Victoria dock named in honour of round-the-world sailor Jeanne Socrates

Jeanne Socrates, the oldest person to sail non-stop and solo around the world, is being honoured with a permanent marker in Victoria.

At a ceremony on Thursday on the lower causeway of the Inner Harbour, a plaque was unveiled identifying the commercial dock as the Jeanne Socrates Dock.

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Socrates, 77, called the naming an “amazing privilege, fantastic” and a reminder of how much support she has received from Victoria.

“All the way round, I had people in Victoria emailing me and saying how much they were looking forward to seeing me get back,” she said. “I could feel the spirit of all the people who were supporting me as I went round. It was as if I had them in my cabin.”

Brian Cant, spokesman for the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, said the Jeanne Socrates Dock gets about a million visitors each year, from whale watchers to harbour ferry passengers and fishing-charter parties.

“It’s an appropriate recognition for her amazing accomplishment,” Cant said. “She’s a remarkable person and well-deserving.”

Socrates, a retired mathematics professor and grandmother, started her round-the-world trip from Victoria on Oct. 3, 2018 and returned on Sept. 7, sailing into Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

It was her third attempt after bad weather foiled two earlier efforts.

Her trip took her down to the southern tip of South America, round to the South Atlantic and across to the southern tip of Africa into the Indian Ocean, and then around Australia into the Pacific and back to Victoria.

Socrates said she now plans to fly to Mexico to enjoy warm weather, relax and write a book.

The most recent trip was the second time Socrates circumnavigated the globe. She completed it in 2013 at the age of 70 to become the oldest woman to sail solo around the world.

But a 71-year-old man from Japan, Minoru Saito, had made the trip in 2005. So Socrates wanted to lay claim to being the “oldest person” to complete the solo passage and resolved to repeat it.

She took up sailing with her husband, George, at the age of 48. The couple continued sailing even after 2001, when George was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died in 2003.

On her latest journey, Socrates dodged two cyclones, had a sudden wave knock her sailboat flat and put a hole in the cabin roof and had her main sail shredded. She survived eight-metre sea swells off southern Australia and her auto-pilot going down.

There were a variety of other equipment failures, but she always managed to make repairs and carry on. “I couldn’t believe how bad the weather was,” said Socrates. “Anything it could throw at me, it did.

“And people were emailing me, saying: ‘You’ve got to pull in, you can’t go on.’ But I just kept on thinking: ‘No, I can manage this. I can sort out the problems one by one.’ ”

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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