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Repairing rudder upside-down in the Southern Ocean

by Sail-World Cruising on 23 Apr 2013
Jeanne in a calm moment - she has now been four months in the Southern Ocean .. .
It's all in a day's sailing: 'I used two safety lines to tie myself to the boat while I turned upside down off the stern to fix the rudder.' These are the words of 70-year-old solo circumnavigating sailor Jeanne Socrates, describing how she repaired her rudder in the Southern Ocean.

Jeanne's route through the notorious Southern Ocean passed Cape Horn (Chile) early in January, Cape of Good Hope (S. Africa) in February, Cape Leeuwin (W. Australia) in March and the SE Cape of Tasmania in April. This is her third attempt at a nonstop, unasssisted circumnavigation and her third long passage through the Southern Ocean - but she says it was surprisingly different, with many more frustrating calms to slow her down, alternating with the usual strong winds and rough seas - and very little relaxed sailing in between!

Gear failures and problems have continued ('poor 'Nereida' is looking quite battle-scarred now!' says Jeanne)....

One memorable night in March, when hove to in stormy weather in the Southern Ocean, not too far from Tasmania, her radar support and wind generator were badly damaged when a wave knocked the boat violently and, as if that were not enough, the very next morning, as she prepared to get underway again, she watched in disbelief as her wind steering rudder came free!

A planned repair stop at anchor off Tasmania was abandoned after she unexpectedly succeeded in replacing the windsteering rudder in relatively calm conditions while still well offshore, just before rounding the SE Cape of Tasmania. ' I used two safety lines to tie myself to the boat while I turned upside down off the stern to fix the rudder in place! What luck to have calm enough weather just then.

'With the wind generator, that had been putting so much charge into the batteries, out of action, fixing the wind steering became a priority since it takes no battery power and reliably steers the boat most of the time. I checked the fuel situation and found that there was enough to run the small onboard generator to top up solar battery charging when needed for the next two months - enough to get me back in June, hopefully.

'I'm hoping the lack of radar won't compromise me - it's looking drunkenly straight down at the sea now, its welded pole support having been partly broken by the wave action.'

Two days ago, another major crisis occurred when the big headsail (genoa) came adrift and the furling gear refused to work after a recently-replaced line ('sheet') holding the sail in place broke, and the sail was found to be flogging madly... After half a day of effort, Jeanne was pleased to be able to report she had fixed both problems (furler and line)- with difficulty, her lack of height making it difficult to reach the sail safely where the lines were attached, to replace them, as she needed to once she had finally managed to fix the furler problem. (With only a reduced mainsail available, she is dependent on using the big headsail to keep up a reasonable speed in light conditions.)

Londoner Jeanne left Victoria, in Canada's British Columbia, on 22nd October 2012, and is attempting to become one of a very few people to have successfully completed a solo, nonstop, unassisted circumnavigation (via Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean). On her return to Victoria, she will become the oldest ever female nonstop solo circumnavigator (at age 70 yrs) and the very first woman to have circumnavigated nonstop solo from a point in N. America.

Presently she's sailing north from the Tasman Sea into the Pacific and she hopes to 'close the loop' in June - in two months' time.

So far during this circumnavigation, she has sailed well over 18,800nm, with over 8,00nm still to go, and yesterday, Monday 22nd April she passed a big milestone, in that she has been six months at sea (Day 183), with another 60 days or more anticipated.

Jeanne Socrates, from London (UK), is sailing on 'Nereida' (a 38ft cutter-rigged Najad 380) and has been trying, through her solo sailing, to raise donations in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care - a charity that supplies specially-trained nurses free of charge, to enable the terminally ill to spend their last days in their own home.
She has no financial sponsorship but several companies kindly help out with repair or replacement of onboard equipment.

Jeanne is keeping a note of birds seen, in an effort to help conservation measures by contributing much-needed data on numbers and distribution - the magnificent albatrosses and other birds of the Southern Ocean need all the help we can give them to overcome poor longliner fishing methods and other threats to their long-term survival.

Her comprehensive website, with regular news and position updates posted by her while on passage, is:

Jeanne's position is tracked continually via satellites receiving her AIS transmissions:

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