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Never Say Die!

by John Curnow, Editor, 19 Jun 2019 22:00 UTC
Jeanne Socrates © S/V Nereida

She's already incredibly inspirational, however she is probably best described as the human embodiment of perseverance, resilience, and dogged determination. She is the one and only Jeanne Socrates, and we had another chat with her just yesterday, as she faced yet more ordinary weather. These ones were steep faced and close together. Just gorgeous... Not.

"I had the horrible realisation, just the other day, that it will take me at least two months to get back. I am already well and truly meant to be home by now, anyway. So the middle of June is obviously not going to happen, and I am amazed that I will be getting back so late," said Socrates.

Of course, it is all due to the many and varied hardships she has endured all along this wonderful circumnavigation. Still, after stopping for eight days on the East Coast of New Zealand to repair what she could, after yet another knockdown, she is now able to climb back up the Pacific and make for home in Canada. "I need to be home before my birthday on August 17. It is a bit of a stretch, so we'll see, but I would certainly like to do it."

Jeanne will be 77 years of age on that day, and will certainly claim her oldest person, solo, unassisted and non-stop record, so we just have to get her there, so please focus your thoughts on that outcome. Of course stopping to get things like her mainsail finally repaired has cost her yet more time, as she says, "Good for repairs, but not so progress. It might not have been my best choice of location, for getting out of there also meant dealing with more light and becalmed weather, which is also not so good for getting home."

Funnily enough, Jeanne actually hates being becalmed more than having the hell beaten out of her. Still, she did all her own work, there was no shore assistance performed either on the vessel or off of it, and she remained isolated in quarantine. "Actually, the officials in New Zealand were great, for obviously I could not have an official on board, nor pass things to them or receive anything. They totally let me do what I needed, and then get under way again, which was marvellous."

Speaking of marvellous, it is nothing short of that to see how she has bounced back, yet again. This journey has in her own words been, "unbelievable", in terms of damage and issues. It all started before the Horn, then there was the Atlantic, cyclones in the Indian Ocean and then the evil Tasman Sea.

"Going backwards to avoid weather scenarios has been so challenging, and the weather has been far, far worse than last time (2013). I rounded the Horn on December 19 and at that stage still thought I would be back at the beginning of June, and here we are and I am just clearing New Zealand, with yet more storms to deal with."

"There have been so many issues with gear failing, knockdowns, repairs, loss all together and so on, that I have lost track, but yes, without a doubt, being hove to and going backwards, especially in the Atlantic, has been the worst."

So of the scenario on board, Jeanne informed us that yes, the leech of the main is all good to go, the wind vane/steering is all over, never to be repaired, but the auto-pilot with two motors and rams, along with a spare, are fine. The latter is important, for she cannot hand steer for the remainder of the trip. It also reminded her of her first circumnavigation, which she did as a milk run. That time she lost steering ten days out of the Caribbean, and did 14 hours a day on the wheel, before hoving to for dinner and sleep. Clearly she does not want a repeat of that!

"Food stores are fine - I over provisioned, which is so good. The watermaker is going well off power from the genset. The early stuff that comes out a bit briney becomes my cooking water. The wind generator seems to be well up to the task of feeding the needs of the autopilot, and I calculated that I have a bit over 300 litres of Diesel, which will give me 75 days at four hours per day, and I am only using it for two."

"I have been doing a lot of five-knot averages, so in the last few days I have done 110nm, 119nm, and 127nm, which are some good mile days. I'll take them all. I need strong winds now, not storms or doldrums. As I have no wind instruments, I have to rely on forecasts and observations to have the right amount of sail up, as I cannot see the increases by measure. Naturally, you have to be conservative in this way, so that does harm the speed a bit, too. The wind generator gives me direction, and I use the Beaufort scale to get an idea of strength. Having got this far, I do not want to give up, so I am going on, despite all the issues."

"All my instruments are off to ensure the plotter keeps going, but I still have issues with the plotter and autopilot both going down. This is when I took the last of the instruments out of circuit, but now have no GPS on the plotter or radar. It is the AIS providing that via a multiplex link, and that is a real Godsend. Of course I also have a handheld GPS. That I can keep going is a legacy of everything being independent, and all with back up."

"When I came up the Pacific in 2013, the convection near the equator (ITCZ) opened up for me just before I went through, and then closed in immediately behind me. I'd be happy for more divine intervention. It's all OK in my book, and I don't care where it comes from. Being becalmed is what slows me down, and I need to get East, and make Tahiti. I am heading ENE at present and then I'll go East, but have to get North first. There are a lot of Nor'Easters at present, making it bit challenging."

"I am going East as much as I dare, but have to look after myself too, and there is more 50-60 knot stuff coming. Once I make 155 West, I can then go off to Tahiti. It is challenging to still be so much in the command of the patterns, and there are more lows to come as I leave the top of New Zealand, so this trip continues to be about doing it hard."

"I would like to send a big thank you to all my HAM radio friends for all their help. The fact that I can still talk with you on the satphone is a direct result of Colin in Perth talking me through some things on the HF. I feel the support and know they are with me in spirit. All the emails have been great too, and I really appreciate it all," said Jeanne as she signed off.

Today you will find that we have information for you about the ARC, could we end up eating more squid?, gear from ICOM, reefs don't enjoy an acid trip, the Galapagos with SV Taipan, taking on starfish, Fiji, gear from Raymarine, reusable not disposable, whale dies from plastic bag, as well as much more.

So you see, there are stories, lessons, inspirations and history to regale yourself with. Please do savour... We're really enjoying bringing you the best stories from all over the globe. If you want to add to that, then please make contact with us via email.

Remember too, if you want to see what is happening in the other Hemisphere, go to the top of the Sail-WorldCruising home page and the drag down menu on the right, select the other half of the globe and, voila, it's all there for you.

In the meantime, do you love being on the ocean? Well remember to love them back too. They need our help. Now more than ever! Until next time...

John Curnow

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