Lisa Blair has resumed her attempt to become the first woman to circumnavigate Antarctica, but her broken mast and subsequent repairs in Cape Town have meant she is now in the Southern Ocean in the depths of winter, with consequent appalling weather.
Well I don’t quite know where to start on this one there is just so much that has happened in the last 24 hours… I guess I will just start where I left off. So, after sailing the final 60nm to my restart point I officially rounded that mark at 23:31:05 UTC and was finally able to start sailing home.
That last 60 miles was a kicker, I was in similar condition to when I dismasted so I was fearfully listening out for any unusual sounds and every creak and groan of the boat had me wide awake. I was sailing in 30 knots occasionally 40 knots and the swell was 6-7 meters in size so it was bringing back some nasty memories. Every time the boat got that extra shove from the sea I would tense up. Needless to say, I was pretty happy to round that virtual waypoint. I did manage to get some light napping in but no sleep was to be had. It was 1:30am local time when I went on deck to get the boat ready for a gybe.
As the winds were up and the pressure was now off to push the boat, I decided to put the 4th reef back in the mainsail. I had been stretching the limits a touch by sailing with the 3rd reef and the storm jib up until that point. While that sail arrangement would have been able to take it, I was bouncing around a lot. I figured it would be best to put the reef in first and then gybe the boat, as it would make the gybe safer with the smaller sail area. So, I prepped the lines in the darkness.
It was freezing cold and guess who didn’t wear her gloves again. I was in quite a lot of pain quite quickly but managed to get the 4th reef in the main before it got unbearable. I ducked under the cabin shelter to get out of the wind and defrosted my hands before the next job of gybing. The boat came around well and in fact, I believe that this was the first gybe of the trip – not including when I would gybe to get into hove too position.
I packed away the lines and went below to defrost. It was 2degrees C on deck and the darkness just makes everything colder so I was shivering when I got below. I finally decided it was cold enough to get out the hot water bottle.
I had imagined that I would crawl into my (damp) sleeping bag and warm up nicely as I dreamed of nice things… This did not occur in the slightest… My bunk was now on the windward side of the boat and while I have a lee cloth the boat was healing over quite a lot and I kept feeling like I was about to go flying out of bed so sleep became elusive.
The winds continued to build and just over an hour after the gybe I was lying in bed – not sleeping – when the boat was slammed with 50 knots… The most I had seen recently was 38 knots so this was a big jump. I watched it for a couple of minutes hoping that it was just a short squall that would pass momentarily but soon enough the sounds of the sails flogging drove me from my heated bed. Getting into wet foulies at 3am is not much fun but doing it while listening to the boat rounding up out of control is even worse.
Eventually I was dressed enough and opened the hatch to a little extra surprise. Looking outside in the darkness all I could see was these white streaks passing by and it took me a minute to realise that I was sailing in the middle of a blizzard. It was snowing outside in the 50 knots of wind… I wanted to get the boat heaved to and ride out the storm.
The barometer had been falling so I was expecting this to stick around a little longer but snow makes it very hard to do anything. I again rushed out the hatch without putting my gloves on only this time every time I put my hand on something it was literally on ice… The cold burn was extra painful. Trying to ignore the pain I fumbled around getting the boat hove to.
Within five minutes she was under control and I now had an inch of snow to play with… The snow was sheeting down so thick that I could only see a few feet in front. It built up on the mainsail in a thick layer and then I would crash off a wave and it would all come falling off in sheets. It was both exciting and miserable. I hid under the shelter for a few more minutes watching it but the warmth of my bed beckoned and most of the snow had already fallen.
I was cold again and now I was starting to get quite tired when I crawled back into bed. Even though the boat was now hove to I was still on a very steep heel in the 40-50 knots of wind so I again found it hard to sleep but at least I was warm.
After lying in bed for about an hour I heard the roar of a wave seconds before it hit the boat. I was expecting it to shove me and tip me over a bit more but nothing like what actually happened. In my bunk with the lee cloth tied up to stop me falling out of bed, the roar turned to a crack on impact as it strikes with such force. I put a hand out to balance on the roll but found that the roll didn’t stop. My stomach sunk as we just kept leaning over and over and the rushing noise of the wave all around me.
In my head, I just kept thinking 'not now, not here', I really really really didn’t want to be rolled, especially so close to my dismasted point. On this occasion things were out of my control. After what felt like minutes and was properly only milliseconds, the boat stopped her violent roll. I didn’t quite get all the way around but it was very close to being an inverted yacht and I thank my lucky stars that the wave wasn’t that little bit bigger.
In the aftermath of my almost roll I lay in bed for a few seconds with my heart pounding and my muscles locked. I shook myself out of it and followed the need to see what damage was done. The first thing I did was look at the mast and breathed a sigh of relief that it was still standing. I then looked around the cabin – all items on the windward side were now in crumpled heaps on the leeward side. I was lucky it wasn’t worse and that I wasn’t in an open space at the time. I looked out the back of the boat but everything looked in order there as well. It was now 5am and I was having a really eventful night so I decided to leave the boat hove too until mid-morning and try to get some much-needed sleep.
I managed an hour or so and then woke up at 9am to get stuck into it. I wanted to do a thorough deck check after that impact and just make sure everything was in order. I read Bob's (metbob) report saying that the winds were due to ease up in the afternoon/evening so I decided to get a few chores done while the boat was stable, or sort of. I was now on the other tack and could reach the back compartments through a little hatch. This compartment had some water in it (still not sure where it is coming from) so I wanted to bail it out. Four buckets later and that job was done. I made some calls and it was 2pm by the time I finally got on deck to look at getting out of hove too. Would you believe it was snowing again – not as heavy as before but still snowing.
While I was watching the weather and trying to decide if I stay hove too a little longer or not I noticed that my ropes bag in the cockpit was empty and all the ropes were in a tangled mess trailing alongside the boat. Bugger… this must have happened when the boat had that extra-large knock down. I set about clearing it only to find that one reefing line had somehow managed to get a loop of itself caught around the rudder…. This is possibly one of the worst things that could happen. If I can’t clear it I would need to try diving on the rudder. Going swimming to clear a line or net from the hull is my worst fear at sea – something about the wide-open ocean just messes with my head and would be something that I would avoid at all costs.
I tried pulling here, pulling there, winching etc but it was well stuck. I had now been trying to untangle this rope from the rudder for several hours and daylight was running out. I ended up getting my Go Pro and attaching it to the end of my boat hook to see if I could get a view and see what I could see. Even though I was hove to, it was incredibly hard to get the boat hook in position, the force of the water on the hull just kept dragging it away.
After several attempts and another hour later, I could just make out that it was in fact completely around the rudder – not pinched in like I thought. Somehow the rope had twisted itself up six times and then looped itself around the rudder. It did mean that I now had a way of clearing the line. Taking the tail end, I unwrapped the twists and then pulled the rope free. I was so happy when it came free and I was now finally able to think about sailing.
I am now sailing on a port tack and my No 4 reefing line on the starboard side had been showing signs of chafe from the vang. So, before I get out of hove to I also relocated those blocks so that I can now ease the mainsail and not need to worry about the vang chafing the reefs though.
Finally, at 5pm I got the boat out of hove to and started sailing again. The winds have been continuing to ease and are now averaging 20 knots, so I am a little under-cooked with the 4th reef in the main sail and the storm jib up but after the day I had had, I wasn’t taking any chances. I will be slowly sailing north east tonight. I finally got a hot meal into me and I also reheated the hot water bottle and shoved it down my shirt to keep me warm and I was looking forward to a trouble-free night.
Mum called at around 6pm worrying because apparently the yellow brick tracker hasn’t updated for 3 hours. (could be something to do with the knock down) rest assured I am fine and I will take a look at it in the daylight tomorrow. Hopefully it is a simple fix, but for now I am needing some well-earned rest and warmth.
Well after the last couple of days I am very happy to say that today was a mundane day at sea… No knock downs, snow storms or big waves instead I have enjoyed winds 20-30 knots from the NW- WNW and a shrinking swell at 5 meters. After the last few days, especially the last 24 hours of little to no sleep it was great last night to enjoy almost a complete night sleep, almost. As the weather was so cold I decided to treat myself to 2 hot water bottles in my bed last night and it let me have a lovely sleep. When I woke up this morning the winds were still mostly 20-25 knots and patches of blue skies over head.
I wanted to go on deck and get in the yellow brick tracker to take a look at it but I didn’t want to have to worry about putting all my foul weather gear on for just a few minutes, so I donned my life jacket and made the dash. When I got a good look around I realise that I had not much to worry about as the conditions had eased considerable from the night before. I had the yellow brick tracker tied up with zip ties so I cut them all off and grabbed the unit from the back of the boat. I didn’t even look at it until I got inside but unfortunately there was no power at all. My best guess is that when I had that knock down there was so much water that it pressurised on the unit and water got inside, I am trying to dry it out now but only time will tell. In the mean time we will try to get another type of tracker active and I hope to have this running tomorrow or the next day but until then just to keep you all in the loop here is my current information.
At 17:06:40 UTC
Lat 46.02 S
Long 27.11 E
Making course of 050 at an average of 7 knots.
I have been waiting until I reached 46 South before altering course so I will be going again on deck shortly just to ease the sails and bear away to 070 T.
As the conditions were pleasant today I used it as a recovery day with a late sleep in. Once up and about though I wanted to do a few things. The sails for one needed attention. I still had the 4th reef in and the Storm jib up so it was no wonder I wasn’t making good time. I ended up shaking out to the third reef, I could have put more main sail up but I am still concerned about the squalls so I opted for conservative. I then re-adjusted the sheeting point for the storm jib. Given that previously I had experienced halyard issues I wanted to leave this sail up as I will likely have need of it again soon so I changed the sheeting point from the jib track to the furthest padeye at the mast base. It won’t flatten the sail if I want to sail close hauled but it works perfect for a reach. This also then allowed me to run a second headsail so I unfurled the stay sail and am now running the two together on the bow.
This sail arrangement seems to be going quite well and will hopefully get better when I can turn away from the wind to a broad reach in a few moments. The goal tonight is to sail a course of 070 T until I am at 45.30 S and then hopefully the winds will have backed as planned and I will gybe and go SE. One of the other tasks that was done today was getting my Wallas heater to work. It was cutting out but when I spoke to a friend he suggested that it might just need some bleeding and to keep turning it over until it starts. It turns out that given the way that the heating fuel line comes off the generator line and so it will only work when the generator fuel pump is switched on… Some more work required here I think. At least i now know why it’s not running all the time…
And so an afternoon of relaxation has passed and i am now ready for bed.
P.S. More recent Position about 2 hours ago puts Lisa at 45.45S 30.15E Winds 20-30knots