Jeanne Socrates, 80, is setting sail solo again, but this time for a more relaxed voyage

Jeanne Socrates – the oldest person to sail solo, nonstop and unassisted around the world via the Southern Ocean’s five Great Capes – is embarking on a new adventure.

The 80-year-old is about to depart Mexico to sail across the Pacific.

But unlike her last record-breaking voyage, this time Jeanne Socrates intends to cruise her Najad 380, Nereida, stopping at islands along the way.

Jeanne Socrates has owned Nereida for 14 years. Credit: Jeanne Socrates

Jeanne Socrates has owned Nereida for 14 years. Credit: Jeanne Socrates

“It is about a cruise, although I will probably set another record as the oldest woman to cross the Pacific,” said Socrates, who is planning initially to sail to the Marquesas and then through the Pacific islands to Fiji and then reach New Zealand by the end of October.

“I want to go on Australia (where she spent 25 months circumnavigating the country by campervan during the COVID-19 pandemic), I want to get to New Caledonia on the way, as it is definitely a place to go cruising in. At the moment, my plan stops in Australia and then we will see. It should take me a couple of years.”

A white board with writing on a boat

Jeanne has a white board above her chart table where she keeps track of the jobs she still has to do. Credit: Jeanne Socrates

She said with Britain leaving the EU, there would be restrictions as a UK passport holder in French Polynesia, but she is hoping to “really slow down, take my time and start writing.”

A challenge has been getting Nereida ready for cruising, having lightened the yacht for her record attempts by storing gear with friends.

The boat is now 14 years old and has completed three-and-a-half circumnavigations of the world, endured a “couple of big knockdowns and lots of heavy weather in the Southern Ocean.”

Seacocks on a boat

All the seacocks below the waterline have been replaced. Credit: Jeanne Socrates

“It has been quite an eye opener seeing what I had left behind. When I did the nonstop circumnavigations I didn’t need a trolley for putting my jerry cans on. You don’t need a dinghy and an outboard,” explained the former maths lecturer.

“Then you need to think about shading, awnings, and cushions. When I did the nonstop circumnavigation I took out all of the cushions in the forepeak and aft cabin so I had access to what was below them – spares, the water maker, the course computer and the steering gear. Now, I need to think about shade and have just finished making new curtains for the boat.”

Tools soaking in white wine vinegar

All her rusty tools were cleaned with white vinegar and then polished or replaced. Credit: Jeanne Socrates

Jeanne Socrates battled equipment failure during her 2018-2019 circumnavigation of the world. Problems included broken reefing lines, genoa furling lines and lazy jacks, badly damaged windvane steering and a badly ripped mainsail, which took her months to repair.

Always resourceful, she has fitted new TruDesign seacocks to Nereida, replaced deck lights,  pipework and taps in the galley, which were corroded, and replaced LED lighting.

“It is all the wear and tear over the years in the sea environment,” she said.

Continues below…

The yacht’s 8mm and 10mm rigging was replaced in 2016 and has been checked again. She has also had to buy a new boom after sailing through heavy weather from Canada to San Francisco on her way down to Mexico.

“I got into much stronger conditions than I expected and I hadn’t put a preventer on the boom. We were going downwind and then suddenly the swell got up so much that the boom moved over and bang, it went back again. And then when I got to San Francisco, the rigger commented that I would need a new boom as I had a dent in it. Suddenly, there I was needing a new boom.”

The rusty engine mounts have now been replaced. Credit: Jeanne Socrates

The rusty engine mounts have now been replaced. Credit: Jeanne Socrates

She also needed to deal with a cracked manifold in the engine caused by overheating as she didn’t hear the alarm; it was replaced before leaving San Francisco. The mainsail also needed major repair as it tore on coming away from the mast track.

Jeanne Socrates is hoping to leave Mexico by Monday (17 April 2023).

Jeanne Socrates on board her boat

Relaxing with a friend in between the jobs. Credit: Jeanne Socrates

What drives her to keep sailing solo over long distances?

“I don’t have a problem with solo sailing. It has been pretty wonderful coming south from Canada and it has been lovely as so many people see the name on the boat and want to chat or take pictures with me. It’s been absolutely wonderful. In the cruising community, I know quite a few people who are sailing the same route so we will be meeting up in the Marquesas. To sail by myself is no problem. I will be vlogging and uploading videos to my YouTube channel (@jeannesailingsolo). I have the radio. I will be keeping in touch with people.”

All of the three galley taps were corroded and have been replaced, including the manual seawater tap. Credit: Jeanne Socrates

All of the three galley taps were corroded and have been replaced, including the manual seawater tap. Credit: Jeanne Socrates

Jeanne Socrates, who learnt to sail aged 48, has not ruled out another solo, nonstop and unassisted circumnavigation of the world. She will be spending her 81st birthday “somewhere in the middle of the Pacific”

“I’ve not ruled anything out but I would just like to enjoy the boat. I’ve already got the record for the oldest person to sail solo, nonstop unassisted around the world via the Southern Ocean’s Five Great Capes, and I am still the first woman to sail solo, nonstop unassisted around the world from North America. At the moment, my plans stop in Australia.”

An old Halogen light fitting

All of the corroded and old halogen light fittings have been replaced. Credit: Jeanne Socrates

For her record-breaking sailing, Jeanne Socrates, who began solo sailing in 2003, has received numerous accolades including the Blue Water Medal and The Royal Cruising Club Medal for Seamanship; there is even a dock named after her in Victoria Harbour in British Columbia.

Her first solo round the world voyage attempt in 2007-2008 ended just 60 miles off the finish, when her Najad 361, also called Nereida, ran aground on a beach north of Acapulco in Mexico; that attempt was with stops.

With a new cutter-rigged Najad 380, she started her first non-stop attempt around the world in 2010, but this ended in Cape Town due to rigging and other problems.

Part of a boat mast

A new boom was needed for Nereida. The rod kicker also needed reattaching. Credit: Jeanne Socrates

Her second nonstop attempt ended in Argentina when she had to make repairs after the yacht was knocked down off Cape Horn, although she continued sailing, circumnavigating via the Five Great Capes of the Southern Ocean – Cape Horn, Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin, South East Cape of Tasmania and the South Cape of Stewart Island.

Her third (successful) attempt took 258 days and earned her the world record title in 2013 of the oldest woman to sail single-handedly around the world. She was 70.

This was followed by her 2018-2019 non-stop, solo and unassisted circumnavigation of the world, which took 339 days.

A woman sailing wearing a white baseball cap

Jeanne Socrates has already sailed around the world three times, and hasn’t ruled out another nonstop, solo and unassisted circumnavigation of the globe. Credit: Jeanne Socrates

Jeanne Socrates says she feels “uncomfortable” with being described as an “inspiration” for women sailors, but is proud to have encouraged more people into sailing.

“A lot of people tell me that reading about my sailing has really encouraged them to keep going or maybe do a bit more with regards their own sailing expertise, particularly if they are a couple. I am always saying you have to do whatever your partner does on the boat; you have to be able to sail the boat if something happens,” she stressed.

“Many tell me they feel really uncomfortable in the rough weather, but you have to be in a situation where you know your boat, you trust it and you can sail it, then you know what the boat can do in rough weather and you can relax.  I ask then, have you thought about the rough weather? Have you really got the boat prepared for the rough weather, not just for sailing in the assumed calm and lovely conditions? It’s nice to hear from people that they really appreciate what I’m doing or think that it encourages them. I love hearing that.”

Enjoyed reading Jeanne Socrates: A new adventure for the record-breaking sailor?

A subscription to Practical Boat Owner magazine costs around 40% less than the cover price.

Print and digital editions are available through Magazines Direct – where you can also find the latest deals.

PBO is packed with information to help you get the most from boat ownership – whether sail or power.

        • Take your DIY skills to the next level with trusted advice on boat maintenance and repairs
        • Impartial in-depth gear reviews
        • Practical cruising tips for making the most of your time afloat

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter