Lisa Blair – counting the days until left turn to Australia

Lisa Blair is nearing the end of her quest to become the first woman to circumnavigate Antarctica. Her is her latest blog:

Evening All,

Last night was a long night.  I know I have been saying this a lot lately with all the shifting winds but last night was just one of those nights…  I had been dreaming of bed since about 6pm so I was planning on getting to sleep around 10 pm as a way of catching up on sleep.  

I have now moved forward 6-time zones since Cape Town so I am working hard to build up a habit that will work for when I am back on dry land.  I try to stay awake most of the day and then get what sleep I can in the night.  Doesn’t always work.  

So, after my super storm I knew that the winds were going to ease quickly and then look at building again shortly afterwards.  After my blog, I went on deck and shook out to the first reef.  The winds were 10-15 knots from the WSW and I was making good time in the swell.  

When I start shaking out the main sail to the first reef or even to the full main, there is the most ropes involved in that manoeuvre.  I use the inboard lines for reefs 1, 2, 3, 4, the outboard lines for reefs 1, 2, 3, 4, the main halyard, the vang, the main sheet etc, so there are a lot of lines to re-coil and stow away afterwards.  Normally it takes about 20 minutes, depending on the conditions. So, last night as I was coiling away the lines after shaking out to the first reef I was also watching the winds.  I knew that the winds were due to ease even further but when I was deciding if I shake out to full main or keep the first reef in the winds gusted 18 knots so the first reef was the right choice.  That was 40 minutes ago and now I was watching the winds dropping out to 6 knots…  Ahh.

I literally had just finished stowing the last rope when it dropped to 4 knots of wind…  Well I guess I am shaking out to the full mainsail then.  I started undoing the last 30 minutes of rope stowage work and set about winching up the mainsail to full main.  Once that and the final rope coiling was done I furled away the stay sail and unfurled the genoa.  The winds had by now completed their shift from the WSW to the WNW so I was also able to gybe.  

After that I finally went below to try and get to sleep……. it didn't work.  I ended up staying up until 2am alternating the course to suit the wind shifts.  At 7am this morning after 5 hours of broken sleep the wind was back and it started blowing 15 knots from the North.  I rolled out of bed and put the first reef in (again with all the line coiling) I also changed the head sails out so I was once again using the stay sail and went below to start the genset.

The display didn’t have power on the genset?  Then I remembered that last night it cut out for no reason and at the time I didn’t realise that the control panel also went out.  I have had the genset cut out a bit lately but it is mostly due to a bit of water in the fuel from all the condensation.  Also after the bouncing that the boat did in that rough weather I was likely sucking up little bits of gunk from the tank.  I wasn’t too concerned and thought that the control panel was likely a blown fuse.  I decided that the main engine needs to be tested to see if it still runs so I went on deck to fire her up.  No joy.  The main engine also didn’t want to start.  I then went below and took off the engine cover. I noticed that the sight glass on the fuel filter was mostly full of water.  Well that must be problem A…  

I also thought, given that the genset and the main engine run through the same water separator that I would likely have the main engine conking out from bad fuel unless I changed the filter over.  So, at 8am this morning I got my hands dirty and changed out the fuel filter.  Job done I then put my skills to use and using a screw driver manually started the main engine at the starter motor.  She started up a treat and ran like a dream.  I had disconnected the gears so I wasn’t getting any assistance from the engine and applied some revs to get some charge going into the batteries.  Well it was a start.

While I was on deck, with the gears, the winds started to gust to the 20-23 knot mark.  It was time to put in reef 2.  I put the second reef in and then furled away a little more of the stay sail to balance the boat.  The winds had shifted to the NE so I was now sailing close reach to keep course making it rather uncomfortable.  it was now 9.30 am and I had little else to do, I was still very tired so I went to get another rest in.  

The little extra sleep I got was broken as the winds built to 25 knots and I was on the edge of needing to put in the third reef.  The boat was occasionally rounding up in the swell and the auto pilot alarms would start blaring at me to tell me I was off course.  Every time within a few seconds the B&G Auto Pilot had me back on course again.

Finally at lunch time I figured enough was enough and I wasn’t getting any sleep anyway, so I got up.  Had a late breakfast of porridge and then gathered up my tools and climbed into the back compartment to see what was happening with the generator.  I removed the back panel of the genset and immediately found a fuse that was broke.  Digging into my spares I replaced it and thought all would be fixed.  

I returned to the main cabin and turned on the control panel for the generator.  Success.  It has power.  I clicked the start button and within 2 seconds I had blown another fuse.  Bugger this was going to be a bigger problem than I thought.  I phoned a friend and once again called Chris from SLR in Albany, he has been a big help with the engine issues onboard and is very good at explaining things to the un-mechanically minded.  His thoughts were that it might be an issue with that solenoid again, so I isolated it and then replaced the fuse again and tried the motor.  No luck.  Now the engine isn’t even cranking before the fuse is blowing.  All I did was turn on the power button and it blew.  To make matters worse I only have 1 fuse of this size left.  It is a really small 1.6-amp fuse.  I had a packet of 5 on the boat but unfortunately it seems some of them were old used ones in the packet and I didn’t realise.  

It was also now 7.30 in the evening so I decided to call it a night on the generator.  Chris is looking in the manual to see if we can find a solution, but in the meantime I will continue to use my main engine out of gear to charge the batteries.  And so, I went from a very large storm to no wind to broken gensets to more wind…  A big 24 hours indeed.

Now I am sailing with 20 knots; the winds backed throughout the day and are now blowing from the WSW so I need to get on deck to gybe the boat.  I have made good speeds and hopefully I will be turning left for Australia in a weeks’ time…  


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