Solo sailor, 76, ready for another attempt at round-the-world journey

After a two-year wait, 76-year-old Jeanne Socrates is ready to make another attempt at a solo around-the-world sail, without touching land.

In 2016, she started the journey twice from Victoria but had to stop both times due to harsh weather. Last year, plans for another try were called off after a fall from a ladder on her boat led to broken bones.

article continues below

The retired mathematics professor plans to leave Wednesday about 10 a.m. from the Inner Harbour, and is spending most of her time before that tending to her boat and ensuring that she is fully prepared to go.

If Socrates succeeds in what she hopes will be a seven-and-a-half-month effort, it will be her second unassisted circumnavigation. But it would also make her the oldest person, man or woman, to ever accomplish the feat.

That record is currently held by a Japanese man who made his sail in 2005 at the age of 71. Socrates did her first one at 70, also from Victoria, and still holds the mark as the oldest woman to have done so.

All told, she has sailed around the world solo three and a half times, she said.

Socrates was 48 when she and her late husband, George, decided sailing was something they wanted to do.

“I started sailing dinghies and windsurfing, which I really loved.”

She said while Victoria and B.C. have become familiar territory, her address is “theoretically” in Lymington, England. Nonetheless, she considers home to be her boat, Nereida

The boat is named for the nereids, who are the mythical hand maidens of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.

“I’m pretty well mostly on my boat,” said Socrates, who has two children and three grandchildren. “I’m basically a cruiser. A cruiser sails around the world on their boat and just enjoys seeing different places.”

While she spends a lot of time on her own, she said she doesn’t get lonely.

“I’m actually in contact with people every day because I’m on the radio all the time,” she said. “I’ve got some good radio friends that I’ve never met face-to-face.”

She is regularly on the radio with the Pacific Seafarers Net, a volunteer operation. “That keeps tabs on people and checks their weather.”

Socrates keeps a daily blog on her website, svnereida.com, through which she’s met many people. “I had one fellow come down the other day who came and spent a day working on the boat with me,” she said. “He just came to me by my website.”

The nature of her upcoming voyage means Socrates can’t use her engine, even to get out of the harbour.

Along with that, she said boats can’t be under sail in the harbour area.

Prince of Whales is supplying a whale-watching vessel to tow her to the Ogden Point area, after which she will be on her own.

“As soon as I get out of the strait, I head southwest until I’m about 100 miles offshore.”

From there, it’s straight south. She expects to reach Cape Horn at the tip of South America around Christmas.

Socrates said her food supply has been carefully planned to last for the trip and beyond. Among her “go-to” meals are canned tuna or salmon for lunch, and meat and vegetables at dinner.

“I have fresh potatoes and fresh onions that I’ll be stowing,” she said.

She said she is optimistic that a September departure will provide a good “weather window” for her.

Along the way, Socrates will be raising money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, which provides search-and-rescue training and equipment in the United Kingdom.

Admirers have referred to her as gutsy and brave, but Socrates would just as soon be referred to by another word.

“I like it when I’m called crazy,” she said.

“I think everyone should be a bit crazy to make life worth living.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist


Find out what's happening in your community.

Most Popular