An Ordinary Woman on an Extraordinary Voyage

Jeanne Socrates is in the midst of a solo circumnavigation aboard her Najad 380 Nereida.

_Let’s drink to the hard working people _

_ Let’s think of the lowly of birth _

_Spare a thought for the rag taggy people _


Let’s drink to the salt of the earth

—Rolling Stones

It’s so easy to be preoccupied with the hot-shot professionals that are the royalty of sailing. They have commercial backing, the latest technology, and cutting-edge boats that just keep going faster and faster. And, yes, they are lots of fun to watch.


But sailing is a sport that anyone can aspire to, and some of its most inspirational heroes (like Bernard Moitessier or Tania Aebi, say), are just humble amateurs who dream big and take a shot. I love these sailors and their stories, because they are the folks that help us rag-taggy, low-born Walter Mitty’s believe somewhere deep down that we, too, could cross oceans and circle the globe.

So we should spare a thought for them. We should drink to them (I’m sure that will be difficult duty for us all). And today I raise a glass—let’s make it dark rum—to Jeanne Socrates, who right now is crawling south in the Pacific, aboard S/V Nereida, bound for Cape Horn and a solo circumnavigation.


Or perhaps I should say SECOND solo (almost) circumnavigation. I say second, because Jeanne has already been around once, in 2007-2008, a westabout voyage with multiple stops that started in Mexico. And I say “almost” because Jeanne and Nereida ended up on a beach just 60 miles short of reaching her starting point.

That would probably be enough for most average humans. But Jeanne has a kind of Moitessier-esque love of being at sea (did I mention that she has also raced the Singlehanded Transpac?). She took delivery on a new Nereida last year, and sailed it from the Canaries to Victoria, British Columbia (via the Cape of Good Hope and Australia). And last month she set off again, this time planning to go non-stop, solo, and via Cape Horn and the Great Capes. Now, I don’t want to go all Jessica Watson, Abby Sunderland here. But Jeanne is in her late 60s. If she makes it, would that be a record for the oldest woman to circumnavigate non-stop and solo? Jeanne is too humble and old-school (she used to be a math teacher) to get into that. So I’m just asking.

Jeanne expects to be at sea about six months aboard her Najad 380. If you were ever going to root for a voyage’s success, this is a good one to put your karma behind. You can read all bout her background and previous adventures, as well as look at maps and picture, on her website. [WARNING: Do not browse her site if dropping everything in your life and running off to sea would get you into any sort of trouble]. And you can follow her current voyage via her sailing blog (right now she seems to be chasing lots of electronic gremlins).


Seeing pictures like this, of Nereida in Alaska, is a good reminder that life is short, there are many seas to be sailed, and many places to see. And if I ever manage to bust loose and sail over the horizon, it will have been voyagers like Jeanne Socrates that provided the example and inspiration.

Here’s Jeanne in the midst of her first circumnavigation.


Email Newsletters and Special Offers

Sign up for Sailing World emails to receive racing tips, tactics and techniques, and reviews on the latest boat models as well as special offers on behalf of Sailing World’s partners.
By signing up you agree to receive communications from Sailing World and select partners in accordance with our Privacy Policy. You may opt out of email messages/withdraw consent at any time.

More Racing