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Marine Resource 2016

67-year-old grandmother starts solo non-stop circumnavigation today

by Nancy Knudsen on 25 Oct 2010
Jeanne Socrates - starts today .. .
Today is the day for Jeanne Socrates, 67-year-old grandmother, to begin her solo non-stop circumnavigation.

She's been held up by the weather for a few days, but today she is to be towed to her start line at Canada's Victoria Harbour entrance to be ready to sail away around 4pm local time.

Her attempt is being recorded by the World Speed Sailing Record Council, and for that she carries a 'black box' to record her attempt.


She says today she is expecting west wind over strong (Springs) ebb tide from Race Rock westward, so will have rough water, but a 'push' in right direction initially, with difficult sailing out of Strait of Juan de Fuca.

That's a calculation, and by late Tuesday, she thinks the storm that has kept her from starting should have abated. She needs to get away south from Canada before the winter gales start in earnest.

Of course attempting to sail single-handed and non-stop around the world may not be the typical behaviour of a 67-year-old grandmother.

But Jeanne Socrates is not typical. This epic, seventh month non-stop journey in her 38ft-foot boat Nereida, is the culmination of some extraordinary adventures already.

From March 2007 to June 2008, Socrates sailed around the world with planned stops. But her trip ground to a halt 60 nautical miles short of her starting point when, due to an autopilot failure, the boat went aground on a Mexican beach.

Her next attempt was to circle the globe solo and non-stop. She set out in October last year from the Canary Islands, but had to make unplanned stop two months later in Cape Town, South Africa, to replace the boat’s engine. Two months later, Socrates was heading eastward to Australia and New Zealand. She ended up in Port Townsend, Wa., for repairs in preparation for this attempt.

Socrates, who was born and lives in London, UK, chose Victoria as her starting point partly because it’s a favourite spot and she has lots of sailing friends here.

It also places her well north of the equator to clock up the mileage required for her attempt to be recognized.

Socrates was an only child. Her father died in the Second World War, before she was born, and her mother struggled to make ends meet. Now Socrates has young grandchildren back in England who are thrilled to hear of her adventures.

She came to the helm late in life, learning the ropes with her husband in 1994, when she was 51.

A five-day course triggered Socrates’s enthusiasm. Her husband died of cancer in 2003, but Socrates carried on with plans to sail attend a rally in British Columbia. the following year, and sailed there alone.

So, with much water passed in her wake since then, she is hoping it will be third time lucky. Her route will take her south of Cape Horn, on to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. In 2003, Tony Gooch of Oak Bay completed a similar non-stop circumnavigation in 177 days.

'I have a bit of unfinished business to do,' said Socrates of her latest attempt.

She says her boat suits her perfectly because it’s just the right size to move around and store nine-months worth of food and provisions.

Problems always occur, like the time she lost her automatic pilot and managed to eat, sleep and use the toilet without straying far from the helm.

But Socrates knows what’s in store and she’s ready for it.

'I’ve got a lot of determination and I like to see things through — I don’t give up easily,' she said. 'You’ve got to be confident in your boat.'

Even with her credentials as an ocean yacht master, she said: 'There are always things you’re learning about yourself and the boat and the weather.'

Socrates plans to sail back into Victoria’s Inner Harbour next May. She’s trying to raise funds for the Marie Curie Cancer Care, a British charity that enables nurses to care for terminal cancer patients in their homes.

Socrates will post a blog of her journey at www.svnereida.com.

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