Jeanne Socrates

To my last post I added the comment that the qualities single-handed sailors had in common were determination and perseverance. On Wednesday evening I met Jeanne Socrates. I haven’t changed my mind.

With little previous experience of sailing a yacht, Jeanne and her husband took early retirement and started cruising together. They were in the Caribbean when sadly he was taken ill and died. She returned to sailing solo and in the past few years has made three outstanding voyages.

The first ended just short of a circumnavigation in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In the second she suffered a knock-down off Cape Horn. The attempt ended there with a broken boom and considerable damage to the boat. She managed to make Ushuaia for repairs – (she had the presence of mind take a photograph of Cape Horn with dolphins in the picture. Dolphins off Cape Horn, who knew?) and completed the circumnavigation by meeting her original route in Cape Town and then returning to Victoria BC having rounded the five Great Capes.

Her last voyage on the second SV Nereida ended in Victoria on the 8th July 2013 when she completed a non-stop, unassisted circumnavigation, sailing 25,700 nm, spending almost 260 days at sea. Like many others, I followed her almost daily reports during that voyage. I was struck by the matter-of-fact way she reported the numerous and varied problems that arose. As she said during her lecture, whatever can go wrong will go wrong – from the lost life raft, to the loose and broken shackles, the broken turnbuckle on an inner stay, the corroded electrics, the failed computer screen, the smashed wind generator and on and on. Even the gimbals on the oven failed.

Those who give awards have rightly presented her with their highest honours.

For myself, I found her down-to-earth, genial and, above all, inspirational. Not because I intend to emulate her but because her endeavour has expanded the world the rest of us can move in – (if Jeanne Socrates can climb a mast in mid-ocean just short of aged 70, then . . .). Surely this is the epitome of modern leadership.

You can read her account here – I recommend the photographs.

Her lecture was at the Cruising Association building in Limehouse.