail tie (bit of rope) and where it had broken off. I just wrapped with tons of cloth tape to pad it out. It was a quick fix, so I returned to the cockpit.
The winds were starting to push 27 knots now and I still had the full mainsail up, and full No 2 Jib out, along with my storm jib. I decided to shorten the sails before getting on with the next repair. I put two reefs in the mainsail in one go, mainly because I knew it was only going to get windier.
Once that was done, I gathered up everything I would need to make a repair on my auto pilot rams mount. You remember that I discovered yesterday that it was cracking off and as I would watch it would lift the outside edge of the mount like a can being cut open and it wasn’t going to be long before it ripped all the way off. This was my priority today to fix. I had dug out the fiberglass angle that I was going to turn into a bracket, but I needed to cut it down to size. It’s about 6mm thick, so would be great strength wise, but cutting it was going to be an effort.
I ended up digging out my battery-operated jig saw, my hacksaw, drill and drill bits. I had found the bolts and screws I would need and gathered up the Allan keys, vice grips, screwdriver, ratcheting ring spanner set and washers. I had a rather large nuts and bolts kit aboard thanks to Boltbiz in Brisbane. I decided that I would through bolt the sides of the bracket, but I would need to screw the top parts in, as there wasn’t enough room to get another bolt through, even a small one.
I measured and marked up my bit of fibre glass and then went on deck with the jig saw and drills and very carefully cut it into two brackets so it would fit. I was just using the edge of the deck to brace against, so I needed to be very careful not to run the jig saw right into the hull of the boat. Given that the winds were now blowing at 30 knots it was no easy task, but I was able to get it done. I then pre-drilled out the holes for the bolts and screws before gathering up the rest of my tools and the drill and climbing back into the rudder compartment.
The rudder compartment is one of the smaller spaces on the boat with a entry hatch that is 50 x 30 cm wide and the height of the roof is about one metre so it is already a tough place to work in at the best of times, but with the building choppy swell it was downright unpleasant. It had to be done, so with a few new bruises I was able to drill, mount and bolt the brackets on. One on the forward side and one on the back side right where the cracks were.
I also noticed that the bolts mounting the autopilot to the boat were a bit loose, so I tightened these. The main pivoting screw that attaches the ram to the mount was also un-threading, so I screwed that down again too.
The hydraulic ram has now been working for over 8000nm, so it is understandable that somethings come loose. This is why the checks are so important for me. After everything was tightened again there was no movement from the shelf or the ram to indicate that there was ever a problem to begin with. However, just to be extra, extra, sure I decided to drill a hole in the back edge of the shelf and at the bottom of the side brackets and ran some Dyneema lashing through. Dyneema is as strong as wire, so I figured that if the brackets did fail or weaken then the Dyneema would hopefully hold it all together.
When I was finally finished it was 5pm in the late afternoon. The sun was starting to set. I gathered up all my tools and put them below before setting up to put the third reef in the mainsail. The winds were cresting 35 knots now and I was still sailing on a close reach with over eased sails to keep the boat a little flatter for repair work.
Now I was sailing into night-time with a deepening storm, so I wanted to get the trim right and finally get sailing. I furled away the No 2 jib, and as I finished putting the third reef in the mainsail, I saw a flash of movement from the water. As exhausted as I was, cold and wet from the misty rain I couldn’t help but smile – dolphins. I went forward and watched them for a short while before it got too cold and dark forcing me below.
The cabin looked like a bomb had gone off with crap everywhere. I did a clean-up and put the tools away before boiling some freshwater in the kettle. A problem with working on fiberglass is something called fiberglass rash or itch. Its where the little micro particles get stuck in your skin, and everything becomes this painful itch. Well, I could feel my face, hands, neck, and every exposed part of me itching, and I could see in on my clothing.
I had been wearing my Musto Salopettes and Dubarry Boots for the repair work, but my arms were only covered in my base layers. I had poured a bucket of salt water across my Salopettes and boots before coming inside in an attempt to get the fibre glass off, but it was well and truly in my base layers.
So, before I could climb into an exhausted sleep, I needed to get clean. The last thing I wanted to do was contaminate my sleeping bag with fiberglass dust. It was far too cold to have a proper bucket bath or to wash my hair so, I will need to put up with greasy locks for a little while longer. Using some soap and a cloth I was able to give myself a vigorous scrubbing down, attempting to take off all the dead skin.
It has been over two weeks since I was able to last clean my arms and legs, and while I use bamboo baby wipes for the privates, it’s never quite the same. When I took off my socks there was a whole layer of hard skin that stayed behind in the sock… yuck. So it was scrub, scrub, scrub.
I also noticed that my middle toe on my left foot had a small area of irritation that looked to be getting infected. I am in boots almost all the time, apart from sleeping, but I am wearing my socks all the time. I could see that my toe was chafing on the toenail of the next toe, and it was irritated. I decided to disinfect it and bandage it to prevent it getting worse as the last thing I need is an infection on my foot. And after all that, I was finally dry and dressed again, but still shivering. I heated up my hot water bottle, smashed a protein shake instead of a real meal and finally crawled into bed.
I managed four hours sleep between checking on the storm and got up again to change the micro plastic sample at 1am, I went back to bed for another hour right after and when I needed to get up for the second change I decided to just get up. I checked the satellite system again and it’s still a no go. Tech support are looking into it so hopefully it can be resolved.
For some reason it isn’t finding the antenna even though all the connections look good. I am a bit worried that maybe some water got inside the unit on the back deck and it’s getting corroded, but I will wait for tech support before doing anything else. It was working fine a day ago as I did a live cross to channel 7 GWN so I am hopeful that we can get it working again.
In the meantime my back up system, the Irridium Go, is just strong enough for me to get a text email back, so I am able to send the blog home. I am still recording the video updates so I will share these with you all as soon as I can. Before I go, I would also like to take a moment to thank the following amazing degree sponsors.
Thank you to:
040 West – LifeFourPoint – Huge thank you to Tom and Karen from Adventures aboard SV Sea Rose, I really appreciate the support.
037 West – Danny Newport – Thanks Danny for your support. Danny completed his RYA Day Skippers Ticket as a student of mine in Sydney, so it is great to have you now following my adventures and supporting them like this. Thank you.
How to follow Lisa Blair’s voyage:
Track Lisa Blair’s position on her website – https://lisablairsailstheworld.com/
To sponsor Lisa Blair, see – https://lisablairsailstheworld.com/sponsors
Lisa Blair’s Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/LisaBlairSailstheWorld
To purchase Lisa Blair’s book ‘Facing Fear’, see – https://lisablairsailstheworld.com/eco-shop