Lisa Blair blog: A tired bird hitches a ride

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 catches up on sleep, finds an unwelcome hairline crack in the steering compartment and has an unexpected visitor.

Blog day 50
Latitude 50 46.74S
Longitude 41 14.74W
Barometer 1011
Air Temp 5c
Local Time 0800 UTC – 3

Hi all,

Well last night I ended up getting to bed late, at midday, but I planned on sleeping late too so I wasn’t too concerned.  The winds were still very light, just five to seven knots from the N to NW and then sometimes from the NE too but we were able to continue making some very slow progress in the right direction. 

I slept well for four hours before the winds increased and I was suddenly needed on deck.  I was sailing with the full mainsail and the no 1 large jib out, so when the winds came in at 25 knots from the previous five knots we were instantly starting to round up into the wind and all the alarms were sounding.  I wasted no time in getting on deck and only stopped for my boots and lifejacket as I could hear the jib sail groaning under the pressure. 

I immediately furled this away while getting peppered in the face with a drizzly rain and quickly got out the no 2 jib and eased the mainsail out.  The winds had gone back to the NW, so I was able to ease out the sails and flatten the boat off that way.

I was pretty cold now, but I was running my Volvo Penta Engine inside the main cabin to charge the batteries up.  I run this with biodiesel which is a close-loop product, using recycled cooking oils as fuels. My partners at Bio-diesel Industries Australia refine and filter it, until it can be used in my normal combustion engine.  Refuelling Solutions also assisted in getting the fuel to Albany, as it is not something you get at your average Petrol station. 

As for the record I am allowed to use my engine for charging purposes, and you can disengage the gear box and propeller to do so.  I had been running the heat exchanger heater off the engine which uses the hot water cycling through the engine and runs a fan past this to make a heater, so, as I climbed back into the cabin, I was very thankful for the lovely and warm cabin for a change.

I jumped right back into bed and slept in a series of naps until midnight local time and woke feeling quite refreshed.  There still wasn’t much wind around so I decided to do a bit of a deck and boat check while it was calm and found an issue when I investigated the steering compartment.  There is a shelf that my B & G T3 Hydraulic Auto pilot ram is mounted on.

As I looked, I could see a hairline crack around 5 cm long at the end, allowing for the shelf to lift and flex with each push of the ram. This isn’t good in any way.  I have had an auto pilot mounted here for each record, and never has it suffered damage like this.  I can only imagine that the rudder was placed under extreme force at some point, and this translated down through the hydraulic ram and into this new crack. 

I last checked in on this part of the boat the day before rounding Cape Horn and I have not had any extreme weather since, so I have no idea when it happened, but now that it has I need to do something about it.

I run two complete systems on board for the Auto pilot, this means that I have two separate hydraulic rams. My game plan is to change over the hydraulic rams so the secondary ram will become the primary and vice a versa. I have some angled fiberglass brackets that I should be able to bolt onto the mount and reinforce the section that is lifting well enough until I get to port and can repair it properly.

It is still going to be a crap job, in a tight section of the boat, but it does need a repair.  I have some bad weather due to arrive today, so I have decided to forgo sleep during the daylight hours and focus on making this repair and the helm repair. 

In other news, after my micro plastic sample change and breakfast the winds shifted again to the north, so I needed to go back on deck to adjust the sails. Just before I climbed on deck, I saw a lovely little bird weave between the wind generators and over the boat before I heard a plop on the deck that sounded like it was landing.  I grabbed my lifejacket, and climbed up, but I couldn’t see any wildlife with my head torch.  A few minutes later and I spotted the little guy.

It was this tiny little bird the size of a small parrot. It was huddled among the ropes on the low side looking quite pathetic and shivering.  It wasn’t a safe place for a bird to rest and I wasn’t sure if it was injured or what the reasons were for landing on the boat.  My guess is it just needed a rest. It looked to be a bit of a land-based bird that might have travelled too far, but sometimes sea birds land when there is no wind to make flying easy.

I grabbed a tea towel and very gently collected him up and brought him to the cockpit to check for injury. Both wings were fine. It looked like he just wanted a break, so I left him to it.  A short while later I checked again, and he had managed to make his way all the way up to the bow. Just as I watched he was startled by a flap in the sails due to the light winds and half flew/half fell into the ocean.  I was worried, but there wasn’t much I could do for the little guy.

He didn’t look alarmed or distressed to be in the ocean so we gently glided by, and within 10 metres I lost sight of him, as my head torch couldn’t penetrate the fog.

And so was a big day. It has been quite a milestone too.  Today marks 50 whole days at sea solo.  I have now seen land once, seen one ship and heard another on the radio.  I also collected my 100th micro plastic sample today and will begin releasing the weather drifter buoys again as we are now clear of Cape Horn.  So, for now I am going to sign off and get cracking on some of these jobs.

There are no degree sponsors to thank tonight but we are desperately looking for more support. If you are interested in learning more, please visit here. And a big thank you for all the people who have purchased a degree, I hope you know that you have contributed so much towards this Climate Action Now project and without you it would never have happened.

Goodnight all.


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Jeanneau SF30 OD
M.O.S.S Australia