Lisa Blair's blog: Almost under water – timing is everything

March 5, 2017: Almost under water – timing is everything

Throughout last night the winds continued to fill in and by 10 am there was a consistent 20 knots of wind from the North gusting up to 25 knots giving me the motivation to climb out of bed and put the second reef in the main.  It was another grey overcast morning but given that there has been some light winds there wasn’t much of a swell.  The boat was handling well with the second reef in and the no 2 jib even though the winds kept building. 

By 8pm tonight I was sailing in the forecast cold front that was passing through.  These fronts are often short in duration with a small peak of strong wind followed by easing winds right after so I was less inclined to shake a reef out only to put it back in again.  In steady 27 knots with gusts of 31 knots, this is right on the edge of the wind range of the current sail set up, so I was watching the instruments closely. Once or twice I saw short bursts of 35 knots but they didn’t stay, however when I saw 37 knots I knew I needed to get the third reef in the mainsail.

The ropes had other ideas.  As I started to lower the sail to put the reef in I noticed that inboard end of the reefing line was tangled around my spinnaker pole.  The spinnaker pole is stored along the front of the mast and the line had just managed to catch the top of the pole and trap its self.  This is about 5 meters of the deck so not so easy to clear.  By the time I had noticed, I had already lowered the mainsail past the top of the spinnaker pole. So, after some unsuccessful attempts to flick the line free, I realised that I needed to re-hoist the main sail until the line was up above the spinnaker pole…….. Basically, start again. 

So, I winched the sail all the way back up and finally managed to shake the line free. That done, I was able to lower the sail to the third reefing point and tension up the luff of the sail.  When I went to take in on the outboard end of the reefing line I noticed that the line wasn’t pulling from the right direction. It looked like it was caught on a part of the sail…  I needed to pull in on the boom enough to be able to reach that section of the sail and go to the low side of the boat and free the line.

Going to the low side of the boat when you are sailing up wind is one of my least favourite things to do.  It’s risky, because if you get a wave or a gust of wind the boat can lean over so much that you are suddenly underwater. If you have a bit of speed on you can very quickly find yourself getting washed down the boat.  I had learnt from experience to be cautious of that part of the boat, however the line wasn’t going to clear its self. 

Clipped on I ducked to the low side. Trying to be as quick as I could, I leant out over the rail twisting my body in an awkward angle to reach the tangled line. Finally I was able to free the line.  A batten had got caught the wrong side of the reefing line.  Had I winched on the reef without checking, I would likely have damaged my main sail.  Now that the line was free I ducked back into the cockpit and sure enough, 10 seconds later we were hit by a bigger wave. The whole of the low side was submerged under water……… timing is everything.

Finally I was able to finish the job and get out of the howling wind that insisted on showering me with sea spray.  Once back inside my warmer cabin, I tried to defrost my hands and wipe the salt crystals from my face.  With not much else to do I settled in to some reading while I waited for the winds to ease.  As expected an hour later and the winds started to rapidly decrease in strength and shift from the NNE to the NW.  The brunt of the front has passed. 

Now I am sailing in 13 knots 2 hours after I needed to put the third reef and now need to get on deck to shake out all the way to the 1st reef…  Given that I am shaking out 2 reefs in one go it will be a long process taking me a bit of time. I will likely need a good rest afterwards.  The winds are forecast to drop out to nothing tonight and by the morning i should be drifting around in 5 knots again.

In other news, I would like to do a shout out to Matty from Glebe Elementary School in Arlington Virginia USA.  I have just got word that his class has been learning all about Point Nemo and was talking about my trip at school.  Matty please say hi to your classmates for me.  It amazes me how far my trip has reached.  Tracey from Twentieth Letter posted a question on my facebook page asking those who are following my record attempt to let us know where they are all from.  It was astounding to see how many different countries people are watching me from, all around the world.  So, a big thankyou everyone for simply following my journey and sharing in the highs and lows with me as I complete my quest to become the first women to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around Antarctica.

March 6: Fixed the generator – hopefully!

Last night the winds thankfully managed to stay above 8 knots even in the lulls, allowing me to at least get some shut eye.  As you remember me saying yesterday I was sailing though a cold front and on the back side, the winds went from 30 knots to 10 knots in the space of 30 minutes.  The 10 knots did manage to last most of the night.  Occasionally the winds dropped right off to 5 knots or less but I was lucky that these times were few and short in duration, allowing me to get a relatively good night sleep last night.  It was also the first night that I have made it to bed before midnight in a while, giving me a good rest.

In the morning the winds started to build a bit and the day settled into a routine of 10knots of wind, rain squall and 20 knots of wind and then sheeting rain followed by the 10 knots of wind again.  For most of the day I kept the 1st reef in the main and the No 2 jib up with a tuck in it however in one particular squall at sunset I saw 27 knots in the gusts making me err on the side of caution. I put the second reef in the main sail.  This has impacted my speed dramatically with my close reach sail angle which is frustrating. The winds have been veering all day from the NE to the ENE to the E and will eventually make it’s way around to the south, so in order to make any ground in the right direction I need to be sailing close hauled and follow the wind around.

I was also sailing on a port tack for most of the day heading on a southerly angle and only put a tack in once I saw the winds settle on 100 degrees wind angle.  I watched the winds for more than 30 minutes and figured that they were settled on the ESE direction enough to put that tack in however almost as soon as I tacked the winds backed to 070 degrees again causing me to be sailing almost North and not be making much ground in the right direction.  My consolation prize is the fact that the shift is on its way so by having the reef in now just before bed I can simply adjust my course and follow the winds around.

Meanwhile today I managed to wire up an extension to the frequently breaking electrical wire on the generator solenoid so hopefully this should help prevent it from breaking again.  It is such a thin wire and pulled at right angles where it attaches, on top of that it looked like the generator cover was vibrating on it and with little time would snap it. Once fixed the generator has been purring like a dream. 

Also in the lightish winds I did my normal boat checks. I am soon to be sailing in to a part of the ocean that has claimed so many lives over the years that I want to make sure that the boat is in its best possible condition. I have gone over the rigging, sails, steering and just generally looked for anything out of place, I didn’t find anything so that is a good sign. 

The only other thing that I have noticed is that one of the bilge pumps in the steering compartment has died, I have a spare and will replace it however I am not looking forward to that particular job. The space is cramped and hard to move around it without getting in harm’s way on the steering system.  It is not an urgent job as there is a manual bilge pump pick up and also another electrical pump in that compartment but I will get to it over the next few days, weather permitting.

Speaking of manual bilge pumps, I have a manual pump in line with the main electrical bilge pump on a manifold system (valve system to select what compartment to pick up from). This is a backup system, however I have found that it speeds up the bilge pumping process if I use it at the same time as the main electrical pump. 

My rudder has leaked from the get go and has been a constant annoyance to me, hence why I have so many electrical bilge pumps in that compartment.  To help keep the water ingress down I have got in the habit of using the main bilge system twice a day to drain that compartment, the water is often trapped from the shape of the boat in a place that the submersible bilge pumps can’t reach however I can get to it via this main bilge system. 

Anyway last night I was pumping away and using the manual bilge pump at the same time and found out exactly how strong I am…  I was just pumping away when the housing for the pump handle snapped in two and I even managed to bend the 3mm aluminum tube that is the pump handle….  It was an easy fix and is all sorted and operational again but I will need to take a bit more care in the future.

So now I am sailing on a starboard tack with a sky full of stars.  The winds are 20 knots and I am sailing with 2 reefs in the main and the no 2 jib with 1 tuck in it, the winds are coming from 080 degrees so I am managing a course of 030 True.  Not ideal however I will just need to wait until the shift has completed and then hopefully I will be able to make better speeds than 6 knots…  For now it is 2am here locally so I am to retire and try for some shut eye.

Oh I almost forgot to mention when I said it was cold before that was a light chill to what I have now.  My breath frosts even when sitting inside the cabin with all the hatch's shut.  I can only imagine how much colder it will get over the next 2 weeks.  Burr.


– Lisa

P.S. I thought I would share the original video footage used for the sky news story so you can hear the storm as well…………………pretty scary in the middle of the night 2000 miles from anywhere.
Linda (mum)

Jeanneau SO380
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