Lisa Blair blog: Thirty-plus metres of kelp wrapped around 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: https://lisablairsailstheworld.com/sponsors

You can also support by shopping with Lisa.

In her latest blog post, Blair takes a closer look at Climate Action Now’s keel to find that the kelp that is slowing her down, is thirty-plus metres long.

Blog Day 79
Latitude 50 00.76S
Longitude 83 24.54E
Barometer 996
Air temp 5c
Local time 0051 UTC+6
For the live tracker, see: https://lisablairsailstheworld.com/tracker

Hi all,

Last night I finally managed to get to bed by around 3am and by 4am the winds had started to veer from the SW to the W before shifting to the NW and build in strength. I needed to put a gybe in, but I decided to wait until first light to make it a little easier. So, at 5am I got kitted up in all my Musto waterproof gear and went on deck. It was blowing regularly at 35 knots now, so it was going to be a little rough gybing, as we were very pressed by the winds.  I would need to be quick but also take care to time it with a little lull in the winds. 

I altered our course to an almost dead run and set to work getting prepped but before I had even had a chance to winch in the mainsail a 40-knot gust hit and rounded us up into the wind.  So now I was pointing west rather than east and sailing backwards. Well as we had rounded up, we were drifting mostly sideways to the south but still. 

There wasn’t a lot I could do in those conditions until the gust dies down, so I hung on to a winch and waited. We were pinned right over with the port side of the decks getting pressed underwater and it occurred to me that this is a perfect opportunity to check the keel for something fouling it. Last time when I completed my first record in 2017, in the same area, I had managed to foul up on a large kelp tree. 

The Kerguelen Islands have areas of great kelp forests, the type that stretch over 50 metres high. It was no wonder I managed to catch one on the keel. Last time it took me a few days to figure out what was causing the slow speeds and then it took me another day to work out how to get it off and the whole time my speed was cut nearly in half.

Well with the slower speeds of yesterday and the fact that I should be getting better speeds for the sail to wind ratio, I decided to hang over the high side of the decks and see if I could see anything while we are drifting sideways. I climbed up and clipped on before casting my eyes into the water. There was a large area of disturbed water from the boat getting pushed sideways, and in that area, I could see a little flash of colour, something brown. 

At first, I thought it was a trick of the light as the sun was still rising, but then the deep pattern took shape and I could make out a long string of kelp, it was firmly wrapped around my keel and must be over 30 meters long. There wasn’t just one strand either, but several all wrapped together around the keel, doing their best to slow me down. I had so far noticed an average of 2.5-3 knots of speed loss so this wasn’t something that I could just leave be.  

The stems of these are so strong that it is unlikely to break in half and just float away so at some point I will need to work out how to get rid of it without going swimming. 

Last time, I worked out how to sail a 50-foot yacht backwards and was able to shake it, but that kelp was more of the root system and was bunched like a bush. This kelp, being long and skinny, is more likely to just stay wrapped even if I sail Climate Action Now backwards again, however, when I am in the hove to position or drifting sideways it appears to extend past the hull by several meters.  

I am hopeful that I will be able to recover one edge of it and hopefully pull it around the keel and free it from the boat but that will require slightly calmer conditions, not the storm conditions I was about to be sailing in. So, for now, it will need to stay and just be, hopefully it will help me out and just fall off on its own.

The gust had passed, so I was able to get back to course and then put that gybe in before going back to bed.  I hadn’t managed all that much sleep even though I had been in bed because we were rounding up regularly in the gusts and all the alarms would trip. I was also hungry, so I made a protein shake to tide me over and went back to bed, until the first micro plastic sample change at the new time of 10am. 

Still tired I napped in between sample changes and again afterwards before getting up at around 3pm. The conditions hadn’t improved much with the winds anywhere from 30 to 40 knots. When we were at 40 knots it was too much for the sails and we would round up but at 30 knots we would go to slow…  Grrr. 

There were many times where I almost put the fourth reef in the mainsail, but I knew that if I did, then it likely wouldn’t be coming out for a few days as this storm hits and passes over us. I would be able to hold the third reef through most of these conditions, so I was really trying to hold out until the actual storm hits. The front was due in the early morning with storm conditions to follow over tomorrow.

I decided to download a weather forecast to see if it was going to get worse or ease off and I was lucky that I did because the conditions were due to ease back to 30 knots in just over an hour and I knew I could hold out until then.

As predicted the conditions eased just enough to make things a little more comfortable and I was able to make a batch of noodles for dinner. Now I am sitting up waiting for the winds to shift from the NW to the W and then SW again so that I can gybe back to a starboard tack before the storm hits and the winds peak again.

So for now I am going to try for some sleep until the winds back enough for another gybe but in the mean time I would like to take a moment to thank for following amazing degree sponsor.

Thank you to:

080 East – Marji Puotinen and Kids Care about Climate Change initiative (Plant a tree and cool the earth) – Marji runs an amazing global initiative, where kids are encouraged to draw a picture about what Climate Change means to them. For every entry, her partners at 15 Trees plant a tree for every drawing entered by kids from age 1 – 18.  When I first met Marji, almost a year ago now, I offered to take the winning drawing with me around Antarctica as an extra prize so on-board Climate Action Now.

I am proudly carrying R.A. Ranumi’s, (15 years old, of Asian Grammar School in Sri Lanka), winning drawing that we had made into a flag. If you see the boat in port, you will see his drawing flying alongside my sponsors.  So, thank you to Marji for your amazing support and the work you do to encourage kids to protect our environment.

082 East – d’Albora Marinas – Rushcutters Bay, Sydney Harbour – A huge thank you to d’Alboras for being such a fantastic sponsor and support of my record and the citizen science work I can undertake.  When I was still struggling to get to the start line for this record you stepped in and sponsored 30 degrees so thank you for your incredible support. It is greatly appreciated.

Lisa

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

Pantaenius Sailing
Ronstan
Listings Added
West Systems 2
Barton Skydock
M.O.S.S Australia
Coral Sea Marina Resort
Lagoon 51