Lisa Blair – hydrogenerator down, gen set up, sleeping and other things

Lisa Blair's Antarctic Adventure

February 20, 2017 – one eco power source down – bummer!

Evening all.

Last night I was sailing a course of 020 trying to get north and sail around the worst of the large swells that are being generated by a passing low pressure system.  As such I was sailing very close to 'the border so to speak.  The 45-degree south mark.  I need to stay within the boundaries set by the Antarctica Cup Ocean Race. These boundaries are between 45 South and 60 South.  I can sail anywhere within those but I void my chance at the speed record by sailing outside these lines.  So, last night I was sailing from 47 South making my way north and closing in on that imaginary line. I was waking regularly to ensure that I did not accidently cross that line.

At 9.30 this morning I was north enough that I could put in a gybe and altered course to 100 degrees and started going in an easterly direction once again. The winds were WSW 15-20 knots occasionally gusting up to 25 knots and the swell was steadily increasing.  By lunch I was sailing in 5 meter swell with the odd larger set coming through.  When the winds were light the boat, Climate Action Now, would get shoved around quite a bit by the swell and often get shoved off course by a large wave.  The sky has been an angry shade of grey and threatening rain all day but little has fallen.

I spent a bit of time playing with the generator but to little effect so tomorrow I am going to 'phone a friend' and have a chat to Chris from SLR in Albany who is a wiz with engines. He helped to get the old girl running before I left, so is familiar with the model…….. between the two of us we should be able to solve the issue and have the generator up and running again in no time. In the meantime, I have been using the main engine for charging when I have needed some extra power. 

Normally I would have 2 wind generators going and can consistently hear the hum in the back ground from the watt and sea hydro generator so I would only need to use the engine occasionally however this afternoon I made an unfortunate discovery.

The Hydro Generator makes a humming noise when it is in-use, so this morning I had a moment of confusion when everything turned quiet… So, quiet that it was very unusual and alarming.  It took me a few minutes to place the missing noise but I realized that the hydro generator wasn’t making its hum.  I figured that the securing line that holds the generator down had snapped.  This was not unusual and has done no harm to the generator in the past as it just lifts in the water and trails behind the boat.  I didn’t go up to check on it right away and I wasn’t concerned until I looked out the back and noticed that the securing rope was still tight and very much in use.  My assumption was well wrong if the unit was still held down.

I got out on deck and took a good look and my heart sunk…  The propeller blade was completely missing and it looked like the securing screw for the blade had sheared off leaving just the thread behind.  This would have been fixable however I also noticed that the unit had a bend in it and had buckled in the middle. 

I have no idea how this may have happened and don’t recall hearing a noise like I hit something. Unfortunately, it has occurred, so one of my eco powered charging sources is lost…  I am currently down to just the wind generators and solar.  I still have the generator and main engine and I am carrying enough fuel for the whole of the trip……. but it is still such a bummer.

Bad news aside I wanted to spend a minute to share with you a little glimpse of my world.  The attached photo is of me kipping in my bunk. (yes again) It’s not much but it does the job.  The bed frame is an aluminium pipe cot that is 50cm in width and 2 meters long with a canvas netting strung between, for a little extra comfort I have added 2 yoga mats to cushion the bed. The grey netting you see on the right is called a lee cloth and is a very important feature. It has the job of stopping me from getting tossed out of bed in the middle of the night.

Normally I would sleep on the low side bunk when the boat is leaning over however given how much extra supplies I have needed I have used the starboard bunk for storage and I have made the port side my bed.  As such I am sleeping either against the wall with the aluminium frame underneath me or against the lee cloth with the other side of the frame below me. 

It is a far cry from the double bed that I was given at 6 degrees in Albany but it is surprising what you get used to.  You also need to find positions that you can fall asleep in when the boat is rocking and rolling.  Usually I sleep in a position similar to the recovery position in first aid with my top leg bent to stop me rolling too much.  Sometimes there is not much you can do to avoid the roll and need to be tired enough to actually sleep…  But I do sleep. You can also just make out on the right an orange square, this is my super loud alarm clock and the B and G Zeus on the pivoting arm allowing me to use it in bed.

Anyway enough about sleep, I enjoyed a lovely dinner tonight, my favourite freeze dried meal of bare burrito, mumm and I still have some natural yogurt left to enjoy with it. 

I have had the main engine on for most of the afternoon so the batteries are topped up and the winds have been consistently around 15 knots for the last few hours offering an easy sail with my 2 reefs in the main and the no 2 jib furled almost all the way out.  There are now some twinkling starts poking through the little gaps in the clouds and the swell seems to be abating a touch so here’s to a good night.

February 22, 2017 – Fixed the Generator

Well last night the winds maintained around 15knots from the SW making for easy sailing.  I thought that I would finally have a chance at a really good night’s sleep……  I was wrong.  I was standing by the galley sink brushing my teeth at 10.30pm last night.  I was thinking how well behaved I was to be actually getting into bed at a reasonable hour, giving me the chance of adjusting to the time zone changes. Hopefully I would wake up early as well.

All this was running through my head while I finished brushing my teeth.  A few seconds later and mother nature once again destroyed any ideas I had of sleep…  I heard the roar of a large breaking wave.  I had been sailing almost on a beam reach so I was going across the waves not with them. This meant that the big ones tended to shove me around a bit.  With the roar in my ears I held on waiting for the shove.

Instead the wave decided to bury me under tonnes of water and with force.  The whole cockpit filled up and the water barrelled towards my companionway entrance and hit the wash board with such force that it sucked it right out of the entrance leaving my companionway wide open.  The next second buckets of water came in soaking the two bunks to the low side and everything in them…  This just so happened to be my bed…  again…

Not only this but it dumped so much water on the top bunk that it dripped for the next several hours on to my bed below making it feel like I was sleeping in a rain shower…  I grabbed some towels and flicked as much of the water off that I could.  I was thanking my lucky stars that since the last soaking of my bed I have been keeping the water proof bivvy bag well closed.  The inside of my sleeping bag was mostly dry but everything else was soaked. 

An hour later and I tried to crash into bed but the weather once again had other ideas with the winds shifting forward to a 60-degree wind angle the second my head hit the pillow.  Out of bed again and back on-deck I re-trimmed and tried again.

Unfortunately my B and G 4G radar guard zone alarms decided to keep getting triggered by the rain clouds so just as I dozed off the alarm would go off causing me to wake and need to acknowledge it.  The last time I checked to see what time it was… and if I was getting any sleep that night it was 4am…

The other thing that happened last night was that I hit the highest sea temperature of the trip so far at a whopping 16.2 degrees Celsius.  This makes my trip very comfortable as it makes everything quite warm and I know that there is extremely little chance of an iceberg.  Ice bergs are normally found in sea temperatures of below 8 degrees.  I am always on a higher alert when sailing in these colder temps and have seen temperature. as low as 7.8 degrees. This is one of the considering factors with the weather routing and Bob from MetBob always tries to keep me in the higher temps.

So when I finally crawled out of bed this morning after my crap night sleep I had already set myself the task of fixing the generator.  With one wind generator, still down and now the hydro generator I know that I will be needing the generator to maintain the power on the boat. 

I had arranged with Chris from SLR in Albany to give him a call and he was going to help me to diagnose.  Once I got Chris on the line we kicked the genset over.  The sound it was making identified that it was likely a solenoid issue.  I crawled into the back to take a close look and sure enough there was a broken wire on the solenoid.  Once I re-wired this back up the generator worked like a dream and has been humming away all afternoon topping up the batteries that were low. While I was there I also took the opportunity to change out the water maker filter. This is recommended to be done once a month.  I also emptied the strainer in the bilge system.

The winds today haven’t been playing nice and were mostly below 7 knots and variable making it hard for me to keep the boat sailing in a nice line as there is still 5-6 meters of swell around.  The Swell is rolling though and only has the occasional breaking wave where the top crumbles but they still shove the little bit of wind I have out of the sails. 

It seems though that this is changing as I can see thunder clouds building around the boat and the winds are now mostly stable at 10 knots or just above.  I am about to Gybe the boat to the North again and will be closing in on the 45-degree line tonight with an anticipated gybe back to the east at sunrise.  This will likely mean not much sleep again as I carefully watch that I don’t sail across 'the boarder' …………… just another day at sea.

Note from Mum

I know Lisa’s blog is starting to sound a little repetitive, talking about lack of sleep, talking about wet beds, talking about waves crashing through the hatch.  This is a true reflection of her world right now. She probably is tired, she probably is annoyed when a wave soaks everything. This is how she feels so this is going to be uppermost on her mind.  I know we all want action, serious action, but quite frankly, as her mother, I am quite happy with repetitive.

Along with food intake, managing her sleep is probably one of THE MOST important factors of the trip.  Being that she has not had more than one or two hours straight sleep without waking to her alarm clock to check the instruments for over a month straight is a big deal in itself.  When Lisa talks about a good night’s sleep she still must wake up regularly and check instruments, even if briefly.

It is so important that she takes every opportunity to rest when she can so she has some chance of being able to cope when she does have to deal with 80ft waves, knockdowns etc……She knows this. It is important. It is real. This blog is not a book. This blog is not a movie. It is a glimpse of what her life as a solo sailor is actually like in real time.  A chance to share the adventure warts an all.

February 23 – Hatch firmly shut!

Well what a day I have had…  Last night before I went to bed I was sailing on a course of 040 T or NE in a SW wind of 20-25 knots.  I had 2 reefs in the main sail and the no 2 Jib out, partially furled.  As I am already quite high on the race track I needed to be very careful not to over sleep and sail past the border. 

After a few short hours sleep I got up and gybed the boat away from 'The Border' at 45.09 South to a course of 100 True.  I was 9 nm from the edge at the time so close enough.  The reason for the climb north again was to try to get into a better position for a frontal system (a small low pressure system) to pass that was forecast to arrive at 10am and was to bring 40 knots of wind.  Playing it safe I also put in the third reef in the main at the same time as the Gybe.  I was thankful to have done so, because within 10 minutes I was sailing in 30 knots.

The swell has also been gradually increasing all day and I am now sailing in waves up to 7 meters.  I have decided to play it safe with my bed and have kept the watertight main companionway hatch closed all day.  This increases the condensation in the cabin but is a lot less moisture than a big wave flooding my bed again……. especially if I was still in it…

I went back to bed after my morning gybe so when I finally woke around lunch there were not that many hours left in the day. Given that the outside conditions of windswept spray and rain were not that inviting I thought that I would use today to catch up on some computer work.  I also had the pleasure of doing a live interview with Annie Gaffney of the ABC Radio Sunshine Coast.

With my tasks for the day completed and the sun setting I was thinking about going on deck to do a final check before I lost the last of the daylight.  As I was sitting there contemplating this and thinking to myself that I would rather not as it was quite wet outside I was knocked down by another bossy wave.  Not too badly and not close to 90 degrees but I was knocked over enough to put the boom in the water again and snap the preventer line.I guess the boat was trying to tellme to get on deck and took the decision away from me…

Geared up in my Zhik Isotak Ocean foul weather gear I braved the wind and cold on deck.  I needed to once again go to the bow to retrieve the front end of the preventer line but given the swell size I wanted to take my time doing so.  I watched the swell for a while and tried to pick a gap between the larger sets and off I set.

 I managed to get to the bow and back with little issue and loosely tied the forward end of the preventer line off near the cockpit.  I now needed to retrieve the end attached at the end of the boom.  To do this I needed to winch the boom in close enough that I could reach out and grab it.  As I was doing this I was again shoved by a bossy wave and my loosely tied off preventer line came loose…… bugger was what I thought.

Just before it went in the water and would require me to make the climb to the bow again, the bowline knot on the end caught on the safety rail. With a quick leap, I managed to grab it just before it was pulled over again… Wheww!  I retrieved the boom end with little hassle and re-set the preventer and main sail again.

That done I took a moment to just watch the water from the back of the boat.  Most of the waves were 4-5 meters but every now and again I was climbing over a wave the size of a house.  I don’t know why but I still enjoy watching these incredibly large waves.  I have always found the seascape in its roughest form to be so beautiful to look at.

Not many others would agree with me I am sure but there is something about it that captures my heart every time.  I stayed hanging on the back stay until darkness fell and I could no longer see the waves…….. with frozen fingers, I made my way back inside the boat.


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