Lisa Blair blog: Kelp frees itself from keel

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’.

Blair is still trying to raise money to cover project costs. To sponsor Blair, see:

You can also support by shopping with Lisa.

In her latest blog post, thirty-plus metres of kelp (or at least most of it) frees itself from Climate Action Now’s keel. And the sea state and oscillating wind strength results in the boom swinging back and fourth, even with the boom preventer on, making it very hard for Blair to obtain any rest.

Blog day 80
Latitude 50 38.62S
Longitude 89 01.89E
Barometer 1000
Air temp 3c
Local time 0340 UTC+6
For the live tracker, see:

Hi all,

Well if you remember yesterday I was talking about getting some kelp wrapped around the keel, well almost an hour after sending the blog back, Climate Action Now was suddenly shooting off again, the winds and swell had also increased. And while I can’t be sure I am free of kelp; I am fairly sure that it is now gone as my overall average speed has increased with it.

I have been really impressed with Climate Action Now’s speeds throughout this record. I normally sail a little more conservatively, but this time I am not pushing her but sailing her within her expected speed ranges and it has been paying off. But another large factor for this is that the hull of Climate Action Now remains free of growth after 80 days at sea. This is a testament to the anti-foul that AwlGrip from International Paints supplied.

Knowing I would be sailing for a long time I put four full coats on to allow for some wear and when I was checking for kelp yesterday I could see that below the waterline the hull still looked remarkably clean.

And wow, today marks 80 full days at sea all on my own, and so far I have sailed through eight-10 metre waves, winds strong enough to rip the roof of your house and survived for over 15 000 nm in the famously treacherous Southern Ocean. Possibly more remarkable, is that in all this time I have seen only two ships.

I have deployed one Argo Research Float, deployed six Bureau of Meteorology weather drifter buoys and collected over 160 micro plastic samples to be analysed by the Australian Institute of Marine Science when I finally reach land. And while today is a milestone of endurance to celebrate, the weather gods haven’t been kind to me today, giving me some crappy conditions.

Today was filled with squalls of various severity, squalls are small, localised storm systems that are a few nautical miles wide and travel at 20-30 knots. When a squall hits you get a huge increase in the winds just ahead of it. Today the winds were going from 17 knots and up to 40 knots when the squall hit. Just after the first impact the winds will ease a little, back to 37 knots before a huge amount of rain will get dumped.

On the back end on the rain there is no wind, so I am then back trying to sail in a six-metre swell with 17 knots of wind and the sails set for 40 knots. All day I have been sailing with the third reef in the mainsail and the storm jib. And while we can hold steerage in the lulls with that, I do find we roll so bad, that the boom crashes from side to side. This started for me at around 5am when I was woken with the crashing of the boom.

I dragged myself out of bed and on deck just long enough to tighten the preventer line. The preventer line travels from the back of the boom to a block on the bow and back to the cockpit so I can adjust if from there. Its whole job is to prevent the boom banging around or going through an accidental gybe, however in the rough conditions we have been having, and so many knockdowns, we would roll on our side and the boom would get jammed in the water.

If the preventer line was set when this happens then it would be put under a huge amount of pressure and in the past, I have snapped the line more times than I can count, broken six blocks and even once ripped a hole in the deck when the block proved stronger than the strong point it was attached to, and the whole thing ripped out of the deck.

So now, to prevent damage, I tend to leave the preventer line with some slack in it. Just enough that if and when we get a knockdown the boom has enough freedom of movement to swing back but not enough to go through an accidental gybe.

So given that I have had gale conditions for the last little while, the preventer line has been slack, however in the lull with the swell coming in from the beam of the boat, we were simply rocking too much and the boom was crashing wildly from side to side. So, I ducked out on deck and pulled the preventer line hand tight and after a quick glance around to check everything on deck is as it should be and went back to my warm sleeping bag.

A few moments later the next squall hit, and the blue skies were eaten up by the grey clouds heavy with rain, and Climate Action Now went from wallowing in the swell to being overpowered by the winds and that boom went right in the water. I needed to release that preventer line immediately, so without stopping for boots I threw my life jacket on and climbed out onto the deck and quickly added some slack to the line allowing the boom to move.

With wet socks I then climbed back into bed and tried again for some sleep, 10 minutes later, and we were wallowing again in 17 knots of wind… This pattern continued for the whole of the day. By the afternoon the squalls started to get more aggressive.

One blew at 45 knots of wind before dumping a pile of hail the size of peas on the deck followed by a light dusting of snow, another just blew in some snow but not quite enough to count. And right now, as I am writing this blog, we just got it by the worst one yet. The winds just pinned us over on our side as it jumped from 20 knots to 50 knots. It won’t last and while we are so overpowered there is very little, I can do about it.

If I wanted to put the fourth reef in I could but the squall would be over before I had managed it and then I would really need a lot more sail in the swell to maintain the steerage, so instead, the best path was to allow the boat to be rounded up and pinned by the winds and just wait for it to pass. Then at least in the lulls I would have enough sail up to steer, but it is definitely some frustrating conditions and at the extremes at both ends.

Not enough wind and then too much wind. Poor Climate Action Now was never happy today, but hopefully once the last of this storm cell passes tomorrow the conditions might calm a little. It also has made sleep hard to come by between radar guard zone alarms telling me that rain is coming or a squall, to the auto pilot alarms when we are off course.

So given my low energy I was craving sugar and ended up making a disgusting dinner of tinned mango slices with vegan custard and chopped up Oreo’s in it. I know I am still trying to work out how to adult, so I haven’t set hard rules about no dessert for dinner, so this is totally acceptable right? Right. In any case I am a little tired again, so I am going to try for some sleep before the worse conditions are due to hit tomorrow.

Hopefully by tomorrow evening I am once again sailing for Australia. Bob (MetBob) has said that after this storm I can finally start sailing home, and that this is likely the last time that I will be so far south in the Southern Ocean, at least on this trip. So, I am trying to make the most of the dwindling days at sea.

Before I go and as usual, I would like to take a moment to thank the following wonderful degree sponsor.

Huge thank you to:

085 East – Radical Systems NT – David and Adam: “We’re really pleased to be able to sponsor Climate Action Now and Lisa.  She is an incredible young woman, and we wish you all every success”. Thank you, David and Adam, for following my adventures and supporting me in my efforts for Climate Action Now and the unique opportunity that this project has allowed me to deliver for citizen science. I really appreciate your support.

To everyone else while my days are now limited at sea the challenge of this project are not yet over as there is significant costs that I still need to raise for this project. I unfortunately never secured a naming rights partner so I decided that instead there would be many partners and founded the degree partnerships, but I am still needing to raise the final amount of 33 degrees to cover the project and science expenses.

If you have enjoyed following the journey or believe that the work I have been able to undertake out here in the Southern Ocean is valuable, that please would you take a moment to learn about becoming a degree sponsor. If you, or someone you know is in a position to support I would be incredibly grateful.


How to follow Lisa Blair’s voyage:

Track Lisa Blair’s position on her website –

To sponsor Lisa Blair, see –

Lisa Blair’s Facebook page –

To purchase Lisa Blair’s book ‘Facing Fear’, see –

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