When Jeanne Socrates steered her sailboat past Ogden Point early Monday morning, the 70-year-old British grandmother demonstrated that big dreams can be realized, no matter what your age.
Socrates, a retired mathematician, sailed past Ogden Point breakwater, the official finish line, at 2:20 a.m. — 259 days after leaving Victoria on her third attempt to sail around the world without stopping or accepting help. She is the oldest woman to accomplish the feat.
The previous two attempts were halted by bad weather and equipment problems. Her third attempt began Oct. 22.
“I’m a very happy person, on a definite high,” a beaming Socrates said Monday afternoon as she greeted friends and well-wishers in the Inner Harbour.
She urged anyone contemplating a similar adventure to “just go for it, do it.”
Don’t let your age stop you, she said.
She had to remain on her 38-foot sailboat, moored in front of the Fairmont Empress, until customs officials could give her the go-ahead to come ashore.
The wharf was crowded with friends and well-wishers, such as Janis and Norm Ringuette, who saw her sail out of the city and followed her journey through her online blog.
“Isn’t it just great?” said Janis Ringuette. “She looks amazing. I’m thinking: How would she learn how to sleep again for more than a few moments at a time?”
Norm said her accomplishments “are pretty special. She has to be pretty brave to do this by herself, in the middle of a night in a big storm.
“She looks like she’s in pretty good shape.”
The 81Ú2-month voyage had its ups and downs, Socrates said.
Somewhere off Tasmania, Socrates had to climb the mast to repair a vital piece of equipment.
“I thought it was calm enough to go up, but even with that little bit of swell [it] was suddenly trying to jerk me off the mast,” Socrates said, adding that she was “clinging on for dear life.”
That episode left her covered in bruises.
Then there was the time the sailboat rolled over enough to knock loose the radar and wind-generation apparatus that kept her heater operating. She also lost use of her wind-steering rudder.
The weather cleared, and she was able to make repairs.
The best part of the voyage was being out in the open ocean with the albatrosses and shearwaters keeping her company, she said.
She also had the company of ham radio operators. “I could either be doing my thing out in the middle of the ocean — just me and the ocean — or I could be in contact with people all the time,” she said.
She admitted to being a little bit sad to see the great adventure come to an end.
Socrates and her husband learned to sail 20 years ago. After he died of cancer, she set a new course as a solo sailor.
She is raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care, a British program that offers free home nursing for terminally ill cancer patients. Links to the charity can be found on Socrates’s website at svnereida.com.
Socrates, who lives in London, chose Victoria for the start and end of her circumnavigation to satisfy the regulations of record keepers, which call for the voyage to be in excess of 40,000 kilometres.